In their first game governed by baseball’s new pace-of-play initiatives, the Angels wrestled the Oakland A’s for four hours and two minutes Thursday.
The affair took 11 innings, included five home runs and five other extra-base hits, required 12 pitchers to throw 362 pitches and didn’t end until Marcus Semien dropped an RBI single off Noe Ramirez into a vast emptiness created when the desperate Angels employed a five-man infield.
Yeah, this 6-5 season-opening Angels defeat featured a bit of everything and one notable touch of nothing, Mike Trout going 0 for 6, something he never had done in 925 previous career games.
Beyond that, there really wasn’t much else, except, of course, the guy trying to make baseball history, the one who struggled so convincingly during spring training, hitting the first pitch he ever saw in the big leagues for a single.
“That’s probably an at-bat,” rookie Shohei Ohtani said later in Japanese, “I’m not going to forget for the rest of my life.”
Much of the balance of this game was plenty forgettable for the Angels, who failed to hold leads of 4-0 and 5-4.
They lost despite home runs from Kole Calhoun, Zack Cozart and Albert Pujols and a solid stretch of relief pitching.
They lost even after starter Garrett Richards masterfully escaped early and frequent trouble as his teammates built a once-sizable margin.
“Tough loss,” Cozart said after producing three hits in his Angels’ debut. “You never want to play extra innings your first day and you don’t want to lose.”
The bitterness of this defeat was visible on Richards, in particular, the right-hander shutting out Oakland into the fifth inning, when things began to unravel before coming apart completely in the span of three pitches.
He had worked out of first- and second-inning trouble with two rally-snuffing strikeouts that stranded four A’s runners and suggested this might be Richards’ day.
“I got put into some pressure situations early on,” he said. “A couple of unfortunate hits. …I did my best to minimize the damage.”
With one out in the fifth, he walked Matt Joyce and Semien back-to-back before striking out Jed Lowrie.
He then threw four consecutive sliders to Khris Davis followed by a two-seam fastball that was supposed to sink but instead moved out over the plate.
Davis hit 85 home runs the past two seasons, and his swing on Richards’ errant fastball showed why.
“I made one mistake to Khris Davis,” Richards said, “and, unfortunately, that happened to be the difference-maker.”
After throwing strike one to the next batter, Matt Olson, Richards hung a slider that became a solo homer, and the Angels’ 4-0 edge was suddenly swallowed whole.
“It’s unfortunate that you have to learn from things that way,” Richards said. “It’s definitely going to go into the mental book. …I’m not going to make that mistake again.”
The Angels lost when, with one out in the 11th, Ramirez gave up a career-first triple to Boog Powell, who played at Mission Viejo High and Orange Coast College.
After an intentional walk and with left fielder Justin Upton having moved into the infield for extra defensive support, Semien lifted his single into a mostly vacated center field.
“I think people put so much into that opening day game when you have so many more,” Cozart said. “Obviously, you want to win. But we’ll come back [Friday] and be ready to play again.”