With two outs and nobody on in the top of the third inning Wednesday, New York Mets leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson hit a soft chopper off A’s starter Jeff Samardzija toward where an opposing third baseman would normally have fielded it for a routine third out – only nobody was there.
The A’s had an infield shift on against the left-handed-hitting Granderson, pulling three infielders to the right side and positioning third baseman Alberto Callaspo in the area usually patrolled by a shortstop. So Granderson’s ball bounced lazily into shallow left field for a single, an innocent beginning to what became a sudden unraveling by Samardzija in the A’s 8-5 loss.
After retiring the first six batters he faced, Samardzija allowed a leadoff home run to Eric Campbell in the third, but set down the next two hitters before Granderson’s single. Daniel Murphy followed with a single, Samardzija walked David Wright, and he then let in a run on a wild pitch before surrendering a three-run homer to Lucas Duda, his eighth allowed in nine starts with the A’s.
“The (Campbell) homer, the guy definitely earned that one. But it was tough, because a couple balls squeaked through,” A’s catcher John Jaso said. “Other than that, I think he (Samardzija) kind of fell behind a couple hitters and gave them a chance to get in a good hitter’s count. But it was tough because of those balls that squeaked through.”
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Samardzija was not so diplomatic when asked about his response to Granderson’s hit.
“Obviously the play happened, so you’ve got to learn to put it behind you,” he said. “You want those outs, but when they get on base and the next hitter comes up, you’ve got to turn the page and move on.”
Even after finishing the third trailing 5-0, he was unable to do so entirely. Samardzija returned for the fourth, but his outing ended before the inning did, as he allowed two-out RBI singles to Granderson and Wright before departing his worst start since joining the A’s. It was the second time this season Samardzija has allowed seven or more runs – he allowed eight on June 1 in Milwaukee while pitching for the Chicago Cubs.
Manager Bob Melvin said it looked early on like Samardzija, who also lost for the first time at the Coliseum, “had really good stuff. … He hit 97 (mph) a couple times, and it looked like he had a good splitter, feel for his slider.” Samardzija agreed that his splitter, which he relies on as an out pitch, was “everything we wanted” at first, but “it just kind of left me as the game went on.”
“I kept going to it and kept falling behind in the count,” Samardzija said. “So I had to go back and throw some fastballs, and they got comfortable in there when they could eliminate (the splitter).”
Samardzija has talked about having command issues with the splitter upon first arriving in Oakland but said he thought the problems Wednesday were just a result of throwing too many pitches in the third. “I’m not going to read too far into that,” he said. “Like I said, there were a handful of other pitches I wish I could’ve had back in that inning.”
He departed with the A’s facing a 7-2 deficit, which they trimmed to 7-4 in the bottom of the fourth when Mets second baseman Murphy mishandled a potential inning-ending grounder from Andy Parrino. Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick scored, and Eric Sogard followed with a single off Mets starter Zack Wheeler. But Wheeler got Coco Crisp, who had driven in the A’s first run with a third-inning double, to ground out and end the rally.
The A’s scored in the eighth on Sam Fuld’s bases-loaded walk and brought the potential go-ahead run to the plate with one out. But Jeurys Familia struck out Parrino looking on three pitches, and Josh Donaldson grounded out sharply on a full-count pitch.
It was the A’s eighth loss in their past 10 games, and it ensured they’ll be no better than tied for first place in the American League West going into a significant division showdown with the Los Angeles Angels beginning Friday at the Coliseum. Several players, though, rejected the idea that they’ll be hurt by a lack of momentum.
“I feel like we’re going to be fine,” Donaldson said. “It’s definitely going to be an important series for us, and (the Angels are) playing well, and there’s a few things that we want to clean up. That being said, we’re looking forward to Friday.”
As the A’s rotation lines up, Samardzija will not factor into this weekend’s series, though he still has a chance to affect the division outcome, especially with the A’s and Angels to meet seven more times. Since joining the A’s, he has not been dominant, going 3-3 with a 4.07 ERA. Still, asked about Samardzija’s body of work, Melvin said: “We have a lot of confidence in him.
“Today was really the one tough game that he’s had as far as numbers go,” Melvin said. “It’s still kind of a small sample, what he’s done for us. But he’s a killer, he wants to be out there, he wants the ball. And we feel confident when he takes the mound, and that’s a lot of the battle.”