ANAHEIM – Confusion unfolded in the ninth inning Thursday, then heartache took place in the 10th for the A’s.
Howie Kendrick’s sacrifice fly off Ryan Cook scored Albert Pujols to lift the Los Angeles Angels to a 4-3 victory over Oakland in the opener of a critical four-game series.
That came an inning after the A’s escaped a bases-loaded jam that included a controversial obstruction call on Oakland and a misplayed bunt that rolled innocently past two defenders. As the home crowd cheered wildly, the A’s walked off the field with a bitter pill to swallow after they fought back from a 3-0 deficit.
It was also the fourth extra-inning game these teams have played in seven at Angel Stadium.
Pujols began the 10th with a walk issued by Ryan Cook. Then Josh Hamilton singled to move Pujols to third. Kendrick lofted a deep fly to right that Josh Reddick had no chance of making a throw home on as Pujols crossed the plate with the game winner.
The loss dropped the A’s to two games behind the Angels for first place in the American League West.
Starting pitching report
As he’s done often this season, Sonny Gray weathered the storm through one rough inning and turned in a quality start. The Angels got to him for three runs in the second, when he threw two wild pitches that set up Gordon Beckham’s two-out two-run single that capped the rally.
But that was it off the right-hander. Gray lasted seven innings, giving up just the three runs on six hits and three walks. He struck out six, and he retired 11 of 13 during one stretch from third to the seventh.
Luke Gregerson came on and pitched a scoreless eighth. After a flurry of pitching changes in the bottom of the ninth, it was Ryan Cook who came on and got Mike Trout to hit into a bases-loaded fielder’s choice to send the game into extra innings.
At the plate
After going 5-for-10 in the Houston series, Josh Donaldson doubled in the fourth and then hit a 3-1 pitch from C.J. Wilson that curled around the left field pole in the sixth and tied the game 3-3. It was his team-high 26th homer, and his major league-leading 14th against a left-hander. That’s the most by an Athletic since Mark McGwire had 14 in 1995.
The A’s erased a 3-0 deficit against Wilson, who exited after 5 2/3 innings. They got on the board with two in the fifth. Brandon Moss singled and came around to score on Geovany Soto’s double, with help from an error by Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun. Then Coco Crisp lined a run-scoring single up the middle to make it 3-2.
In the field
How could two hit balls that never even made it past the infield grass cause so much havoc?
The bottom of the ninth began with the score 3-3 and Erick Aybar hitting a high chopper off A’s reliever Dan Otero along the first base line. Otero fielded the ball and collided with first baseman Brandon Moss before then tagging Aybar in one big pile-up. Home plate umpire Greg Gibson immediately ruled obstruction and awarded Aybar first base. A’s manager Bob Melvin argued vehemently, but after all four umpires conferred on the play, it was upheld. Then the A’s compounded things when Otero and Moss miscommunicated and let John McDonald’s bunt roll past them for a single to put two runners aboard.
A sacrifice bunt moved them to second and third. After Gordon Beckham was intentionally walked to load the bases, Fernando Abad came on and retired Kole Calhoun on a pop-up for the second out. Ryan Cook entered and coaxed Mike Trout into an inning-ending fielder’s choice, which was only completed when second baseman Alberto Callaspo made a terrific catch of Donaldson’s off-target throw and managed to keep his foot on the bag to get the force. That sent the game to extras.
A couple of double plays helped Gray navigate through his night. One was started on a sparkling play from shortstop Andy Parrino, who picked Beckham’s sharply hit ball and began a 6-4-3 play. Donaldson started the other.
The announced turnout was 41,056.
Six days after holding the Angels to one run over seven innings, Jon Lester (13-8, 2.53) faces them again in Friday’s 7:05 p.m. contest. Jered Weaver (14-7, 3.72) takes the ball for Los Angeles.