OAKLAND --- Home runs have proliferated so much in the Major Leagues that attempting to limit them almost seems like a waste of time and effort. Just try to outslug the opponent.
However, being able to turn off a rival’s power shall remain an integral part of run prevention, as the Angels’ 8-5 loss to the A’s on Monday at the Oakland Coliseum demonstrated.
The Angels appeared poised to record their third consecutive come-from-behind victory. Their offense simmered all afternoon, opening the scoring in the second inning before adding pairs of runs in the fourth and sixth innings. Surely, it seemed, they would launch a final, conclusive rally.
But whenever the Angels looked ready to strike, Oakland would preempt them with a run or two that blunted a comeback. Frequently, it was the long ball that the A’s employed most effectively to fend off Los Angeles and claim their 10th consecutive victory.
With the game tied at 1, Albert Pujols hit a solo homer in the fourth and the Angels extended their lead to 3-1 before Jurickson Profar delivered a two-run homer that hoisted the A’s into a 3-3 tie. One inning later, Josh Phegley christened a three-run uprising by lining his seventh homer of the season. Any hopes the Angels may have harbored for a late-inning comeback were doused when Oakland’s Matt Chapman belted his 14th home run of the season.
This wasn’t a mere aberration. The Angels have allowed 84 home runs, the American League’s third-highest total. The tendency of Los Angeles’ pitchers to yield homers is indeed a detriment, not a sign of the times that can be rationalized with a shrug.
“I’m not happy about it,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “You don’t want to give up home runs. Obviously we care more about wins than anything. That’s the most important stat. But giving up a bunch of home runs -- it really isn’t conducive to getting wins.”
Angels starter Trevor Cahill, an American League All-Star with Oakland in 2010, endured the misfortune of proving Ausmus’ statement while surrendering the A’s first two homers. The right-hander ultimately lasted 4 1/3 innings, allowing six runs and six hits in the process.
“Today, I felt I threw better than six runs,” Cahill said. “It’s kind of been the story of the season. I just have to figure out, when I have my good stuff, how to get through it to get a quality outing.”
Cahill has allowed 16 home runs in 53 1/3 innings this year after allowing eight in 110 innings during a successful one-year return to Oakland (7-4, 3.76 ERA) last season. In three starts since he permitted two runs in six innings during an 8-3 victory over Baltimore, Cahill has recorded an 8.56 ERA.
“I actually think Cahill’s been pretty good his last three starts,” Ausmus said. “I know they haven’t been lengthy starts. You can blame some of that on me for taking him out. But his stuff … the key has been his changeup. He’s been so much better being able to use that. Early in the season, he didn’t really have a good feel for it. Now he does.
"If it’s a little more separation between us and the A’s, say we have a four-run lead or a three-run lead at that point, I’d probably let Cahill try to fight through that. It was just a situation where it was a very close game.”