The Oakland Athletics watch as shortstop Marcus Semien (10) makes contact with a San Francisco Giants pitch at Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California, on August 1, 2017. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)

A’s, Soria flinch as winning streak comes to a halt

Strike call that wasn’t to Shohei Ohtani flips game against Angels

OAKLAND — The Oakland Athletics entered Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels riding an 11-game unbeaten streak, and even had an early cameo from the rally opossum. However, it was a late flinch from home plate umpire James Hoye that made the difference and ended Oakland’s winning streak in their 6-4 loss to the Angels.

“It is what it is,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Tough way to lose.”

A 1-2 curveball from A’s pitcher Joakim Soria to Angels’ designated hitter Shohei Ohtani looked to be a strike. Hoye initially thought was a strike, and was about to ring up Ohtani. Instead, Josh Phegley appeared to have dropped the ball and Hoye quickly changed his call from strike to ball.

“It’s a tough pitch on the outer half,” Phegley said about the pitch. “I was kind of set up inner half, but, I have to catch the ball to give us a better chance.

“It was borderline, it could’ve went either way, but I give us a better chance if I catch it.”

“This is part of the game,” Soria explained. “It’s the human factor in the game and there’s the beauty of the game. I understand (umpire James Hoye) is human and he thought it was a ball and he called it.

“The only problem is that, I give up two runs and we lost the game. In that specific situation, you cannot miss.”

The A’s got off to a hot start, building off of their winning streak as starter Frankie Montas sat the Angels down in order to start the game and Marcus Semien blasted a leadoff home run on the first pitch of the bottom of the first.

But then everything unraveled.

Montas got into a bases loaded jam with two outs, then allowed a two-out, two-run, RBI single to David Fletcher to put L.A. ahead 2-1. Tommy LaStella followed on the next at-bat, lining a double to center field, past Ramon Laureano to put the Angels up 4-1. Montas walked Mike Trout, allowed a single to Ohtani, and walked Albert Pujols before getting Kole Calhoun to pop out to Matt Chapman at third base.

“They fouled a lot of balls off,” Melvin said. “He gives up a bloop-hit and scores a couple, and you know, scoring four runs off on the many pitches he throws, you try to limit the damage, and at the end of the day, he gives up four runs and we come back in time a bit too easy.”

It was Montas’ first tough outing since he took the loss in Boston back on April 29, and the five walks he issued on the night was a season high and the most he’s allowed since his second start of the season on April 5. The four runs allowed by Montas was also a season high.

“I wasn’t making pitches. I feel like my command was a little bit off,” Montas said of his start. “I wasn’t attacking like I’m used to and they got really good at-bats. There’s going to be some days where you’re not going to have your best stuff out there, but you have to keep competing.”

Montas tossed just four innings, allowing four runs on four hits, while striking out and walking five in his shortest outing of the season.

The Athletics lineup only played dead for so long, and they woke up strong. Laureano launched a solo homer to left in the fifth inning to make it 4-2, and Matt Olson blasted a two-run, game-tying homer to center in the sixth to bring Oakland back, 4-4.

“You know, we didn’t look like we were doing a whole lot,” Melvin added. “We’re down 4-1, next thing you know it’s 4-4. So, we have the ability to strike back quickly as we did. Once we got to 4-4, even though we’re down at least three guys today, we still feel like there’s a good chance to win.”

But after a stalemate between the two teams in the later innings, the Angels took the lead in the top of the ninth inning. After Hoye’s flinch, Ohtani took the next pitch and lined it to right, scoring both Mike Trout and Tommy LaStella to put the Angels ahead 6-4. The A’s earned a walk by Phegley late for any hope of a ninth inning rally, but Robbie Grossman flied out to center to end the game.

The loss snaps Oakland’s sudden and surprising 11-game unbeaten streak. Oakland will look to start a new streak in the series finale day-game on Wednesday.

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