Athletics

Stinging loss makes bittersweet night for A's rookie in front of family

Stinging loss makes bittersweet night for A's rookie in front of family

ANAHEIM — It could have been a storybook night for Matt Chapman, but he and his A’s teammates were left pondering the plays —and pitches — they didn’t make Friday.

The A’s rookie third baseman, who grew up in nearby Lake Forest, smacked a three-run homer in his first at-bat before a cheering section that he estimated to be a couple hundred strong at Angel Stadium.

All that was needed to finish the night in proper fashion was a victory. Somehow that slipped through the A’s grasp in the form of a bullpen meltdown that saw a four-run lead evaporate in an eventual 8-6 loss to the Angels.

“We made our own bed as far as that one unfortunately,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.

Along with the good, Chapman also played a part in Oakland’s undoing with a two-out error that scored a run in the second inning. In the Angels’ go-ahead rally in the seventh, he couldn’t come up with the handle on Yunel Escobar’s slow roller that went for an RBI single, though he may not have been able to get Escobar even with a clean play.

So terrific has Chapman been with the glove since his call-up from Triple-A that it’s a bit of a shocker to see him muff a play or two.

“I think those are both plays that I expect myself to make,” Chapman said. “It’s never a good feeling when you feel like you missed a play you could make and it ends up costing your team some runs and you lose a tight ballgame.”

But the game turned when reliever Daniel Coulombe, who’s taken on a more prominent bullpen role following the trade of fellow lefty Sean Doolittle, walked three in a row to begin the bottom of the seventh and the A’s leading 6-4.

That opened the gates to a four-run Angels’ rally.

“I don’t know,” Coulombe said in a hushed tone at his locker. “I think it was just one of those nights. You’re going to have those nights. (But) you really hope to not have those very often.”

Center fielder Jaycob Brugman made a splendid diving catch but also committed an error that set up an Angels run. And Melvin referenced “a couple of bad pitch selections in some situations.”

There’s been many a night the A’s have regretted inside Angel Stadium, where they’ve lost seven in a row and 23 of their past 32.

A telling stat: Oakland’s 15-28 record against its own division is the worst in the majors this season.

The end result off-set what will still go down as a memorable night for Chapman, who attended nearby El Toro High School and played his college ball just up Highway 57 at Cal State Fullerton.

Along with hitting his seventh homer, he doubled and scored in the sixth and made an impressive running catch of Albert Pujols’ foul pop-up to strand the bases loaded in the bottom half of that inning.

“It was a great feeling obviously to be able to do something like that in front of all my friends and family,” Chapman said.

In other news, it remains to be seen whether the A’s add catcher Dustin Garneau to their 25-man roster. He was claimed on waivers Friday from Colorado and could take the roster spot of catcher Ryan Lavarnway if the A’s so choose. But also worth noting: Bruce Maxwell is in a 5-for-46 (.109) slump since the All-Star break and struck out twice Friday.

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

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AP

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

OAKLANDThe Oakland A’s named Matt Williams as third base coach on Bob Melvin’s coaching staff for the 2018 season, the club announced today.

Williams spent five seasons on the Arizona Diamondbacks coaching staff as first base coach (2010) and third base coach (2011-13, 16) and also managed the Washington Nationals for two seasons.  He was named National League Manager of the Year by the BBWAA in his first season as manager in 2014, guiding the Nationals to a 96-66 record and an NL East title.  He went 83-79 in 2015 for a 179-145 (.552) record in two seasons as manager.

Williams played 17 seasons in the majors with San Francisco (1987-96), Cleveland (1997) and Arizona (1998-2003).  He was a .268 career hitter with 378 home runs and 1218 RBI in 1866 games.  Williams was a five-time All-Star and won four Gold Gloves as a third baseman.

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Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

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AP

Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

The A’s wasted no time making their first major move of the offseason, and it has a domino effect on how their 2018 lineup will take shape.

The trade of young slugger Ryon Healy to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday paves the way for left fielder Khris Davis to start getting heavy at-bats as the designated hitter, the spot left vacant by Healy.

It also points to another move the A’s want to pull off — acquiring a right-handed hitting corner outfielder who presumably can eat up those defensive innings that Davis spends as the DH.

It’s a series of moves that isn’t all that surprising given the A’s roster makeup right now. Healy, who hit .282 with 38 homers in 221 games over his first two big league seasons, is capable of playing either first or third base. But Matt Olson and Matt Chapman secured those spots, respectively, with their solid showings as rookies last season.

“We’ve obviously talked a lot since the end of the season about adding to the bullpen,” A’s general manager David Forst said on a conference call Wednesday night. “At the same time, with the emergence of Matt and Matt, on the corners, maybe Ryon needed to be somebody we might have to move ...”

It makes sense for Oakland to find a way to shift Davis from being the everyday left fielder while still keeping his 40-homer bat in the lineup. Opponents have routinely taken extra bases the past two seasons on Davis’ throwing arm, and whether they add a newcomer to play left or shift Joyce or someone else there, chances are they can benefit from better defense in left.

The A’s also feel they got an important chip back from Seattle to help bolster a bullpen that ranked 13th in the American League last season with a 4.57 ERA. They received right-hander Emilio Pagan (along with minor league shortstop Alexander Campos), and figure that the 26-year-old Pagan is someone the A’s have pegged to be an immediate contributor in their ‘pen.

A 10th round draft pick in 2013, Pagan made his big league debut in 2017 and posted a 3.22 ERA over 34 games spread over four stints with Seattle. He endured a rocky first couple of outings but, after being called up for good in the second half, eventually worked his way into a late-inning setup role. Pagan struck out 56 and walked just eight in 50 1/3 innings, numbers that surely popped out to Oakland’s front office.

He’ll likely be called upon in middle relief to help set the table for Chris Hatcher and closer Blake Treinen, as the bullpen currently looks.

Campos, just 17, spent this past season in the Dominican Summer League, and Forst said the A’s were eyeing Campos last summer when they eventually traded Yonder Alonso to the Mariners. Oakland wound up getting center fielder Boog Powell back in that deal.

Did the A’s rake in enough for Healy? As with all trades, it will take time to judge. But it’s fair to say that Healy’s departure will be felt in a clubhouse that is characterized by the emergence of many young position players, and he was a part of that group. In fact, when Healy was called up in July 2016 — knocking Danny Valencia out as the regular third baseman — he became the first of several promising position-player prospects to establish himself in Oakland’s lineup.

He rented a house in the East Bay and eventually took in Chapman, Olson and Chad Pinder as roommates. There’s a fiery side to Healy’s on-field personality that was a positive for the A’s, and watching him play Oakland as a member of an AL West rival will make for entertaining theatre.

Another storyline is how Davis takes to being a regular DH. Forst praised Davis’ approach to his game and doesn’t anticipate any problems, adding that the A’s still want to get Davis some time in the outfield.