Athletics

Instant Replay: Late bomb buries A's in first loss of 2017

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USATSI

Instant Replay: Late bomb buries A's in first loss of 2017

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND – Just when Rajai Davis appeared to save the A’s night in the most creative way possible, Danny Espinosa had other ideas.

The Angels second baseman crushed a three-run homer off Ryan Dull with one out in the ninth that handed the A’s a stunning 7-6 defeat at the Coliseum.

In the bottom of the seventh, Davis made an electrifying dash around the bases, tripling in two runs and scoring on Espinosa’s throwing error on the play. That turned a 4-3 A’s deficit into a 6-4 lead, and they appeared on their way to their first 2-0 record to start a season since 2004.

Instead, with runners on the corners in the ninth, Espinosa turned around an 0-2 pitch from Dull and cleared the wall in right-center. Dull got the call from manager Bob Melvin for the save situation after Ryan Madson pitched a scoreless eighth. Santiago Casilla handled the ninth Monday and got the dave.

Putting Davis’ play in the books as a two-run triple doesn’t do it justice. With two runners aboard, Davis hit a liner the opposite way that glanced off the glove of Angels first baseman Jefry Marte. It ricocheted far enough into foul territory down the right field line for both runners to score. Davis motored around second and kept going for third. He dove in safely, and Espinosa’s throw to third skipped past Yunel Escobar, allowing Davis to complete the round trip to home plate.

Starting pitching report

It was an odd night for A’s lefty Sean Manaea in that he posted 1-2-3 innings in four of his six frames, only to have the Angels score four runs in the other two. He gave up three in the second, a rally that was keyed by Angels catcher Martin Maldonado. Manaea was trying to work his way out of a bases-loaded jam, but Maldonado’s single to right field scored two to put Los Angeles ahead. Escobar followed with another run-scoring single and a 3-1 lead. There’s rarely an A’s-Angels tilt that doesn’t include Mike Trout hurting Oakland. The A’s had pulled to within one, but on cue, Trout tripled down the left-field line in the fifth to score Kole Calhoun to make it a 4-2 game at that point.

Manaea’s season debut lasted six innings. He allowed five hits, walked two and struck out four.

Bullpen report

Melvin said he would get creative in using his late-inning relief corps and he meant it. After Liam Hendriks got through a scoreless seventh and the A’s took the lead, he called on Madson — last year’s primary closer — in the eighth inning for the second night in a row. Madson preserved a 4-2 lead, and Dull — whose specialty last year was entering mid-inning with runners on base — got the call for the ninth.

At the plate

Until providing the seventh-inning excitement, Davis was 1-for-8 from the leadoff spot to begin his second stint with Oakland. In his one time reaching base during those first eight at-bats, he was throwing out stealing second in the third inning Tuesday. He made up for it though with the go-ahead play in the seventh.

The A’s have homered five times — all solo shots — in the first two games. Designated hitter Ryon Healy went deep in the first and Jed Lowrie homered in the second.

In the field

Maldonado, who the Angels acquired from the Brewers in the offseason, impacted the game hugely with his arm in the early innings. After Marcus Semien walked with two outs in the second, Maldonado whipped a throw behind him to pick him off first. Rajai Davis reached on an infield single in the third, only to be thrown out trying to steal as Maldonado delivered a strike to second.

For the second night in a row, Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun turned in a beauty. He extended all-out for a diving catch to rob Lowrie in the eighth.

Attendance

Twenty-four hours after the Opening Night buzz, the announced turnout was 11,225.

Up next

Jharel Cotton (2-0, 2.15 last season) takes the hill for his 2017 debut against right-hander Garrett Richards (1-3, 2.34). Cotton beat the Angels in his major league debut in September, holding them to one run over 6 1/3 innings. First pitch is 7:05 p.m.

Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

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USATSI

Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

It's no secret the A's could use some starting pitching help.

The problem became more dire this week when the team announced talented left-hander Jesús Luzardo would be shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain.

Though the season is already underway, there are still several starting pitchers available on the free agent market. Former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel tops the list, but don't expect the A's to throw massive money his way.

Instead, Oakland may choose to pursue one of these five starters:

Edwin Jackson

Jackson certainly makes the most sense of anyone. The 35-year-old right-hander was the most pleasant of surprises last season. Jackson went 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts and was a key part of the A's clubhouse chemistry.

The two sides have been in contact for much of the offseason but have not been able to come to terms on a deal. That could change now that Jackson and the A's both figure to be a little more desperate.

James Shields 

At the age of 37, Shields is obviously nearing the end of his career, but he figures to get a shot somewhere in the league. The former All-Star went just 7-16 with a 4.53 ERA last season with the White Sox but did pitch over 200 innings.

Shields has a career ERA of 4.01 in 13 seasons. The right-hander would likely fair better on a team like Oakland, especially playing his home games at the pitcher-friendly Coliseum.

Miguel González

González is coming off season-ending rotator cuff surgery, but at just 34 years old he has a chance to bounce back. The right-hander went 8-13 with a 4.62 ERA in 2017, his last full season, but recorded a solid 3.73 ERA the year before.

González has a career ERA of 4.06 in seven major league seasons and could be another pitcher who would benefit from the Coliseum. He will be available for cheap, making him a low-risk signing.

Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo has struggled the past few seasons, but at just 33 years old, he still has time to regain his form. The right-hander has a career ERA of 4.06 in 12 big league seasons.

Gallardo's last productive season came in 2015 with the Texas Rangers. The former All-Star finished that year 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA. Like González, he should be available for a low cost.

[RELATED: A's have options at first base after Olson injury]

Bartolo Colón

Yes, Big Sexy is still going strong at the age of 45. You've got to think someone will take a flier on the former Cy Young Award winner, who will be entering his 22nd major league season.

Colón has 247 career wins and a 4.12 ERA, though he struggled to a 5.78 ERA last season in Texas. But three years ago, the right-hander went 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA and made his fourth career All-Star Game.
 

What Matt Olson injury means for A's offense, defense at first base

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What Matt Olson injury means for A's offense, defense at first base

The A's fears became a reality Friday when Gold Glove first baseman Matt Olson had to undergo surgery on his right hand.

No timetable has been provided for Olson's return, but a 2018 article in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine which studied similar procedures suggests he will likely miss three to seven weeks.

This is obviously a huge loss for Oakland. Beyond Olson's terrific defense, the 24-year-old provided tremendous power in the middle of the lineup.

Last season, Olson slashed .247/.335/.453 with 29 home runs and 84 RBI. That production won't be easy to replace, but the A's do have some reasonable options.

Platoon players Mark Canha and Chad Pinder can both play first base, and carry plenty of power in their bats. Canha clubbed 17 home runs and 22 doubles last year in just 365 at-bats. Pinder, meanwhile, hit 28 homers in 580 at-bats over the last two seasons.

Another option for the A's is to move Jurickson Profar to first base -- where he played 24 games last year -- and start Franklin Barreto at second. Barreto is coming off a terrific spring, hitting .375 (12-for-32) with a home run, four doubles, three RBI, five walks, and eight runs scored.

Barreto now has a great chance to make the 25-man roster in Olson's place. The 23-year-old has long been considered one of the A's top prospects, but has never had a chance to get consistent playing time in the big leagues. Oakland moved him from second base to the outfield this spring, but now a return to second makes sense.

[RELATED: Can A's regroup after rough beginning to season?]

The A's are fortunate to have enough offensive depth to survive the loss of Olson, but the biggest impact will likely show up on defense. Olson's height and scooping ability at first base will be incredibly hard to replace.

Nonetheless, Oakland showed the ability to overcome injury adversity last season. The A's just have to do it again this year.