Jaso's pinch-hit homer rallies A's past Angels
Roundtripper gets strong Chavez off hook in pitchers' duel
ANAHEIM --- Some things never change, like A's catcher John Jaso hitting so well at Angel Stadium -- something even he can't explain.
Jaso did it again to the Angels on Monday night, driving a 1-2 fastball from closer Ernesto Frieri into the right-field seats with Josh Donaldson aboard to give the A's a comeback, 3-2 victory at Angel Stadium.
"[Frieri] threw me one changeup early," said Jaso, who was batting for fellow catcher Derek Norris. "I fouled off a couple fastballs, so I was thinking he would go back to offspeed. He threw me another heater. It looked really good to hit."
Frieri said he "was trying to go down and away. The pitch before he looked late with a two-seam fastball, and I was trying to do that a little bit off the plate. I left it up."
Jaso has a .424 average in Anaheim (28-for-66), with six homers and 22 RBIs in 20 games -- including a three-run, pinch-hit shot off Kevin Jepsen in the seventh inning April 9, 2013.
"I always have family here, they're always up in the stands," said Jaso, who's from Chula Vista, about 100 miles away. "It's good to see them, the weather's good ... hitting in baseball is always tough to explain."
While Jaso's Anaheim success has been a constant, some things do change. Like A's starter Jesse Chavez, who struck out nine and allowed one earned run in seven innings for his third excellent start in a row.
"That's exactly what we've seen," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "That's the way he's been pitching for us, even in Spring Training."
Chavez is from Fontana, about 45 minutes, by freeway, from Anaheim. He couldn't say how many people he had in the stands, except that it was a lot. And for a change, they knew when he was going to pitch.
"Before, it was hit or miss," said Chavez, who made 189 of his first 191 Major League appearances in relief before cracking the A's rotation this spring, when he led the Majors with five wins and held hitters to a .216 average.
Chavez allowed just one earned run in each of his first two starts this season, which also were no-decisions. Monday's nine strikeouts matched his career high, set April 9 at Minnesota.
The Angels' Albert Pujols hit his 496th career home run, a line drive to center off a 1-0 Chavez cutter in the third inning,and drove in an unearned run for the Angels on a first-inning RBI single.
Chavez held the rest of the Angels to just two hits and no walks, putting the A's within Jaso's range.
"The only pitch he'd probably take back is the one to Pujols," Melvin said. "He didn't deserve to get a loss in this game."
It's a small sample size, but Pujols is 5-for-7 lifetime against Chavez.
"It was a lazy cutter," the A's right-hander said of the pitch Pujols hit for his home run. "It stayed over the plate. Obviously you can't do that against a hitter like that."
Meanwhile, the A's, who've had their way recently in Anaheim -- winning 14 of the past 20 at Angel Stadium -- couldn't solve the Angels' Hector Santiago, just the second left-hander to start against Oakland in 2014.
Yoenis Cespedes touched Santiago for home run No. 4 in the fourth inning. The A's had just five hits off Santiago in seven innings as he lowered his ERA to 4.96, but was denied his first victory in an Angels uniform.
"For me, my mentality when I go out there every time is to try to match the other starter, inning for inning," Chavez said. "I had trouble early throwing strikes I was happy with."
Recently deposed A's closer Jim Johnson pitched a scoreless eighth, setting the stage for the A's rally, opened by Donaldson's single to center. Cespedes then just got under a fastball and flied out to center, bringing up Jaso.
"We were getting good swings off Frieri the whole time," Melvin said. "Yoenis just missed, and had some really good swings, too.
"For a guy who walks a lot, [Jaso] really knows he's got to be aggressive in a pinch-hit situation. He has done that here before."