Instant Replay: Hahn hit early, A's can't muster enough off Royals

Instant Replay: Hahn hit early, A's can't muster enough off Royals

BOX SCORE

KANSAS CITY – Jason Vargas was a regular thorn in the A’s side when he pitched in the American League West.

They were reacquainted with the left-hander Thursday, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. The A’s advanced just one runner as far as second base against Vargas in a 3-1 loss that denied them a sweep at Kauffman Stadium and snapped their eight-game winning streak against the Royals.

Vargas (2-0) was primarily responsible for that, limiting Oakland to four hits over 7 2/3 innings. He struck out eight and walked just one. Meanwhile, the Royals did their damage early off Jesse Hahn, scoring all the runs they would need inside of the first three innings.

Vargas, who spent four seasons with Seattle and one with the Angels, has thrown four complete games against Oakland and entered with a 3.22 ERA against them in 20 games (18 starts). The A’s carried just a .215 batting average against Vargas into the game.

Tensions ran high in the second inning when Ryon Healy exchanged words at home plate with Royals catcher Salvador Perez. Healy seemed to take exception to an inside pitch from Vargas, and he and Perez began jawing briefly before home plate umpire Mark Wegner stepped between them.

The A’s finished their first road trip of the season 3-3 and flew back to Oakland after the game to begin a 10-game homestand, all games against the AL West.

Starting pitching report

Five batters into the bottom of the first, four Royals had singled and two had scored off Hahn (0-1), suggesting it would be a short night for Oakland’s right-hander in his first major league start of the season. Hahn steadied himself, however, and wound up with a very respectable pitching line. He lasted six innings and gave up three runs on six hits, striking out seven and walking two. No doubt he’ll want to make things easier on himself in the early going, but he certainly earned another start after he was tapped to replace Raul Alcantara as the No. 5 man in the rotation.

Bullpen report

Daniel Coulombe and Ryan Madson each threw a scoreless inning in relief of Hahn.

At the plate

Rajai Davis helped the A’s avoid a shutout when he lined a homer to left to lead off the ninth against Royals closer Kelvin Herrera, his first home run since returning to Oakland. Other than that, the A’s went quietly with the bats. They mustered just six hits total. Besides Davis’ homer, only two hitters reached as far as second base.

In the field

A familiar problem has already reared its ugly head, as the A’s are committing too many errors in the first two weeks of the season. After two Thursday night, they’ve totaled an American League-high 11. Their miscues Thursday were very avoidable. Mark Canha, drawing the start in right field, simply dropped Eric Hosmer’s liner. That came after he made an adventure of Lorenzo Cain’s liner an inning before. Hahn committed the other error, when he covered first on a grounder and couldn’t handle an easy flip from Ryon Healy. A’s pitchers have committed five errors already. They committed just nine all of last season.

Attendance

The announced turnout was 22,160.

Up next

Josh Reddick makes his return to Oakland when the Astros begin a three-game series at the Coliseum on Friday night. Kendall Graveman (2-0, 2.08) goes in the opener against lefty Dallas Keuchel (1-0, 0.64), with first pitch at 7:05 p.m. Saturday: Sean Manaea (0-1, 7.15) vs. Lance McCullers (1-0, 2.77), 1:05 p.m. Sunday: Jharel Cotton (1-1, 3.97) vs. Charlie Morton (0-1, 4.09), 1:05 p.m.

Hahn gives A's plenty to think about with impressive long relief stint

Hahn gives A's plenty to think about with impressive long relief stint

ARLINGTON, Texas — Ticketed for Triple-A Nashville in the closing stages of spring training, Jesse Hahn couldn’t have known he would make an impact in the majors so early in the regular season.

Hahn was handed a mess when he took the mound to begin the third inning Friday and salvaged what he could for Oakland’s pitching staff in a 10-5 loss to the Rangers at Globe Life Park.

After starter Raul Alcantara got knocked around for eight runs and lasted just two innings, Hahn gave the A’s six quality innings to finish out the game and keep things under control on a night the bullpen could have been taxed heavily.

With that, the right-hander once again ignited thoughts of what he might be capable of if he can consistently put his game together at the major league level.

“That’s awesome,” Hahn said of coming through with the A’s in a tough spot. “Honestly, it almost felt like a start because it was six innings. I knew we had some guys down today, so I think being aggressive kept my pitch count low enough to be able to go out there for six innings.”

Hahn, who hadn’t taken the mound in an actual game since a March 25 Cactus League contest, held Texas to two runs over the six innings, scattering seven hits, striking out three and walking one. He was sent down a day after struggling in that exhibition against the Dodgers. By the time he was recalled Wednesday, when reliever John Axford hit the 10-day disabled list, Triple-A Nashville still hadn’t started its regular season, though Hahn had been keeping his arm in shape since being sent down.

“He attacked and he wasn’t afraid to throw his fastball, and he knew he was going to have to throw strikes,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He knew he was going to have to pitch deep into the game. He threw some really good curve balls too, some good cutters, some changeups. But he went out there in attack mode, and knew he was probably gonna be out there for a while and made the most of it.”

Let the unavoidable speculation begin about whether Alcantara takes the ball for his next turn or whether Hahn slips in for a start, given the pitchers will be on identical rest. Alcantara is fresh from winning the No. 5 starter job in spring training. Perhaps he gets an early-season mulligan, though even with an eight-man bullpen, the A’s can’t afford many abbreviated starts like Friday’s.

Hahn’s ability tantalizes, and the A’s view him as a guy that can potentially be a rotation fixture. But worth keeping in mind: A long reliever who enters a lopsided game and dominates is similar to a backup quarterback entering a blowout and leading his team to a couple touchdowns. It’s tough to gauge how much stock to put into the performance and what it means for the future.

When Axford is ready to return, and it’s unclear when that will be, someone from the bullpen will have to go down. Alcantara is out of minor league options, so he would have to exposed to the waiver wire before the A’s could send him down if it came to that.

That decision will come. At least for one night, Hahn showed he still knows how to get big league hitters out.

“It was really nice to see him kind of return to the form that we all know he could,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “He did an outstanding job.”

Instant Replay: Alcantara allows eight as A's lose to Rangers

Instant Replay: Alcantara allows eight as A's lose to Rangers

BOX SCORE

ARLINGTON, Texas – The A’s have mounted some impressive comebacks at Globe Life Park, but the task proved too steep in their series opener Friday night.

Raul Alcantara needed a do-over shortly after he took the mound, getting tagged for eight runs over two innings in a 10-5 defeat to the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers jumped ahead with three runs in the first, including Rougned Odor’s two-run homer. Then the roof caved on Alcantara in the second, when he issued two walks, hit another batter, committed a throwing error on a pickoff and eventually gave up Nomar Mazara’s first career grand slam to put the A’s in an 8-0 hole.

Jesse Hahn took over to begin the third and turned in an excellent outing given the circumstances. He ate up the final six innings on the mound and kept the game from getting further out of hand. The A’s began slugging their way back into it, with Matt Joyce hitting a deep shot for a three-run homer in the third and Khris Davis leading off the fourth with his third homer of the season.

But the comeback ran out of steam, and Texas tacked on a couple more as Mazara finished with a six-RBI night. With that, the two-time defending American League West champions won their first game of 2017 after they were swept by Cleveland to begin the season.

Starting pitching report

Alcantara (0-1), getting his first chance in a season-opening big league rotation, just couldn’t harness his command. Rangers center fielder Carlos Gomez, who also impacted the game with his defense, led off the bottom of the first by hustling out a double on a base hit to left-center. He was on third when Mazara brought him home with a fielder’s choice grounder on which it was ruled that Yonder Alonso never touched first base before throwing home late trying to get Gomez. Odor’s two-run shot to right would make it 3-0, and then it all went downhill in the second for Alcantara.

Former Athletic A.J. Griffin took the mound against his old club for Texas, but he left in the fourth after suffering abrasions on both knees and his right palm when he dove on an odd play while backing up home plate. He wound up charged with four runs over 3 1/3 innings.

Bullpen report

Hahn couldn’t have arrived at the ballpark knowing he’d get such a workout. Called up from the minors when John Axford went on the disabled list Wednesday, Hahn saved the rest of the bullpen by entering in the third and taking it to the finish line, holding the Rangers to two runs over six innings. He struck out three and walked one, and he’ll leave the A’s with some thinking to do on whether he should take the ball the next time Alcantara’s turn comes up. Hahn hadn’t pitched in an actual game since a March 25 exhibition in Arizona.

At the plate

Davis picked up right where he left off against the Rangers last year, when his 10 home runs in 18 games set a Texas single-season record for most homers by an opponent. He has three homers in the A’s first five games. Joyce’s three-run shot was his first homer as an Athletic.

The A’s had a real chance to put some pressure on the Rangers in the fourth, when they loaded the bases with one out as Griffin left and lefty Alex Claudio (1-0) came in with the score 8-4. Claudio fell behind 3-0 in the count but Semien wound up grounding into an inning-ending double play and the A’s wouldn’t get any closer.

A’s center fielder Rajai Davis, who has hit leadoff in four of the A’s first five games, is 2-for-21 to start the season and batting .095.

In the field

Gomez, an excitable player who the Rangers re-signed over the offseason, robbed Joyce of a homer in the first with a terrific leaping catch at the wall.

Attendance

A crowd of 34,235 showed up on a mild and breezy night in Arlington.

Up next

The middle game of this series provides a good matchup Saturday with Kendall Graveman (1-0, 3.00) and Yu Darvish (0-0, 5.68) taking the mound. Darvish is 3-9 with a 4.64 ERA against the A’s, with those nine losses his most by far against any major league opponent. First pitch is 5:05 p.m.