By Matt Doan
Special to S.F. Examiner
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Oakland Athletics needed a change.
After a 10-game unbeaten streak (not counting a rain-suspended game against the Detroit Tigers), the A’s had lost five in a row headed into Tuesday’s opener with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the first of a 10-game road trip.
Switching up his strategy from his last game against the Angels a week ago, starter Frankie Montas held down Los Angeles over six innings of two-run ball, striking out three and scattering four hits as Oakland stole a 4-2 win in Anaheim.
“I threw a lot of fastballs the first few innings and then went to my splitter (split-fingered fastball) later on as the game went on,” said Montas, who had allowed a season-high four runs in four innings on May 28 against these same Angels. Until that game, Montas had been the A’s most consistent starter in a season built on waiting — waiting for Sean Manaea to return, waiting for Jesus Luzardo’s shoulder to calm down, waiting for youngsters like A.J. Puk and Jharel Cotton to finish their Tommy John rehab.
The A’s didn’t have to wait long to get on the board against Los Angeles, as Matt Chapman led off the third with a single and was moved to second on a Matt Olson walk. Khris Davis then knocked a 2-0 fastball over the head of Angels center fielder Mike Trout for an RBI double. Stephen Piscotty followed that up with sacrifice fly to score Olson to give the A’s a 2-0 lead.
After the third inning, both Montas and Angels rookie starter Griffin Canning (2-2) made quick work of their respective opponents until Oakland center fielder Ramon Laureano came up with a runner on in the top of the sixth. Laureano deposited a breaking ball over the left field wall for his eighth home run of the season, extending the A’s lead to 4-0. It was the 13th consecutive game in which the A’s have homered.
The Angels finally got to Montas in the sixth inning on a two-run homer off the bat of designated hitter Shohei Ohtani — his fourth of the year — after a 13-pitch battle between Montas and Trout ended when Montas hit Trout with a splitter. Ohtani took Montas’ next offering and blasted it over the wall in center. It was the first home run Montas had allowed in over 53 innings.
The game was then turned over to the Oakland bullpen, and right-handed relievers Yusmeiro Petit, Liam Hendriks and Blake Treinen combined for three scoreless innings, with Treinen nailing down his 12th save of the season with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
“It was a good game for us, we played good defense, we got some big hits,” said manager Bob Melvin. “Frankie was terrific. We didn’t have to get a ton of home runs to win the game, we found some different ways of doing it.”
Hendriks worked out of a jam of his own making, hitting a batter to lead off the eighth inning, but then inducing two fly ball outs off the bats of the Angels two hottest hitters, Tommy La Stella and the ever-dangerous Trout. After a two out walk to Ohtani and a wild pitch, Hendriks faced off against his former batterymate from last season, former Oakland catcher Jonathan Lucroy, with the tying runs in scoring position. Hendriks induced a fly out to right to end the threat.
“I hate facing guys that I have thrown to the in the past, it just feels like they always know what is coming,” Hendriks said. “It was one of those things where I was able to get Lucroy and get out of it.”