OAKLAND — A hit batsman, a wild throw, a few hits — not a lot in the great scheme of things, but more than enough in any single game, especially one that lasts four and a half hours and in which a star reliever fails to pitch like a star reliever.
The Oakland Athletics were doing everything right. Until they were doing too many things wrong. They won 10 in a row. Whoops. Now they’ve lost two in a row.
“That’s baseball,” said Bob Melvin, the A’s manager.
Absolutely. And the reason that managers, even in the best of times, never relax. He said as much the other night. We saw as much Wednesday in a tug-and-shove affair of 11 innings as the Angels outlasted Oakland, 12-7.
This A’s team has its virtues. And its faults. Not only the obvious ones, say the less-than-effective pitching against an Angels team that, in this final game of the three-game series, was resting both Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, the big boys.
Look, as Melvin pointed out correctly, the A’s are resolute. They were down two runs in the eighth and came back to tie, down two runs in the ninth and came back to tie. “We’re not going to back down at any time,” he said.
Still, they have to accept what’s beyond their control, such as an umpire’s decision even if it seems dead wrong. That’s a sign of maturity.
Two nights ago, against the Angels, what Oakland thought should have been a strike to end the top of the ninth was called a ball, leading to a base hit and a loss. The A’s whined openly.
To borrow from Melvin, that’s baseball. Bad calls are universal, if not frequent. And good teams overcome bad calls, just as in tennis good players overcome bad calls. Umpires make errors, so accept the reality.
The reality for the A’s is that they have a contending team, now regaining its touch and its confidence. We’ll find out a great deal more over the next days — the A’s are idle Thursday — when Oakland faces the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox, two of the stronger teams in the American League.
The A’s will need the sort of hitting they had Wednesday at the Coliseum, Marcus Semien with a homer in the third, Matt Olson with a homer in the eighth and, very significantly, a home run by Mark Canha in the ninth.
“After we tied it in the ninth,” said Melvin, “there wasn’t any way we didn’t think we were going to win it. We were in pretty good position with some of our better relievers in the game. But it just didn’t work out.
“It’s demoralizing when you come back to tie a game and right away they come back. We’ll try to take as many positives out of this as we can.”
It will be difficult when assessing the relief pitchers. What a mess. Especially for a team that, adhering to the new strategy of the game, shuttles pitchers to and from the mound with alarming consistency.
Lou Trivino had taken over for the A’s in the 10th, and he, gasp, made it through the inning with only one hit. But wow — gasp, gasp — that 11th.
Cesar Puello led off the inning, and Trivino hit him with a pitch. Better a batter hits a ball than a pitcher hits a batter.
What followed was a wild pitch, a throwing error by Olson who, on a sacrifice bunt, hurled the ball into centerfield, an intentional walk, a passed ball by Josh Phegley and then hit after hit by the Angels.
Puello came up a second time in the inning. It was like one of those science fiction films with the laboratory disintegrating.
“It isn’t like our guys got pounded,” said Melvin. No, they just fell apart, which isn’t much better.
“Give them credit,” Melvin said of the Angels. “For us, this one just didn’t work out.”