A’s swipe momentum, split opening series with Angels

Capitalizing on what little leeway they were given, the Oakland Athletics rode a 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to an opening series split.

The difference on this Thursday afternoon was Andrew Triggs‘ ability to stay composed in the face of adversity, when Tyler Skaggs was unable to do the same, letting an error from AL MVP Mike Trout be the turning point for the Angels (2-2).

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 given the numerous emotional swings in the series, taking the get-away game was important for the psyche of his A’s (2-2):

“There was a little more pressure on us to win this game today, so we don’t open the season at home 1-3.”

A light peppering of April rain wreaked havoc on the outfielders in the third, with a pair of errors leading to the game’s first two runs.

First, it was the Oakland center fielder Rajai Davis fooled by the wet outfield grass, letting a Yunel Escobar single roll under his glove giving the Angels lead-off man an extra 90. Anaheim capitalized on the error, moving Escobar over and then in with ground balls from Kole Calhoun and Albert Pujols.

Where Triggs (W, 1-0, 0.00 ERA) was able to keep things from unraveling, Skaggs (L, 0-1, 8.44 ERA) could not, instead suffering a momentary hiccup and allowing the A’s to seize control with a four-run frame.

The skipper said while his team was never in position to withstand a mistake, the difference of the third-inning exchange was this contest’s deciding factor:

“When you capitalize on mistakes it goes from a momentum swing one way to the other way. When we made a mistake Triggs got out of it, and when they made a mistake we ended up capitalizing on it. That was a big part of the game today.”

Skaggs’ grasp loosened when a Marcus Semien single trickled past Trout in right-center giving the A’s two-hole hitter both second and third. After allowing a walk sacrifice fly to Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis respectively, the lefty was beat on a fastball down and in to Ryon Healy, who unloaded for a long two-run home run (2).

The second-year slugger said he expects himself to be a key contributor to the offense all season:

“I would like to be. This team is a lot of fun — there’s a lot of quality players in this clubhouse. The amount of contributions that we’re going to have up and down our lineup is endless.”

Oakland starter Triggs, on the other hand, responded to the error — the second committed by his outfield — by retiring 11 of the next 12 Halo hitters, including 10 in a row, before back-to-back two-out singles in the sixth forced him from the game.

Bailed out by his bullpen buddy, his solid start stayed intact when reliever Liam Hendriks coaxed a ground-ball force out at second to end the threat. The Angels, though, challenged the call at second, believing  base runner Ben Revere had beaten the flip from Semien to second baseman Adam Rosales.

After the review (2:12), replay officials ruled the call on the field to “stand.”

Triggs finished tossing 5-2/3 innings, allowing four hits and one unearned run. He struck out one and walked three.

Throwing a career high 91 pitches, he said his goal every time out is to get as deep as he can can:

“It would have been great to get through six, boom-boom after getting those first two outs there, finish it off and maybe go out for the seventh. But, overall, I was really happy (with my performance).”

Skaggs was the victim of a much rougher outing, despite allowing just one more base runner — five hits and three walks — with all five of his runs allowed being earned. He struck out five.

The fifth and final green and gold run came in the sixth, when Davis, who was on second following a double into the left field corner, was chased home on a single by designated hitter Trevor Plouffe.

Going 2-for-4, Andrelton Simmons was the lone Angel to collect multiple hits.

Oakland was the AL’s worst team facing lefties in 2016, posting the junior circuit’s fewest runs (166) and third-lowest team batting average (.244) against them. In their first chance against a southpaw starter in 2017, the A’s (2-2) enjoyed their best overall performance in 2017’s first set.

Healy said that though his team had a chance to claim at least three of the four in the series getting a Game 4 win will give the A’s a push heading out for their first road trip:

“We played really good baseball. I think splitting was a big confidence booster for us.”

On deck

The A’s take to the road for three-game sets with a pair of winless opponents, the Texas Rangers (0-3) and Kansas City Royals (0-3). The road trip starts with a Friday evening showdown featuring Raul Alcantara and former Athletics A.J. Griffin. Alcantara faced the Rangers twice in 2016, including his lone career win in his only previous trip to Arlington. Griffin has never faced his former club.

Notes

With two errors (Rajai Davis and Mark Canha), Thursday marked the first time since Sept. 23, 2015 that the Oakland Athletics committed multiple errors by outfielder (Josh Reddick, 2) in a single game. … Mike Trout committed an error in the third inning, his first error since June 27, 2016. … Andrelton Simmons extended his hit streak to nine games — dating back to sept. 27, 2016 — with a 2-for-4 performance. He has also hit safely in six straight against the A’s.


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.