For those in a sellout crowd who were unaware, the announcement came over the O.co Coliseum public address system shortly before the first pitch Sunday: The A’s, for the first time since 2005, were playing host to ESPN and the network’s “Sunday Night Baseball” national telecast.
It elicited a raucous reaction from the fans, many of whom hoped to see the A’s retake sole possession of first place from the Los Angeles Angels. It wound up being one of their few reasons to cheer, as instead the Angels pounded 14-game winner Scott Kazmir in a 9-4 win to avoid a sweep and escape Oakland with a one-game lead in the American League West.
The A’s did not put on their best face for a national audience. Kazmir gave up a season-high-tying 10 hits before departing with two on, nobody out and the A’s trailing 5-0 in the fourth inning. Jesse Chavez came in and promptly allowed both those runners to score, capping Kazmir’s line at seven runs allowed, also matching his season high.
Offensively, meanwhile, the A’s looked feeble against Angels right-hander Jered Weaver and his wide array of pitches and speeds for six innings, managing just four hits while the Angels built a 9-0 lead. They finally got to Weaver in the seventh, as Alberto Callaspo hit a two-run home run and Andy Parrino a solo homer, but it was too little, too late.
The loss ended an all-around bad day for the A’s, who also placed closer Sean Doolittle on the 15-day disabled list because of an intercostal muscle strain and learned they’ll be without catcher John Jaso for at least a week because of a concussion.
“I think we’ll respond well,” Kazmir said. “I think we just have to step up. Those are key guys that are out; we’ve got a couple other guys that are banged up, too. But we know we need to step our game up a little bit more, and I think we’ll do that.”
Kazmir threw six pitches in a scoreless first inning but began to unravel in the second. He allowed a leadoff single to Josh Hamilton, walked Howie Kendrick and saw both score on Erick Aybar’s one-out double off the center-field wall. Kole Calhoun’s two-out double down the left-field line scored Aybar.
Kazmir struck out Mike Trout to end the inning but not his problems. Hamilton crushed a two-run homer off Kazmir in the third, and Kazmir started the fourth by giving up singles to Calhoun and Trout before leaving after just 61 pitches.
“He just made some mistakes, some balls were up, missed his location a few times,” manager Bob Melvin said.
Kazmir was more incisive with his self-assessment “I hit maybe one spot the entire game,” he said.
It won’t be long before these teams meet again – the A’s start a three-game series in Houston today, then fly to Southern California for four games against the Angels, whom they also trail by a game for the majors’ best record.
“We feel good coming out of this series,” Kazmir said. “We definitely would’ve liked to get this one … but overall I feel like two out of three is good. Feel like we’re where we want to be – in striking distance.”