Athletics

Triggs rebounds as A's halt 10-game losing streak to Astros

Triggs rebounds as A's halt 10-game losing streak to Astros

HOUSTON — Andrew Triggs keeps checking off all the right boxes in his first season as a major league starting pitcher.

Coming into the year, manager Bob Melvin said the right-hander’s biggest challenge would be retiring lefty hitters. He’s done that splendidly.

On Saturday, the A’s needed to see if Triggs could bounce back after his first rough outing of 2017. He responded with the best of his 11 career starts, holding a potent Astros lineup off the scoreboard for seven innings as the A’s registered a 2-1 victory that snapped their five-game losing streak.

The effective cutter that eluded Triggs when he lost to the Mariners last Sunday was back. Houston’s hitters waved helplessly at the pitch and began their walk back to the dugout all in the same motion, as Triggs rang up a career-high nine strikeouts. His seven innings also were a career high for the 28-year-old.

“We’re not really swinging the bats right now,” Melvin said. “We score two runs and we’re facing a lineup that you expect to score a bunch of runs. So to pitch as well as he did and go through the lineup three times, give us seven innings of work, is pretty good.

“He had the one off-outing, and every outing (besides that) has been pretty spotless.”

Triggs, whose 1.84 ERA ranks seventh in the American League, doesn’t blow people away with his fastball. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot that suggests it might be easy for left-handed hitters to pick up the ball out of his hand. Last season, the batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage were all roughly 40 to 50 points higher for lefties than for righties off Triggs.

All he’s done coming out of the gate this season is hold lefties to an .087 batting average (4-for-46). Another revealing stat: Opposing cleanup hitters are 0-for-14 off him.

Triggs credited catchers Stephen Vogt, Josh Phegley and, when he’s been up with the big club, Bruce Maxwell for their expertise in calling pitches against lefties.

“They’ve done such a good job keeping the sequences unpredictable,” he said. “You command pitches, you’re gonna get guys out. I know the stereotype is when you throw from the angle that I do, you’re gonna struggle with lefties. I’ve been aware, at least of that profile, for a while. I’ve worked on it quite a bit.”

Triggs had his entire repertoire working Saturday, according to Vogt.

“He was keeping them off-balance. Even when it seemed they were starting to sit on his slider, he starts sneaking some heaters by them. He was outstanding.”

But he had help. First baseman Yonder Alonso made a terrific leaping grab of Josh Reddick’s liner in the fifth that might have gone for extra bases. An inning before that, Jaff Decker made an on-the-money throw to third from deep right field to nail Carlos Beltran tagging up on a fly ball.

“He’s got a good arm so don’t sleep on him at all,” Triggs said.

Given how their month has gone, it’s no surprise the A’s got both their runs on homers. They’ve gone deep 31 times in April, their most homers in the month since they clubbed 34 in 2006. Lowrie, who’s spent two stints with the Astros and owns an offseason home in Houston, went deep to right to give the A’s a 1-0 lead. Khris Davis mashed his 10th homer in the eighth for what wound up being an important insurance run when Jose Altuve followed with a homer off Sean Doolittle.

Davis’ teammates by now are accustomed to seeing the left fielder flaunt his opposite-field power. He’s hit three homers this series, all to straightaway right or right-center.

Said Lowrie: “I think at this point it’s fair to call it special.”

 

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.”