BY STEVEN LUKE
Forget April Fool’s day. Forget Easter. Sunday, April 1, 2018 in Oakland was Shohei Ohtani day at the expense of the Athletics. The right hander made his Major League pitching debut and lived up to the hype reaching 99mph on the gun repeatedly and making Oakland Athletics batters look silly with his slider.
“He’s got a compliment of pitches and anyone who can throw 98 miles per hour it means you’ve got to start your bat early which makes his off-speed stuff effective,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “The more you see him the better idea you’re going to have of what he’s going to try and do to you, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to have success.”
The A’s got to Ohtani early in the game collecting all three of their hits off of the Los Angeles Angels rookie back-to-back-to-back, culminating with a 3-run jack by Matt Chapman. “Luckily he just left that one over the plate,” Chapman said. “He threw me a slider first pitch that kind of backed up on him and the next one he kind of left out over the plate and I was able to react to it.”
The hit was big and made Ohtani look hittable, but he was anything but hittable after Chapman’s blast. Ohtani settled down and put up zeros over the next four innings. “I thought he had really good stuff,” Chapman said. “He showed really good command today. He was able to move the ball in-and-out and up-and-down and we had a hard time getting consistent contact off of him.”
Consistency, or lack thereof, was the theme of the day for the A’s. Not just with the bats, but also on the mound with starting pitcher Daniel Gossett. “I feel like I threw good pitches and I threw bad pitches,” Gossett said. “I feel like I battled. I feel like I threw inside well, but I just have got to be more consistent in the zone. That’s what got me in trouble, the consistency of throwing strikes.” Even without his best stuff Gossett left with the lead in the fifth, but Yusmeiro Petit couldn’t strand the runners and after the inning Gossett was in line for and ended up taking the loss. A’s right hander Chris Hatcher also had a rough day allowing the other three Angels runs.
The big issue for the second straight day, though, wasn’t just pitching, but the defense behind the pitchers. There was only one official error on the day, but two misplays by Khris Davis in left field led to runs. “The first one he has to go a long way and it ends up hitting his glove. The second one was an easier play for him. Usually he makes those plays,” Melvin said. “He’s done a good job for us tracking balls in the outfield and we envision him more with some DH at bats but with Joyce’s injury we played him out there, and he’s a better outfielder than he showed today.”
Melvin said before the game that Davis was in the field and Joyce was in at designated hitter because of irritation in Joyce’s ankle and they wanted to keep his bat in the lineup. Joyce’s injury is considered a 1-2 day thing and they will see how he feels tomorrow.
The A’s made it interesting in the ninth scoring one run and loading the bases to give both Jonathan Lucroy and Boog Powell a chance to win the game with a blast. Both failed and the A’s dropped the series and start the season 1-3.
The Texas Rangers come in for a four game series starting tomorrow. Andrew Triggs is scheduled to face the ageless Bartolo Colon in the opener.