OAKLAND COLISEUM — It was an epic battle of the two-run home run, but the A’s eventually fell to the Angels 5-4 in 11 innings Wednesday afternoon, giving them their first series loss since August 23-25 in Baltimore.
Oakland starter A.J. Griffin allowed only one hit, but it was a big one.
After walking J.B. Shuck to lead off the game, Griffin served up a 3-2 pitch that Mike Trout launched into the bleachers in left-center field to give Anaheim a quick 2-0 lead.
Trout homered in every game of this series, giving him 26 during an impressive sophomore season.
But Griffin settled in, eventually throwing 90 pitches in six innings, walking two, and striking out six. After the Trout home run, Griffin retired 17 of the final 18 batters that he faced, something Griffin prides himself on:
“That’s another thing I’ve been working on, just trying to stay in the moment and not let things that happened earlier in the outing get to me and affect the way I’m going to pitch because that’s when you get in trouble. That’s when I was getting in trouble earlier this year.”
The Angels held a 2-0 lead until the third inning, but Jason Vargas quickly unraveled, and the A’s offense pounced.
Josh Reddick led off the inning with a single, and two batters later, Coco Crisp hit his career-high 20th home run of the year to tie the game at two.
After Jed Lowrie singled, Yoenis Cespedes got in on the action and launched a two-run shot of his own, this one to dead center to give the A’s the lead. Oakland leads the league with 71 long balls since the All-Star break.
Vargas also tossed six innings on 100 pitches, allowing seven hits – four of them coming in that third inning – walking two and striking out five.
Grant Balfour entered in the ninth, looking to convert his 39th save. What happened next stunned the 20,260 fans in attendance.
After giving up a lead-off single to Erick Aybar, Balfour served up a two-run, game-tying home run to Josh Hamilton.
Oakland failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, and the game headed to extra innings. Manager Bob Melvin wasn’t concerned with his closer, despite the blown save:
“He’s had a great year. I mean, if you look at it overall, three blown saves is gonna work anywhere. And actually, he did have good stuff today. He just got one fastball probably not in the right spot to a good fastball hitter.”
Jesse Chavez (L, 2-4, 4.22 ERA) pitched a scoreless tenth for the A’s before giving up a lead-off double to Shuck in the eleventh. Aybar bunted him over to third, only to have Donaldson misplay the ball, putting runners on the corners with no outs.
Jerry Blevins, Pat Neshek, and Brett Anderson limited the damage, giving up only one run on a sacrifice fly by Hamilton to make it 5-4. But it proved to be enough, as Ernesto Frieri pitched a 1-2-3 eleventh to earn his 35th save.
Despite not being able drop their magic number to five (it did drop to five later Wednesday on Texas’ 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay), Donaldson says that this team is really good at putting tough losses behind them and moving forward:
“I think we just have a resilient group of guys here, and I feel like we play quality baseball just about every day. We try not to let the past affect us too much. We’ve just gotta move forward and continue to play the same way we’ve been playing all year.”
The A’s will look to put this loss behind them as they send right-hander Dan Straily to the mound to face righty Kevin Correia and the Minnesota Twins Thursday night.
Griffin tossed at least six innings allowing two hits or fewer for the second straight start and fourth time in his career. … Cespedes set a new career high with 24 home runs. He hit 23 in his rookie season last year. … Crisp’s 20th home run gave him the third-highest home run total ever for an Oakland A’s leadoff hitter (Henderson 28, 1990; Campaneris 22, 1970). Wednesday’s was Crisp’s 10th home run in his last 26 games after hitting 10 in the first 97 games. … Crisp is one stolen base short of his first 20 home run-20 stolen base season.