A’s Go Deep Again, Lean On Bullpen To Beat Halos 9-5


April 9, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder Coco Crisp (4), left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52) and relief pitcher Grant Balfour (50) celebrate the 9-5 victory against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In a back-and-forth game that could’ve been put away by either team several times over, the Oakland Athletics pulled out a 9-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels Tuesday night by way of an early tw0-out rally and their usual dose of big home runs to take the first matchup of a three-game series.

Angels starter C.J. Wilson surprisingly lasted six innings after giving up three runs on 43 pitches in the first.  After handily retiring Coco Crisp and Chris Young, the A’s offense came alive after consecutive walks to Jed Lowrie and Yoenis Cespedes.  Derek Norris hit a single up the middle to score Lowrie from second, and  single from Josh Donaldson would load the bases for Brandon Moss.  Moss would drive a fastball to right field to score Cespedes and Norris, and the A’s were looking sharp to start off the game.  A solo shot from Coco Crisp to lead off the second – his fourth home run in as many games – would make it 4-0 Oakland.

A’s fans would have been ecstatic if Jarrod Parker was able to come in and ensure that  the early offense would be all Oakland would need for the win, but unfortunately the right-hander would only be able to make it 3.1 innings as he gave up nine hits and two earned runs while walking three and striking out one.  To his credit, Parker was able to get himself out of some tough spots early on; after loading the bases in the first, he struck out Josh Hamilton and induced a double play to escape the inning unscathed, and although he gave up two runs in the third, it could have been worse as the Angels stranded seven men on base during Parker’s three innings of work.

Oakland was indeed successful in preventing any serious damage by the Angels until the bottom of the sixth, when Mike Trout led off the inning with a triple off of Pat Neshek.  Brendan Harris then hit a fly ball to left that should have been routine for Chris Young, but the ball hit the outside of his glove and as a result Trout scored to make it 4-3 with Harris on second and no outs.  Young made his first start of the season in right field Tuesday night, and Melvin may try to avoid that in the future as the outfielder didn’t exactly look comfortable defensively.

A fielding error by Jed Lowrie on the next play on a grounder from Albert Pujols meant two baserunners to deal with, and that prompted Melvin to bring in left-hander Jerry Blevins to face Josh Hamilton, and the former Ranger brought Harris home from second to tie the game on a sacrifice fly to center field.  Melvin wasn’t done tinkering, however, and he brought in Ryan Cook to face Mark Trumbo in the next at-bat, and Trumbo reached on a ground ball that was delivered by Lowrie to get Pujols out at second.  Cook then gave up a triple to Howard Kendrick that went all the way to the right field corner past Young, scoring Trumbo to give the Angels a 5-4 lead before Cook struck out Alberto Callaspo in the next at-bat to end the inning.

The seventh started well enough for the A’s as Coco Crisp legged out a ground ball for a single, but Scott Downs disposed of Young and Lowrie, and it looked like the inning would end quietly when Mike Scioscia brought in Kevin Jepsen to face Yoenis Cespedes.  Jepsen’s control was spotty, however, and Cespedes drew a walk that would come back to haunt the Angels as pinch hitter John Jaso bounced a ball off of and over the top of the right field wall, shocking the crowd at Angel Stadium to reclaim the lead for Oakland, 7-5.

If that wasn’t enough to take the wind out of their sails, Donaldson followed it up with a single on a line drive to left, and he was brought home on a bomb to right-center field from Moss, and the A’s would take a 9-5 lead into the final two innings after Nate Freiman was retired.

From there the A’s would rely on Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour to close out the game, and they didn’t disappoint, as Doolittle retired Harris, Pujols and Hamilton in the eighth and Balfour navigated his way through the ninth to close things out and get the A’s their sixth win in a row.

While the A’s were able to get the win, this game may have posed several challenges for the near-future.  Second basemen Scott Sizemore left the game in the bottom of the fourth inning after spraining his left knee – the same knee that suffered an ACL tear that kept him out all of 2012 – and he’ll return to Northern California tomorrow to undergo an MRI.  Jemile Weeks is the likely candidate to call up from Triple-A Sacramento, and we’ll know more tomorrow about how the A’s decide to manage the roster as two spots are now held by players that will be out for an undisclosed amount of time.

Another concern moving forward is Jarrod Parker, who looked unspectacular in his second outing of the season.  While his starting spot in the rotation isn’t in jeopardy at the moment, if these poor performances continue, you have to wonder moving forward if Melvin would look at skipping a start and explore the possibility of bringing up Dan Straily to fill in while Parker works on his mechanics.

On a bright note, the offense just keeps coming for Oakland, and it’s good to see players not named Jed Lowrie and Coco Crisp get in on the action as this was the third straight game with three home runs for the A’s.  They now have 15 on the year, and are tied with the New York Yankees for the most home runs in the Majors.  Moss went 3-for-4 with 4 RBI, and the A’s can get production out of another hot bat while capitalizing on contributions from guys like Jaso, they’ll be in good shape moving forward.

The A’s will look to continue their winning ways tomorrow when Tommy Milone goes up against former Athletic Joe Blanton in Anaheim at 7:05.  We’ll be here with the game preview tomorrow afternoon, so stay tuned for updates on Sizemore, Josh Reddick and possible roster adjustments by Billy Beane and Bob Melvin.