For the first time in four days, the Athletics offense found the scoreboard first Saturday afternoon. But Oakland needed the blessing of some Angels wildness to end its four-game slide with a 6-4 victory at the Oakland Coliseum.
Like they had been all week, the A’s (35-36) were chasing after Los Angeles (38-33) put three on the board in the fifth. Then, Angels reliever Noé Ramirez gave them a gift in the form of four free base runners in the sixth. Three of the four would come around giving Oakland its first lead in more than four full games.
Chad Pinder, who finished a double shy of the cycle with three runs scored, said:
“It was nice to get a win after the tough series against Houston and then kinda beating ourselves yesterday. … That’s a really good win for us right there.”
Los Angeles starter John Lamb, who had been a tough puzzle for the A’s, was yanked in favor or Ramirez (L, 2-3, 4.20 ERA) after Marcus Semien greeted him with a long solo homer (6) leading off the sixth. Ramirez did exactly what a manager wouldn’t want, hitting the first batter he faced.
A Jed Lowrie flyout offered only a momentary reprieve, and was followed by a walk and another hit batsman. After a strikeout and another walk, bringing in a run, Stephen Piscotty gave the A’s the hit they had been looking for all week, sending a two-out single right back up the middle to score two and reclaim the lead — one they would not relinquish.
Manager Bob Melvin said that coming through in that position was huge for Piscotty, who has heated up in June batting .310. The skipper added that the key in those situations is understanding that the pitcher is the one being pressured. The 27-year-old right fielder concurred:
“You’ve got to shrink the zone there, and not expand. Know that the pressure is on him in that situation, curb the excitement and adrenaline.”
Piscotty added that he is not worried about his club being mired in a funk, saying it is something all teams must go through.
The slider is far from a do-or-die pitch for Sean Manaea. He is capable of being competitive and keeping his club in games with just the changeup and fastball, but when the slider is working, like it did all of April, he can be one of the game’s best hurlers.
For the first time in what seems like a month, Manaea (W, 6-6, 3.56 ERA) brought the nasty slider out of the bullpen with him. And the big lefty let it eat in the first four frames, throwing it 10 times including one that missed the target but still snapped onto the inside corner for a called strike three on Mike Trout to end the first.
“When I can get the slider going and have three of those pitches that I can throw for strikes, things are going to go well.”
Using the slider, Manaea cruised through four perfect frames, but the Oakland offense had no luck figuring out Angels starter Lamb (ND, 0-0, 3.60 ERA). In three innings, the A’s had just one hit, a first-inning single by Pinder, against the 27-year-old lefty.
It was Pinder who broke the seal in the fourth, pulverizing the first pitch of the frame for a solo homer (6) to left-center, his first longball since May 26 — 14 games.
Oakland’s first lead in 38 innings — since the first inning Tuesday night — was short-lived.
Manaea went away from the slider in the fifth and allowed his first base runner, an Albert Pujols single, on a 3-0 fastball. He stayed persistent with the fastball-changeup combination, surrendering a 0-2 single to Martín Maldonado.
The Angels lineup underwent a late shuffle when regular left fielder Justin Upton was scratched with lower back tightness. Replacing the four-time All-Star was one-time Athletic Chris Young, whose season-long struggles have been pronounced. Young came in batting .176 with three homers and seven RBIs in 44 games.
To compliment the less-productive bat, Los Angeles skipper Mike Scioscia moved Trout from his familiar two-hole to Upton’s three-spot. Young was slotted in behind Maldonado, and he was there to take advantage of Manaea with a three-run homer (4).
Manaea, who said that late lineup changes don’t alter the way he attacks the opposition, refused to say that his back-to-back quality starts show that he is back to his April form, but added that he does feel better about his ability to calm things down and battle:
“After the home run, I just stepped off and really had to focus and slow the game down. … I just told myself to get back on the mound and put the team in a good position.”
After seeing his club take a late lead, Melvin went to his big three relievers — two of whom had not pitched in a week — to pocket an Oakland win.
Unlike closer Blake Treinen, Yusmeiro Petit showed no rust in his first appearance since June 9, burning through a perfect seventh. Lou Trivino followed with a scoreless one-hit eighth inning, but Treinen (S, 15, 1.13 ERA) had to battle a bit after walking the first two batters he faced. In the end, he did exactly what Melvin needed, serving up just one run and sealing Manaea’s first win since May 14.
Melvin called getting a guy like Treinen, who has been called on for so many innings this season, the proper amount of rest a “double-edged sword:”
“You want to make sure you use him in games that you need him, and certain times during the season when you use him a lot he needs breaks. But how long is too long for a break? Maybe this time was a little bit too long.”
The A’s finish their homestand Sunday with a chance to overcome a sweep by the Astros and finish with a split of the 10 games. Manager Bob Melvin will flip the ball to Daniel Mengden (6-6, 3.90 ERA), who will be happy to see anyone but Houston on the other side of the field. Three of Mengden’s six losses have come at the hands of the Astros, against all other opposition he has gone 6-3 with a 3.12 ERA. His Sunday matinée opposition will lefty Andrew Heaney (3-5, 3.68 ERA).
Matt Chapman, who has been dealing with pain in his right hand for nearly eight months, was placed on the 10-day disabled list Friday. MRIs show no structural damage but with the persistent pain, Chapman will seek further examination from Dr. Steven Shin, who has been treating the pain since last season, in the coming days. Franklin Barreto was recalled from Triple-A Nashville to fill Chapman’s roster spot. Jed Lowrie is expected to see the majority of the playing time at third base. … Carlos Ramírez (0-0, 3.24 ERA) was optioned to Triple-A Nashville with Josh Lucas (0-0, 2.89 ERA) being recalled from the Sounds to fill his vacancy. Lucas last pitched for the A’s on May 31 and has worked 9-1/3 innings in four games with Oakland. … Trevor Cahill (right achilles) played catch from a knee Saturday. There is still no clear timetable for his return. Cahill (1-2, 2.77 ERA) has not pitches since June 2. … Brett Anderson (left shoulder strain) threw 30 pitches off the mound Friday. Manager Bob Melvin said that the team will look to planning his rehab assignment if he experiences no further pain. Anderson (0-2, 7.63 ERA) has not pitched since May 18. … Matt Joyce (back tightness) ran bases before Friday’s game and got the go-ahead to begin his rehab assignment Monday. … Angels reliever Jake Jewell made his major league debut Saturday, tossing a scoreless eighth and getting Barreto looking for his first big league strikeout.