OAKLAND — Andrew Triggs walked the first batter he faced Thursday, never a good omen.
But the A’s No. 4 starter eventually settled into a nice groove after being handed a lead and helped Oakland earn a split of their season-opening series with the Los Angeles Angels with a 5-1 victory.
“As the game went along, it seems like his stuff got a little better,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Triggs, “and then got a lead and got some confidence behind it.”
Triggs retired 10 in a row at one point to earn the second win of his major league career. The only run he allowed over 5 2/3 innings was unearned and although he battled some control issues, he allowed just four hits. He credited improved fastball command as a reason for his turnaround.
“You want to hit the glove every single time and when you’re not doing that every single time, you know there’s something you need to hone in on,” Triggs said. “It wasn’t way off but you really want to be as sharp as you can be.”
The first three innings were the somewhat shaky ones for Triggs. After that leadoff walk, he retired the next three battles, then allowed a hit and another walk in the second inning before escaping trouble.
Yunel Escobar singled to lead off the third and the wet outfield may have contributed to an error by Rajai Davis that allowed him to move up to second base. Escobar scored on a groundout by Albert Pujols — the error made it an unearned run — and that was the start of the 10 straight set down by Triggs.
The A’s gave Triggs that lead to work with in the bottom of the third and an error in the Angels outfield assisted them too. With Adam Rosales at first, Marcus Semien singled to center and the ball skipped past Mike Trout to allow the run to score and Semien to reach third.
Khris Davis gave the A’s the lead with a sacrifice fly and then Ryon Healy made it 4-1 with a long home run to left field — a two-run shot that was Oakland’s first homer this season with a runner on base.
“You’re going out there and your goal every single inning, regardless of the score, is to put up a zero and then put up another one, put up another,” Triggs said. “But once your team gives you one of those, you really want to go out there and really make it stand up.”
Triggs backed that up with a pair of tidy 1-2-3 innings in the fourth and fifth. He opened the sixth by getting Trout to ground out and striking out Pujols, who went just 1 for 16 in this opening series. Consecutive singles ended Triggs’ day, but Liam Hendriks got the final out of the inning as the A’s bullpen worked 3 1/3 scoreless innings.
Ultimately, Oakland’s ability to limit the damage after Davis’ error and then take advantage of Trout’s proved differential.
“When you capitalize on mistakes, it goes from a momentum swing one way to the other way,” Melvin said. “When we made a mistake, Triggs got us out of it and when they made a mistake, we ended up capitalizing on it.”
— Sean Doolittle struck out the side (while allowing one hit) in the ninth inning, which was a non-save situation. He’s the third different A’s reliever to pitch the ninth with a lead this year. Santiago Casilla, who pitched a perfect eighth Thursday, earned the save in the opener, while Ryan Dull blew it in Game 2.
— Healy fouled a pitch off his left foot — it struck him in the gap between his foot guard and shin guard — in the sixth inning before striking out in that at-bat. Melvin said it at least partially factored into going to Yonder Alonso at first base to start the seventh inning, although he plans to use Alonso as a late-inning defensive replacement most times when he’s not starting at first. For his part, Healy said after the game that he felt fine.
— Reliever John Axford, placed on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday, officially has a Grade 1 right shoulder strain. He won’t pick up a baseball for a week, meaning Melvin’s initial hopes that he could be activated as soon as he’s eligible to come off the DL on April 12 are no longer realistic.
This is the first DL stint in Axford’s nine-year big league career and he said he was caught off-guard by the injury.
“I didn’t think there was anything really going on,” Axford said. “One pitch, it just kind of locked up back there. It didn’t feel good. It was something I never felt before. I threw another pitch and it felt even worse so that’s when I knew it was time to shut it down.”