There is no surprise in the A’s (28-41) losing a three-game set with the Angels (31-38). Rather, the surprise is that they enjoyed a victory at all, as opposed to suffering another home sweep at the hands of their division foes.
After scoring 26 runs in four games against the division-leading Texas Rangers (45-25), Oakland bats were muffled to the tune of 18 hits and four runs.
Poor run support took away from stellar pitching performances as Kendall Graveman (2-6, 4.87 ERA) began the series with his best start of the season, while Eric Surkamp (0-5, 7.20 ERA) ended it doing the same. For their combined-13 inning, 3-run effort they were rewarded an 0-1 record.
Fastball: Starting to pitch
Due to injury, the A’s had just two starters available for the three-game series, pushing reliever Andrew Triggs (0-0, 7.29 ERA) into the role for Saturday’s 7-1 loss. Even the journeyman bullpenner’s start was better than manager Bob Melvin could have hoped, as he departed in the fourth inning of a 1-1 tie.
Graveman posted his season-high in innings pitched, finishing seven, while matching his season-best one run allowed in Friday night’s 3-2 walk-off win.
Surkamp, who had gotten through the fifth frame just once in his first seven starts of the season and was giving up an average of 3.7 runs per outing, allowed just two runs over a season-high six in Sunday’s 2-0 shutout loss.
With ace Sonny Gray (3-6, 5.54 ERA) surging towards a return to form, the emergence of rookie Daniel Mengden (0-2, 2.25 ERA), and the pending healthy returns of Rich Hill (8-3, 2.25 ERA) and Sean Manaea (2-4, 6.02 ERA), the rotation looks to be on the verge of a solidification. And, with a starter’s ERA of 5.18 (No. 29 MLB), improvement is long overdue.
Despite receiving his fifth loss of the season, the Sunday effort was among the best of Surkamp’s career — second only to a six-inning, one-run start in his major-league debut. With it, he likely fended off a DFA (designated for assignment). In 15 career starts, the lefty averages just over 4-1/3 innings per nod.
As the rotation heals, Surkamp appears certain be the hurler who fades back into the life of a minor leaguer, making his outing against the Angels a possible lasting impression for a call-up later in the season. He needed a strong start to maintain relevance as a big-league pitcher. And he earned it.
Curveball: Weak outfield arms allow 270 feet
Injured right fielder Josh Reddick has one of the best outfield arms in baseball. In his absence, the A’s have taken to an outfield combination Billy Burns, Khris Davis and Coco Crisp, all of whom have below-average wings, each a bit weaker than the other.
While Angels base runners were advancing whenever possible, a throw from their center fielder Mike Trout kept Billy Butler from going to second on a ball to the center-field warning track. On what is almost always a two-bagger, Butler was tagged out advancing to second, preventing the A’s from having a runner on second with no outs. They ended the game having never made it there.
Despite the contribution of three outfield assists from Reddick, Oakland outfielders have combined for the fewest (7) in the American League.
Sinker: Bats fall flat
The Oakland offense appeared to have been awoken in a series loss to the Rangers. It apparently hit the snooze button against the Angels, however.
The A’s created just 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position — hitting 3-for-12 (.250) — en route to scoring a mere four runs. Going 18-for-93 (.194) over the three-game series, the Green and Gold saw their team batting average fall below .250 (.249) on the season.
Combined with low home-run output — 69 (No. 12 AL) — the inability to string hits together has bred the AL’s second-lowest scoring offense (269 runs).
Slider: Marcus Semien endures an impossibly long weekend
In addition to going 0-for-9 with two strikeouts in the series, the shortstop also committed a pair of errors.
Semien (.229/.298/.416 2016 slash) has now been credited with seven errors while continuing to struggle with the bat. He is well on his way to producing his lowest home run (2) and RBI (4) output of any month, as the conclusion of June draws near.
The San Francisco native has become something of a barometer for the team’s success. In wins this season, Semien is batting .284 with a .361 on-base percentage. In losses, he is batting .191 with a .252 on-base average.
Pitch out: Distilling the Brewers
After their final off-day prior to the All-Star break on Monday, the A’s will host to the Milwaukee Brewers (31-39).
In the teams’ previous interleague interlude, Milwaukee brewed a two-game sweep. Delivering big blows in Wisconsin were Scooter Gennett and former-Athletic Chris Carter, while starter Zach Davies carried a no-hitter into the seventh.
Continuing to search for his previous form, Gray will take the hill on Tuesday. Also searching for his first win, Mengden will get the ball on Wednesday. No matter how they pitch, though, it won’t matter if the A’s bats continue to be a walking no-hit watch.