A’s begin second half with series win
After being swept over the weekend by Kansas City, the Oakland A’s responded by taking two of three in their interleague series versus Colorado.
Wednesday afternoon marked Oakland’s sixth series win since June 1, which came with Jesse Hahn (W, 6-6, 3.35 ERA) lasting six innings, striking out six, allowing six baserunners and one run.
Hahn was shy of dominant, but was effective enough to shut down a threatening lineup featuring multiple All Star-caliber hitters in Oakland’s 4-1 victory over the Rockies.
Hahn didn’t seem bothered by an early disruption when home plate umpire Tom Hallion was hit in the mask from a foul tip and removed from the game. Hahn recovered from the prolonged delay while the crew made their changes.
The delay could have took him out of the zone he was seeking. But he stayed cool, and performed like the A’s hoped he would.
He received run support early on, as Billy Butler scored on a sacrifice fly hit by second baseman Eric Sogard in the second inning. One frame later, Billy Burns scored on a two-out single from Josh Reddick, giving Oakland an early 2-0 lead.
Burns scored once more in the fifth inning, Butler with the RBI single, and Zobrist came across on a fielders choice two innings later.
The A’s have sewed up some of their holes while still lacking consistency, and their record is displaying the improvement. Oakland is 15-12 since the start of June, and the record includes some bad breaks, though their own mistakes are also a large part.
Hahn has also been solid at worst, posting a 5-2 record and 2.42 ERA over his last eight starts while holding batters to just a .222 batting average. He said:
“I think, honestly, fastball command (has been the difference). Some of the mistake pitches i was making earlier in the year, I think I limited those. I know I have to get the ball down. And I have to hit my spots, which I don’t think I was doing that good of a job early on.”
Manager Bob Melvin added:
“He’s gotten better as you go along. He’s got better weapons for lefties. Lefties were having a better time with him than they are right now.”
Melvin added that Hahn has improved his mix of pitches, and his pitches overall — prominently his slider and changeup — but Melvin highlighted the fact that Hahn has been crowding hitters and making them just uncomfortable enough.
“I think it’s location of pitches, and crowding them to get more room away more than anything.”
The A’s dugout saw something they might not see again this season. A triple from Butler, who at six-foot-one and 240 lbs, had only four career triples in nine seasons prior to Wednesday afternoon.
“I was a out of breath.”
Rafael Ynoa got the start in left field and collided with the wall trying to chase down Butler’s hit. He stayed down during the entirety of the play. Butler said:
“Only way I’m getting a triple, I’m glad he’s alright, but if he goes down.”
Regardless of how it happened, A’s players and coaches got a kick out of it. Said Melvin:
“It is unusual fashion. That might be the only triple we see out of him this year.”
Hahn laughed as he said:
“That’s awesome. Good for him, that’s awesome. … I was egging it on. I was doing the whole wheel thing with my arm. That kind of sparked us a little bit.”
Butler scored on a sacrifice fly a few ticks later, prompting a little fear over a play at the plate from Hahn, who added:
“I’m not going to lie, I was a little worried. But he put his head down and he gave it all he had. And the guy made a bad throw.”
The A’s won game No. 81 on the schedule, and officially start the second half of the regular season nine games below .500.
It’s a tough position for a team that was in a totally different position 365 days ago with the best record in baseball and virtually no limitations.
A number of roster changes make this a different team already, and the results show. Those who were on the 2014 A’s team are enjoying success in other cities. Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Derek Norris — three of the best players on that team — now play for clubs with better records than the current A’s.
Donaldson has 49 RBI and 18 home runs, not to mention his AL-leading 58 runs scored. Norris has struggled some, but still has 41 runs and 45 RBI.
The streakiest of the three, Moss, is the only one having less success than he did in 2014, and that’s marginal at best.
The three were traded during the offseason by the A’s, who — now well behind in the playoff hunt — are likely sellers entering July, even if they continue to show improvement.
Sonny Gray, one player who could be moved, spent the last two nights hospitalized with serious gastritis, his stomach inflamed and his next start to be determined.
Melvin confirmed that Gray is out of the hospital and doing better. Catcher Stephen Vogt is still dealing with left elbow tendonitis, and former closer Sean Dootlittle remains sidelined for the next month or more.
Reinforcements aren’t coming anytime soon. So the A’s will have to focus on the immediate future with what they have.
The A’s open a four-game homestand finale vs. Seattle Thursday evening.