Inside Pitch: A’s survive onslaught, finish week on a high
The Oakland Athletics came four outs from bringing an 0-6 week to the most catastrophic end imaginable — being no-hit.
With two down in the eighth, and following a coach-initiated replay-review, Marcus Semien was ruled safe at first ending the bid. One inning later, Khris Davis delivered Oakland’s second hit, a double, with an error by left fielder Brock Holt allowing Danny Valencia to score the game’s only run, giving the A’s (58-78) a win.
The walk-off celebration brought to end a week that saw the green and gold swept by the Astros (72-64) in Houston before losing back-to-back one-sided wallopings to the visiting Boston Red Sox (76-60). A week that saw Oakland outhomered 5-0, and outscored 40-9. One in which they were held to five hits of fewer four times.
If a team is to collect just one win in a week, however, the week’s final game offers momentum moving forward.
Fastball: Youth on display
The A’s and manager Bob Melvin continued to send a squad teeming with rookies, as they continue to prepare for Opening Day of 2017. In all, 12 rookies made appearances.
Since the All-Star break, Oakland has discovered several future contributors. Of them, Ryon Healy (.276/.306/.454 2016 slash), Sean Manaea (5-9, 4.40 ERA) and Andrew Triggs (1-1, 4.31 ERA) have shown the promise befit the stars of the near future.
Changeup: Graveman, Vogt shine in unpolished week
The red-hot Kendall Graveman (10-9, 3.81 ERA) was stellar in two starts, while catcher Stephen Vogt (.263/.307/.420) was the only A’s hitter to post an average higher than .238 (.318) and accounted for two of his team’s nine extra-base hits.
Graveman, who has gone 9-3 since May 30, finished the week with a loss and no-decision while allowing just 13 base runners — 10 hits and three walks — in 13-1/3 innings. After being saddled with three runs in a seven-inning outing at Houston, the 25-year-old Alabama native held the Red Sox, who had scored 67 runs in their first five games against the A’s this season, scoreless through 6-1/3.
Vogt appeared in all six game, going 7-for-22 with two doubles.
Curveball: Cotton and Alcantara open Oakland’s September call-ups
Raul Alcantara — 4-0, 1.18 ERA in eight Triple-A starts this season — came to Oakland as part of the trade that sent Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney to Boston. He joined Josh Reddick moving west. Jharel Cotton — 3-1, 2.82 ERA in six starts with Triple-A Nashville — was included in a trio of players offered in return when Reddick, and Rich Hill (11-3, 1.94 ERA), to the Los Angeles Dodgers (76-60).
Alcantara will make his Major League debut in a starting effort on Monday. Cotton will do the same on Wednesday.
Sinker: Offense disappears
The Oakland offense matched the Philadelphia Phillies (60-76) for the fewest runs scores (16). They were the only team to go without hitting a single home run, and one of just four teams to not steal a base.
The pitching was by no means world-beating, with the fourth-highest ERA (5.70) in the game. For the offense, though, a second-lowest .177 team average, coupled with zero power and no speed, did not offer the pitching staff any room for error.
Slider: Valencia’s slide continues
Although he scored the team’s most meaningful run of the week, Valencia (.292/.347/.457) continued his second-half slide (.270/.331/.383 slash since the All-Star break) going 1-for-18 (.056). The scuffle does fall, in part, on his fall-off in playing time having been replaced at third by Healy.
Through his struggles, the 31 year-old also led the team with four walks, giving him a .227 on-base percentage (T-4th).
Pitch out: Angels, Mariners and new faces
With September now upon them, the A’s have 15 new roster spots waiting to be filled by young men on the cusp of fulfilling a lifelong dream. Those moves will take center stage, as the team on the field faces off with division rivals the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (61-75) and Seattle Mariners (69-67).
Among those players currently on the 40-man roster, and primed for call-ups, are infielders Rangel Ravelo (.262/.334/.395 2016 slash in Triple-A) and Renato Nunez (.228/.278/.412), who brings 23 home runs and 75 RBIs.
As the A’s continue to move toward the end of the 2016 season, the goal has ceased being to win every game rather shifted to a focus of growth toward a prosperous future.