Homer-happy A’s take series from Halos

The Oakland Athletics continued their recent power push, riding a Chad Pinder two-run blast to a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Wednesday.

Former reliever turned standout starter Andrew Triggs got the setup to Pinder’s heroics dealing with early adversity to turn in another quality start — No. 4 in seven outings.

With the win, the A’s (16-18) sealed a series victory and 4-2 homestand. They also gained a 5-4 season series advantage over the Angels (17-19), who have now lost three consecutive series’.

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

Manager Bob Melvin said, with a solid home stand, the tough preceding road trip is something of the past as his team look forward:

“That’s kind of in the rear view mirror, and to win two series in a row is very important for us, for our psyche.”

At the onset, though, things looked troubling for the A’s and Triggs (W, 5-2, 2.21 ERA). Normally relying on a command-based approach, the Oakland starter lacked exactly that in the first.

Thirteen of the first 15 pitches from his right arm evaded the strike zone, leaving Triggs reeling in a bases-loaded, no-out situation and behind designated hitter Luis Valbuena 1-0. But the sidewinding right-hander found his way, battling back to strike out the Anaheim clean-up man and was a bobble away from escaping the jam unscathed.

Speaking of the turnaround, Melvin’s first thought was “wow”:

“That was Houdini. I was one guy away from getting somebody up in the first inning. You don’t typically see a starter walk three guys in a row. … And he gets a ground ball, if we turn the double play there he gets out of it with nothing. And then (he) gives us 6 innings and nothing else … it was Houdini-like.”

Instead of a double play, a momentary fumble by third baseman Ryon Healy yielded a run-scoring fielder’s choice off the bat of Jefry Marte, rather than an inning-ender.

Triggs not only kept the Angels from capitalizing further on his command issues, he scuttled the lineups every attempt at further tallies, tossing 6 strong innings, allowing three hits and three walks but holding Anaheim to just the one run. He struck out four.

The starter called the first inning “bizarre,” saying his two-seam fastball was “dancing” its way to near-misses:

“I didn’t make the adjustment quick enough. I’m glad I was able to before things got out of hand there and we were able to keep to run.”

His opposite number, former Athletic Jesse Chavez (L, 2-5, 4.29 ERA) matched zeroes with him much of the way, finishing his 5-2/3 frames with three hits and two walks surrendered while striking out five. The difference for Chavez was one inning. One pitch, really — an 87 mph 0-1 fastball that “danced” just a bit.

Following a fifth-inning lead-off single from Mark Canha, who was recalled from Triple-A Nashville Tuesday and collected his first multi-hit (2-for-4) game since Oct. 4, 2015, Pinder was the recipient of said dancing fastball.

After taking an 0-1 fastball for a strike before grounding into a double play in his first at-bat, Pinder was hunting for the same thing, and as it tailed back into the middle of the zone he went with the location, driving it the other way. Off the bat, the high liner appeared to be in the gap, but it continued to fly as the Angels outfield continued to chase. Right fielder Kole Calhoun came to the realization he would need to play it off the wall, but as it hit the very top of the wall in right center, it caromed on into the seats for a two-run homer (2).

Asked about Pinder’s performance, Melvin said simply “he can hit” before adding:

“He’s a hitter. You see, in a game where hits are at a premium, let alone extra-base hits, he goes to right-center field. … And he’s got a lot of power.”

A teammate of Pinder’s since 2013, catcher Bruce Maxwell has been in awe of his development, both in the field and the box:

“I’ve seen Pinder — we’ve been playing baseball together since Single-A Stockton — and just seeing how he’s developed into all the positions that he plays and as a hitter, it something worth watching on a day-to-day basis.”

The 2-1 lead was enough for a bullpen, which finished the series holding the Halos scoreless for 11 innings during the series.

But, just for good measure, Khris Davis, who extended his Oakland franchise record stretch of consecutive games with a strikeout to 21, singled in the eighth to give closer Santiago Casilla (S, 6, 2.57 ERA) a buffer run. He didn’t need it, however, as he blew through the beat-less heart of the Anaheim order which was absent both Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.

Triggs said, with momentum now on his club’s side, he expects his team to continue its roll:

“We know that we’re a good team when everybody is clicking, and we’re coming around. It was a really fun homestand and we want to take that momentum onto this next road trip.”

The skipper agreed, adding one caveat:

“I’m always excited about our team, I’m always optimistic about our team.”

On deck

After a day off Thursday, the A’s head back on the road. Oakland will start a six-game road trip with three in Texas against the Rangers (14-20). The two AL West rivals have split their first six meetings this season, with each claiming a 2-1 series victory at home.

Notes

John Axford (right shoulder) threw a bullpen session prior to the game. He finished the workout feeling good. Manager Bob Melvin said the right-handed reliever will likely begin a rehab assignment Saturday. … Melvin said Sean Manaea (left shoulder) looked and felt good after his rehab start with Triple-A Nashville Tuesday, consistently hitting 94 mph with his fastball. The team will decide in the coming days whether the lefty will get another rehab start or return to the Oakland Athletics. … Catcher Bruce Maxwell, who was hit in the helmet with a foul tipped ball, he said, for the fifth time in a week-plus, was removed for precautionary reasons, according to Melvin. He did say that he passed the concussion protocol tests and thinks he will be ready to play during the next series. … The A’s finished the series 2-for-21 (.095), with one RBI, with runners in scoring position. Of their nine runs scored in the three-game set, eight came via home runs. They are now 15-11 when homering and 1-7 in games without a home run.


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.