OAKLAND -- Given how their home ballpark hasn’t treated the A’s too kindly thus far, heading back out for a long road trip might not seem so bad.
But the A’s have their work cut out on the upcoming nine-game trek through the American League East, getting the top two teams in the division on the first two legs. Oakland starts with three games against Baltimore, in second place by a half game at 15-11. Then comes three games at Boston, which leads the division at 16-11. The trip wraps with three games at Tampa Bay (12-14).
After getting swept at the Coliseum by Seattle, the A’s fell to 5-11 at home, the worst mark in the American League. They went 5-5 on their last road trip, a 10-gamer against the Yankees, Blue Jays and Tigers.
Worth noting — the A’s are slated to face three more right-handed starting pitchers against the Orioles, making it 27 righties they’ve seen in their past 29 games. Will they continue to stick with their platoon rotation? Could designated hitter Billy Butler, who picked up two RBI in Wednesday’s loss to Seattle, perhaps see a bit more time despite being slated to play primarily against lefties?
Getting middle-of-the-order hitter Danny Valencia back certainly could be a boost. He’s eligible to come off the disabled list Friday, but it was still unclear as the A’s traveled east Thursday whether he would be in the lineup in the series opener against the Orioles. Valencia hasn’t played since April 20 due to a strained left hamstring.
Four hitters who can be labeled regulars for the A’s — Marcus Semien, Coco Crisp, Yonder Alonso and Chris Coghlan — all are hitting under .210 right now.
Despite the bullpen blowing an 8-4 lead Wednesday, A’s manager Bob Melvin said he didn’t regret yanking starter Sean Manaea after five innings. The lefty, making his second career start in the majors, was at just 75 pitches but had given up four runs in the fifth, all with two outs. The Mariners scored twice off Ryan Dull in the sixth, then three more times off Sean Doolittle and John Axford in the seventh to take the lead for good.
[RECAP: Bullpen crumbles, A's swept]
When the A’s went ahead in the fifth, Melvin said that was the final determination to hand things over to his bullpen.
“They’d gotten some good swings off him, it seemed like they were on him at the end,” Melvin said. “Now, potentially we lose our matchups with Dull (if Manaea starts the sixth). We get two righties to start with Dull. If we were behind I was going to let (Manaea) go back out.”
Manaea has allowed eight runs over 10 innings in his first two starts, with nine strikeouts, five walks and two homers allowed.
Making Wednesday’s loss more painful is that Mariners starter Felix Hernandez endured one of his worst starts ever against the A’s. The Seattle ace was gone after four-plus innings, giving up nine hits and getting charged with eight runs (four earned). You have to go way back to May 2006 to find a start where Hernandez went as few as four-plus innings against Oakland.
Thursday’s day off couldn’t come at a better time. The A’s have lost nine of their past 12, and Wednesday marked their 16th game in a row without a break.