Although they were unable to saddle him with a loss, the A’s (4-3) were able to vanquish the Seattle Mariners (2-4) on an afternoon in which Felix Hernandez took to the mound. Over the course of their first road series, Oakland excelled on the mound, at the plate and on the base paths.
That isn’t to say, however, that there weren’t weaknesses exposed.
Fastball (what the team did well): Speed and power
While it was another fantastic series from a rebuilt bullpen – 10 2/3 scoreless innings pitched, three hits, two walks, nine strike outs – the difference between a 1-3 and 3-0 series was offense. Putting up a total of 11 runs, as opposed to 10 in four games against the Chicago White Sox (4-2), was due in large part to a 500 percent increase in power output.
After hitting just one home run in the four-game opening series – off the bat of Mark Canha – the A’s hit five en route to their sweep.
Center fielder Billy Burns got his team going with its first stolen base as well. A team that finished at the dead center of the pack (No. 8) in the American League in stolen bases (78) a year ago, Burns and company will need to see an increase in pilfers. After the first steal, Crisp backed it up with two more on the series.
Change-up (the team’s top performing individual): Josh Reddick
Despite a modest 0-for-3, one walk performance in Sunday afternoon’s victory, Reddick collected three hits in nine at-bats over the weekend. He also hit two home runs, knocked in three and drew three walks.
It was his fifth inning dinger on Friday night that triggered the homer onslaught. Coming off a season in which he posted a productive .272/.333/.449 slash, a loud early-season series in Seattle is exactly what the right fielder needed to ignite fruitful 2016 campaign.
Curveball (A’s most surprising factor of the series): The flight back
In a series where very little went outside of the plan, the A’s were greeted with an unpleasant surprise just prior to departing Washington.
Upon arriving at the airport, in preparation for a return flight home to the Bay Area for a series with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2-4), the A’s were faced with an airplane bearing the words “We Are SF We Are Giant”.
The team’s offensive star of the series, Reddick took to twitter in response:
— Josh Reddick (@RealJoshReddick) April 11, 2016
It is easy to see the type of frustration this mix-up would inspire, but it will have no effect on the future success of the team. It actually says more to the positive that this was the most surprising thing that came out of a divisional series. Even one that saw Bassitt out-duel Hernandez.
Sinker (greatest team weakness): defense
As was the case in the season’s first series, the defense was a significant letdown. A season after being the far-and-away AL leader in errors (126), Oakland finds itself in a similarly unfortunate situation with the league’s most boots of the first week (Seven), with three in Seattle.
Three of those errors have come from second baseman Jed Lowrie, who has averaged one error per every 10.6 games in his career. It does inspire confidence that Semien, at the pivotal shortstop position, has played improved defense – in comparison to last season.
Flawless play by new first baseman Yonder Alonso, if continued, will greatly help the defensive play.
Slider (player who needs to improve): Khris Davis
Khris Davis, now leading MLB having struck out 13 times, has yet to find his groove as a member of the A’s.
Davis went 2-for-11 with one walk with six strike outs in Seattle, but worse than the outcome has been his approach. He has seemed to be fooled by nearly every off-speed pitch he has seen, while taking the occasional hittable fastball.
His poor series reached its depth in the seventh inning on Sunday. After whiffing at strike two Davis appeared to be headed for the dugout momentarily before circling back to the batter’s box. The next pitch he saw was a curveball in the dirt, following a lazy waive and a miss the left fielder finished his seventh lumbering trek to the Safeco Field visitors dugout.
Given Davis’ incredibly slow start, along with an encouraging one from Crisp (one home run and two stolen bases in six games) the offseason acquisition’s leash may be tightening with each swing and miss.