The Athletics were handed a golden opportunity by Toronto over the weekend. With two wins in New York the Blue Jays gave the A’s a chance to close ground on the Wild Card leading Yankees, but the Oakland offense never landed in Tampa.
Now, following two losses at the hands of the Rays, the A’s find themselves 1-1/2 games from hosting a potential Wild Card game, rather than traveling to New York for a winner-take-all-game. Manager Bob Melvin said Tuesday that it would be beneficial for his club to host such a game, calling the Oakland crowd anything but docile:
“You like to play well at home, and your fans are a big part of that and they’ve always inspired us — with big crowds here, this is a tough place for a visiting team to play.”
But, as the skipper added, the focus is not on anyone but the team sharing the field with his A’s:
“Our mindset hasn’t changed; we’re just trying to win today’s game and we’ll add them all up at the end.”
Still, taking over the Yankees will require help from their opposition — the same help Oakland received from the Blue Jays and wasted. But more importantly, the A’s will need to rediscover their own offense. The only hope for Melvin is that his team’s bats’ flight from Baltimore, which was apparently redirected from Tampa International Airport, was sent directly to Oakland.
Dropping three of their last four during the recently completed road trip, the A’s scored just 14 runs (3.5 per game) with five coming on late homers by Khris Davis — Friday’s game-winner in the 10th and a ninth-inning grand slam Sunday that set the final of 5-4.
Jed Lowrie has gone a very mediocre 1-for-17 (.059 average) during Oakland’s current skid, but he is far from alone. Stephen Piscotty, who had been red-hot for so long, saw his 17-game hitting streak come to and end in Florida as he finished the road trip 1-for-12 (.083) while the catcher duo of Jonathan Lucroy (0-for-7) and Josh Phegley (0-for-3).
That’s one-third of the A’s lineup contributing a combined total of two hits while the offense as a whole scored more than four runs just once in four days falling three times with a chance to stride toward home-filed advantage in the playoffs.
More good news: the A’s have taken four of their last six from the Angels, against whom they begin a three-game series Tuesday night and six times over the season’s final two weeks. Lowrie’s season average of .352 in head-to-head matchups with Los Angeles is his second-best against any opponent (Tigers, .367) and his three homers against the Angels are fewer only than the four he has put on the Mariners.
Lowrie’s is an important bat for Oakland to get going and perhaps Halo red is just the right color for him to see.
The A’s 4.84 runs per game this season are enough for fifth-most by any AL team, behind only their fellow postseason contenders.
Right now, 3.5 runs are not enough for the A’s to win consistently, there are far too many questions revolving around the starting pitching staff. winning nine of their last 12 games — which is what Oakland will likely need to take over the top Wild Card spot — will require something more like the 4.84. And more than that would be advisable.