Mental mistakes, missing offense doom A’s to 4-2 loss to the Indians

By Morris Phillips

OAKLAND–The A’s are talking about all the extra work they’re putting in to get their offense in gear.

That’s not a good sign.

Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Indians came with mental blunders, clutch pitching and little offense. That prompted another round of questions about the A’s offense afterwards.

“I feel good about it every day we go out there,” manager Bob Melvin said. “They get in good work in the cage. (Hitting coach Darren Bush) does well preparing them about how they’re going to be pitched to, we’re just in a rut right now. Every day we go out there, I feel like we’re going to break out of it.”

The A’s fell behind 1-0 on the game’s first pitch, hand delivered to the bleachers by Bradley Zimmer off Chris Bassitt. The A’s tied it in the second, then again in the fifth, 2-2, but that was it. Not many scoring opportunities, and those that surfaced didn’t amount to much.

The A’s have started the season’s second half like they finished the first–with issues offensively. Now that critical performers Mark Canha and Ramon Laureano have returned to the lineup, the belief was the team would start to perform again. But instead, Sunday’s loss was their 15th in their last 24 contests, enough losing to fall behind the Astros in the AL West, and feel the heat from a quartet of challengers for the league’s final wild card spot as well.

The biggest issue? The team batting average sunk to .208 over the last 18 games, it’s .233 over the entire season, and that’s just not cutting it in a year where the league average for teams is .241. Too many times, the A’s can’t produce runs, or run scoring opportunities. On Sunday, only one A’s batter, Matt Chapman, had an opportunity with a runner in scoring position. On a meager day offensively, that’s striking.

Two batters before Seth Brown’s solo shot got the A’s even in the fifth, Laureano tried to stretch a double into a stroll to third base when an errant throw got away from Jose Ramirez. But Laureano was tagged out in clear defiance of baseball’s rigid rule: don’t make the first out of an inning at third base.

“There’s nobody out, and when you aren’t scoring any runs, you try to make something happen,” Melvin said. “(The ball’s) out there in no-man’s land and (he) saw how far away the third baseman was and took a chance at getting there. Just didn’t work out.”

If Laureano stays put, Brown’s homer picks him up and gives the A’s a lead. Instead, little else happened. The A’s had trouble Sunday just mounting a threat.

Meanwhile, the locally raised group on the Indians took over. Outfielder Daniel Johnson from Vallejo homered to give the Indians a 3-2 lead, Zimmer, the former USF star, opened the scoring as previously mentioned, and Bryan Shaw from Livermore closed the door by pitching a 1-2-3 ninth to pick up his second save.

Attendance for the game was 8,572, a second disappointing, weekend ending crowd in a row for the A’s who haven’t benefitted from being competitive in the standing, as much as they’ve suffered with rumors circulating that the team may be moving to Las Vegas. That, and the team’s offensive woes would seem to point to a trade deadline acquisition that could jumpstart the team, but no names are currently circulating in that regard.

Chris Bassitt took the loss, ending his 10-game win streak dating back to April. Bassitt allowed six hits and three runs, two of those hits home runs by Zimmer and Johnson.

A’s not letting early season struggles define them

By Morris Phillips

Among the encouraging things happening with the A’s the last couple of games?

Seth Brown may finally be ready to bring his big fly game to the Major League level.

The 28-year old is well-known in minor league circles as an unrepentant slugger, the author of 92 home runs since his debut in 2015, including 37 in just 112 games for AAA Las Vegas in 2019.

That last line had the A’s hopeful Brown could elevate his game in Oakland, but in his first 36 games with the A’s over the last three seasons, Brown didn’t clear any fences…

Until Saturday night. With the A’s 6-0 lead cut in half, Brown took reliever Ryan Stanek into the upper deck, a not-high-enough fastball turned into a memory of a lifetime. So majestic was Brown’s homer, the flight of the ball on television revealed the entire Minute Maid Park scoreboard showing Brown’s numbers without a home run for the last time.

“The only thing he doesn’t have on his resume is a homer for a guy who really is a home run hitter,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I know that takes a lot of pressure off him now that he finally has a home run.”

Pressure off Brown? More succinctly, pressure off the entire Oakland roster. Brown’s shot put the finishing touches on a 7-3 win, the A’s third in four games after an 0-6 start. Not wanting to get buried in the competitive AL West two weeks in, the A’s are fighting back, and giving their 2021 season a healthier look.

In the last four games, the A’s have out-manuvered the Dodgers late, come up with some more late game magic in Houston on Friday, and set up a couple of wins with nearly identical, exemplary starts by Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas.

The key? When you don’t fall behind early–as the A’s did repeatedly in their winless start–you can pick your spots and pounce on the opposition in the later innings.

“We grind it out a little bit and stay in the game until we do something nice late,” said Mark Olson, who came up big in Friday’s win. “I think we can take this momentum and ride it out.”

A few key presences must be reclaimed from the injury list with Chad Pinder (knee), Mike Fiers (hips), Burch Smith (strained groin) and A.J. Puk (strained biceps) on the 10-day injured list, and Trevor Rosenthal on the 60-day list after surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome on Thursday.

Matt Chapman and Sean Murphy remain mired in awful slumps, but both have expressed optimism in recent days–not just for themselves, but for the team as a whole.

We’re always rotating guys and new faces, so for us, it always takes a little bit to get going,” Chapman said. “But once we get going, we’re able to really bond and really pick up steam.”

The A’s open a two-game set with the Diamondbacks in Phoenix on Monday. Familiar face Madison Bumgarner squares off against Chris Bassitt in the opener at 6:40pm.

A’s get back into the win column by beating the Royals 2-1 on Tuesday night

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Graphic: @Athletics

By Charlie O. Mallonee

The Oakland A’s got back into the win column on Tuesday night as they downed the Kansas City Royals 2-1 at the Coliseum. The A’s were down 1-0 going into the bottom of the seventh inning when they bit back at the upstart Royals.

Matt Olson hit a 450-foot home run into the center-field stands off a 2-1 pitch from the Royals starting pitcher Jorge Lopez. Lopez then had the most logical response to Olson’s home run — he hit Mark Canha with a pitch. No, Canha was not pleased.

With Canha at first, Seth Brown doubled to left-center field and drove Canha home to score what would prove to be the winning run of the game. Brown, who has been “clutch” for Oakland since being called up to the majors, made Lopez pay for his stupidity of hitting the next batter after Olson hit his home run. Lopez should have been ejected from the contest.

Focus on the A’s

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Photo: @Athletics

  • Oakland is now 24-8 (.750) versus the AL Central Division this season.
  • Liam Hendriks, who picked up his 23rd save of the season, has struck out 116 batters as a relief pitcher to set a franchise record. The old record was 115 and was set by Rollie Fingers in 1975.
  • A.J. Puk earned his second career win in this game. He has pitched 2.0 scoreless innings in each of his last outings. He gave up one hit and struck out two batters on Tuesday night.
  • Matt Olson now leads the A’s and American League first basemen with 35 home runs (that is after missing the first six weeks of the season due to injury).
  • Mark Canha has now been hit by a pitch 17 times this season. That ties him with Shin-soo Choo for the most HBP in the American League.
  • Relief pitcher Joakim Soria has not allowed a run in his last five appearances.
  • The A’s are now in Wild Card Slot #1 with a two-game lead over Tampa Bay, who is in Wild Card Slot #2. Cleveland is 1/2 game behind Tampa Bay for the second Wild Card spot.

Spotlight on the Royals

  • Royals starting pitcher Jorge Lopez has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his last three starts.
  • Cheslor Cuthbert recorded his first multi-hit game since August 8th in Detroit. He is hitting .341 with three doubles and one HR versus AL West teams this season.
  • Hunter Dozier is batting .345 with four doubles, a triple and seven RBI in the month of September.

Up next

The Royals and A’s meet in a getaway day game tomorrow that will get underway at 12:37 PM PDT. The Royals will send LHP Danny Duffy to the mound. He has a 6-6 record on the season with a 4.55 ERA. He had a no-decision in his last start in Houston.

The A’s will start RHP Homer Bailey, who they obtained from the Royals, on Wednesday afternoon. Bailey is 13-8 on the year with a 4.76 ERA. He won his last start versus the Astros in Houston.