- For a player getting his first at-bats this season against big-league pitching, Josh Reddick had an encouraging day at the plate Sunday -- two hits, including an RBI single off of Felix Hernandez and a double in the ninth against Mariners closer Fernando Rodney that started a four-run rally.
"It’s just that one catch is going to shadow over all that," Reddick said.
The catch was actually a non-catch -- Robinson Cano’s sinking liner to right in the sixth, which hung up for Reddick, only to bounce off his glove for a costly error. With the A’s leading 3-1, it could have been the third out of the inning. Instead, two runs scored to tie the game, the Mariners took the lead two batters later and went on to win in the 10th, 8-7.
Reddick made his season debut Sunday returning from an oblique strain and was quietly optimistic before the game, joking about bad semi drivers on the trip from his rehab stint in San Bernardino back up to Oakland and saying he "came back on a good day" given the A’s win-lose-win pattern to start the season.
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That pattern ended Sunday with the A’s second loss in a row, and it was afterward a more despondent Reddick who discussed arguably the pivotal defensive play. A’s starter Jesse Hahn hadn’t allowed a hit over the first five innings as the A’s built a 3-0 lead, and had a chance to escape the sixth with a lead intact. But two batters after Reddick’s error, Hahn allowed a Kyle Seager single that gave Seattle a 4-3 lead and ended his outing.
"I knew I had it the whole way," Reddick said of Cano’s liner, "it just hit it in the palm of the glove. I wouldn’t say I overran it; got a good beat on it, stayed low, and just bad glove position. I’ve got to catch that ball."
Manager Bob Melvin agreed that "it’s very unusual for (Reddick) not to catch that ball." But both Melvin and Reddick dismissed the idea that Reddick’s truncated spring training and resulting lack of game reps in the outfield affected him on Sunday.
"I think he could go out there in December and still play defense," Melvin said.
Hahn, for his part, was upset about the pitch -- a two-strike curveball that he wanted to bury to Cano but that he "left in the wheelhouse." Catcher Stephen Vogt said that was one of only two location mistakes on the day for Hahn, the other being Dustin Ackley’s leadoff double in the sixth.
"I just don’t think I controlled that situation well," Hahn said of the sixth. "Those guys played great defense for me all game, so I can’t knock anyone there. Like I said, if I get that curveball down and bury it where it needed to be, that play doesn’t even come up."
Still, Reddick said the drop was maybe the game’s biggest momentum-changer.
"Two outs, it ends the inning, and instead it ends up tying the game," Reddick said. "It’s a big play in the game. It’s a play that’s got to be made."
* Hahn departed in line for the loss but probably deserved better. He faced the minimum through the first five innings, with the Mariners’ only baserunner reaching on a throwing error by shortstop Marcus Semien in the fifth.
"The pitch to Cano maybe looked like it deflated him a little bit," Melvin said. "But early on I don’t know how you pitch much better than that. Up to that point, he pitched as well as we’ve seen him."
Hahn said he "probably had my best stuff today." His fastball reached 94 miles per hour on the stadium gun, and catcher Stephen Vogt said Hahn’s curveball and changeup were so effective that they didn’t even work in Hahn’s fourth pitch, a slider.
"That’s the best I’ve seen him," Vogt said.
The Mariners did hit some balls hard in the sixth, even before Cano’s line drive. Ackley hit his double off the right-field wall and Mike Zunino and Seager both singled on sharp line drives. Hahn said they were the result of "just bad pitches."
"I felt great all game," Hahn said. "I’m not going to look too far into this start. I’ve got to control that situation better in the sixth inning."
* Tomorrow’s print story focuses on the bullpen, which had a rough weekend. A’s relief pitchers allowed seven runs in two losses (five earned) and three home runs, one each by Dan Otero, Eric O’Flaherty and Tyler Clippard.
Clippard gave up Cruz’s game-winner Sunday on a 2-0 fastball that he said "crept back over the outer third" of the plate. Vogt said he was surprised Cruz was even looking for fastball, given Clippard relies heavily on his changeup. But Clippard gave Cruz a hat-tip.
"If he was looking heater there that’s what he’s supposed to be doing 2-0," Clippard said. "At the end of the day it wasn’t the execution that I was looking for that particular pitch, and he got enough barrel on it to get it over the wall."
Cruz also hit a three-run homer off Otero in Saturday’s game, and O’Flaherty allowed a three-run shot to pinch-hitter Rickie Weeks in the seventh inning Sunday. Asked if those were location mistakes, Vogt said he considered them "fluke pitches."
"Those are sinkerball guys," Vogt said. "Sinkerball guys don’t give up home runs and sinkerball guys as good as Eric O’Flaherty and Dan Otero don’t give up home runs. To me those are fluke pitches that there’s nothing to be worried about."
* Maybe the most frustrating part of this loss for the A’s was that it came on a day where they actually hit Felix Hernandez, their longtime nemesis who still hasn’t lost at the O.co Coliseum since 2009. The A’s built a 3-0 lead against Hernandez on eight hits in the first five innings, making Hernandez throw 81 pitches.
"We seemed to get him up in the zone," Reddick said. "That’s one thing you’ve got to do with Felix. If he’s down and you’re chasing all those changeups down and away, you’re not going to have a good day. We seemed to do that very well today -- get him up, and when we got him up, we didn’t miss it."
Hernandez may not be the power pitcher he was during his early career. He came out throwing 88-89 mph in the first inning Sunday and ramped up to about 91, but mostly seemed to be relying on movement. The A’s loaded the bases in the second without scoring but broke through in the fourth, scoring on singles by Ike Davis and Reddick and a triple from Vogt, who’s now 5-for-9 against Hernandez in his career.
Vogt had an interesting note that was not followed up: He said new hitting coach Darren Bush "gave us a great plan (for Hernandez) going in, and I think that’s something we will continue to do off him." Vogt probably wouldn’t want to share the plan, anyway, but did say Sunday’s at-bats could pay dividends down the road.
"It’s good for us to have that little bit of success off him today and something to build on, since we’re going to face him about 18 more times this year," Vogt said.
* The A’s have shown a penchant for ninth-inning comebacks in recent seasons and did it again Sunday, albeit in a losing cause. Several players said it was a silver lining in a loss, with Vogt adding: "It’s new faces, but the same team."
One of those new faces, designated hitter Billy Butler, is off to a hot start. Butler went 3-for-4 and has hit safely in all seven games this season, batting .407. He came up with the bases loaded, no outs and the A’s down 7-5 Sunday but hit into a double play that scored a run and set up Eric Sogard’s game-tying single.
Sam Fuld drove in two runs in the ninth with a double but didn’t look at full speed on the bases. Fuld fouled a pitch off his right ankle earlier in the game and said afterward he got an X-ray that came back OK. "Just bruised," he said.
* The A’s now head out on their first road trip of the season, a three-city trip to Houston, Kansas City and Los Angeles. Here are the pitching probables for their three-game series against the Astros:
Monday: LHP Scott Kazmir (1-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Scott Feldman (0-1, 1.35)
Tuesday: RHP Kendall Graveman (0-1, 18.90) vs. RHP Asher Wojciechowski (0-1, 9.00)
Wednesday: LHP Drew Pomeranz (1-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Collin McHugh (1-0, 1.50)