A’s offense kept quiet by Royals’ Shields

O.CO COLISEUM — Ups and downs are part of baseball. The Oakland A’s are currently facing the latter.

The A’s fell victim to James Shields (W, 2 ER, 4 H, 2 K) and the the Royals by a score of 4-2 Sunday afternoon. Oakland starter Scott Kazmir (L, 4 ER, 10 H, 2 K, 1 BB) got his only run support from a pair of Josh Reddick solo home runs.

The A’s continued to struggle at the plate in the early innings, not collecting a hit until Reddick led off the sixth with a solo shot on an 0-1 pitch to right-center. The homer broke up the perfect game that Shields had through five. Melvin said of Shields:

“He was on from the start, mixing his cutter and change-up effectively.”

Just like Saturday’s game, there was a crooked number put on the board in the fifth, this time the damage was done by the Royals. In the top half, Kansas City sent eight men to the plate, scoring four runs.

The Royals’ Christian Colon, recently recalled from Triple-A Omaha, led off the fifth with a double. After Jarrod Dyson struck out swinging, Alcides Escobar drew a walk. With runners on first and second, the Royals collected four straight hits.

The biggest blow was a two-run single by Omar Infante (3-for-5, double, 2 RBI, run). Mercifully, Alex Gordon grounded into his second double play of the day to end the inning. Kazmir said:

“I got behind in the count, and left a couple of balls up in hitter’s counts. They found some holes. Just wasn’t my day.”

In the seventh, Dan Otero took over for Kazmir and got some help from Reddick and poor Royal base running. After Escobar singled to lead off the inning, Norichika Aoki drove a ball to deep right-center.

Reddick ran it down on the track and gunned out Escobar who had rounded second, anticipating the ball dropping. Josh Reddick stayed hot in the eighth, when he pulled James Shields’ first pitch down the right field line for his second homer of the game.

The home run gave Reddick his eighth career multi-homer game, and his second on the season. After the game, Bob Melvin said of Reddick’s recent resurgence:

“For me, the biggest thing is he’s been balanced. He’s using his legs and he has confidence. [Reddick] is seeing the ball well.”

Melvin also hinted that Reddick could move up in the order, should Oakland’s struggles at the plate continue.

Since coming off the disabled list in late July, Reddick is 16-for-41 (.390) with eight runs scored, five doubles, four home runs and seven RBIs.

The A’s offense has been more stagnant that earlier parts of the season, and the long season has the team waning.

Oakland snapped a 20-inning stretch without a run on Saturday, though their defense is improved with Sam Fuld now in center and Reddick back in right field.

After Royals’ closer Greg Holland retired the side in order during the ninth inning, the team fell back to the clubhouse, which has been eerily different since the team traded Yoenis Cespedes on July 31.

For Kazmir, this is only the second time he’s allowed four runs this season, the other coming against Seattle in a 4-2 loss on May 5. The ten hits allowed are the most by Kazmir this season.

Kazmir has struggled against Kansas City in his career, with a 4-5 record and 5.15 ERA entering Sunday’s game.

Kazmir had been 5-0 with a  0.93 ERA in seven day starts. Nonetheless, the loss helped the Los Angeles Angels close an already marginal gap in the AL West standings, and Oakland now only leads the division by one game.

The A’s have won five of their last 10 games, the Angels doing one game better. If Oakland continues to slide, even by just a little, it could spell trouble. The A’s will play the Angels seven times during the second half of August, leaving little room for error.

For now, though, they’ll just have to focus on their next series against the Tampa Bay Rays, which begins Monday. First pitch at the Coliseum is 7:15 p.m.

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