Athletics sink deeper after White Sox sweep

Once pitied, the Chicago White Sox have swept the Oakland A’s.

Former A’s starter Jeff Samardzija tossed eight innings of three-run ball, five strikeouts and eight hits in the 7-3 win. Oakland’s starter, Scott Kazmir, pitched 4-1/3 innings, allowing five runs — three earned — on seven hits, three walks, while striking out six.

The A’s added four errors to their league-leading total, shortstop Marcus Semien with two of them.

Oakland took a lead in the fourth inning when fill-in first baseman Max Muncy knocked in Coco Crisp with his first career home run. But the lead was very shortlived.

The top of the fifth inning was troubling, as three Oakland errors become four White Sox runs. Manager Bob Melvin said:

“It’s just snowballing on us right now, where I think guys are thinking about it quite a bit. Don’t want to make an error, and we end up doing it. We’re not playing clean games at this point. They’re ugly looking.”

Semien failed to field a ground ball hit by Adam Eaton that dribbled into shallow center, putting the leadoff hitter on with a lot of potency behind him.

Emilio Bonifacio singled to left, advancing Eaton one bag, before Melky Cabrera hit into a fielder’s choice leaving runners at the corners and Bonifacio out at second.

First baseman and 2014 Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu singled, scoring Eaton and sending Cabrera to second base.

Outfielder Avisail Garcia reached on an infield hit, loading the bases for third baseman Gordon Beckham, who was walked, scoring the go-ahead run.

Photos by Jeffery Bennett/SFBay

Alexei Ramirez, in the next at bat, singled, scoring Abreu and Cabrera, making the score 5-2.

Billy Butler knocked in Billy Burns as the A’s third — and ultimately final — run of the game.

Melvin named Semien as the guy to beat as far as work ethic goes, and it’s shown on offense. He finished Sunday with a .314 batting average, 21 runs, 16 RBI and six stolen bases.

With his lips pursed and brows arched downward, Semien denied errors are something he’s dwelling on, that it won’t change the way he works:

“You just have to play better. … (Errors) are a combination of things. They’re not always mental, or physical, they are all separate.”

Semien leads the league in errors, 13 on the year, and it’s still only the middle of May.

Melvin, who doesn’t often spend too much time in the clubhouse around players, offers a different take:

“It affects how you play. It affects your confidence. … Defensively, (Semien) is going through a tough stretch. We feel he has the ability to do it. This is the first time he’s had the opportunity to play shortstop everyday. Offensively he’s doing great stuff.”

Melvin added:

“It’s just being a little bit more consistent on a day-to-day basis. Getting through a couple games where you make some nice plays and you get your confidence rolling. We just haven’t gotten there with him.”

The A’s have several losses that could have been wins with better defense. The only question is how many of them would have different endings.

Some players say they don’t pay attention to the standings, while others know the order of the division as it stands. It’s obvious most veterans are trying to avoid it.

But how ever much they try, the standings are posted on the newly-installed big screens during batting practice, stretches, and sometimes during the game.

Not noticing would be more a sign of vision problems than anything else. Kazmir said:

“Of course maybe before the game, or after a loss, sure. But when you get in there, and are competing, the last thing you’re going to think about is ‘we’re too far behind.'”

Some irony in the ballgame, the A’s entered the day with a run differential of minus-1, significant for the many one-run losses this season.

They finished at minus-5, ironic because they may have won with three fewer errors.

Cleveland, last in the American League Central, has a differential of minus-20. Philadelphia, last in the National League East, a run difference of minus-54. Milwaukee, last in the NL Central, is at minus-56.

So that’s comforting. But run differential isn’t the number that counts late in the season. Not unless you run a sports book or fantasy service. It’s about wins, losses, and club health.

Club health is improving. Utility man Ben Zobrist is scheduled to play five innings for the Stockton Ports on Tuesday, and it’s possible he’ll return during the A’s visit to Tampa Bay later this week.

Sean Doolittle‘s recovery has been slow, but with no confirmed setbacks, he should be ready to return soon. Those are two key elements to the team, and will allow for optimal lineups once they’re both healthy.

Notes

Oakland has lost 12 of their last 14 home games, are in fifth place in the American League West for the 10th consecutive day and are 13 games below .500 for the first time since finishing the 2011 season 14 games under (74-88). … The A’s committed four errors, matching a season high and have committed at least one error in each of the last 14 games, which is the longest streak since a 17-game streak from May 6-23, 1982. … The A’s have 21 errors in the last 14 games and 42 overall. … Scott Kazmir‘s 4-1/3 innings made for his shortest start since September 16, 2014 against Texas. … Reliever Tyler Clippard allowed an opponent to score for just the third time in his 15 outings this season.


Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Athletics.