The reliever was rolling, so Angels manager Mike Scioscia elected to use him for a third inning Monday night at the Oakland Coliseum, more than he had pitched in two years.
Two outs into the 11th inning and tiring, on his 39th pitch, Deolis Guerra left a changeup and served up the winning homer to Jed Lowrie, as the Athletics topped the Angels, 3-2.
Oakland won in walk-off fashion for a third consecutive game, while the Angels lost for the fifth in their last six games.
Only two Angels pitchers had preceded Guerra. Two others had warmed behind him. But Scioscia was convinced the changeup-reliant right-hander was the right choice.
“He’d been up at that pitch count before,” Scioscia said. “He was rested. He was throwing the ball well. He just made one mistake with that changeup.”
The two teams played quickly on a night the Angels were without Mike Trout. To begin, Yunel Escobar tapped back to Oakland starter Kendall Graveman, who could not field it cleanly. It went as a single, and Escobar scored two outs later when Luis Valbuena drove a sinker 411 feet to center for a two-run homer.
Next, Graveman drilled Andrelton Simmons in the hands with a 94-mph sinker. After examination, Simmons stayed in the game to run the bases, but he exited after another inning.
He sustained bruises on his right hand and left thumb as a result of the pitch. X-ray results on both hands demonstrated no bone damage, and the club pronounced Simmons day-to-day. He said he hopes to play Tuesday, when the Angels also hope to re-introduce Trout in the lineup.
“It’s not bad,” Simmons said. “It’s just sore enough to where I couldn’t really swing the bat. I wouldn’t help the team swinging the bat.”
To replace Simmons in the second inning, Danny Espinosa entered to play second base and Cliff Pennington shifted from second to shortstop. An inning later, Pennington and Ben Revere converged on Trevor Plouffe’s pop fly to short left field but let it drop between them for a double. Both men acted as if the other had called for the ball.
Plouffe took third on Jaff Decker’s subsequent sacrifice bunt, but Nolasco struck out Adam Rosales and induced a flyout from former Angel Matt Joyce to end the inning. Lowrie hit Nolasco’s next pitch, to begin the fourth, for the A’s first run. Nolasco worked out of the inning without further damage, helped by an egregious called third strike on Khris Davis. His pitch was both below and outside the strike zone, but home-plate umpire Ed Hickox ruled it a strike.
Nolasco pitched a perfect sixth and seventh. Having struck out 10 and walked none, he gave way to David Hernandez in the eighth. Nolasco had not struck out 10 or more batters in a game since 2013, when he was a Dodger, and he had not done it without a walk since 2009, when he was a Florida Marlin.
He had struggled so far this season, once even pushing his start back four days to fix mechanical issues. Scioscia said before Monday’s game that the pitcher’s varying release point was his only remaining problem.
“I don’t think he’s that far off,” Scioscia said, and for a night he was proven right.
In relief, Hernandez managed a spotless inning, while Guerra produced two more to advance the Angels into the 11th. In the 10th, Guerra benefitted from another debatable called third strike against Davis, for the Athletics’ outfielder’s fourth strikeout of the night.
Scioscia’s decision for the 11th then loomed. Right-handers Bud Norris and Blake Parker had each warmed earlier, but Scioscia opted to stick with Guerra, who was not on the team’s 40-man roster when it broke camp one month ago. He carried a 5.19 earned-run average over seven appearances into Monday night, and his losing effort lowered his ERA.
It was the third time this season, already, that Nolasco and Graveman had matched up against each other. Nolasco, in particular, has faced these Athletics often. He has made 18 starts as an Angel since his Aug. 1 acquisition, and one-third of them have come against Oakland.
Graveman shut down the Angels after Valbuena’s first-inning homer, although they did get to bat six times with runners in scoring position. They did not produce a hit in those situations.
Normally, the Oakland Coliseum is uncrowded but comparatively loud. On Monday night, it was uncrowded and quiet. The announced crowd of 10,292 was the Athletics’ smallest of the season, and when it ended, far fewer fans appeared to remain inside the stadium.