Inside Pitch: A’s pitching the problem in Seattle sweep

The positives were few and far between, as the Oakland Athletics were swept by the Seattle Mariners.

Oakland pitching was riddled with 21 runs allowed, while the offense posted a mediocre .262 series on-base percentage for the series. The A’s (13-16) also commit three errors. After winning the first two games of the six-home home stay, the A’s finished by losing the final four.

Manager Bob Melvin  was to the point regarding the home stand, after Wednesday’s sweep-sealing loss:

“It was disappointing. We win two out of three the first series (against the Houston Astros) and then get swept. That is not a good home stand.”

Perhaps the only positive the green and gold can take away, as a team, after dropping three in a row to the Mariner’s (16-11) is their improved success in clutch at-bats.

 

Fastball (Team Strength): Getting to the King

Seattle ace Felix Hernandez (2-2, 2.21 ERA) took the mound  for Wednesday’s series finale carrying a career 22-8 win-loss record against the hometown A’s, with an ERA hovering around 2.60. Throwing eight runs on the board (four earned), the Swingin’ A’s issued the Emerald City’s King his shortest career outing in the rivalry, chasing him after four-plus innings.

Not only did the A’s bash 11 hits — eight coming against the Venezuelan righty — in the 9-8 loss, they had a productive afternoon in the clutch, going 4-for-13 (.308) with runners in scoring position. They finished the series going 5-for-19 (.263) in run-scoring at-bats.

The eight runs scored matched their season-high.

 

Changeup (Top individual performer): Khris Davis (.233/.269/.447)

The A’s made a February trade to acquire the mashing left fielder in hopes that he could meet (or exceed) his home run output of a season ago, when  he left the yard 27 times for the Milwaukee Brewers.

“Khrush” did not pick up his first bomb of the season, though, until he went deep in an April 21 victory over the Yankees in New York — the team’s 16th game. Coming into the series against the M’s, Davis had yet to go big fly in Oakland.

That changed in dramatic fashion as he went deep twice Monday, in a 4-3 loss. He then added another in Tuesday’s 8-2 loss, for good measure.

After Monday’s game, Melvin said, given the distance of his second homer, Davis could hit the ball “out anywhere.” On Tuesday, he added:

“He’s really driving the ball right now, and that’s what we got him for. … It’s tough to hit the ball out of our ballpark, especially at night, but he did it a couple nights in a row.”

A four-hit, five-RBI series saw the Lakewood, California product raise his average from .222 to .233. His slugging percentage from .367 to .447.

Now on the up-swing, Davis seems to have secured his role as the team’s clean-up hitter.

 

Curveball (Surprise of the series): The ace gets shellacked despite being the “best (he has) felt all year”

One start after the shortest outing of his career — lasting just two frames in Detroit on April 27 — Sonny Gray (3-3, 4.84 ERA) tied a career high with eight runs allowed on Tuesday.

Even an ace is allowed to throw a stinker out there once per season. The alarming thing that came from an eight-run, seven-inning outing was that Gray said after the game that he felt he threw the ball “well” while the skipper said his “stuff was really good.”

The hurler added that having his good stuff hit the way it was, was “really weird.”

Back-to-back bad outings of this proportion are something definitely worth keeping an eye on. Especially from a guy whose career ERA coming into the season was under 3.00.

 

Sinker (Team weakness): Pitching

Through the first month of the season the pitching has been good enough to keep a struggle-ridden offense in every game. In their first series to start in the month of May, however, the Oakland pitching staff has had a rough go.

Kendall Graveman (1-3, 4.40 ERA) took the hill first for the A’s. And while he was able to battle into the seventh being tagged for only four runs, his 10 hits allowed matches a season high — on back-top-back starts.

Asking him to rebound from the series-opening loss, the A’s handed the ball to Gray, but he struggled.

The most surprising falter came on Wednesday, when a normally stingy bullpen was unable to hold a four-run lead and seal a first career win for rookie Sean Manaea (0-0, 7.20 ERA). While three of the four relievers called upon allowed at least one run it was John Axford (2-1, 1.29 ERA) who was saddled with the loss.

Of the collectively poor outing, Axford said:

“We’ve been priding ourselves on the job we’ve been doing out there — stranding runners and keeping us in the ballgame. Today, we didn’t do that. … We’ve been working hard to accomplish the things that we need to, and want to, to keep our team in ballgames.”

Slider (Poor performing individual): Yonder Alonso (.179/.233/.250)

Just one series removed from what looked like a break-out performance, the first baseman fell back into his frozen slumber. Going 1-for-9 (.111) in a series that saw the A’s offense begin to open up Alonso was a glaring soft spot in the offense. He also left four runners on base in his at-bats.

A career .269 hitter, looking at the bright side, the 29 year-old carries a career .240 average in April — his worst for any single month.

Next up for Melvin, Alonso and the A’s is a three-game weekend series at the Baltimore Orioles (16-11).


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.