Perhaps it can be attributed to their 10 games played (T-most in MLB) in the season’s first 10 days, but the A’s looked over-matched against an Angels team that came to Oakland looking utterly lost.
In receiving merely six runs of support over the course of the series, the starting pitchers created only one legitimate winning opportunity.
The third base-shortstop combination, though, provided a shimmering light of hope.
Fastball (what the team did well): Team defense
Heading in, the A’s defense had commit an American League-high seven errors through its first seven games, with second baseman Jed Lowrie committing a team-high three.
Facing the Angels, however, the green and gold flashed flawless field-work. The stellar defense was started, ironically enough, by Lowrie himself. A sweet snag on a high hopper then quick spin and throw, combined with a strong turn from shortstop Marcus Semien, got the speedy former-A Cliff Pennington to end minimal dangerin the third frame of Monday’s 4-1 loss.
It was Oakland’s first of two double-plays turned in the game, and four in the series.
Perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing twin-killing came on a Josh Reddick diving snag followed by a throw to first to double up base-runner Andrelton Simmons in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s 5-4 loss.
Change-up (the team’s top performing individual): Semien
The 25 year-old collected his fourth hit, and first home run, of the season in Sunday’s sweep-sealing win in Seattle. After getting one hit in four at-bats, driving in the team’s lone run, on Monday Semien homered three times in the final two games — coming over a five at-bat stretch.
Following his two-jack game on Tuesday’s, he said:
“I just want to keep consistent in barreling up the baseball, not necessarily trying to hit home runs, but I want to do better with runners on base and maybe blow some innings open that way.”
The San Francisco native also accounted for four of the team’s six series RBIs (Reddick, 2), and along with third baseman Danny Valencia (5-for-11), the left side of the infield was responsible for nine of 11 A’s hits over the three games.
Pitcher Ryan Dull deserves recognition for his work as well.
Appearing in games one and three of the series, with a pair of runners on in each, Dull cemented his role as the tourniquet man stranding all four inherited runners. He has now stranded all six base runners inherited.
Curveball (A’s most surprising factor of the series): Finally, a day of rest
After playing in each of the season’s first 10 days, the A’s finally enjoyed their first off day of the season. Only the division rival Texas Rangers (6-5) have yet to get a day of rest.
Having leaned so heavily on the bullpen during the season’s first week-and-a-half, the day off was an absolute necessity.
That relief corps, which was dominant early — allowing one run through its first 14 2/3 innings pitched — has now given up 12 earned runs in its last 21 2/3 innings.
Their 36 1/3 innings is a major-league high, and with the starting rotation able to work more than six frames only three times in 10 games it appears that the bullpen will get rest primarily in the form of scheduled off days.
Sinker (greatest team weakness): Team hitting
The A’s offense has continued its struggles with runners in scoring position (2-for-19, .105), but in being swept it added a new wrinkle. It didn’t hit without runners on either.
The Oakland nine combined to go 20-for-100 over the course of the three-gamer. And the .200 batting average looks better than it actually is. Removing the the nine hits accrued by the duo of Semien and Valencia over 20 at-bats leaves the other seven spots of the order with a .138 average (11-for-80).
“I’ve had enough of, where a pitcher shoves it up where you’re just like ‘man, he had electric stuff, it was his day.’ I don’t think that’s the case, I don’t think it was the case for any of the three. I think we’re better than this, and I’m not going to shy away from saying that. I think that we can be better than this team.”
It is a tough task to win a series when the offense can gather only 20 hits, especially when six of those are coming from a nine-hole hitter who is averaging less than one at-bat per game with runners on base.
Slider (player who needs to improve): Sean Doolittle
The closer has not been blessed with many opportunities. But when he has been put in a save situation he has struggled, blowing two of three.
After a fantastic effort from starter Kendall Graveman (6 innings, one run), the starter handed the ball to a bullpen that had inspired the utmost level of confidence. Set-up man Ryan Madson quickly allowed two runs, cutting the lead to one, in the eighth.
Doolittle then served up a two-run dinger in the ninth and was saddled with the loss. His second.
While there was plenty of fault to go around for the A’s, delivering the type of dominance that has come to be expected from the 2014 All-Star would have given Oakland one win.
No single hit in the place of an out, produced by any A’s hitter, can be said to have done the same. And Dolittle agrees:
“We take a lot of pride in what we do, and we were handed a lead late in the game. I couldn’t get the job done… That’s twice already. I’ve got to be better.”
Although there wasn’t much to build off of following the sweep, Doolittle, Coghlan and the A’s will look to soak up positivity from Semien, Valencia, Dull and Graveman as they now host the reigning champion Kansas City Royals in a weekend series.