OAKLAND — A’s fans were provided yet another tease, when their team showed just enough promise, just enough good play to provide hope that maybe Oakland was finally turning a corner in 2016.
Then the Pittsburgh Pirates provided a weekend reality check. It came in the form of a three-game sweep that culminated with the A’s 6-3 loss Sunday, a game in which the A’s let opportunity after opportunity slip through their fingers.
They’ve lost four in a row, and this losing streak comes on the heels of them winning six of seven. So as the A’s head to Minnesota for the start of a seven-game road trip that leads them into the All-Star break, we in fact know what we figured we knew all long about this team:
The A's simply don't hit with the consistency needed to sustain any long-term success. On Sunday, the A’s went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. In three different innings, they advanced a runner to third base with less than two outs and couldn’t bring him home. The A’s collected 10 hits but could only translate that into three runs.
The A’s went 1-4 on this five-game homestand, and the interesting thing about their current four-game losing streak is that the A’s scored first in all of the games.
Starting pitching report
It was the first time in five career starts that Daniel Mengden allowed more than three runs. The right-hander walked four and allowed four runs over 5 1/3 innings. He coasted through the first four innings, leading 2-0. But in the fifth, he walked a batter and hit another, and Gregory Polanco’s two-run single tied the game. The A’s led 3-2 in the sixth, only to see Pittsburgh take the lead with two more runs off Mengden. Adam Frazier tied it with his RBI triple to right, which came one batter after second baseman Tyler Ladendorf’s wild relay throw to first prevented a double play. Then with runners on the corners, Erik Kratz hit a comebacker that deflected off Mengden and went for an RBI infield single, and the Pirates led 4-3. That would be Mengden’s final hitter.
He was just the eighth pitcher in Oakland history to allow three runs or fewer in each of his first four starts.
Marc Rzepczynski and Liam Hendriks each struck out a batter to end the top of the sixth and strand a Pirates runner at third, keeping Oakland within 4-3. In the eighth, Fernando Rodriguez faced just one hitter before being visited by the trainer and leaving with an unknown injury. A’s manager Bob Melvin has tried to stay away from using Rodriguez in a couple of games over the past week, and Rodriguez had a dreadful five-walk outing against the Giants on Thursday. There were signs that something has been bothering him.
At the plate
The A’s once again scored first, jumping ahead with two runs in the second. Khris Davis singled and scored on Billy Butler’s double to the left-field corner. Matt McBride, called up earlier in the day and drawing a start at catcher, brought home a second run with an RBI groundout. In the fifth, the A’s broke a 2-2 tie and took the lead as McBride doubled and scored on Coco Crisp’s RBI single. But the A’s couldn’t push another run across despite having runners at second and third with one out. Their rally in the sixth, when they had runners at the corners with one out, was thwarted when Stephen Vogt lined into a double play.
In the field
There were scattered defensive highlights for the A’s — a tumbling catch of a bunt by Hendriks in the seventh, and Ladendorf’s slick play up the middle to get Frazier in the eighth.
The announced turnout was 21,831.
The A’s head to Minnesota to begin a seven-game road trip that will take them into the All-Star break. The series begins with an 11:10 a.m. holiday matchup Monday, as Kendall Graveman (3-6, 4.84) matches up against Ricky Nolasco (3-6, 5.31). On Tuesday, it’s Sean Manaea (3-4, 5.40) vs. former Athletic Tommy Milone (0-2, 6.23) at 5:10 p.m. Wednesday’s 10:10 a.m. finale has Sonny Gray (3-7, 5.42) matching up against Ervin Santana (2-7, 4.50).