Injuries are quickly catching up to the Oakland Athletics. As a result, they have to start playing catch-up with the Los Angeles Angels.
Jon Lester gave up Albert Pujols’ 516th career homer during his first career matchup with Jered Weaver, and the A’s lost 4-0 Friday night to drop three games off the pace.
“It’s frustrating, there’s no doubt,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Every ball we hit hard tonight was right at somebody. That’s just the way it goes sometimes, but you have to play through it.”
“These guys are fighting and they’re playing hard. Things just aren’t going our way right now, but it will turn,” he said.
A night after the Angels edged the Athletics 4-3 in 10 innings, they won with pitching and power.
Chris Iannetta hit a two-run shot despite a valiant effort by center fielder Coco Crisp for a 2-0 lead in the fifth, and that was enough for Weaver and the bullpen.
Lester (13-9) gave up two earned runs in six innings. He is 0-2 in his last three starts after going 7-0 with a 1.46 ERA over his previous 11 outings for Boston and Oakland.
Erick Aybar led off the fifth with a single that extended his hitting streak to 14 games. Iannetta followed with a towering drive to left-center that kept carrying before Crisp caught up to it and got a glove on the ball with a desperate leap. But the ball popped out of his mitt and wound up on the other side of the 8-foot fence.
“I was just trying to time it,” Crisp said. “Running back, I knew I could catch it. I caught it, but as soon as I hit the wall, with the momentum of the yank, the ball just kind of slung out of there. If I actually made the play, it definitely would have been pretty high up on my list.”
“It would have been probably the greatest catch I’ve ever seen,” Lester said. “As a pitcher, anytime you make a mistake like that and a guy’s able to at least give you a chance on that, it’s pretty unbelievable.”
Crisp strained his neck on the play and was replaced by Craig Gentry.
“It was an unbelievable effort. He came out of nowhere to get to it,” Melvin said. “We’ve seen him hit the wall hard several times before – no more so than that. I was worried about his head, too, the way he hit the wall, and we thought it was a concussion because he was a little shook up.”
“But his neck is the issue again. We’ve had to deal with that before, and we have to again,” he said.
Iannetta got another RBI in the sixth when Lester walked him on a full count with the bases loaded. The run was unearned, the result of consecutive two-out errors by third baseman Josh Donaldson and shortstop Eric Sogard.
“We’ve had our defensive struggles at times as it is,” Melvin said. “Now we’ve got some guys playing out of position because of the injuries, but we’ve just got to play the guys that we have right now. These things tend to happen over the course of the season. We’re just getting them at one time.”
Weaver (15-7) threw three-hit ball for seven innings, striking out three and walking three. Oakland’s only hit over the first five innings was a two-out double in the fourth by Donaldson that crossed over the bag before bouncing into foul territory. Weaver escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth by retiring Josh Reddick on a flyball.
Athletics: SS Jed Lowrie, who hasn’t played since Aug. 13 because of a broken right index finger, will begin a two-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday. If all goes well, he’ll be reinstated from the disabled list on Monday.
Angels: RHP Garrett Richards showed up for the team photo in crutches, nine days after his season-ending injury. He tore the patellar tendon in his left knee on Aug. 20 at Boston, and the recovery time is six to nine 9 months.
Athletics: Jeff Samardzija (4-3, 3.86 ERA) looks to win back-to-back starts for the first time since last August with the Chicago Cubs. The only time he ever faced the Angels in the regular season was July 10, 2013, when he surrendered nine runs in 4 2-3 innings and four home runs – two by Hamilton – in a 13-2 loss at Wrigley Field.
Angels: After days of secrecy, manager Mike Scioscia announced after the game that RHP Cory Rasmus would make his first major league start after 43 relief appearances. It would have been Richards’ second turn through the rotation. They tried Wade LeBlanc last Monday, but he gave up six runs over 3 1-3 innings in a 7-1 loss to Miami and was designated for assignment the following day.