By Morris Phillips
Chicks, fans and home run hitters dig the long ball. The baseball gods–and the won-loss column–prefer a more well-rounded approach to the grand old game.
Just ask the Swinging A’s.
On the day the A’s established a modern-day, Major League record by hitting at least one home run in 25 consecutive road contests, they found little to celebrate as the White Sox took it to them, 10-3, at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Much of blame for the lopsided loss fell at the feet of Paul Blackburn, who cruised through four innings before running into trouble in the fifth. Blackburn allowed six hits and five runs in that frame, then saw his second pitch of the sixth inning exit the ballpark at 115 mph off the bat of Daniel Palka. Needless to say his hanging change up to Palka offered little mystery.
“I was executing my pitches well,” Blackburn said. “Except to six batters in the fifth and one leading off the sixth.”
“He was good for a while this time and had one real tough inning,” manager Bob Melvin said of Blackburn. “He’s still trying to find his way a little bit consistently.”
Blackburn fell to 1-2 with an unsightly ERA of 8.83 in four starts. In Oakland, where many are given the opportunity to succeed, but few are given a lengthy rope to fail, Blackburn would normally be forced to figure out his issues at AAA Nashville. But the A’s are strapped, and Blackburn will probably make his next scheduled start on Friday at the Coliseum against the first-place Indians.
In terms of the current standings, splitting a four-game series against a team that’s 25 games below .500 does little for the A’s postseason outlook. But as a team still three games above the break-even point, they have a profile, it’s just not very compelling at this point. The A’s are 11 games back of the Astros in the AL West, and 6 1/2 games behind the Mariners, the second wild card at this juncture. Winning on Sunday would have given them an additional distinction: holding the AL’s sixth-best record to themselves when the top-five have–at least for now–run away from the pack.
And the home runs? Yeah, they’re helpful, and they give the youthful A’s an identity, but in terms of wins and losses, maybe not so much. The A’s won 14 of the 25 games in their record stretch. Good, but not great.
“It certainly would have been a little better if we won the game,” Melvin said when asked about the home run record.
The A’s start a four-game set in Detroit on Monday.