OAKLAND -- While one might assume Chris Bassitt was slow settling into his start on Thursday night against the Cleveland Indians, Bassitt would counter that he got started too fast.
Bassitt pitched seven innings for the A’s on Thursday, but all the damage against him came in the first four batters he faced. All four reached, Francisco Lindor scored when Michael Brantley doubled into the left field corner and the ball rolled away from Sam Fuld, and Brantley then scored when Carlos Santana homered to center field.
That was all Bassitt allowed, but he still took the loss as the A’s managed two hits against Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco and fell, 3-1. It was Bassitt’s fifth start for the A’s, and he has yet to allow more than three runs. But he’s also still searching for his first win largely because, in his five starts, the A’s have scored five total runs for him.
Bassitt’s theory after the game for why Cleveland jumped on him in the first was that he warmed up too quickly in the bullpen, leaving 10 minutes before the game where he was just sitting and waiting for first pitch.
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"I feel like I just got ready a little bit too fast today," Bassitt said. "My stuff wasn’t as sharp in the first inning. After that I kind of got going. (But) I wasn’t sharp in the first inning, and they made me pay."
It isn’t a scenario that’s heard often, but then again Bassitt is still a relative newcomer to the A’s rotation, and figuring out his routine before starts could be part of the transition. After the first inning Thursday, Bassitt held the Indians to two singles and a walk, and he recorded his longest outing by finishing the seventh on 101 pitches.
Catcher Stephen Vogt said Bassitt’s loss basically came down to two pitches -- a mistake to Brantley where he "yanked the ball back over the plate instead of expanding away," and a two-seamer to Santana that was supposed to inside but ran back over the middle.
"Really those are the only two bad pitches he made all night," Vogt said. "Unfortunately that was the game. But really he just competed."
Manager Bob Melvin said afterward there is "no doubt" Bassitt has pitched well enough to secure his rotation spot, which opened up with Jesse Hahn’s injury and the trading of Scott Kazmir.
"We’re just not giving him any run support," Melvin said. "He’s been good, and he knows he’s here for a while, can settle into his routine with his bullpens and so forth, doesn’t have to worry about pitching one game and going back down."
As for his pre-game timing, Bassitt said that should be a much easier fix than anything mechanical or otherwise.
"We’re pushing (warming up) back five minutes next time," Bassitt said. "Instead of 10 minutes sitting there (before the game), five minutes. Five minutes is plenty."
* Not in Bassitt’s control is the performance of his opposing starter, and he witnessed a good one Thursday night from Carrasco. The Indians right-hander allowed an infield hit by Billy Burns leading off the first inning and a one-out double to Josh Reddick, which scored Burns. After that, he did not allow another hit, and at one point faced 22 straight batters without allowing a ball out of the infield.
"He was really good," Bassitt said. "Just unlucky how good he was tonight. He was four-plus pitches tonight -- it was not even fair."
Carrasco is in the middle of a good stretch -- 4-0 with a 1.73 in his last five outings -- and Melvin said he was impressed by the right-hander’s "mix of pitches." Carrasco off-set a mid-90s fastball with a slider, changeup and curveball, and Melvin said it seemed he was giving a slightly different look Thursday by throwing the changeup with more velocity.
"That’s as well-pitched a game as we’ve seen this year," Melvin said.
Melvin acknowledged before the game he’s still trying to find the right lineup mix after the trade of Ben Zobrist, and it doesn’t help that some of his better hitters are struggling. Vogt went hitless in three at-bats Thursday and is 0 for his last 16. Billy Butler, dropped to seventh in the lineup, was 0-for-3 and is 15-for-73 (.205) in July. Marcus Semien is hitting .167 and doesn’t have an RBI in his last 16 games.
Vogt said the A’s face a difficult task this series in the Indians’ rotation and credited Carrasco with being "some kind of good" Thursday night.
"His ball moves so much late and he didn’t really miss over the middle of the plate at all today," Vogt said. "And even when he did, there was late life on it. That’s not going to find too many barrels."
* The A’s have now lost six of seven and will finish with a losing record in July for the first time since 2009. They’ll try to even this series Friday night with Kendall Graveman (6-7, 4.13) opposing Indians right-hander Danny Salazar (8-6, 3.72). First pitch at 7:05.