SAN FRANCISCO -- Brett Anderson knew the margin for error was slim Tuesday night as he went toe-to-toe with Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. The A’s left-hander was solid for the most part, but one “horrible” pitch was his ultimate downfall in a 3-2 loss at Oracle Park.
Holding a one-run lead and on the verge of tossing a sixth straight scoreless inning to begin his night, Anderson was derailed after surrendering back-to-back two-out doubles to Buster Posey and Evan Longoria to tie the game. Anderson was able to complete the sixth, but not before allowing another double to Kevin Pillar that bounced off the glove of a leaping Robbie Grossman out in left field and plated the go-ahead run.
Anderson could live with the first two doubles, even the one lined to left by Longoria that All-Star third baseman Matt Chapman missed by mere inches on a leaping attempt that would have ended the inning with the lead still intact. But Pillar’s double, which came on an 0-1 changeup that was left up in the zone, was the pitch that left Anderson most frustrated by the end of the night.
“I threw a horrible changeup to Pillar and he was able to square it up for that third double,” Anderson said. “That was the difference in the game. If I’m able to keep it tight, I feel like it would give us a good chance going against their bullpen. To be down one there, I just have to be better there and get that final out.That sixth got to us.”
The one-run lead reversed into a one-run deficit in that sixth, something Anderson believes could have been avoided if he had just thrown the changeup low and away in the zone as he had originally set up with catcher Dustin Garneau. While the Giants added on a late insurance run against Yusmeiro Petit in the seventh, Anderson said his one bad pitch made the difference.
“I threw it up and away and right in his barrel. Maybe if it’s down an inch or two, it’s a line drive to left, or if it’s down a couple inches, it’s a ground ball,” Anderson said. “That’s the only pitch I’d change. The one to Posey, he finally beat me in his third at-bat. The one to Longoria was where I wanted to throw it and he just beat me to the spot. If I could change one pitch it would be the one to Pillar. Ultimately that was the deciding factor.”
Anderson’s quest to match his career-high season win total will have to wait another turn in the rotation. Despite a final line worthy of victory after allowing just two runs on four hits over six innings, he was denied his 11th win of the year, taking the loss after being narrowly outdueled by Bumgarner.
Though Bumgarner might do things a little differently in order to get hitters out these days than he did earlier in his career, the 30-year-old, now in his 11th big league season, has adapted to a decrease in velocity. The left-hander relies on other methods to fluster hitters, as he did to Oakland on Tuesday night.
The A’s offense hasn’t been its usual high-scoring self over the past few weeks, entering the night batting just .215 and averaging 4.1 runs per game over its past 18 contests, and Bumgarner took advantage over seven innings. Save for a home run by Stephen Piscotty and a bloop single by Marcus Semien to lead off the game, Bumgarner silenced the A’s bats to just two hits while racking up nine strikeouts.
“He’s a little different now,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He throws his cutter and truly doesn’t want to throw it over the plate until you make him throw it over. He’s on the edges, on the corners, right on the black and extends. He threw some really good curveballs in strikeout counts and just had both sides of the plate working really well.”
A’s batters certainly had trouble with the curve, swinging through the pitch on five of their nine punchouts against Bumgarner. Piscotty was the lone hitter from the starting lineup who did not strike out, putting the only dent in Bumgarner’s line with his fifth-inning solo blast into the left-field bleachers. But like most of his teammates, Piscotty did not have much fun trying to solve the riddle that challenged them on the mound for seven innings.
“He was just commanding all his pitches and attacking the zone for a lot of strikes,” Piscotty said. “We did our best. He’s a great pitcher. You just have to tip your cap.
“He’s got that crossfire angle that makes the slider and curveball have a little more depth. It’s not every day that you have a guy throwing from that arm slot.”
The one shining light the offense could look to take into Wednesday’s matinee as momentum was the rally mounted against Giants closer Will Smith in the ninth. Mark Canha trimmed the lead to one run with a bases-loaded walk before Chad Pinder struck out to end it.
The feeling in the clubhouse was similar to the one felt last Monday at Wrigley Field, when a furious ninth-inning rally fell short as Semien’s deep fly landed just short of the ivy in left field. It was a one-run loss, but the next day, the A’s went out and scored 11 runs in a blowout win.
“Hopefully we got that momentum created because we’ll be right back here in just a few hours,” Piscotty said. “There’s no quit in this team. You don’t always pull it all the way off, but the effort and heart, you can tell guys are battling and putting everything they’ve got left on the line. It stings a little bit when it doesn’t happen, but you have to feel good about the effort.”