American League slugger Matt Olson representing the Oakland A’s watches the flight of the ball he hit during the first round of the Home Run Derby at Coors Field on Mon Jul 12, 2021 (AP News photo)
By Jerry Feitelberg
The Oakland A’s are off for the next four days as MLB holds its annual All-star game festivities this week. Monday night’s activities include the annual Home Run Derby. A’s first baseman, Matt Olson, will compete against seven other sluggers for the crown.
He will have to beat the likes of Shohei Ohtani, who leads MLB with 33 dingers, Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero, Jr, and San Diego’s Fernando Tatis. It will not be easy, but the contest will be fun. The A’s best pitcher, Chris Bassitt, will also be in Denver as part of the American League’s pitching staff.
The rest of the A’s will be at home getting a well-deserved four-day rest. The baseball season, as fans know, is a grueling, grinding marathon for six months. There are not very many off-days throughout the season. The four days give the players to rest their weary bodies.
The A’s season did not start well. They lost the first six games of the season. Fans were concerned the team would not be able to overcome the poor start. A’s manager, Bob Melvin, would have liked the team to get off to a fast start, but that didn’t happen.
What made matters worse was the first four losses were to their main division rivals, the Houston Astros. The A’s then lost two more games to the LA Dodgers.
Things improved when they beat the Dodgers for their first win. The A’s got back on track with an amazing 13-game winning streak. The A’s were able to continue to play winning baseball. They found themselves in first place in the AL Western Division.
After the first 70 games of the year, they owned a two-game advantage over the Astros. However, they were 8-13 since then and now trail the Astros by three and 1/2 games. Their problems started when they went on a 4-6 on a ten-game road trip to New York, Dallas, and San Francisco.
They came home to face the Rangers and the Red Sox for a short six-game homestand. They went 2-4. They placed the next six games on the road against the Astros and Rangers. Houston took two out three and owned a 9-4 record against Oakland with six games left to play late in the season.
The A’s lost the first game of the three-game set to the Rangers last Friday night. They outlasted the Rangers 8-4 in eleven innings on Saturday and beat Texas 4-1 on Sunday to finish with a 50-42 record.
What are the takeaways for the season? At this point, the A’s have to be very pleased with the pitching staff’s performance. Chris Bassitt has been their ace. Bassitt has a record of 1-2 with an ERA of 3.28. He has gone seven innings in several of his last ten starts and leads the A’s with 118 pitched.
Being able to go seven innings has allowed the A’s to keep the bullpen fresh. Sean Manaea has pitched well. The Big lefty’s record is 6-6 and has an ERA of 3.19. Frankie Montas is 8-7, and his ERA is 4.41. Montas has pitched, but a couple of rocky starts has pushed his ERA to over four runs per game.
Lefty Cole Irvin has been a pleasant surprise. Irvin is 6-8 with an ERA of 3.65. The A’s hitters failed to give him support in some of the games that he lost. Righty James Kaprielian has been another find. The big righty who pitched his collegiate ball at UCLA is 4-3 with an ERA of 2.90. Kaprielian came to Oakland in the trade that sent Sonny Gray to New York in 2017.
Kaprielian was sidelined with injuries, and he is now showing the A’s why the Yankees made him a number one draft pick several years ago.
Bob Melvin has to be pleased with the A’s bullpen’s performance. The A’s lost their All-Star closer, Liam Hendriks, to free agency last winter. They signed Trevor Rosenthal to a one-year $11 million contract to replace Hendriks. Rosenthal injured his shoulder in spring training and, hopefully, will return in August. Bob Melvin decided to use lefty Jake Diekman and righty Lou Trivino as the closer.
Diekman had a wonderful 2020 season. He was lights out. Not so much this season. He still has done well and has recorded seven saves. Lou Trivino, a sensation in 2018, struggled the last two seasons. Trivino worked to improve, and Sweet Lou has responded to the challenge. Trivino has 14 saves and an ERA of 1.84 for Oakland. Yusmeiro Petit has been good again. J.B. Wendelken, Deolis Guerra, Sergio Romo all have come through for Oakland.
The A’s offense has been a work in progress. The A’s lineup on Sunday had just two players hitting over .250. Matt Olson leads the A’s with a .282 batting average with 23 home runs and 59 RBIs. Jed Lowrie was second on the team with a .263 average.
Lowrie, who hadn’t played in the last two years as a New York Met, returned to Oakland the third time. Jed can still swing the bat. Ramon Laureano and Tony Kemp are hitting about .240. Laureano has some pop in his bat with 13 dingers and 31 RBIs.
Kemp was hitting about.280 a couple of weeks ago, but his bat went cold. Sean Murphy and Matt Chapman are at the .220 mark. Murphy homered in the last two games against Texas.
Chapman missed the last part of last season with a hip injury. He had surgery. Matt struggled early in the season. He has been doing better lately. Elvis Andrus arrived via a trade with the Rangers. The A’s needed to replace Marcus Semien, who left to play second base with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Semien is having a terrific season and made the All-Star team. Andrus struggled early in the season. He has been hitting well the last six weeks, and his average is about .238. Mitch Moreland is currently on the 10-day IL. It is the second time this season for Moreland.
The A’s need his bat back in the lineup. Stephen Piscotty’s average is slightly above the Mendoza line. Piscotty has been injured a couple of times and has not returned to the player that he can be. He did have a huge pinch-hit home run to help win the game last Saturday against Texas.
Billy Beane and David Forst will have to make some decisions regarding the team before the July 30th trade deadline. Rumors are floating around that they are interested in acquiring slugger Nelson Cruz from the Minnesota Twins to fill the DH slot.
Another possibility is trading for Texas Rangers’ outfielder Joey Gallo. Gallo has one year of arbitration left and will be a free agent after the 2022 season. The Rangers are paying him 6.2 million dollars. The A’s could handle his salary easily.
Those two big bats would put a lot more power into the A’s lineup. Right now, the only consistent power hitter in the A’s lineup is Matt Olson. The A’s may also be looking to acquire help either for the starting rotation or the bullpen.
The A’s want to win the division. If the season ended today, the A’s would be the second Wild Card. They would have to travel to St. Petersburg to face the Tampa Bay Rays.
The A’s hitters need to improve if they want to make the playoffs and win the pennant. Right now, the team has not been able to hit with men in scoring position.
The team, as a whole, strikes out too much. They need to put the bat on the ball. In the past few years, the A’s have played better in the second half of the season. Let’s hope the A’s will do well. The fans in the Bay Area would love to see another World Series between the A’s and the San Francisco Giants. It could happen.
Jerry Feitelberg covers Oakland A’s road games for the 2021 season for http://www.sportsradioservice.com