Not only were they swept in a four-game set for the first time this season, they lost all four in a series at home for the first time since 1999. And they did it in a magnificently tragic fashion – losing three key contributors to injury and seeing the other contributors go without contribution.
The New York Yankees (21-22) arrived in Oakland after losing their previous series against the sub-.500 Arizona Diamondbacks squad. The A’s came in puffing out their chest. And for good reason, having not just won three consecutive, but also all three prior matchups with the visiting team.
They exited the series with a much more damaged psyche, as much for the injuries as the four straight losses.
Manager Bob Melvin said, of the former:
“No one is saying we’re not going to win games because we have guys out. We have other guys that are going to get opportunities and it’s their chance to perform, and we have guys that are still in there and expect to win. I don’t know that we could have fought much harder… Just hang in there, we’ll get them tomorrow.”
Fastball (Team strength): Cutting down base runners
Oakland pitching allowed 56 batters to reach base – 41 hits, 13 walks and two hit batsmen – and that’s disregarding the six errors commit by the defense. Through pickoffs, double-plays and throws from the outfield, the A’s removed eight Yankees from the base paths over the four games.
Kendall Graveman (1-6, 5.48 ERA), who started and was credited with the loss in Thursday’s 4-1 defeat, scored a pickoff as did reliever Daniel Coulombe (0-0, 6.75 ERA), pitching in Sunday’s 5-4 loss. Coulombe also teamed up with All-Star backstop Stephen Vogt (.250/.283/.375 2016 slash) to catch prestigious base stealer Jacoby Ellsbury (nine stolen bases in 2016) stealing on Sunday.
Josh Reddick (.322/.394/.466) added an assist from right field on Thursday, while the infield turned one double-play in each game. The positives are tough to find in such a decisive sweeping, but the 22 runs allowed (5.5 per game) would have been far worse had the defense not served such a positive impact.
Changeup (Top performing individual): Billy Burns (.268/.307/.331)
The mostly punch-less Oakland offense was nearly doubled up on the series hit line (24 to 41) while scoring less than half the number of runs (nine to 22). For all its shortcomings, the offense was paced by a solid performance from the newly placed two-hole hitter Burns.
The former lead-off man went 4-for-12 (.333), adding a walk and four runs scored. Not only was he responsible for 17 percent of the team’s hits and two of the three stolen bases, Burns was the only Athletic to cross the plate multiple times.
Curveball (Surprise of the series): Answering the call
With the number of players on their disabled list having reached a franchise-high 13, the A’s have been forced to call upon more than half a roster’s worth of players not expected to be in the majors. An unprecedented 34 players have now made an appearance with the big club.
Multi-positioned defensive ace Tyler Ladendorf (.059/.111/.059) claimed his first hit, run and RBI in the series. Most recently called up Max Muncy (.400/.500/.400) hammered out two hits in five at-bats, adding one walk. Matt McBride (.235/.278/.294) added a hit, a walk, a run scored and an RBI.
Each of the call-ups to appear in the series made their respective impacts felt. In the long run, forcing the youngsters to dip their toes in the major-league waters will serve benefit. Whether they will be tasked to assist a September postseason run or replace a traded big-league regular.
Of the team’s struggles to overcome the massive number of injured teammates, Vogt said:
“It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for the team. It’s frustrating for the individuals who are on the DL. It’s unbelievable how many guys are on the DL … You don’t want to ever point to it and say, ‘this is why,’ and you can’t do that because you still have guys here who can get the job done. But to say that we’re not missing those guys would be a false statement.”
Sinker (Team weakness): The inability to cash the checks
While getting on base was a tough enough task for a team that batted .182 in the series, getting from second base to the scoreboard was even tougher.
Having gone 3-for-29 (.103) with runners in scoring position, leaving 21 runners on base, the inability to hit in run-scoring situations was more responsible for the series sweeping than any other one factor.
Coming up with one of the three hits, Vogt said the key to moving on from struggles is “flush(ing) everything”:
“It’s so to cliché to say it, but it’s so true because this game is very negative – there’s a lot of failure – you’ve just got to stay in the moment. That’s what keeps you going.”
Slider (Poor performing individual): Chris Coghlan (.156/.226/.303)
Danny Valencia (.323/.352/.535) and Khris Davis (.228/.263/.487) went 2-for-15 (.133) with nine left on and 1-for-11 (.091) with 10 left aboard by the heart of the Oakland order. But for all their struggles, every A’s hitter except Coghlan — who went 0-for-9 with a strikeout ± found their way on base in the series.
Pitch out (Up next for the A’s): At the Seattle Mariners (26-17)
Next up for Coghlan and his mates is a short three-game road trip to the soggy north. In what has been a strange first six meetings, the A’s picked up a sweep in the Emerald City while being swept by the M’s in Oakland.
In order to repeat their performance of season series No. 2, as opposed to that of series No. 9, it will take more solid pitching but improved clutch at-bats. The home team’s starting pitching was neither terrible nor great against the Yankees. Aside from an injured Gray, starters combined for 18 innings.
The offense will get a much needed boost when, on Wednesday, Jed Lowrie (.302/.341/.345) and his .456 average with runners in scoring position will be eligible to come off the DL.
Lowrie’s group is currently 11-11 on the road, and 8-15 at home.