OAKLAND -- The A’s have dealt with enough injuries already this season that it seemed like the entire Coliseum held its breath Thursday when outfielders Billy Burns and Josh Reddick collided going for a ball at the right-center field wall in the eighth inning of the A’s 3-1 loss to the San Diego Padres.
Neither caught the drive off the bat of Melvin Upton Jr., and as Burns ran to retrieve the ball, Reddick stayed down on the warning track in a heap. After several minutes, and a visit from A’s manager Bob Melvin and a team trainer, Reddick got to his feet and stayed in the game.
Reddick later said the collision "wasn’t as bad as everybody had anticipated" and that the source of his pain was "just a knee to the wrong section of the body" -- below the belt. After letting the discomfort subside, Reddick said, he was OK to remain on the field.
The A’s, meanwhile, dodged what would’ve been a costly addition to a disabled list that already includes leadoff hitter Coco Crisp, first baseman Ike Davis, closer Sean Doolittle and multiple other relievers. Both Reddick and Burns said afterward that neither expected the other to even be in the vicinity of the play, and so neither tried to call the other off.
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Reddick said the A’s had been shading Upton toward left field most of the series, and he figured Burns would be too far away to have a play on the ball. Burns agreed that after watching the replay, Reddick had a better shot at making the catch, but at the time, "I had no idea Reddick was there."
Burns said he also got the wind knocked out of him and had a big welt on his lower right leg. "His knee hit me in the shin as I was kneeing him in the groin," Burns said. The two were so tangled up that Burns’ glove arm also caught Reddick in the face, and Burns said that when he got back to check on Reddick, the right fielder was bleeding a little from the mouth.
"He definitely got the worst of it," Burns said.
Reddick was recovered enough after the game to sound more frustrated about not making the play than the collision.
"I was just a tad late when I jumped," he said. "It went right over my glove."
* The A’s didn’t lose a player, but they did lose the game. A day after scoring 16 runs on 20 hits, they managed just one run Thursday on Josh Phegley’s solo home run against Ian Kennedy in the sixth inning. The A’s advanced just two other runners past third base and stranded both as their four-game winning streak was snapped.
A’s starter Kendall Graveman allowed two solo home runs in seven innings but took the loss. Graveman, though, continued his better pitching since being recalled from Triple-A: A demotion he says helped him figure out some of the things that led to his 8.27 ERA in his first four starts in April. More on that can be found here.
Graveman has thrown at least seven innings while allowing two or fewer runs in each of his last three starts, but doesn’t have a win.
"Game like that, you give up a couple runs, you expect to be in a little better position," A’s manager Bob Melvin said. "We just didn’t do enough offensively to get him on the other side of that."
* Two pitches hurt Graveman on Thursday: A slow curveball to Matt Kemp in the fourth inning and a 2-0 cutter that backed up over the middle of the plate to Derek Norris in the sixth. Both landed beyond the wall in left field.
"The one to Kemp looked like it was down," Melvin said. "The one to Norris I think backed up and was middle-in, probably didn’t get it where he wanted to."
Graveman agreed that Kemp beat a "good pitch," and the pitch to Norris was a mistake. Those were the only fly balls that hurt Thursday -- but not the only ones the Padres hit against Graveman, who’s normally a ground-ball pitcher. Only five of the 21 outs that Graveman recorded came on ground balls, yet he still held the Padres mostly in check.
Catcher Josh Phegley explained it this way: "I think we were just throwing his cutter off his (sinking) fastball a lot more, so the (Padres hitters) were more out front." Phegley said Graveman usually generates ground balls with his sinker, but that once the Padres caught on that Graveman was commanding the sinker and throwing it for strikes, they started to mix in the cutter more often, which resulted in contact in the air.
* The collision between Reddick and Burns in the eighth resulted in a triple for Melvin Upton Jr., that led to a Padres insurance run. Upton Jr. scored when Justin Upton lofted a foul ball down the first-base line that Stephen Vogt caught on the run with his back to the infield. Vogt wheeled and threw home, but Upton Jr. scored on a rare sacrifice fly to the opposing first baseman.
While the run didn’t decide the game, Vogt and Melvin were both asked afterward if that is a play where Vogt -- whose natural position is catcher, not first base -- might consider not making the catch with the speedy Upton Jr. on third base. Melvin said it’s a difficult call when instincts come into play.
"When you’re running after a foul pop fly and you’re a catcher you’re not necessarily that aware of where you are, just to let it drop," Melvin said. "That’s a tough thing to do. Probably felt like he had a chance to turn around and throw him out, but that’s a pretty good runner."
Vogt, though, said unequivocally he doesn’t even consider not making the catch in that scenario.
"When you get Justin Upton to pop up into foul territory, you’ve got to take the out," he said. "You don’t want him to hit a two-run home run the next pitch.
"I’ve played plenty of outfield and first base to make the catch, turn and throw. Different runner, who knows, little closer play. My throw pulled (Phegley) up the line a little bit … But thinking back to it, I wouldn’t do it any different."
* It bears repeating that games like the last two are the reason the A’s have a plus-36 run differential this season, but own the worst record in the A.L. West. After outscoring their opponents 39-9 during their four-game winning streak, the A’s lost another close game Thursday and are 8-28 in games decided by two runs or fewer.
One constant recently has been the starting pitching. In their last 25 games, A’s starters have a combined 2.00 ERA and have allowed one run or fewer 14 times. Sonny Gray will try to extend this stretch when the A’s begin a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday evening. The pitching probables for the series:
Friday: RHP Sonny Gray (8-3, 1.60) vs. RHP Matt Shoemaker (4-5, 4.85)
Saturday: RHP Jesse Hahn (4-5, 3.62) vs. RHP Jered Weaver (4-7, 4.65)
Sunday: LHP Scott Kazmir (3-4, 2.84) vs. RHP Garrett Richards (7-4, 3.59)