OAKLAND — Forty-four years ago, almost to the day, Nolan Ryan threw 235 pitches while pitching for the California Angels in a 4-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox and Luis Tiant. The June 14 game took 13 innings to decide.
On Friday, Oakland’s Chris Bassitt was on pace to match that in just nine. Bassitt — who allowed six runs on seven hits to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim — threw 102 pitches in just four innings. Bassitt also committed one of two run-scoring errors as the Oakland A’s dropped their fourth game in a row, and 24th to an American League West opponent, by the score of 8-4.
Bassitt — who has been called up four times this season, with only one start before Friday — was far from the pitcher the A’s saw on June 9, when he scattered three hits and a run over seven innings in a 2-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals, when he struck out six.
Though Bassitt continued to pound the zone — throwing 68 strikes — he was hit hard. Three of the six hits he allowed came out at 100 mph or more. Six balls hit off of him exited at 95 mph or more.
“He just didn’t seem as crisp,” Melvin said. “Threw a lot of pitches in four inning. They did foul some pitches off, but it means you’re not as in-command of where you’re throwing the baseball. I think that was the biggest difference.”
The Angels were able to foul off 29 pitches, owing to the fact that Bassitt’s off-speed stuff was, as he put it, non-existent.
“I threw a lot of non-competitive pitches,” Bassitt said. “0-2, 1-2, where out of my hand it was a ball, and you add the fact that they were fouling as many pitches off as they did, that’s what happens. I was obviously not helping myself. When I’m 1-2, 0-2, wasting pitches the way I did, and the foul balls, you’re going to rack your pitch count up really fast.”
Mechanically, Bassitt said, something was off, as the plate seemed shifted three to four inches to one side to righties all game.
“I thought they were strikes, and I looked at it, and they weren’t, at all,” Bassitt said. “I haven’t really had that problem before.”
Bassitt threw a not-outlandish 15 pitches to the first three batters, allowing a single and a walk, before getting away with with only long foul ball strikes on meatballs to Albert Pujols. Pujols then rolled over a 1-2 offering from Bassitt, but after the A’s starter came off the mound to his right to field it, he awkwardly cocked his arm back to throw to first and sailed the ball over Matt Olson. Mike Trout — aboard on a one-out single — and Justin Upton — aboard on a one-out walk — both came around to score.
“[I broke] the golden rule of fielding a ground ball with my bare hand,” Bassitt said. “It was just in a funky grip, and I had some time, knowing that Pujols doesn’t really run that well. I sailed it. I obviously wish I had that back. It started that snowball. It just kept going.”
More D-minus defense in the third cost the A’s even more ground. After back-to-back singles by Trout and Upton, Pujols sent a would-be double play ball to third, right at Chad Pinder. Pinder set his feet and threw low and wide to second, and the ball trickled into right, allowing Trout to score. Instead of a man at third and two outs, the Angels had men at the corners with no outs.
“The early part of the game was about as bad as we’ve played,” Melvin said.
Los Angeles capitalized with a pair of RBI singles and a failed double play turn to open up a 5-0 lead. Before there was an out in the third, Bassitt already thrown 72 pitches. After getting out of the third, he served up a leadoff solo homer to Ian Kinsler in the fourth.
Two days after the A’s burned five pitchers and one Jake Smolinski on the mound, Bassitt had to eat innings. After he was full, Carlos Ramirez took over, and promptly walked the bases loaded, walked a run in and allowed a sacrifice fly to Trout, who had already singled three times against Bassitt, including a 105-mph rocket up the middle in the first.
Oakland (34-35) managed a pair of runs in the fifth on doubles from Josh Phegley and Marcus Semien, another on an eighth-inning wild pitch by reliever Cam Bedrosian and yet another on a bases-loaded wild pitch by Justin Anderson in the ninth, but were held in check by Angels starter Tyler Skaggs. The Los Angeles lefty struck out eight, scattering seven hits, throwing 102 pitches, and 68 for strikes — the same pitch numbers as Bassitt.