The Angels loaded the bases, without an out, on walks in the first inning of Wednesday’s series finale at the Oakland Coliseum. The Athletics’ manager, Bob Melvin, was one baserunner away from warming up a reliever behind struggling starter Andrew Triggs.
Twelve of Triggs’ first 14 pitches missed. And then he found the release point he sought and began to pound the strike zone, first striking out Luis Valbuena. The Angels produced a run with their second out, but could do no more with their remaining 25. They lost 3-1 to the Athletics.
“A lot of the game we left behind early,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “The first inning was big for us.”
Without Albert Pujols and the injured Mike Trout, the Angels produced only four hits all afternoon, and one of them was a gift double dropped by a defender. They did not walk again after the first. Once Triggs settled, his trickily low arm angle and darting two-seamer proved too much to overcome.
“There’s such a thing called effectively wild in this league,” replacement center fielder Cameron Maybin said. “He was that. That makes it tough as hitters, when you’re all over the place. It’s a tough visual.”
After the strikeout, Triggs induced a groundout and a line-drive out to end the inning. The groundout off Jefry Marte’s bat, nearly turned for an inning-ending double play, brought in the Angels’ run.
“That was Houdini,” Melvin said.
Facing the team with which he had most of his success, Angels starter Jesse Chavez issued a two-out walk in the first inning, and hit a batter and yielded a single to begin the second. That’s when third baseman Yunel Escobar turned a double play on a grounder hit to him, his right foot nicking the edge of third base as he readied to throw across the diamond. He watched the replay on one of the Coliseum’s massive scoreboards and nodded his head.
Chavez did not allow another Athletic to reach base until the fifth, when Mark Canha led off with a single and rookie Chad Pinder drove a cutter, which did not cut, just far enough for a two-run home run to right field.
“At nighttime, there’s no way that ball’s gone,” Scioscia said. “It just carried.”
Chavez then garnered three consecutive grounders and, after an error, a line-drive out to end the inning.
In their half of the fifth, the Angels nearly benefited from two Oakland mistakes. Pinder, manning second base, dropped a popup, allowing Juan Graterol to reach second, and Escobar reached on an error by third baseman Ryon Healy. But Maybin grounded into a forceout and Triggs struck out Kole Calhoun swinging to escape, slamming his hands together as he left the mound.
Triggs finished one more inning without issue.
“That guy’s funky, man,” Maybin said.
Chavez departed after he walked Jed Lowrie with two outs in the sixth, stretching his pitch count to a season-high 111. He said he told pitching coach Charles Nagy he felt nowhere near that number.
“Going back out there for the sixth, I told Nags I felt I was at like 46, 48 pitches,” Chavez said, citing the Angels’ between-starts strength program. “One hundred and eleven should feel like we’re barely halfway through the ballgame.”
Chavez posited that he felt too good upon waking up Wednesday, tempting him to be more delicate than usual, to his detriment.
“I felt really good today,” he said. “I think that’s why I kinda fought myself a little bit mechanically today.”
In relief, right-hander Yusmeiro Petit completed the sixth inning and the next. He tried to handle the eighth to preserve the rest of the Angels’ bullpen, but could not. David Hernandez entered with one run already in, one out and the bases loaded, and struck out both men he faced to end the inning.
The Angels (17-19) outscored Oakland in the series but lost two of three. They have played six games without Trout in the last week, lost four of them, and scored a total of 18 runs. They scored 13 runs in the last two games Trout played.
“You think about some of the close games we’ve been in, just in this series,” Maybin said when asked about Trout. “You always figure that he’s good for a run.”
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura