Chad Pinder may have the athleticism to play all nine positions in a single MLB game. The A’s might have wished he had in their 4-1 loss to the Rangers Tuesday.
Pinder filled in for Matt Joyce in left field. The left-handed hitting Joyce — nursing a left ankle issue and limited to a pinch-hitting chance in the ninth — entered the game slashing a career .185/.264/.303 hitter against left-handed pitchers.
With the A’s facing southpaw Cole Hamels (W, 1-1, 3.38 ERA), Pinder made sense even without Joyce being day-to-day. That Pinder was 4-4 with two home runs lifetime against Hamels certainly didn’t hurt.
And hurt Hamels he did. Pinder did the most damage against the 13-year veteran, roping a double to center in the first, homering to left in the third and drawing a walk in the fifth. His perfect 6-for-6 against Hamels remained intact. Manager Bob Melvin shied away from the idea of platooning Joyce and Pinder in left field:
“He’s the guy that gives everybody a day off, for the most part. There’s a good chance he’ll be in there tomorrow.”
Hamels befuddled the other eight A’s who stood in for at-bats against him, allowing just two hits and tallying 11 strikeouts against hitters not named Chad. Hamels’ fastball sat around a modest 90 mph, at least two mph slower than it was at any point in 2017 or 2016. But his mid-80s cutter and fading changeup held the A’s in check.
Kendall Graveman (L, 0-1, 8.10 ERA) started for the A’s and, much like his Opening Day outing, navigated a 1-2-3 first inning before allowing a pair of runs in the second. The right-hander said postgame that he felt he threw the ball better than he did against the Angels:
“The second inning got away from me a little bit there with two hits early and I felt I did a good job limiting damage. … Overall, 11 ground-ball outs. More of what I’m trying to get accomplished. … Just go out there and locate early in that second inning and I think it’s a different ballgame. I saw some signs of some good things. I think I’m really close to putting it all together. I just got to go out there and keep working.”
Melvin also saw encouraging signs from Graveman:
“I thought it was a little better today. Some pitches were up in the zone, maybe a little bit more side-to-side than the sink we’re used to seeing out of him. Maybe a tendency to try to overthrow at this point. But I thought he got a little better. Again, when they made a mistake, they hit him. But when he gets on top of the baseball, it’s sinking. At time he just rushes a little and the ball stays up.”
Graveman allowed a run each in the third and fourth and may have allowed more had it not been for a pair of runners caught stealing by catcher Jonathan Lucroy in the second inning. Lucroy added another caught stealing in the ninth, nabbing Rougned Odor for the second time in the game.
All told, Graveman allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk and struck out only one. Not quite a quality start, but four runs proved more than enough for the Rangers.
Pinder kept the A’s in the game with his arm as well, gunning down Nomar Mazara as the Rangers’ right fielder attempted to score from first in the sixth inning. Pinder’s throw from the left-field corner was punctuated by an accurate relay throw from third baseman Matt Chapman and a swipe tag by Lucroy.
It would be the last scoring chance the Rangers had, but the A’s failed to rally against Rangers bullpenners Alex Claudio, Chris Martin and Keone Kela. Melvin acknowledged that it’s hard to tell where the Rangers’ quality pitching ends and where the A’s hitting woes begin given that the team has scored three runs or fewer in four of it’s first six games:
“We’re facing a good pitcher today and their best guys out of the bullpen, for the most part. But I would say right now we’re not swinging the bats as well as we’re capable of and we’re capable of scoring multiple runs and we just have not done that yet.”
Matt Chapman has been the A’s best hitter five games into the season. Chapman is hitting .364 with an on-base-plus-slugging of 1.122. … The A’s bullpen held steady, holding the Rangers to just two hits and no runs in four innings after Graveman departed. … Lucroy is the first A’s catcher to throw out three runners in a game since Stephen Vogt in 2015. … The announced attendance of 9,157 was the lowest of the night in Major League Baseball and the team’s second lowest since May 3, 2010.