OAKLAND -- A’s shortstop Marcus Semien said this week that one of the attributes that impresses him most about Mike Trout is that Trout -- like Miguel Cabrera, another MVP whom Semien saw often last season in the A.L. Central -- rarely seems affected when he has a bad game.
That is, Semien said, Trout can have a bad game one day, then come back the next day "a totally different guy." Case in point: The past three games between the A’s and Angels at the Coliseum. In the opener Tuesday night, Trout went hitless and struck out three times. Wednesday night, he came back and drove in three runs with a double and a homer.
And Thursday, Trout loomed large again in the Angels’ 6-5 win over the A’s. He got on base four times. He scored two runs. And when Ike Davis hit a drive to deep center field with two outs, the bases loaded and the A’s down by a run in the ninth inning, Trout ran it down, making a remarkable over-the-shoulder catch to secure the win.
"I thought (Davis) got it over his head," A’s manager Bob Melvin said. "He didn’t."
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A’s starter Jesse Chavez thought so, too.
"Absolutely, right off the bat," Chavez said. "But then again, it’s Trout. He’s an amazing player. That’s why he is what he is, and he makes the plays he makes."
Trout impacts a game in ways both subtle and spectacular. In the Angels’ three-run fifth inning Thursday, he came up with runners on second and third. With just one out the A’s chose to walk him. Kole Calhoun followed lining a two-run single to center field. Trout also doubled leading off the seventh inning, and scored on a Calhoun single that gave the Angels a 6-0 lead.
The insurance run proved important as the A’s scored twice in the seventh and rallied in the ninth, putting the tying run on third base with one out. Semien, though, popped out in shallow right field. Davis then hammered a pitch from Houston Street to dead center field -- Trout’s territory. Sprinting backward, Trout reached over his head and made the catch before hitting the warning track and slamming his fist into the center-field wall.
"They play so deep, I was hoping it was (over his head)," Davis said. "He made a good catch."
For a moment, it appeared the A’s would end April on a much-needed high note. Instead, they finished the month 0-8 in day games, 0-9 in games decided by two runs or fewer and 9-14 overall, their worst record in April since 2001. Melvin credited the A’s with playing a "pretty spirited" ninth inning. But thanks in part to Trout, it went for naught.
"We hit a lot of balls hard that were caught," Davis said. "That’s a recipe for losing."
* The A’s followed that recipe all too often the first month of the season. A large part of the problem was their bullpen, which accounted for seven losses and a 4.50 ERA, which ranked fourth-highest in the majors. Those struggles are the subject of tomorrow’s print story, with Melvin saying he’s still searching for the "right recipe" with his relief corps.
Melvin takes pride in the A’s playing well at home, so he was visibly frustrated about the A’s going 1-5 in their first homestand of the season. They were swept by the first-place Houston Astros, then dropped the final two games of this series against the Angels.
"Awful homestand," Melvin said. "We’ve got to play better than that. We’ve got to do it soon. Certainly the last inning was pretty spirited, and we have a way of coming back and fighting to the end, but still not a win."
The A’s have clung this month to the fact that they’ve stayed in games and made several of their losses interesting late. Melvin said he’d like to think that will even out sometime, and the rallies will breed wins, but he admitted, "It doesn’t feel that way right now."
"You’d like to think so, (that) you keep playing that hard through nine innings, it’s going to break for us," Melvin said. "But right now it’s a bad feeling."
* The A’s were looking for a deep outing from Jesse Chavez to help rest the bullpen. He gave them five innings, throwing 95 pitches, and departed trailing 4-0 after the Angels scored three times in the fifth.
"I tried to make a couple pitches and unfortunately they got a little bit too much of the plate and found a little bit too much of the holes to get through," Chavez said.
Melvin said Chavez "hung in there on a day that was a little tough for him," and that the right-hander has been under the weather recently. Chavez shrugged that off: "Physically I felt fine," he said. "That’s not an excuse. Still gotta go out and get outs."
Ironically, A’s pitchers recorded a league-high five shutouts in April. In their 14 losses, however, the staff had a 5.50 ERA. Overall, Chavez said, the A’s will be happy turning over a new page on the calendar.
"It’s been frustrating, especially with the way spring went," Chavez said. "We wanted to come out and keep the wheels going. But at the same time, it’s baseball. You’re going to have high months, you’re going to have down months. As long as we minimize the down months we’ll be all right."
* Davis struck a similar tone: "The good thing is we’ve got five more (months)," he said. "We’re not losing by crazy amounts of runs. We’ve got a lot of time to catch up and get back in there."
A three-game series against the Rangers begins Friday in Texas. The pitching probables:
Friday: LHP Scott Kazmir (2-0, 0.99) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (1-2, 3.75)
Saturday: LHP Drew Pomeranz (1-2, 4.50) vs. RHP Nick Martinez (2-0, 0.35)
Sunday: RHP Sonny Gray (3-0, 1.98) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (2-3, 4.05)