Angels bleed Cotton, A’s in shutout victory

Solid contact was yielding outs instead of hits. So the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim went to Plan B, bombarding the Oakland Athletics with bloops en route to a 5-0 beating Wednesday night.

After seizing an eighth-inning comeback win one day prior, the Angels (2-1) didn’t wait around to reclaim the momentum, saddling Oakland starter Jharel Cotton with the first loss of his career.

The A’s (1-2) did next to nothing, able to collect just six hits off Garrett Richards and a trio of Haloed relievers, and have now been shutout over the last 11 innings in losing back-to-back.

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

Manager Bob Melvin said that while his starter did not have a great night, he didn’t look that bad:

“The first was easy for him. Then the second they got a couple of bloop hits off him and scored some runs. Then, in the fifth they broke through off him again. So, maybe not his best stuff … even though it was a couple bloop hits that got him for the first few runs.”

That easy first saw Cotton (L, 0-1, 10.38 ERA) give up a pair of line-outs before Mike Trout stood in. Four pitches later, the rookie hurler had recorded his first strikeout of the night, showing the reigning MVP all four of his pitches.

Cotton, who said he’s happy to get his first start of the year out of the way, admitted that he was a bit star-struck when facing the game’s consensus best player:

“That was my first time facing Mike Trout. It was awesome — I always see this guy on TV, he’s a superstar. I’m like a little kid, when I face these guys I’m always excited.”

The 25-year-old rookie got Trout on strikes again in the third, this time on three straight pitches, finishing him off with a high fastball.

In the second, though, the Angels got on the board when a single and walk by C.J. Cron and Cameron Maybin respectively preceded three consecutive bloop hits.

Aiding Cotton in escaping the jam with only two runs allowed was a base running blunder by last night’s hero Danny Espinosa, who left first prematurely on a steal attempt. The caught stealing was followed by yet another bloop hit.

Said Cotton:

“I don’t think they were very hard hits — some broken-bat singles, some flares — but they strung them together really well and they got some runs out of it.”

The visitors were at it again in the fifth, and once again the attack was bolstered by a walk — this one issued to lead-off man Yunel Escobar. Kole Calhoun followed with a seeing-eye roller just beyond the reach of a diving Jed Lowrie in shallow right. Trout then got a third look at the Oakland righty and delivered a solid single to left-center.

But the game’s final run came on further misfortune for Cotton.

With Trout running on the first pitch, Lowrie darted to cover second, and the space he vacated is exactly where Albert Pujols poked yet another weakly-hit knock to drive in Calhoun.

Cotton finished allowing eight hits and five runs in 4-1/3 innings.

The Angels starter had his own bad luck with which to contend. But, for Richards (ND, 0-0, 0.00 ERA), the run of bad luck had nothing to do with his performance. In fact, he was almost untouchable, holding the Oakland offense to three hits in 4-2/3 frames.

Said Melvin:

“When (his) velocity is that high, guys are coming back saying the balls are moving all over the place. It’s a little like Sonny (Gray) when he’s on, the ball is just so unpredictable and it’s got a real good late movement to it.”

Rather, it was health for the righty, who was making his first appearance since tearing a tendon in his left knee last May. His long-awaited return to the mound was cut short when he was forced from the game with biceps cramps, though the team did say that his removal was precautionary.

Anaheim was paced by Calhoun’s 3-for-5 performance while Khris Davis was the only of the Athletic to reach base multiple times, singling and drawing a walk in four trips to the plate.

On deck

The A’s look for a series split with the Angels in a Thursday matinee. Taking the ball from Melvin, Andrew Triggs will look to mirror his performances of 2016, when he was 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA as a starter, rather that of this spring, when he went 1-3 with an 8.10 ERA. He will be opposed by Tyler Skaggs (0-1, 6.00 ERA in two career starts against Oakland).

Notes

Oakland Athletics reliever Frankie Montas made his season debut, tossing 2-2/3 scoreless, allowing two hits. He has not appeared in a big league game since Oct. 4, 2015 (Chicago White Sox), having suffered numerous injuries since that time. … After leading the American League in shutouts (12) in 2016, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim recorded their first shutout of 2017. … With a two-run single in the second inning, Danny Espinosa recorded career RBI No. 600.


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