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.”