Friday saw a series of firsts in Oakland. The Angels and A’s gave us the first extra-inning game of the season, which gave us the first instance of a free runner on second base, and we saw Joe Maddon deploy his first five-man infield of the year.
But in the end, the result was all-too familiar. Matt Olson hit a walk-off grand slam on the first pitch from lefty reliever Hoby Milner, giving the A’s a 7-3 win, giving the Angels their seventh consecutive Opening Day loss.
The last four of those Opening Day losses came in Oakland.
Buying extra time
Two outs from a seventh consecutive Opening Day defeat, Jason Castro took Liam Hendriks deep to tie things up, eliciting an F-bomb from the A’s closer:
Castro was one of 15 major league catchers with a .200 or better isolated power (minimum 200 plate appearances) last year, so perhaps it was fitting he hit the first Angels home run of the season.
The Halos rallied with a single and walk off Hendriks after Castro’s homer, then with two outs Oakland intentionally walked Mike Trout to load the bases. The gambit paid off when Hendriks struck out Shohei Ohtani on three pitches to end the threat.
Ohtani then made history in the top of the 10th when, as the last batter of the previous inning, he was the runner on second base to start an extra inning, the first time this new 2020 rule was implemented. Ohtani’s reaction to getting the call was funny.
Ohtani’s reaction when reminded he’s starting the inning on second base pic.twitter.com/LUarOXmqUa— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) July 25, 2020
Ohtani was erased on an excellent play by Olson (and incredible scoop by Chapman at third), but the Angels still managed to load the bases in the 10th, only to strand everyone.
The Angels on the night were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left 12 on base.
“We did have tremendous opportunity to win it late, and feel good about that,” Maddon said after the game. “A couple missed opportunities, but a pretty good first game.”
2013 was the last time the Angels won on Opening Day, a 3-1 win in 13 innings in Cincinnati.
Chappie giveth, Chappie taketh
The Angels got a late lead thanks to the rarest of occurrences, a throwing error by Matt Chapman in the top of the seventh. His errant throw put Andrelton Simmons, then a pair of fly balls got him home, giving the Angels a 2-1 advantage.
Trouble came in the eighth against Ty Buttrey, who walked Marcus Semien with one out. Ramon Laureano, who homered earlier, doubled to right field to tie the game. Chapman then atoned for his error with a triple off the wall in right, giving Oakland their first lead of the night.
With a three-week summer camp after over three months off, the early season is bound to have some relatively short starts. That was the case for both starting pitchers on Friday, even with both of them effective.
We knew Andrew Heaney was going to be limited after he skipped his final summer camp tune-up with back stiffness on Saturday. He was pulled after 67 pitches, but was quite sharp, with six strikeouts and no walks in 4⅓ innings.
He retired his first 10 batters faced until Laureano clobbered a home run to left field in the fourth inning. That was one of only two hits Heaney allowed on the night.
Heaney’s night somewhat mirrored his 2019, when opposing batters hit just .209/.272/.304 for his first time through the lineup, then .259/.321/.490 the second time through. On Friday night in Oakland, Heaney faced 16 batters:
- 1st time through: 0-for-9, 3 strikeouts, 41 pitches
- 2nd time through: 2-for-7, home run, 3 strikeouts, 26 pitches
Heaney left with two outs and a runner on first base in the fifth, and played to the “crowd” of cutouts on his walk back to the dugout.
Andrew Heaney wanted some noise from the Oakland crowd pic.twitter.com/1r84S6HP1R— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) July 25, 2020
A’s starter Frankie Montas struck out five in his four innings, but they made him work, with a 28-pitch first inning and 25 more pitches in the fourth. The Angels tallied seven three-ball counts against him and walked three times, and Mike Trout was hit by a pitch.
After leaving the bases loaded in the first, they finally broke through in the fourth with two walks followed by an RBI single from Brian Goodwin, on a 3-1 count.
Rendon day to day
Anthony Rendon didn’t play in the Angels opener, sidelined by a sore oblique, though before the game he did take some swings and played catch, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register and Fabian Ardaya at The Athletic.
“He’s been progressing,” manager Joe Maddon said in a conference call before the game. “I’m encouraged.”
Joe Maddon told Terry Smith on AM830 earlier today that Rendon's Angels debut is "more likely [to be] when we're at home." Maddon did leave the door open for a pinch-hit scenario in this series, but his "sights are set," for when the Angels return to Anaheim.— Trent Rush (@TrentRushSports) July 25, 2020
Home runs: Jason Castro (1); Ramon Laureano (1), Matt Olson (1)
WP - Burch Smith (1-0): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 walk
LP - Hansel Robles (0-1): 1⅓ IP, 1 hit, 3 runs (2 earned), 1 walk, 2 strikeouts
The final three games of this series will be played during the day. Saturday’s game is a 1:10 p.m. PT start, with Dylan Bundy making his Angels debut against southpaw Sean Manaea.