Sizzling Alonso can’t keep A’s in win column
It wasn’t without some late-game pressure on the Angels (17-18), whose closer Bud Norris (S, 6, 3.00 ERA) was forced into the fray with two on and no outs in the ninth. But he was able to wiggle free, with the aid of an Adam Rosales base running blunder.
The A’s (15-18) saw their three-game winning streak snapped, but still have a chance to win clinch a series victory and winning home stand, which wraps up Wednesday.
First baseman Yonder Alonso said the loss was as simple as the Angels’ ability to make mistakes hurt, and his club’s inability to make the most of those missteps, including seven walks issued by Anaheim pitching:
“We weren’t able to capitalize on their mistakes. We’ve just got to move forward, we’ve been playing really well.”
Cotton (L, 3-4, 5.68 ERA) came into the game looking to flip some strange splits. Through his first six starts of 2017, the rookie right-hander had shown an affinity for day games, winning each of his three afternoon starts and allowing four earned runs in 19 innings (1.89 ERA). His 0-3 record and 8.36 ERA in night games was something he wanted to reverse.
Of his inconsistencies, the 25-year-old said work continue to be put in to get things rolling:
“I’ve just got to keep working — I won’t stop working no matter what. Just got to go out there and get better every day and things will start going my way.”
His 1-2 record and 6.89 ERA at home this season was also something he looked to remedy. But he helped nether, serving up eight hits and seven earned runs in 5 innings of work.
It was the long ball that caused a problem for Cotton, who had given up three home runs in 33 innings coming in. He matched that in one chilly Oakland night, resulting in five of the runs he would allow.
Homer No. 1 of the night came on 1-2 hanging changeup to Albert Pujols, giving the future Hall-of-Famer five on the season, and 596 in his career. A much less-likely culprit, Ben Revere, added his first, also a solo shot, since July 20, 2016 after two had been retired in the second. It was Yunel Escobar’s fifth of the season, though, that dealt the greatest blow.
One pitch after feeling he had the Angels lead-off man struck out to end the second, Cotton gave Escobar a 2-2 changeup above the intended target. The third baseman drove it over the wall in center scoring three.
Manager Bob Melvin said that while the changeups were above the target, they weren’t necessarily bad pitches:
“The two changeups they hit — the one to Pujols was up a little bit, but the one to Escobar was down. Maybe they were sitting on them, maybe they guessed right on some pitches today.”
When he wasn’t leaving the changeups above the knees, Cotton had the strikeout stuff working, compiling seven to just one walk.
“Some times for younger guys it take a little while … to get consistent. He will.”
Like their adversary, the Oakland offense made its mark with the long ball. And has been the case of late, that mark was left by first baseman and reigning American League Player of the Week — Alonso.
Alonso’s career power numbers are more a mirror of Revere than Pujols — or even Escobar, for that matter. Coming into 2017, the 30-year-old eight-year veteran had never hit more than nine home runs in a single season. But he entered his 31st game of the season having already slugged nine.
With a first-inning response to Pujols, Alonso eclipsed double-digits for the first time in his career, mashing No. 10, a two-run shot. And it was impressive, as he rode a 98 mph 1-0 fastball the other way over the Rickey Henderson Field insignia in left-center.
The skipper called Alonso’s season to this point impressive, being sure to point out that is still early-May:
“At this point now, you almost expect him to go up there and drive in runs. … The thing that’s most impressive to me is the home runs to the opposite field.”
Alonso also came into the season having never hit two homers in a single game. As of Saturday, that has changed, and now the feat has become old hat for the A’s new team leader in homers. A solo jack this time around, Alonso centered up a 90 mph 1-1 changeup sending No. 11 just short of the “Holy Toledo” sign to the right of straight-away center.
The All-Star hopeful said that, while it is cool to have down what he has, the loss is all that matters to him. Of his personal success, he added:
“Just trying to do something for my team, just trying to get on base. … I think today was a grind. That guy was throwing pretty good, throwing upper-90’s, keeping us off balance a little bit. And, they made some good plays, played some good defense.”
That guy was Angels starter Alex Meyer (W, 1-1, 7.62 ERA), who minimized the Oakland offense to the Alonso homers despite walking five. He did so scattering just four hits while striking out seven in his 5-1/3 innings of work.
On the seven-year anniversary of former A’s hurler Dallas Braden’s perfect game, the man who assisted on the final out of that historic afternoon, Cliff Pennington, applied pain to his former team, finishing 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI.
The home team began the bottom of the ninth getting a pair of walks from reliever Keynan Middleton. But, Rosales was caught venturing too far off second base on a line-out to the second baseman Penning by Jed Lowrie to stunt the threat. Khris Davis grounded out two pitches later to end the night.
Andrew Triggs (4-2, 2.34 ERA) gets the matinee assignment for the A’s in search of a series split and winning homestand. Former-Athletic Jesse Chavez (2-4, 4.46 ERA) will get the ball for the visiting nine. Over four seasons in Oakland Chavez suffered a 17-27 record, despite a respectable 3.98 ERA. Triggs has allowed just one earned run in 11 career innings (o.82 ERA) against the Halos.
In a Triple-A rehab start, lefty Sean Manaea (left shoulder) tossed 4 innings, allowing four hits and two runs (one earned) while walking one and striking out five. He threw 72 pitches, 45 of which were strikes. … Right-hander Chris Bassitt (Tommy John surgery) also made a rehab appearance for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, allowing five hits and four runs in 4 innings of work. He walked four and struck out six, tossing 70 pitches (45 strikes). … Utility man Mark Canha was recalled prior to the game. Manager Bob Melvin said the plan had been to get Canha consistent playing time in the minors before bringing him back to the A’s. Melvin also complimented the play of Jaff Decker, who was designated for assignment to make room for Canha. … Khris Davis finished 0-for-4 with a walk. He also struck out in the seventh, making it an Oakland era A’s record 20 straight games with a strikeout eclipsing the previous mark (19) set by Jack Cust in 2008.