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.