By Morris Phillips
Right now, a matchup between baseball’s most productive hitter and the game’s least effective offense is a mismatch. That’s more bad news for the struggling A’s.
The A’s got their final look at the Cleveland Guardians and it didn’t do much to change the current state of affairs. The Guardians–winners on Sunday by a 6-3 score–are heating up, and the A’s continue to struggle, losing for the 32nd time in their last 43 games, despite ending a lengthy losing streak on Saturday. The Guardians have won 11 of 15 to plant themselves firmly in the race for the AL Central crown.
Jose Ramirez knocked in three runs for Cleveland, the first two to give the hosts a first inning lead after the A’s got a home run from Ramon Laureano. The Guardians went on to score three in the first, two in the sixth and one in the seventh to build a 6-1 lead. Ramirez leads all big league hitters with 59 RBI.
The A’s staged a late rally in the eighth with back-to-back home runs from Christian Bethancourt and Seth Brown. Sean Murphy then drew a walk, but Cleveland reliever Trevor Stephan settled down and got Elvis Andrus to fly out to end the inning.
The A’s hit the road this week after a 1-9 home stand hoping to reverse their fortunes. But through the first two stops on the roadie, they’re 1-5. The A’s have the lowest team batting average at .211 and despite hitting three home runs for only the third time this season on Sunday, they’ve hit the second fewest in baseball at 44.
“I think guys are getting more confident, taking better at-bats,” manager Mark Kotsay said. “We’ve known the power is in there for the guys that hit the home runs.”
As the A’s issues have persisted, those issues have multiplied. The team’s pitching has deteriorated with the team ERA above 5 1/2 runs over the last 28 games. Cole Irvin, Sunday’s starter allowed at least six hits in a start for the sixth, consecutive start despite settling down considerably after a rocky first inning.
However, the defense contributed to Sunday’s poor start as Andrus misplaced a ground ball hit by leadoff hitter Myles Straw. That was the A’s 41st error on the season.
Winning pitcher Cal Quantrill went six innings, allowing four hits and a run, his fifth win of the season. Emmanuel Clase pitched the ninth and struck out Matt Davidson and Tony Kemp with Chad Pinder on second base to end the game and earn his 11th save.
The A’s travel to Boston and face the Red Sox starting Tuesday with Jared Koenig the team’s scheduled starting pitcher.