Inside Pitch: A’s bashed by Boston bats

A trip to Fenway Park has brought rock bottom for the Oakland Athletics.

The Boston Red Sox (22-13) dismantled the Oakland pitching staff to the tune of 40 runs in three games. Only Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson pitched for the A’s (14-21) without giving up runs.

A’s hitters, who have struggled to score runs much of the early season, enjoyed one of their most productive series’ but was never able to even keep within contact of the game’s highest scoring offense.

Led by everyday nine-hole hitter Jackie Bradley Jr., who collected eight hits and 17 RBIs in the series, the Red Sox scored 13-plus runs with 15-plus hits in three straight games for the first time in the franchise’s storied history.

 

Fastball (Team Strength): A’s start swingin’

The Oakland offense landed in “Beantown” averaging 3.7 runs – among the lowest in the American League – and 8.2 hits per game. Despite being unable to keep any of the three games close, the A’s scored 15 runs on 34 hits.

An attack led by Khris Davis (.232/.267/.440 2016 slash) – five hits, a home run and four RBIs – and Coco Crisp (.236/.317/.416) – three hits and three runs – showed that an outburst could be on the horizon.

 

Changeup (Top individual performer): Billy Butler (.212/.226/.308)

Having made only 10 starts this season heading into the series, “Country Breakfast” was penciled in at first base to begin Tuesday’s game two. Not only did Butler post the A’s only three-plus-hit game in the series, he picked up his fifth extra-base hit – all doubles – and fourth RBI of the season.

With the mini explosion, the 30-year-old designated hitter raised his batting average from .186 to .229.

The second-highest paid player on the roster, Oakland needs Butler to provide some production if they are going to compete for a postseason berth.

 

Curveball (Surprise of the Series): Sonny’s cloudy stretch continues

Oakland ace Sonny Gray (3-4 record, 6.00 ERA in 2016) has now suffered through the three worst starts of his career in consecutive outings.

After being pulled from his shortest career outing – 2 innings – in Detroit, Gray coughed up a career-high eight runs against the Mariners in Oakland. Following those performances up, the righty was saddled with seven runs in just 3-2/3 innings on Monday.

He claims to be healthy, according to MLB.com’s Jane Lee, which makes the extended scuffle even more worrisome. The 26 year-old will get his next start against the Tampa Bay Rays (15-17) on Sunday.

 

Sinker (Team weakness): Pitching continues to be a problem

There’s no other way to explain it, the A’s pitching was horrific in Boston. Sure, they were facing MLB’s most productive offense, but allowing 40 runs and eight homers over three games just won’t get it done.

The three starters – Gray, Sean Manaea (0-1, 11.37 ERA) and Eric Surkamp (0-3, 6.55) – gave up a combined 19 runs over nine innings. And the bullpen – 21 runs in 15 innings – wasn’t much better.

Oakland pitchers were only able to post two scoreless frames, of the 24. Doolittle (1-2, 3.95 ERA) and Madson (1-0, 1.23 ERA) doing the honor with one apiece.

 

Slider (Poor performing individual): Sean Manaea

In each of his first two career starts the 24-year-old rookie was able to keep his team in the game, despite being prone to serving up the long ball, finishing five efficient frames in each.

In what has been his worst start as a pro, the “Throwin’ Samoan” got the hook in the midst of five-run third inning. He finished allowing eight runs (all earned), and two home runs, in 2-2/3. He was, again, efficient, attacking the zone with 31 of his 40 pitches going for strikes. And perhaps that is where the problems lie.

Manaea has continually attacked the zone, allowing opposing hitters to get comfortable and attack early. Going forward, it may behoove the lefty to throw purpose pitches out of the zone, and mixing in more of his specialty pitches. He has an electric fastball, but his slider has shown to be tough on some of the league’s best hitters.

After a much-needed off day the A’s will face the Rays in a weekend three-game set to end their three-city road trip.


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.