Joe Smith didn’t mince his words late Tuesday night. The Angels right-hander came on to protect a one-run lead in the eighth inning and faced five batters. All of them reached base, and four of them scored -- the turning point in a game the Oakland Athletics went on to win, 10-9, in 11 innings.
“Man, I was horrible,” said Smith, who threw scoreless innings in each of his first six games. “I fell behind in counts. I had the first guy 0-and-2 and walked him -- that’s a no-no. I was absolutely terrible, there’s no other way to say it. That’s the worst I’ve thrown the ball in my career, and it doesn’t sit well with me.”
Smith, the former Cleveland Indians setup man who signed a three-year, $15.75-million deal with the Angels over the winter, walked Jed Lowrie to open the eighth. Josh Donaldson singled to left, and Brandon Moss hit a run-scoring infield single off the chest of first baseman Albert Pujols.
Yoenis Cespedes walked, and Alberto Callaspo followed with an RBI single to right, knocking Smith out of the game. Pinch-hitter Derek Norris greeted left-hander Jose Alvarez with a two-run single to center, giving the A’s a 9-6 lead.
“We have to get some stuff figured out as far as the late innings,” Smith said. “It’s no secret we lost the last two games because of our bullpen. That’s the hardest feeling.
“We’re a unit down there, we’re a group, and we try to stay as positive as we can. But when you lose two games you should have won, especially with me and Ernie and against this team, which won the division the last two years ... we have to win these games.”
The Angels thought their bullpen would be deeper and more effective this season, but through 14 games, the relievers have combined to allow 25 earned runs and 43 hits, including nine homers, in 42 1/3 innings for a 5.31 ERA. They have 53 strikeouts and 21 walks.
“No doubt, we’re surprised,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “These guys aren’t going to be perfect, but we need to get some sort of order down there. If we need to match up in the middle innings, we’ll do it, because we don’t have enough guys who are on their game. We need some guys to make pitches and get outs.”
Suffering the blown save wasn’t even the worst part of the night for Smith. Because the Angels couldn’t hold a lead, the game went to extra innings, and that’s when right fielder and leadoff batter Kole Calhoun went down with an 11th-inning ankle sprain that will send him to the disabled list.
The Angels rallied from the three-run deficit when David Freese hit an RBI single in the eighth, and Mike Trout followed Calhoun’s leadoff double in the ninth with a two-run homer that tied the score, 9-9. Oakland won it in the 11thon Donaldson’s RBI double off reliever Yoslan Herrera.
“It stinks when you lose a game like that, when guys battle back for you,” Smith said. “Knowing that if you do your job, and you get the game over with, that one of your guys wouldn’t get hurt, that he’d still be healthy ... that’s what hurts the most.”