ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Aside from Albert Pujols’ 496th home run and some stingy pitching by newcomer Hector Santiago, little else went right for the Los Angeles Angels in their first meeting this season with the defending AL West champions.
Ernesto Frieri served up a two-run homer to pinch-hitter John Jaso in the ninth inning, and the Angels lost 3-2 to the Oakland Athletics on Monday night.
“I closed in 2012, so I know how it is, man. You’ve got to have a short memory and forget about it,” Santiago said. “He’s going to close more games than he blows. He said `Sorry’ to me, but I told him: `No, don’t worry about it, man. We’re all out here battling.’ I could have given up a two-run homer and given up the lead in the seventh.”
Josh Donaldson led off the ninth with a single against Frieri (0-1) and Yoenis Cespedes flied out. Jaso batted for Derek Norris and drove a 1-2 pitch deep into the right-field seats for his first homer of the season and the first by an A’s pinch-hitter.
“He got a really good pitch to hit and the ball went out,” Frieri said. “In that situation, he’s looking for something middle-in to drive in the air – especially when they have a man on base. He hit a mistake pitch. Don’t get me wrong, he made good contact, but I was trying to go down and away.”
Jaso has six homers and 21 RBIs at Angel Stadium along with a .424 average, the highest by any player with at least 75 plate appearances in Anaheim. This home run came a year and five days after he did the same thing to Kevin Jepsen as a pinch-hitter at the “Big A.”
“Donaldson hit that ball hard to start off the inning, and it kind of started there,” Jaso said. “I think Cespy just missed a pitch, too, so we definitely had some good swings going and some good momentum against Frieri.
“He showed me one changeup earlier in the at-bat and got a strike, so I thought he was going to go back with an off-speed pitch – especially after I fouled off a couple of his fastballs,” Jaso added. “But he came back with another heater and left it out over the plate. My timing was a little bit better on that particular pitch, and it looked really good to hit.”
Santiago allowed a run and five hits while striking out three in his fourth start for the Angels after spending his three previous big league seasons with the Chicago White Sox. A two-out homer by Cespedes in the fourth was Oakland’s only run against the left-hander.
The Angels lost a video challenge in the ninth after Howie Kendrick was ruled out by first base umpire Chris Segal on a grounder in the hole that second baseman Nick Punto bobbled before throwing to Daric Barton.
“Replays are going to be used more and more on those kind of plays, and a lot of times it’ll be more in a desperation mode at the end of the game – where you’re just going to use it, regardless,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “It looks like the plays that are really, really close are going to be inconclusive, and I think that one was.”
Oakland starter Jesse Chavez struck out three batters in the first, but faced six that inning and gave up a run-scoring single by Pujols. The Angels’ slugger made it 2-0 in the third with a drive that bounced around the rock formation in left-center as a couple of stadium workers peeled off another number to update Pujols’ career home run total on a sign above the batter’s eye in center field.
Pujols, closing in on 500 homers, a celebrated milestone achieved by 25 players in major league history, has four homers and eight RBIs in his last six games after driving in only one run in 30 at-bats over his first seven games.
“I can see the sign. I’d love to see him get it after we leave,” Melvin said. “But he looks like he’s swinging a lot better, and he’s healthy.”
Jim Johnson (1-2) got the victory with a scoreless eighth, and Luke Gregerson earned his second save.
Chavez allowed two runs – one earned – and four hits in seven innings with nine strikeouts and no walks.
NOTES: The Athletics and Angels have combined to win 11 division titles over the past 14 years. … Los Angeles 3B David Freese was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. He has five hits and 13 Ks in his first 43 at-bats with the Angels. … Oakland CF and leadoff hitter Coco Crisp didn’t play because of tightness in his left hamstring.