Daniel Mengden’s handlebar mustache and old-school, hands-over-head windup indicate a 23-year-old Texan not cowed by his first experience of the major leagues.
So does this statistic: Mengden’s 21 strikeouts through three starts are the second-most by any A’s pitcher since 1913 in the first three outings of his career, trailing only Tim Hudson’s 24.
No, it’s not frustrating. I’m just going out there and trying to give our team a chance to win, put up as many zeroes as I can. I think we’ve been in good situations to win, but that’s just how baseball goes … We’ll get it eventually.
A’s right-hander Daniel Mengden, on his 0-3 record
Mengden, though, also shares a dubious franchise distinction after the A’s lost 4-2 to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday afternoon at the Coliseum. The right-hander is the third pitcher in Oakland history to lose his first three career starts – joining Brady Rigby and Mike Morgan – despite the fact Mengden has allowed just six earned runs.
The Brewers scraped together three runs against Mengden, all in a fifth inning that featured some shaky defense. But for a third consecutive outing, Mengden received little backing from his offense, which has provided two runs of support in his first 18 big-league innings.
“No, it’s not frustrating,” said Mengden, who had a 1.19 ERA in the minors before the A’s called him up June 11. “I’m just going out there and trying to give our team a chance to win, put up as many zeroes as I can. I think we’ve been in good situations to win, but that’s just how baseball goes. … We’ll get it eventually.”
Milwaukee’s three-run fifth might have been avoided. With one out, Coco Crisp corralled Ramon Flores’ double off the wall in left-center, turned and threw wildly in the direction of second base – away from his cutoff men, who were setting up for a throw to third. The ball passed the outstretched glove of second baseman Jed Lowrie and rolled across the infield as Flores reached third.
“We’ve got to somehow try to knock that ball down, go get it and keep the guy off third base,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Talking to (Lowrie), he thought it was just out of his reach, that he went as far as he could to get it.”
The next batter, Yadiel Rivera, bunted back to Mengden, who had a clear play at the plate on Flores but juggled the ball. It was ruled a sacrifice and fielder’s choice, tying the score 1-1 after Crisp homered in the fourth. Two batters later, Scooter Gennett hit a 3-1 fastball over the wall in left-center to give the Brewers the lead.
63 A’s league-low run total in June
“He hit it pretty good,” Mengden said. “I didn’t think it was going to go.”
Mengden finished the inning and came back for the sixth, striking out the side around a two-out single by Martin Maldonado. He finished with nine strikeouts, including two each of Milwaukee’s third and fourth hitters, Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy.
“He has good stuff,” A’s catcher Josh Phegley said. “So if he’s locating his pitches, he’ll have those numbers.”
The number in Mengden’s win column remains a zero, but Melvin said he doesn’t think that has affected Mengden’s confidence. Melvin called Mengden “a tough kid” and said his “presence has been as impressive as anything.” He did indicate that pitching coach Curt Young has urged Mengden not to get discouraged by his early record.
“Curt is very proactive about talking to guys, whether it’s in between innings, after starts, going over the start before,” Melvin said. “So (Mengden) knows we think he’s good. And he is. He thinks he’s good, too. He might not tell you that, but he knows he’s good.”
The A’s offense lately has not been good, having scored an American League-low 63 runs in June. That has contributed to a 5-13 record this month, as the A’s now own the second-worst record (29-42) in the league, better only than the majors-worst Minnesota Twins.
“String some hits together and have a couple good games,” Melvin said when asked how to get the offense going. “Try to get some rhythm throughout the lineup where everybody feels like they’re contributing. We’re just, I think, pressing a little bit at times, trying to do too much as an individual.”