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A's still confident after nearly being no-hit in loss

Oakland hitters impressed with Ohtani, but remain upbeat about offense
Special to MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- All day long the A's looked for one small opening, one sign of weakness in the form of a pitch to hit, and on Sunday against the Angels' Shohei Ohtani, it almost never came.

An A's offense that looked much improved, scoring 16 runs in the first two games of the series in Southern California, found no traction Sunday and just managed to avoid history on Marcus Semien's single in the seventh inning of a 6-1 defeat.

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ANAHEIM -- All day long the A's looked for one small opening, one sign of weakness in the form of a pitch to hit, and on Sunday against the Angels' Shohei Ohtani, it almost never came.

An A's offense that looked much improved, scoring 16 runs in the first two games of the series in Southern California, found no traction Sunday and just managed to avoid history on Marcus Semien's single in the seventh inning of a 6-1 defeat.

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Ohtani had retired the first 19 batters of the game and was eight outs from perfection when Semien rolled a clean single into left field.

"For me, I was trying to get a fastball up, and the first two at-bats I didn't get one really," Semien said. "Plus [the fastball] is still 99 [mph] so you have to battle that. When I got the hit, that was a fastball finally higher up in the zone. That's the approach, but when he's not making mistakes, you just have to grind."

That grind lasted the full seven innings with Ohtani ending his day with just the Semien single allowed. He struck out 12 and walked just one, when Jed Lowrie followed Semien's single with a free pass. But the Angels' rookie got out of that mini jam with a ground out and his final strikeout of the day on Matt Olson.

Video: OAK@LAA: Semien dives for stop, gets the out at third

The A's finally broke through in the ninth inning on Matt Joyce's home run off Felix Pena, but that merely ended the shutout.

Ohtani now has two career Major League outings, both against the A's, and he has given up three runs on four hits over 13 innings. He's also 2-0.

"He looked even better today," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He's got a deliberate delivery and it makes his fastball play even better. And he has a really good [split-finger fastball]. The difference in speeds between his split and his fastball and when he locates his split down in the zone, it's very tough to pick up."

The A's came to Anaheim talking about better offensive consistency following the eight games of their season-opening homestand. And they will head into Monday's off-day still feeling like things are on the rise, even while being dominated Sunday.

"No, I think we have a great team, a great group of guys and phenomenal hitters," Joyce said. "One through nine I think we can do what it takes to put runs on the board and give ourselves the chance to win. Sometimes in baseball, you have to tip your cap, and obviously Ohtani did a great job today and lived up to the hype."

The series also included a home run from Ohtani on Friday as the designated hitter, with the Major League newcomer showing the entire package. And it was as if the slugging Ohtani was a separate player from the one who tied the A's lineup in knots.

Video: OAK@LAA: Casilla fans Schimpf to K the side in 8th

"I would say we found out that he is good, and he's a pretty good hitter too, so he's kind of living up to his billing, which can be difficult to do, especially early on," Melvin said.

That Melvin said those words before the game, only added that much more to Ohtani's sensational day and series.

Up next for the suddenly right-handed heavy A's offense is a trip up the freeway to Los Angeles where they will face two left-handers (Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu) in a short interleague series. The A's hitters don't sound as if they will be discouraged moving forward into the two-game series against the Dodgers.

"We just need to build off the ninth inning, with Jed [Lowrie] and Joyce having good at-bats," Semien said. "Just build off our last couple of at-bats today and bring that into the next one."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Making the best of a rough day: Joyce kept the afternoon from becoming a complete whitewash when he crushed his home run to right field in the ninth inning off Pena. Joyce has not been off to the fastest start, but did hit his first two home runs of the season in the series at Anaheim.

Video: OAK@LAA: Joyce skies a solo smash to right in 9th

QUOTABLE
"It is probably one of the toughest stretches of my career so far, early on. I'm not doing anything to make it better so I have to learn from all this and continue to fight and battle and try to get better." -- A's starter Kendall Graveman, who gave up five runs on five hits over 3.1 innings Sunday and now has a 9.45 ERA after three starts with 20 hits allowed and five walks

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Although it was dicey at times, the A's still have the longest current stretch of games without being no-hit in the Major Leagues. The last time the A's walked away without a hit was July 13, 1991, against the Baltimore Orioles. Only four franchises have not been no-hit since 2000: Angels (1999), Nationals/Expos (1999), Red Sox (1993), A's (1991).

WHAT'S NEXT
After an off-day Monday, the A's will open a two-game interleague series Tuesday at Dodger Stadium with left-hander Sean Manaea on the mound in the 7:10 p.m. PT start. Manaea has given up just one run and gone at least 7 2/3 innings in each of his first two starts, striking out 11 with just one walk in 15.2 innings.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Doug Padilla is a contributor to MLB.com.

Oakland Athletics, Marcus Semien