For the A’s, smoke in the outfield and a loss to the Angels

© Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Art Spander

OAKLAND — These are unnerving times. One minute you’re worried about virus droplets, the next about everything going up in flames. If the Oakland Athletics on Saturday seemed to have more on their minds than picking up a ground ball, well, even good teams have their bad games.

This was a very bad one for the A’s defensively. Through the smoke and haze at the Coliseum, it wasn’t until late afternoon that you could clearly see the outfield fence.

By that time, you almost virtually could see the A’s regressing to 2015, when they were classically inept in the field.

They’ve improved greatly since then. Gold Glove types are everywhere. But on Saturday, Oakland made three errors, allowed two unearned runs and, falling to the Angels 4-3, lost at home for the first time in 10 games.

A’s manager Bob Melvin, perhaps as concerned with the approaching trade deadline as the defeat — the A’s will be buyers, not sellers, and yes, they want pitching — all but shrugged it off.

“It wasn’t our best day defensively,” said Melvin, to which you are allowed to respond, “No kidding.” But remember a manager’s responsibility is to keep his players content, not keep the media entertained.

“Of course,” he added, “I think we’re probably one of the better teams in the league defensively, and sometimes you’re going to have off days. But our guys came back, we had a chance.”

Indeed. Oakland was down 4-0 after an inning and a half that seemed to last forever (in truth, it was a mere 45 minutes). Amazing how long a game can go when people start making errors.

Especially on a team that is recognized for making great plays. Third baseman Matt Chapman earned a Platinum Glove, awarded to the best player at his position in the majors, and first baseman Matt Olson has back-to-back Gold Gloves.

But in sports, as in life, nobody’s perfect. Before every kid had a smartphone, we were told that’s why pencils had erasers — and we’ve also been told it’s the exception that makes the rule.

Although in Chapman’s case, what the exception made was a displeased infielder, the result of a high hopper by Mike Trout and a low throw to catcher Austin Allen, who couldn’t grab the ball and make a tag on David Fletcher.

“I gave Austin a pretty tough throw to handle,” Chapman said. “Just kind of a tough play. But looking back on it, I like trying to save a run there for Bass and not let them jump ahead like that.”

Chapman wasn’t charged with an error on that play, but he was in the second on another grounder.

“Bass” was Oakland starter, Chris Bassitt, who allowed only two earned runs of the four that the Angels scored. But the pitcher was conciliatory, and absolutely team-oriented.

“We’re kind of spoiled by just Gold Gloves all around,” he said.

We’re also kind of spoiled by what might be called normal Northern California conditions. Late summer is the best time of year, but not this August. As you know, fans are not permitted at any sporting event in the region, and despite the A’s first-place surge or the Giants' minor advancement, that is a stroke of fortune right now.

It was so uncomfortable Saturday, with the smoke settling in at the Coliseum, it was remarkable that the players could survive the game.

A’s coach Mike Aldrete was with the team for Saturday, after missing Thursday and Friday to stay with his house in one of the fire-affected areas near Monterey, The home is on the watch list for possible emergency evacuation.

“It’s close enough to where we all have our fingers crossed for him,” Melvin said. “I think the neighborhood next to him may have been evacuated and they’re on a watch.

“We have our fingers crossed for him. This whole thing is so sad and puts things into perspective when you’re out on a baseball field.”

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