A's fall late after Outman shines in return

A's fall late after Outman shines in return

A's fall late after Outman shines in return
ANAHEIM -- Rehab behind him and big league hitters finally in front of him, lefty Josh Outman fared quite well in his first Major League start in nearly two years on Monday.

The A's lefty, sporting a familiar stirrup look -- to hecklings of "Nice socks!" -- and a new No. 88, allowed just one earned run over seven innings against the Angels, marking his first big league appearance since June 19, 2009, when he succumbed to an elbow injury that ultimately required Tommy John surgery.

Outman's return was welcomed, no doubt, but it didn't make for a differing result around him. The A's scuffling offense provided just one run of support and the bullpen faltered, as the club dropped its season-high sixth straight contest, 4-1, in the series opener.

"It was quite an outing for his first time out," manager Bob Geren said. "When you lose a couple starters and have a guy come up and step up like that, that was quite impressive. It was just unfortunate we couldn't get runs for him. One run, you have to be absolutely perfect as a pitcher."

As if the losing element wasn't enough, Outman's grand efforts were also overshadowed by lefty Brian Fuentes' critical comments about Geren's "unorthodox managing" after the game, when the reliever essentially disapproved of the skipper's use of his arm and his lack of communication.

It was Fuentes, making his fourth straight entrance in a tied game, who took Monday's loss -- his career-high seventh defeat, which also ties for most among all Major League pitchers. The veteran southpaw was brought into a 1-1 contest in the eighth and watched his baserunner score the Angels' go-ahead run on Torii Hunter's double off righty Michael Wuertz.

Before that series of events, though, it was Outman who was the show-stealer. Getting the nod in place of the injured Brandon McCarthy, the lefty endured a shaky first inning, walking two and surrendering an RBI single to Bobby Abreu. But he found a groove, allowing just four more hits the rest of the way while fanning two.

"Any time you make it up here, you want to show the team that they made the right decision by bringing you up," he said. "I know in 2009 I did some good things for the team, and I needed those starts in [Triple-A] Sacramento to get where I needed to be up here.

"However long I'm here, I just want to keep working and showing this is where I belong. Hopefully, when McCarthy and Tyson [Ross] come off [the disabled list], I'll make the decision a little tougher."

"I thought he threw the ball well," Geren said. "He settled in nicely, used his changeup well, pitched inside well and showed some decent breaking balls against a left-hander. It was a great outing, and I'm looking forward to watching him again."

Up against him, though, was Angels ace Jered Weaver, who went seven of his own innings, giving up six hits with three walks and five strikeouts to an A's team that went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight.

Oakland's lone run came in the third, when Coco Crisp doubled and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Hideki Matsui.

Andy LaRoche, Cliff Pennington and Crisp stroked three consecutive singles off Weaver in the seventh, but as LaRoche rounded third on Crisp's hit, Hunter unleashed a rocket throw from right field to catcher Jeff Mathis, who applied the tag to prevent a run.

"You gotta take your chances," Geren said. "The way it turned out, it was a pretty nice play by the catcher. It was close, but I was all for it."

"That was a heck of a play, by Torii and Jeff," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Once Torii got his balance, I think he felt very good that time was on our side. He wanted to give Jeff a chance to block the plate, and he beat the man by a solid stop."

In the eighth, after Hunter's go-ahead double, Wuertz intentionally walked Alberto Callaspo, who was called out at second on Mark Trumbo's forceout to put runners at third and first. With two outs, Mathis laced a two-run single to left field, breaking open the game.

"We gotta turn it around," Geren said, "and hopefully the next five or six days, we'll be getting that big hit."

Outman will again take to the mound in five days, "hoping to continue what I started here tonight."

"I feel good," he said. "I spent some time being nervous, spent some time being anxious, and I got it all out. This is where I think I should be. This is where I feel like I'm capable of competing and winning baseball games."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.