Programming note: A’s-Angels coverage starts Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. with A’s Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California (Channel locations)
ANAHEIM – The A’s officially have a battle on their hands in this three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels, as if the scoreboard didn’t make that obvious enough Monday night.
It’s not because Garrett Richards completely handcuffed their hitters in a 4-1 Angels victory, though that was a factor. It’s not because their best player committed three errors, though that also played a part.
The A’s clearly are playing a team that feels very good about itself. Add a hefty dose of confidence to a squad as talented as the Angels and what you have is a dangerous bunch. That’s not something you could have said about the Angels back on June 1, when they slinked out of the Coliseum after getting swept in three games.
They came into this series having taken three straight from the Chicago White Sox and have now won five of their past six (and eight of their past nine at home). In short, they took the field and displayed the confidence that their closer, Ernesto Frieri, boasted about before the series.
After Monday’s defeat, A’s manager Bob Melvin concentrated more on his own club. Specifically, what the A’s didn’t do right.
“We just didn’t play a clean game for us today,” Melvin said. “We didn’t swing the bats very well. We put pressure on the pitching to be perfect. Jesse (Chavez) pitched well enough. We just didn’t do enough offensively, and you can’t give extra outs to a team that’s swinging the bats well.”
Much of the focus will center on Josh Donaldson, for good reason. The A’s third baseman turned in his most un-MVP like performance of the season with three throwing errors and an 0-for-4 showing that extends his recent mini-slump.
Donaldson owned up to it afterwards. After a large media contingent gathered around his locker before the game, including national scribes who wanted to talk about his excellent season and All-Star candidacy, Donaldson knew he’d have reporters waiting for him after the game. With a different line of questioning.
He made no excuses.
“It was just one of those days,” Donaldson said.
He knew his first error in the fifth never should have happened. He fielded Hank Conger’s bunt and made a wild throw when he had no chance to get Conger, who advanced to second when the ball went out of play and would score to give the Angels a 3-1 lead. Donaldson skipped two throws to first for his second and third errors. On one, he was looking Mike Trout back to second and then rifle-armed a throw that was too hot for first baseman Alberto Callaspo to handle.
“it’s just one of those things where it kept building,” Donaldson said. “The second one, I was just trying not to let Trout get to third. I ended up throwing a cutter over there. The last one, I just kinda did the exact opposite.”
Donaldson now leads all American League fielders with 12 errors, but a large chunk of those came early in the season. It’s tough to envision Donaldson repeating Monday’s defensive performance. It should be more troubling that he seems to have lost his comfort zone at the plate recently. He’s 1 for 16 with seven strikeouts over his past four games.
“You get a little anxious sometimes when you’re not getting the amount of hits you do normally,” Melvin said of Donaldson. “Then you try to go after the first or second pitch. But he’ll be fine.”
It wasn’t all about Donaldson on Monday. In fact, it wasn’t all about the A’s, really. What Monday showed was the Angels are a team capable of challenging Oakland. More so, they feel like they should.
The A’s will hit the field Tuesday needing to deliver a counter-punch.