By Brent Dedmon
Special to S.F. Examiner
ANAHEIM — If every baseball game offers something you’ve never seen before, then Wednesday night’s matchup between the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels in front of 36,065 at Angel Stadium was no exception.
For starters, it was the first time in MLB history that both teams employed an opener before handing the ball over to their respective “starters” in the second inning. In the end, the dual-opener element of this game might have been the least memorable.
Home runs, stolen bases, runners caught stealing, official video reviews, a play at the plate, free Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s for all in attendance, 29 hits, 17 stranded baserunners, 13 total pitchers, a walk-off flyball, and 4 hours 13 minutes later, the Angels beat the A’s 10-9 and sent them back under the .500 mark.
The A’s opener, Joakim Soria, found himself starting a game for the first time in his 12-year career and gave up a leadoff homer to Tommy La Stella, his 13th of the year and first career leadoff home run. The Angels countered with Cam Bedrosian, who made his sixth start of the year and threw a scoreless first inning.
With the Angels (30-32) leading 1-0 after the first, Oakland’s offense got to work. Despite snapping a season-high, 13-game streak with a home run, the A’s jumped on Angels bulk man Felix Pena, who took the ball in the second inning. They sent eight men to the plate in both the second and third innings, scoring a total of seven runs in those two frames.
The Nos. 1-8 hitters reached base at least once in those innings with Marcus Semien (3-for-4, 2 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB), Robbie Grossman (4-for-5, 2 R, 1 RBI), and Jurickson Profar (3-for-5, 1 R, 2 RBI) leading the way. With two outs in the third, Pena’s night was done after 61 pitches (1 2/3 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO).
“[Felix] was grinding as much as possible, but unfortunately, it was just an off night for him. Everyone has them and tonight we are lucky the offense stepped up” said Los Angeles skipper Brad Ausmus.
Step up, they did. A’s manager Bob Melvin handed the ball to Daniel Mengden in the second inning. Mengden, 1-1 with a 3.05 ERA and 20 2/3 innings pitched entering Wednesday’s game, saw success in Oakland on May 29 against the Angels, but on Wednesday, he fared no better than Pena.
With a 7-1 lead in his pocket, Mengden’s night was over after throwing just 65 pitches over 2 1/3 innings. He allowed six hits, six earned runs and walked one, allowing a two-run homer by Mike Trout in the third. One inning later, Shohei Ohtani blasted a three-run shot off Yusmeiro Petit and after four innings, both teams’ openers and starters were out of the game and the Angels were leading 8-7.
“I was not getting strike one, kind of all over the place,” Mengden said. “I wasn’t very comfortable out there but it’s no excuse. I didn’t really make good pitches, didn’t execute, fell behind, and got banged around.”
Both teams were held scoreless in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings with Wei-Chung Wang (3 IP, 1H, 2K) and Noe Ramirez (2 1/3 IP, 1 H, 5 K) shining for their teams out of the bullpen, before the A’s scored twice in the eighth with a single by Matt Olson and a wild pitch from Angels right-hander Hansel Robles that allowed Matt Chapman to score from third. Los Angeles answered with a run in the bottom of the eighth when Ohtani drew a two-out, bases loaded walk from Ryan Buchter after Oakland opted to intentionally walk Trout.
In the bottom of the ninth, Angel leffielder Brian Goodwin stroked a two-out single off Lou Trivino, stole second and scored on what appeared to be a catchable flyball to the warning track in left off the bat of the unlikeliest of heroes: backup catcher and late-game defensive substitute Dustin Garneau.
“Right before that at-bat I was down in the cage,” Garneau said. “I caught Trivino last year in Triple-A and I know he’s one of the best relievers in the game, but I got barrel to the baseball and good things happen when you put the ball in play.”
Perhaps somewhat prophetically, Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of his team before tonight’s game, “I don’t think these guys get too rattled by losing a few games. That’s the great thing about baseball, you always have the next day to go out there and prove yourself again.”
The A’s (30-31) will look to prove themselves on Thursday and take the series against the Angels, as Mike Fiers (4-3, 4.78 ERA, 47 strikeouts) will take the mound against lefty Tyler Skaggs (4-5, 4.50 ERA, 55 strikeouts) at 7:07 PM PDT at The Big A.