A’s break out the speed in search of runs

Struggling to score runs the Oakland Athletics have made a lineup change, putting a pair of speedy outfielders at the top.

When Manager Bob Melvin posted the A’s lineup prior to Wednesday’s day game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim it featured center fielder Billy Burns and left fielder Coco Crisp in the 1-2 slots. Having seen his team score only 26 runs (MLB No. 20) despite its league high in games played (10) Melvin is looking for the shake-up to light up the scoreboard more consistently.

The A’s, sporting the game’s fifth-worst batting average with runners on base, have been forced to find a way to manufacture runs.

Of the line-up change, Melvin said:

“It’s a dynamic that we really haven’t used a whole lot, or seen before. Whenever you can have speed at the top, and guys that are swinging the bat pretty well, in theory it should be fun to watch.”

While Burns will maintain his lead-off and center-field positions, Crisp will fill in the left field spot normally held by offseason trade acquisition Khris Davis. Davis, a historically slow starter, is off to a horrid beginning — batting .167 (5-for-30) with 14 strike outs (MLB T-1). Crisp has gathered six hits in 24 at-bats (.250), but has stolen two bases and scored three runs.

Melvin says, though, that the move is not permanent:

“It’s just a day. … just a little bit of a struggle right now for him. With Coco and Burnsie playing pretty well, we’ll just give (Davis) a day off, two through the off-day. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t show up in the game at some point.”

Davis was brought to Oakland with a track record for power, but he has not only been unable to clear the fence, he has looked dazed and confused while wearing out a path from the batter’s box to the dugout.

With Davis toiling to find his way, Crisp has been given a golden opportunity to earn his way back into an everyday role with the team he has been a part of since 2010.

Despite scoring four runs — tied for their second-highest output on the season — Oakland lost Wednesdays game knowing that it was unable to cash in on several solid situations. The scoring they did do, though, came on a pair of homers from shortstop Marcus Semien — the nine-hole hitter — as well as runs scored by Burns — in the top spot — following stolen bases.

Coming off a fifth-place finish in the American League Rookie of the Year race a year ago Burns swiped 26 bases, leading to 70 runs scored, over 125 games 2015. Crisp’s career high in pilfers (49) came in 2011. He scored a career high 93 runs in 2013.

Healthy for the first time in an extended period of time, Melvin said Crisp’s recent run is an inspiring sight:

“This is the best we’ve seen Coco play in probably a year-and-a-half. Physically, this is as healthy as he’s been. At the plate, left-handed, you’re seeing him drive the ball again — a home run in Seattle the other day. It is something, last year, he was just not physically able to do.”

Even with Burns — a career .294 hitter — and Crisp — with a career .329 on-base percentage — getting on base and taking the occasional extra bag, the Oakland offense needs to find a way to bring them in. That is where situational at-bats will need to come. As Melvin said, though, the situational hitting has improved. And it will only get easier with speed involved.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.