In the bottom of the fourth inning Wednesday, A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson hit a fly ball to the warning track in right-center that the Angels’ Mike Trout dropped, giving the A’s a runner on third base with no outs. Donaldson did not score.
In the top of the fifth, Angels pinch hitter Grant Green hit a fly ball to shallow right that the A’s Josh Reddick dropped, giving the Angels a runner on third with one out. Green scored when Albert Pujols followed with a sacrifice fly.
The outcomes underscored a major theme for the Oakland offense in the second half of the season. The A’s squandered several scoring chances and made three errors in a 5-4 loss to Los Angeles, but they stayed tied with the Royals for the first wild-card spot after Kansas City lost to Cleveland 6-4 and inched closer to securing at least the second wild-card spot after Seattle lost to Toronto 1-0.
An announced crowd of 27,989 to see the A’s final regular-season game of the year at O.co Coliseum pushed the team’s season attendance over 2 million for the first time since 2005. But they had little to cheer until the seventh inning, when the A’s put runners in scoring position for the fifth time in an inning and finally took advantage.
With runners on first and third, Josh Reddick lined a double to right field off Angels reliever Mike Morin that scored both runners, and Nick Punto followed with a triple to the gap in right-center that drove in Reddick. The Angels brought in sidewinding left-hander Joe Thatcher, and Coco Crisp shot his fourth pitch into left field for a single, scoring Punto.
But the A’s still trailed by a run, and with Crisp the potential tying run on first base, Sam Fuld bounced into a fielder’s choice and – after new reliever Jason Grilli walked Donaldson – pinch hitter Adam Dunn struck out swinging. So the A’s were left talking afterward not about the rally they did mount Wednesday, but about the ones they didn’t.
“You can’t rely on late innings like (the seventh) to pick you up, especially when you’re already down 5-0 with a couple of miscues,” Reddick said. “We’ve just got to take better (advantage of) opportunities to get some runs in. Seems like we get some guys on and we just can’t get the one big hit we need to put us ahead.”
The epitome was the fourth inning, which began with Donaldson taking third on Trout’s error. Jonny Gomes popped out and Derek Norris flew out to right fielder Kole Calhoun, who fired a throw that easily beat a tagging Donaldson to the plate.
Donaldson was called out despite arguing that Angels catcher Chris Iannetta had not tagged him before he touched the plate on a second effort. Umpires opted to review if Iannetta had illegally blocked the plate but upheld the call, keeping it a 3-0 game.
“I knew he didn’t tag me,” Donaldson said. “That’s why (Iannetta) was kind of standing there. But the whole replay system, there has to be evidence. And I wouldn’t say there was evidence to overturn it, although I know he didn’t touch me.”
But that was far from the A’s only chance. They put runners on first and second with no outs in the second inning against Angels starter Hector Santiago, got a leadoff single by Reddick in the third and had two on and one out in the sixth – and failed to score in any of those innings.
The Angels, meanwhile, got two timely hits from second baseman Howie Kendrick, who had an RBI single off A’s left-hander Jon Lester in the first inning and a two-run double in the third, which came after Pujols had doubled on a sharp grounder that skipped under Donaldson’s glove.
Lester allowed two more runs, but both were unearned. The Angels scored with the help of Reddick’s dropped fly ball in the fifth inning and again in the seventh when Donaldson charged a Collin Cowgill bunt and threw low and past first baseman Stephen Vogt, allowing Gordon Beckham to score from first.
Manager Bob Melvin credited his team with being “able to find some fight,” but Reddick said the A’s late rally “makes the errors look that much worse.
“You look at it (without the unearned runs), we win 4-3,” Reddick said. “We just can’t get where we need to be to right the ship right now. And that’s something we have to figure out, and figure out fast.”
The A’s are 14-28 since Aug. 10, the second-worst record in the majors over that span, but they still hold a three-game lead over Seattle for the final wild-card spot with four games to play.
Lester, who would finish with a career-best 2.46 ERA if he doesn’t pitch again in the regular season, likely would get the start in a wild-card game.
“We have to make it first,” Melvin said. “(But) once you make the playoffs, everything changes.
“The whole mood, the whole negativity of the way we’ve been playing, trying to find who we are again, all that would go away if you get to the playoffs, I believe,” Melvin said. “So we’re trying to fight our way there.”