By Morris Phillips
OAKLAND–Envision Nelson Cruz or Kyle Seager in an A’s uniform. After a listless 1-0 loss at the Coliseum, the Oakland offense could use some pop.
“We’re down some guys,” said manager Bob Melvin, trying to make sense of his 49-win club going through a stretch of 10 losses in 15 games. “Mitch is out and Canha is out, too. We’re going to have to dig a little deeper. But I think every day we have a chance to break out of it. Obviously didn’t look good today with four hits, but I think it was just as much about them pitching well today.”
Nick Pivetta took control from the start, allowing two hits in seven innings of dominant work. The Red Sox starter didn’t win in June, going 0-3 with three no-decisions. The stretch was so tough, members of the Boston media in the press box tried to anticipate the juncture the hyped up pitcher would show his temper in a such a close, competitive game. But this time, Pivetta had all the answers, especially when the A’s tried to mount rallies in the first and seventh inning. Instead of being grumpy Pivetta, the pitcher instead talked afterwards of his ability to inspire his teammates.
“I really care about everybody on this team, I really want to do good for them, every single day I want to show up for them,” Pivetta said. “And I want to pump them up, too. I want to be energetic and I want us to have fun, and I want us to go out there and show ourselves every single night.”
James Kaprelian virtually matched Pivetta pitch for pitch in seven innings for Oakland. Kaprelian allowed just one run (on a non-RBI, double play ball), struck out 10 and scattered five hits. Like Pivetta, he was determined to keep the ball in the park as both pitchers had been hurt by long balls in recent starts. So when the Red Sox tensed up, Kaprelian eased up, leaning heavily on his changeup that had the Boston lineup flailing.
But ultimately the A’s offense was absent. After Pivetta departed, the A’s tried to cobble something together on the strength of a base hit in the eighth, and an infield single in the ninth. Neither effort struck gold, and they fell 3 1/2 games behind the Astros with a critical series against their rivals set to begin on Tuesday.
How alarming is all of this? Well, the A’s are 49-37, that’s as good a start to a season as the club has had in all but one of the last 31 seasons. But they haven’t been this far from first place since April 10, two games into their 13-game win streak that turned things around. And while they get bold checkmarks for pitching and defense, their offense is noticeably thin. With catalyst Mark Canha and Mitch Moreland currently on the injured list, they could use some help. Could they find it in the trade market?
Well, the A’s aren’t known for spending but with such a glaring hole in their lineup, and the exemplary performance of the club to this point, they’re too smart to try to do without. And there’s that issue of home attendance as well. The A’s had their first opportunity to fill the Coliseum with COVID restrictions lifted and they failed miserably. Sunday’s attendance was a mere 13,000 plus. They won’t want that to happen again, especially with the pernicious timing of the holiday weekend not a factor going forward. So look for a bold move.
The A’s open a three-game set in Houston on Tuesday with Chris Bassitt facing Framber Valdez. Look for a performance statement from Bassitt, who was an All-Star snub despite a 9-2 record. Also, an All-Star statement could be issued by Matt Olson, who received his first mid-summer nod on Sunday and will be part of the AL’s first base rotation.