A’s bullpen coughs up comeback win to Angels

Following a storyline that seemed all too familiar, another bullpen meltdown forced the Oakland Athletics to wear a yet another one-run loss Tuesday night.

Stellar work from Kendall Graveman, thunderous power from Marcus Semien and lightning speed from Billy Burns helped the A’s (4-5) hand their confident bullpen the lead. But stumbles from Ryan Madson and closer Sean Doolittle served up opportunity to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (4-4) offense for a 5-4 loss.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

Angels reliever Mike Morin needed just one out to get the win in relief, while Doolittle allowed a pair of runs on a two-run ninth-inning jack to Anaheim catcher Geovany Soto in taking the loss.

Doolittle wore the anguish on his face after the game of setting up a game-deciding homer for a second time this season:

“We take a lot of pride in what we do, and we were handed a lead late in the game. I couldn’t get the job done… That’s twice already. I’ve got to be better.”

For seven innings the game displayed the exact formula manager Bob Melvin could have hoped for. Graveman (0-1, 2.38 ERA) went six innings. With the help of a pair of Semien bombs (3), as well as two stolen bases by Burns (3) leading to two more runs scored for the leadoff man (3), the starter handed his bullpen a three-run lead.

Given the way his relievers pitched through the first eight game, Melvin was comfortable with the position:

“(Graveman) pitched well. A little spotty to begin with, but he made pitches when he had to. He got his pitch count a little up in the middle innings, but he ended up giving us six innings, and you turn it over to our three best guys. I feel good about that.”

Before Doolittle (1-2, 5.79 ERA) came in for the ninth, set-up man Madson (0-0, 3.60 ERA) allowed the Angels to trim the lead in the eighth. With one out and Anaheim third baseman Yunel Escobar on first, Madson coaxed a grounder ticketed for the shortstop position.

Employing a shift, Semien had vacated his normal position, yielding a single. And after striking out Monday’s hero Mike Trout, the Oakland reliever missed change-up location by the slightest bit and Albert Pujols sent a two-run double in to left field.

Madson, who was trying to go down, had his change-up “pop out of his hand” and flutter just above his intended spot. After the game he said:

“I knew it was a safe pitch, if I had got it in there.”

Doolittle gave up a long fly ball to Andrelton Simmons to lead off the game’s final frame, but the Angels’ shortstop came up just short of a game-tying homer. After a walk to C.J. Cron, though, Soto found the distance that Simmons couldn’t, sending a liner over the left-center field wall for his first dinger of the season.

The one-run game was the sixth already this year for Doolittle and company. They are 3-3 in the tight contests.

Despite hanging four runs on the board, the A’s continued their struggle with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-5 in such at-bats.

Burns was driven in by Josh Reddick, with the team’s only RBI hit in those positions — a single — in the first, and a groundout in the third. But it was Semien who was set to be the offensive hero, with his second career two-homer game, his first coming on May 10, 2015 at the Seattle Mariners.

After the game Semien addressed his recent success at the plate:

“(My swing) felt great tonight. I just want to keep consistent with barreling up the baseball, not necessarily trying to hit home runs, but if it happens it happens. I want to do better with runners on base, and maybe we can blow some innings open that way.”

Semien and his teammates will limp into a day game on Wednesday before receiving a much-needed day off. Along with the Texas Rangers the A’s have taken the field more than any other team, playing nine games in the season’s first nine days.

Game 10 will feature Angels ace Matt Shoemaker (0-1, 18.00 ERA) and youngster fill-in starter Eric Surkamp (0-0, 4.15 ERA).


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.