Inside pitch: A’s ‘O’ awakening can’t disrupt ‘D’ slumber

For the Oakland Athletics, a 3-4 week is a mere blip on the radar in the search for a .500-record. But how that week unfolded exacerbated the issue.

Omitting their 1-0 record following an Opening Day win this season, the A’s (27-36) have not been above .500 since the last day of April last season. With 32 runs (4.6 per game) and 68 hits (9.7), the offense gave Oakland a chance to scoot back toward the black, but issues on the mound and in the field took turns inhibiting that progress.

Fastball: Dusting off the clutch

The A’s entered the week with the American League’s worst team batting average with runners in scoring position: .210. After an explosive 21-for-69 (.304) performance, they leapfrogged the reigning AL champs from Cleveland and now boast a .224-mark.

A team whose offense much of the season has been predicated on the long ball, Oakland scraped together 22 runs without the benefit of a home run, even beating the Toronto Blue Jays (31-32) 4-1 on Tuesday while not collecting a single homer — the second such win of the season.

Leading the way was Khris Davis, who tallied seven RBIs despite being held homerless on 4-for-8, and a sacrifice fly, with runners in scoring position. They did get some power, though, mashing nine home runs, good enough for third-most in the AL. Ryon Healy provided that punch, hammering three bombs en route to a team-high nine RBIs.

Changeup: Acin’ Samoan

Manager Bob Melvin, pitching coach Curt Young and the A’s are in need of a consistent ace. Options are abound: Sonny Gray, the ace of yesteryear, and Kendall Graveman, the incumbent.

But during a recent rough patch, it has been Sean Manaea who has separated himself from the pack. The 25-year-old lefty’s starts have become win-day for Oakland — a trait reserved for the ace.

In his last five starts, the “Throwin’ Samoan” has gone 5-0 with a 1.97 ERA. He has worked 32 innings in the stretch, striking out 32 and walking seven. He slapped an exclamation point on the run, claiming two of his club’s wins in the second week of June, though he did allow six hits in Saturday’s win, ending an AL record streak of 16 games with five or fewer hits allowed in two or more innings pitched.

Over the past month, since his lost loss on May 15, Manaea has lowered his season ERA nearly two full runs — 5.52 to 3.67.

Curveball: Splitting a scheduled doubleheader

The A’s faced the Tampa Bay Rays in Major League Baseball’s first scheduled doubleheader since 2011, accentuating strange scheduling by the league which includes the A’s not knocking out trips to both Houston and Arlington in a single Texas two-step.

On the field, Oakland collected a franchise record 32 hits in the twin-bill. It wasn’t enough to sweep the double-dip, though, as a hiccup by the defense and an Evan Longoria left the A’s with a loss in Game 1.

Sinker: defense remains offensive

Team defense continues to be a problem. The A’s maintain their hearty lead among the league’s most deficient defenses — their 62 errors are the most in MLB by 16 and their .973 team fielding percentage is the game’s only below .980.

Errors have ceased being a surprise, but anything that costs the team a win remains a problem. The Rays scored four unearned runs in a four-game series victory over the weekend, costing the A’s two games. Any hopes of a winning record will go unrealized until the issues in the field are remedied.

Slider: Triggs hits a speed bump

It wasn’t until start No. 4 of the season that Andrew Triggs allowed his first earned run of the season. Through 10 starts, his ERA sat at a very respectable 2.64.

In his fart two starts of June, however, Triggs’ season has been turned on its ear. In 7-1/3 innings over his last two starts, he has allowed 18 hits and 14 runs (17.18 ERA). A rough patch indeed, things only got worse when Triggs was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a hip strain.

Pitch-out: Looking forward — way forward

With the team in the latter stages of a rebuild, the A’s enter June’s third week with one eye affixed on the draft. Oakland holds the No. 6 overall pick in Monday’s round one with which to continue building toward future success.

On the field, the A’s get a day off in Miami before battling the Marlins (27-35) for a short two-game set before returning home. The two teams split a pair in Oakland at the end of May.

When they get back to the East Bay, it will be for four games against the New York Yankees (37-23) and monster slugger, rookie Aaron Judge, who leads the majors with 21 home runs, and tops the AL with a .344 average and 47 RBIs. The last time a player won the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in the same season, he made himself at home at the Coliseum, batting .333 in 10 games. He, of course, was Ichiro Suzuki, who is currently a Marlin.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.