ANAHEIM – Bob Melvin dug down for a bit of humor Tuesday night, even after one of the most emotionally draining days he’s experienced as the A’s manager.
He was asked his thoughts on how his starter, Drew Pomeranz, performed in a 14-inning 2-1 loss to the Angels.
“Did he pitch tonight?” Melvin asked with mock curiosity.
He was poking fun at how the 4-hour, 39-minute contest felt like two or three games rolled into one.
Perhaps some levity is in order for the A’s.
They’ve dropped the first two of this three-game series to the Angels, allowing Los Angeles to creep to within 2 ½ games of their lead in the American League West.
[INSTANT REPLAY: A's efforts fall short, Angels walk off in 14]
Their No. 3 hitter, Josh Donaldson, is enduring a 4-for-36 road trip and made another costly throwing error Tuesday. Donaldson’s offensive struggles simply epitomize what’s going on with the A’s team-wide since they arrived in Anaheim.
In two games – and 23 innings of baseball – the A’s have scored just two runs. And it’s not like they’re crushing balls right at people. The A’s simply haven’t generated much in the way of hard contact this series.
“We’re sputtering a little bit,” Melvin said. “We’re not gonna score 10 runs every game, and guys are gonna go through tough stretches. We’re just going through one now.”
Maybe the loss that the A’s experienced before Tuesday’s game even began allowed Melvin to put the on-field defeat in perspective. News surfaced early Tuesday of the death of former Oakland pitcher Bob Welch on Monday night. It hit coaches and players very hard.
Melvin had difficulty addressing questions about Welch in his pregame media session. Closer Sean Doolittle took the mound Tuesday night – and delivered two sterling innings of relief – with the initials “BW” written on his cap.
Welch spent time as a spring training instructor with the A’s, and Doolittle got to know him during instructional league workouts in 2011.
“This is the kind of game he would have liked to be a part of, just listening to him talk,” Doolittle said afterward.
To pull out a victory Tuesday night would have been a nice way to cap a very tough day. It didn’t come to fruition, as the A’s (39-26) had too many breakdowns against an Angels team that is now a season-high eight games over .500.
The A’s lost despite the heroics of left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who fired off one of the best throws that will be seen in the majors this season. After letting Mike Trout’s base hit bounce off his glove and to the left field corner in the eighth, Cespedes retrieved the ball and threw a laser – on the fly and on the money – to home plate to nail Howie Kendrick, who tried scoring from first on the play. That preserved a 1-1 tie.
“It’s probably the best recovery that I’ve ever seen,” A’s center fielder Coco Crisp said. “He has an amazing arm.”
After Cespedes let the ball bounce off his glove, Doolittle said he and the rest of the A’s relievers jumped off the bullpen bench and ran toward the fence to get a better view of the unfolding play.
“It was complete chaos down there in the bullpen,” Doolittle said. “He must have thrown that ball in the air, on the fly, … it had to be 320 feet.”
Cespedes then put the A’s in position to win in the ninth. He led off with a single, was sacrificed to second and stole third with one out. But Brandon Moss struck out and, after Crisp was intentionally walked, John Jaso grounded out to end the threat.
Things haven’t unfolded as planned for the A’s in this series.
“I think it’s what we can expect when we play these guys,” Doolittle said of the close contests. “They’re gonna be well-pitched games, low-scoring games, and it’s who can come up with the big hit late. Obviously we’re not gonna get them all, but over the course of the season that style of baseball bodes well for us.”