OAKLAND — With All-Star hopeful Matt Chapman going on the disabled list, All-Star hopeful Jed Lowrie moving to third and top prospect Franklin Barreto taking over at second, Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin maintained that utility man Chad Pinder would hang around to give regulars needed days off.
He was going to stay in his role as the backup third baseman, a late-inning defensive replacement, a pinch hitter and would occasionally get a start in the outfield. Starting in left on Saturday, Pinder went 3-for-3 with three runs, coming up a double short of the cycle as the A’s mounted a sixth-inning comeback to take a 6-4 decision from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
“Pin can be really productive,” Melvin said. “When he gets on a roll, he’s as productive as anybody we have. You look at exit velocities and so forth, when he squares one up, it’s as good as anybody on our team. It’s about trying to get him regular at-bats, where he can be consistent.”
In Pinder’s first start in left field since June 9, he helped lift Oakland (35-36) to snap a four-game losing streak. He did it in support of Sean Manaea, who had a rough May, going 1-3 with a 7.18 ERA before he Bic’d his head to try and change his mojo. After Saturday’s start, he now has a 3.38 ERA over his last two outings.
“He’s past ‘young pitcher,'” Melvin said. “We lean on him pretty hard. That’s part of the maturation process.”
Manaea started the day by retiring 12 straight, mixing in his slider and relying on his changeup to get swings and misses. He was able to steal strikes on the edges of the zone — getting 17 called strikes — and drawing 10 swings and misses, as Pinder socked his sixth home run of the year — a low line-drive solo shot in the fourth — to stake him to a 1-0 lead over Los Angeles (38-33).
Manaea, though, lost his bid for a second no-hitter on the season when an Albert Pujols sinking liner found grass just in front of Pinder’s mitt in left to lead off the fifth. An opposite-field single by catcher Martin Maldonado followed, and then a three-run, low-line-drive home run by Chris Young, his fourth of the season.
“I had to re-collect myself, slow the game down,” Manaea said. “I was going through the motions a little bit to Maldonado and Young, and that’s what happened with those two pitches — I was just throwing it, and not executing those 0-2 pitches.”
The pitch was a 90 mph fastball high and towards the outer half of the zone, but Young — who was called upon moments before game time to replace Justin Upton, who was scratched due to back tightness — yanked it just over the LF fence. Manaea buckled down, though, and got the next three in order to limit the damage.
“After the home run, I just stepped off and really had to focus and slow the game down,” Manaea said. “I just told myself to get back on the mound and put the team in a good position.”
Manaea retired the side in the sixth — working around a tow-out Trout single — and saw his offense score four in the bottom of the frame to get him off the hook.
The A’s cut the lead to one with a leadoff home run by Marcus Semien — who had made two sparkling defensive plays in support of Manaea during the first four innings — to chase Angels starter John Lamb. Reliever Noe Ramirez then hit Pinder, and with one out walked Khris Davis and hit Matt Olson. After striking out pinch hitter Dustin Fowler, he walked Jonathan Lucroy to bring in a run, and then surrendered a two-run single up the middle to Stephen Piscotty to break the tie. Piscotty now has 10 RBIs in 13 games in the month of June.
“Our at-bats got better as the game went on, the tighter the game was, and we got contributions from everybody,” Melvin said. “[Piscotty] is swinging it pretty good. We talk about in our advance meeting, when we’re not swinging the bat great, we have to take advantage of at-bats with guys in scoring position, to know that the pitcher’s on the defensive, not us. He looked pretty relaxed in that at-bat.”
The A’s added insurance in the bottom of the seventh, as Pinder laced a one-out triple — his first of the year and the second of his career — off the wall in right center, and Jed Lowrie banged a single back up the middle to bring him home.
“Right as I was 15 feet from second base, I saw it kick off the wall,” Pinder said. “There was one out, so just try to get to third with less than two outs, and give Jed the opportunity … when I saw it get past Trout, I was like, ‘Got to push it here.'”
Yusmeiro Petit — after not pitching in seven days — came on and threw a shutout seventh, but closer Blake Treinen’s return after six days of rest wasn’t nearly as smooth. Treinen struggled to find the strike zone, walking the first two men he faced in the ninth and falling behind 3-1 to the first three. He allowed a two-out RBI single to pinch hitter Jose Miguel Fernandez after falling behind 1-0, but then got Luis Valbuena to ground out to second to earn his 15th save.
The win snapped a six-game American League West losing streak for Oakland, which is now 11-24 against divisional opponents.