A’s manager Bob Melvin acknowledged he couldn’t have asked for much more than he received from Chris Bassitt in the right-hander’s two spot starts in place of Sonny Gray.
Bassitt, flown in from Triple-A Nashville on short notice last week when Gray landed in the hospital because of severe gastroenteritis, held the Rockies and the Mariners to a combined three runs in 102/3 innings. He took a shutout into the sixth inning against Seattle on Sunday. Yet for the second consecutive outing, Bassitt ended up the losing pitcher, on the wrong end of a 2-1 decision.
“Did well,” Melvin said. “Gives up two runs, and a lot of times you’ll be in a good position if you only give up two runs.”
Bassitt was left regretting one pitch that led to his undoing. With two outs in the sixth and two strikes on Robinson Cano, Bassitt tried to throw a cutter down and in, but he yanked it and hit Cano on the right foot. Nelson Cruz roped Bassitt’s next pitch to left field for a double, and in a full count, Seth Smith lined a single to center that scored both runs.
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Bassitt said he probably overthrew the pitch to Cano in an effort not to hang a pitch to the left-handed slugger. “I tried to back-foot him,” Bassitt said, “and I front-footed him.”
As frustrated as Bassitt was with that pitch, he said the pitch on Cruz’s double was “exactly where I wanted to throw (it).” Bassitt said he’d pitched Cruz away the entire game, and that going inside, he figured Cruz would either take the pitch or foul it off.
“He showed why he’s one of the best hitters in the game,” Bassitt said. “Just got to it.”
Following his first start against Colorado, Bassitt said he’d had little feel for his off-speed pitches during that game. He said his off-speed command was better Sunday, but that his fastball command was spotty, causing him to fall behind in too many counts.
Still, Bassitt walked just one batter Sunday – and none in his start against the Rockies – which was a point of emphasis when the A’s sent him down earlier this season. Though he was not expected to accompany the A’s on their upcoming trip and will likely return to Triple A, Bassitt has that to build upon.
“He’s done exactly what we’ve asked him to do since he got sent down,” Melvin said. “He’s throwing the ball over the plate, he’s throwing strikes. Pitched great.”
▪ The extent of the A’s offense against Mariners rookie Mike Montgomery came on Sam Fuld’s solo home run in the third inning. It was Fuld’s first homer of the season and just the third in his career against a left-handed pitcher.
Fuld came up again in the fifth inning with runners on first and third and one out, but this time grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. Fuld said Montgomery, who allowed the homer on a fastball, stayed away from that pitch in the fifth and instead threw him cutters.
“I felt like I put a decent swing on it, (but) it had enough movement at the end there to get it just off my barrel,” Fuld said. “You’ve got to credit him, he pitched really well, especially when he needed to.”
The A’s went hitless in three at-bats with runners in scoring position, but that hasn’t been a problem lately: They entered the game hitting .395 in those situations in their previous 11 games.
“We go in streaks where we’re not so good and other streaks where we’re really good,” Melvin said. “It’s just today we had a tough time with it.”
▪ That lack of overall consistency was a theme Melvin touched on before the game and is the subject of our Monday print story. One thing that has been consistent, however, is the A’s trouble with one-run games. They’re 6-21 in one-run games and 11-32 in games decided by two or fewer runs, which is the worst record in the majors.
Asked about that statistic, Fuld, despite being more than halfway through the season, said he still considers it a “fluke.”
“I think we just have to chalk it up to bad luck, primarily,” he said. “Other than that, I don’t have an answer. I think we’re all loose, I don’t think it’s an effort thing. I don’t think anybody’s really getting tight in high-leverage situations.”
Fuld said the overall attitude in the clubhouse and dugout remains positive despite the lack of consistent results.
▪ Melvin used right-hander Fernando Rodriguez for 21/3 innings Sunday, during which Rodriguez faced seven batters – retiring them all – and five left-handers. Melvin already had used left-hander Drew Pomeranz to finish the sixth, and revealed that Fernando Abad was not available.
Melvin later told the Chronicle’s John Shea that Abad is dealing with a back issue. Abad has not pitched since June 28. Without Abad, the A’s bullpen in the later innings was down to one left-hander, Eric O’Flaherty, whom Melvin used to face Smith in the ninth.
▪ The A’s had a chance Sunday to escape last place in the A.L. West and pull their record to within seven games of .500 for just the second time since May 8. Instead, they finished their 10-game homestand with a 4-6 record and fell to 3-7 this season against Seattle.
“It’s extremely difficult,” Fuld said. “Especially when our pitching staff pitched the way they did. Anytime you lose a lead, it’s really frustrating, especially when it’s the difference between splitting and winning a series.”
The A’s flew out after Sunday’s game and will have a day off to recuperate Monday in New York. The pitching probables for their three-game series against the Yankees:
Tuesday: RHP Sonny Gray (9-3, 2.09) vs. RHP Nathan Eovaldi (8-2, 4.52)
Wednesday: LHP Scott Kazmir (5-5, 2.56) vs. LHP CC Sabathia (3-8, 5.59)
Thursday: RHP Jesse Chavez (4-8, 3.20) vs. RHP Masahiro Tanaka (4-3, 3.94)