Athletics

After excellent start to his season, Triggs finds the going rougher

After excellent start to his season, Triggs finds the going rougher

OAKLAND — Like every starting pitcher, Andrew Triggs is a fan of quick innings.

Quick exits don’t sit so well with him.

The Washington Nationals struck for six runs in the seventh and eighth innings to turn Friday’s game into a laugher as they routed the A’s 13-3. Triggs was long gone by then, and his short night of work ate at him afterward.

The right-hander struggled through his shortest start of the season, 3 2/3 innings, and was charged with six runs on nine hits.

“I just couldn’t stop the merry-go-round. That can’t happen,” he said of a four-run fourth inning in which the Nats sent 10 batters to the plate. “At the end of the day, I need to make better pitches. To get pulled in the fourth, that’s embarrassing on my end, and that’s all on my performance. That’s on me.”

It actually wasn’t all on him. The A’s mustered just seven hits and three of them came during garbage time in the ninth inning. Manager Bob Melvin leaned heavily on middle reliever Zach Neal, who was in the unenviable position of having to eat up innings so as to save others in the bullpen. Neal was beat up for seven runs over 3 1/3 innings.

But Triggs was holding himself accountable, and he was steamed most at the fact that he couldn’t deliver a shutdown inning after Matt Joyce’s homer pulled the A’s into a 2-2 tie in the third.

“That’s the thing I’m most frustrated with honestly,” he said. “I think that’s three outings in a row where we‘ve either tied it or taken a one-run lead, and I’ve given it right back. We put ourselves in a good position, tie a game up against a good team and a good pitcher (Stephen Strasburg), and I made it easier for them to pull away.”

Triggs was a terrific bright spot for the A’s through April, posting a 4-1 record and a 1.84 ERA in that month. His overall May ERA of 3.45 wasn’t too shabby. But things have been rocky over his last three outings, when he’s allowed 12 earned runs over 15 innings for a 7.20 ERA.

Granted, he’s also been victimized by poor defense. His 11 unearned runs coming into Friday were tied for the most in the majors. But even in his previous start against the Yankees, when only one of his six runs was earned, Triggs surrendered a two-out grand slam to Aaron Judge that shifted the tide of that game.

Triggs relies on pinpoint control, which he was dialed in with early in the season. Now he’s got to make the needed adjustments and rediscover that form he had early on. Keeping the ball in the ballpark is a big part of that. After allowing just one homer over his first seven starts, Triggs has given up five in his past four outings.

The Nats, even without the suspended Bryce Harper, don’t allow much margin for error.

“They’re first in the National League in just about every offensive category,” Melvin said. “(They’re without) Harper today, and you put a guy like (Adam) Lind in there who’s dangerous too. They have speed, they obviously have some power. It’s a tough team for a starting pitcher.”

POLL: A's Memorable Moments -- Sweeping '89 WS vs Winning '74 WS

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AP

POLL: A's Memorable Moments -- Sweeping '89 WS vs Winning '74 WS

PROGRAMMING NOTE: NBC Sports California is looking back at the A's 50 Memorable Moments since the franchise relocated to Oakland in 1968. Below are the next two moments you can vote on. Tune into A's Pregame Live today at 6:30 p.m. to watch highlights of the two moments. After the A's and Twins conclude on Friday, tune into A's Postgame Live to see which moment emerges as champion!

1. A's sweep Giants in 1989 Earthquake World Series (Three-time winner -- Defeated Winning 1973 World Series)

(From 1989 World Series MVP Dave Stewart)

Fortunate for us, we played the Giants a lot in spring training, and we beat the crap out of them in spring training, so we were real comfortable playing against them.

I knew I was going to be the Game 1 starter, and I wanted to give it my best shot and put my best foot forward. i ended up shutting them out, then Mike Moore comes back the next night and we end up beating them in Game 2. Then we have the 10-day layoff because of the earthquake. We go to Arizona, we find out we're going to start playing again, and Tony (La Russa) gives me the news that we're going to go Game 3 and Game 4 with the same guys we started with, which I was glad to hear.

Game 3, I pitched extremely well again, deep in the game and then we swept them the next game. So to win the MVP, I really had mixed emotions about it because Rickey Henderson played really, really well, putting on an offensive show for the whole World Series. And Rickey and I are best friends and I had said in the postgame interview that i would split the trophy with Rickey because we both played well.

After everything that had happened with the earthquake, I was pretty involved with the rescue missions too. It was one ball of emotions, wininng (the World Series), being from the Bay Area, the earthquake, helping out with the rescue missions, it was just a really, really good feeling.

There was a while lot of crap talking going on before the series. I remember the mayor of San Francisco saying that we weren't even worthy of being in the World Series. That kind of lit the fire.

I think the Giants would say it if they were being honest, they knew we were the better team coming in there, so coming in and beat the Giants, we expected to do it and there was pleasure in doing it because we really showed who was the best team in the Bay Area.

VS.

2. A's go back-to-back-to-back in 1974 and win third straight World Series 

(From then-A's catcher Ray Fosse)

VOTE HERE:

Stephen Piscotty's case for AL Comeback Player of the Year honors

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AP

Stephen Piscotty's case for AL Comeback Player of the Year honors

Contrary to popular belief, MLB's Comeback Player of the Year Award is not reserved solely for players returning from injury. The award simply goes to the American League and National League players who have best “re-emerged on the baseball field during a given season.”

By that definition (and with a nod to Brodie Brazil for the inspiration), A's outfielder Stephen Piscotty deserves serious consideration.

In 2016, Piscotty slashed .273/.343/.457 with 22 home runs, 35 doubles, 85 RBI, and 3.0 WAR as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The following May, his mother Gretchen was diagnosed with ALS, and baseball was suddenly an afterthought. Understandably, Piscotty's numbers dipped in 2017, as he slashed .235/.342/.367 with just nine home runs, 16 doubles, 39 RBI, and 0.6 WAR. How he even put up those stats, given what he was going through, is incredible.

Following the 2017 season, the Cardinals and A's combined to create one of the most heartwarming sports stories in recent memory, agreeing to a trade that would bring Piscotty home to Northern California so he could care for his mother and be with his family. Sadly, Gretchen passed away in May of 2018 at the age of 55.

After grieving for his mother and celebrating her life, Piscotty has been able to refocus on baseball and find a rhythm with the A's. And it has shown. The 27-year-old is slashing .265/.321/.481, setting career-highs with 24 home runs and 39 doubles, along with 76 RBI and 2.1 WAR.

That's an increase of 15 home runs and 23 doubles from 2017 to 2018, and the season is not over yet. Even more impressive, Piscotty has hit 21 home runs since June 13, third most in the American League. He has also played excellent defense in right field, making numerous highlight reel catches throughout the season.

There are certainly other qualified candidates in the AL, including Gerrit Cole, David Price, and Matt Duffy. Cole has improved his ERA from 4.26 last season to 2.88 this year. Price has recovered from elbow troubles to go 15-6 with a 3.42 ERA. Duffy is hitting .297 after missing all of last season.

But none of them have been through what Piscotty has. Throughout this entire devastating period, he has shown tremendous poise and mental toughness. A's manager Bob Melvin has said Piscotty has an angel on his shoulders now. Based on his performance, that's hard to argue.