Athletics

A's defense becomes a storyline for all the right reasons

A's defense becomes a storyline for all the right reasons

OAKLAND — Jackie Bradley Jr. turned in the play of the night Friday, a home run-robbing catch in the bottom of the ninth that will live on in highlight shows for the rest of the year.

The A’s turned in their own brand of excellent defense, however, and it was a big key to a 3-2 10-inning victory over the Red Sox that gave them their third win in the past four games.

When talk centers around defensive play, it usually hasn’t been positive for Oakland in 2017. They lead the majors with 38 errors and entered the night tied with San Diego for the major league lead in unearned runs. But they turned in several impressive plays to back starter Kendall Graveman and four relievers in front of a fireworks night crowd of 24,728 at the Coliseum.

“It’s a game where you have to be good defensively. They were too,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Hopefully that’s not what beats you. A lot of times at the end of close games it does. But it didn’t for us tonight.”

Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, after making a throwing error earlier in the game, made a terrific backhand stop and long throw to first — with Ryon Healy digging the ball out of the dirt — to get Graveman out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth.

The A’s best sequence in the field came in the top of the seventh with the score 2-2. With a runner on first after Ryan Madson issued a leadoff walk, second baseman Jed Lowrie went up the middle to cut off Mookie Betts grounder and flipped to second for a force out on a close play. Right after that, Betts tried to steal second and catcher Josh Phegley snapped off a quick throw to nail him, with shortstop Adam Rosales fielding the short hop and putting down a quick tag.

Khris Davis added a running catch in the left field corner to end the top of the 10th and set the stage for Mark Canha’s walk-off homer.

Before the game, injured shortstop Marcus Semien praised Rosales’ play at short in his absence.

“He definitely has one of the best arms I’ve seen at shortstop,” Semien said. “He’s doing a great job considering he hasn’t had an everyday role for a while, especially at shortstop.”

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Healy launched a drive toward right-center that looked like it might be the game winner. But Bradley Jr. leapt high and made a sensational grab over the wall to send the game to extras.

“He’s a great center fielder,” Healy said. “I don’t know if surprised is the right word. It’s not something I want to see ever again. But hat’s off to him.”

**

Matched up against Boston’s Chris Sale, Graveman pitched well with six innings of two-run ball. He struck out five and walked three over 105 pitches.

A's notes: Canha, Fowler demonstrate Oakland's depth with clutch hits

A's notes: Canha, Fowler demonstrate Oakland's depth with clutch hits

OAKLAND — Despite Tuesday's loss to the Angels, a pair of somewhat forgotten A's outfielders had big nights. Left fielder Mark Canha made his first start in 10 days and came through with a big three-run double in the fourth inning. Rookie Dustin Fowler pinch-hit in the eighth and notched a two-run single, his first hit since July 26.

“It just felt good to contribute,” Canha said. “It was a big moment for me. ... When you're not playing all the time, it's nice to have some reassurance that what you're working on when you're not playing is the right thing.”

“Everybody is ready to play,” added A's manager Bob Melvin. “They know we're going to pinch-hit and try to get the best matchups. ... Guys know in our dugout when to be ready for certain situations and both those guys were.

Canha's bases clearing double gave him 50 RBI for the season. He has already tied a career high with 16 home runs.

--- Right-handed pitcher Daniel Mengden allowed just one run in four innings of work. In his last three “bullpenning” appearances, Mengden has allowed one run on three hits in 13 2/3 innings.

“I'm getting really acclimated to this new role now,” he said. “I feel like I have my feet under me now and have a grasp of what to do and how to handle it.”

“I thought he was good,” Melvin added. “He gave us what he needed to and left with a lead. Usually in that situation, we're able to close out games.”

--- Pitcher Liam Hendriks has thrown five straight scoreless innings as an “opener.” He lowered his ERA to 2.70 in his six starts this season.

--- Second baseman Jed Lowrie walked three times, tying his single-game high. He set a career high with his 74th walk of the season.

--- Reliever Shawn Kelley allowed his first runs as a member of the A's. He had thrown 12 1/3 scoreless innings in his previous 14 games.

--- Angels center fielder Mike Trout blasted his 15th home run at the Coliseum since 2010, the most of any visiting player during that time. This season in Oakland, Trout is batting .424 (14-for-33) with two homers and six RBI. 

--- The A's have lost three games in a row for the first time since July 27-29, when they were swept by the Rockies.

--- The A's fell to 6-8 against the Angels this season. Los Angeles has won the season series four straight years. 

--- Despite Tuesday's loss, the A's are 56-25 since June 16, the best record in Major League Baseball.

Stephen Piscotty questions game-changing call, but doesn't fault A's fan

Stephen Piscotty questions game-changing call, but doesn't fault A's fan

OAKLAND — A's right fielder Stephen Piscotty has no doubt he would have caught the ball. Neither does manager Bob Melvin.

With the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning, and the A's leading 4-1, Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons skied a foul ball down the right field line. That's when the Coliseum experienced its Steve Bartman moment, as a fan reached over the railing and deflected the ball away from Piscotty. Given new life, Simmons would single home two runs, sparking a six-run inning, as the Angels beat the A's 9-7.

“He was going to catch it,” Melvin said after the game. “I'm not sure what they saw that we didn't see.”

“As an outfielder, you have a good idea when that ball is coming in close where to put your glove, and I felt like I was in the spot,” Piscotty added. “It's a tough play going into the wall, but I felt like I was there in enough time. It definitely changes how that inning goes, but there's nothing we can do about it now.”

Melvin challenged the ruling, asserting fan interference, but after video review, the call on the field stood.

“We've seen him catch that ball in the corner many times,” Melvin said of Piscotty. “It's not going to be an easy play, and maybe that was the overriding factor in New York, that it wouldn't be an easy play and they can't just give you a play like that. Just a guess.”

“I never understand when they're going to overturn stuff,” Piscotty shrugged. “I had a feeling they wouldn't.”

Piscotty added that he didn't blame the fan. “Obviously we don't want folks to interfere, but 95 percent of people are gonna do that. I don't fault the fan or anything.”

The A's have lost three straight games for the first time since late July, allowing the Tampa Bay Rays to creep back within 5 1/2 games of the second AL Wild Card spot. But the players remain confident in themselves and each other.

“I think we'll be fine,” said RHP Daniel Mengden. “We've been in every ballgame and we give ourselves a chance to win every time in the late innings. ... I'm not worried about it. I think the team is in a good spot.”

“This team is as talented as they come,” added outfielder Mark Canha. “It's only a matter of time before the ball starts rolling the right direction again. The resilience is still there. There's fight in us. The telltale signs are all there that we're going to bounce back and start getting on a roll here.”

Melvin echoed those sentiments, adding that he appreciated his team's resilience even in defeat. 

“It wasn't our cleanest game, but we came back after being down considerably and made it game again. When you talk about bouncing back, it's not necessarily just the next day, it's as the game goes along. I think we showed that.”