OAKLAND – It’s a statement on the A’s offense right now that it feels like they’re trailing by a lot, even when they’re not.
They were within close striking distance of the Kansas City Royals all night Friday, but they couldn’t cash in with the needed big hit in a 4-2 loss to open this three-game series.
The Royals jumped ahead with two first-inning runs off Rich Hill, and even that small deficit – early in a game – is a tough mountain for the A’s scale. They’ve scored just 10 runs over their last five games and are 3-for-29 with runners in scoring position over that span.
Stephen Vogt connected for his first homer of the season, and Khris Davis drove in his first run, but that wasn’t enough as Royals starter Edinson Volquez (2-0).
They were within a run, 3-2, when manager Bob Melvin called on Sean Doolittle in the ninth with one out to face left-handed hitting Eric Hosmer. Hosmer launched a homer deep over the wall in dead center, giving the defending World Series champs an important insurance run before turning things over to standout closer Wade Davis.
It was the third homer Doolittle has allowed in six appearances this season, a troubling trend for the lefty who began spring training as the A’s closer but whose role is now getting murkier.
Starting pitching report
Hill (1-2) struck out 10 in his previous start at Seattle to notch his first victory as an Athletic. On Friday, he drove his pitch count up to 106 and lasted just 4 1/3 innings. That’s two out of three starts now where the veteran southpaw has left a long night’s work for his bullpen. Hill allowed three runs on nine hits Friday with three walks. He struck out six, but even if he doesn’t walk a batter, he’s pitching deep into counts and making life tough on himself.
Hill walked Alcides Escobar to lead off the game and the shortstop came around to score on Lorenzo Cain’s single. Another run came home that inning on Eric Hosmer’s double-play grounder. Another leadoff walk in the third led to another run, when Kendrys Morales knocked in Cain for a 3-1 Royals lead.
The A’s middle relief continued doing stellar work, as Fernando Rodriguez, Marc Rzepczynski and Ryan Dull kept the A’s within striking distance at 3-2. Doolittle was called upon for a lefty-on-lefty matchup but served up Hosmer’s homer on a 1-1 fastball.
At the plate
Vogt went deep off Volquez in the second, then Davis delivered a run-scoring single in the fourth that cut Oakland’s deficit to 3-2. That was as close as the A’s would get. They mustered just six hits total.
In the field
Third baseman Danny Valencia couldn’t find the handle on Salvador Perez’s grounder in the seventh. It didn’t cost the A’s a run, but it snapped a streak of three consecutive games without an error.
Friday’s series opener drew 19,451.
Sonny Gray (1-1, 2.70) was bumped up in the rotation one day and will start Saturday’s 1:05 p.m. game. He’ll oppose Chris Young (0-2, 7.45).