OAKLAND – The A’s have dealt with a slumping Brandon Moss before, so there’s no panic in manager Bob Melvin’s mind.
Since May 1, Moss owns a slash line of .151/.267/.329 and 30 strikeouts in 73 at-bats. Moss is on the bench Sunday as the A’s are going with right-handed hitting Nate Freiman against Chicago White Sox southpaw Chris Sale, but Melvin is optimistic that Moss is on the verge of getting hot again.
Moss entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning Saturday and drew a walk. He also nearly ended the game just ahead of Josh Reddick’s walk-off walk with a screaming liner that second baseman Jeff Keppinger had to dive for to delay Chicago’s fate for one more batter.
“Those were some pretty impressive at-bats yesterday,” Melvin said. “He’s down 0-2 both times, fights his way to a walk on the first one and hits a line drive that could’ve won the game on the second one.”
Melvin said it’s hard to let a player work out of his slump and maintain a platoon that can keep a player on the bench for extended periods of time.
“This team was set up with personnel to face lefties and personnel to face righties,” Melvin said. “The difficult part is on our left-handed hitters right now, where they’re not getting consistent ABs to stay on point. But at the end of the day, the group that’s facing the lefties right now is doing pretty well and we’re winning games. It’s up to us to try and mix and match and get some guys at bats to keep ready when we do go into Milwaukee and face three right-handers there.”
Moss is hitting just .167 in 42 at-bats against left-handers this season, but has nonetheless impressed Melvin with his efforts in those situations.
“I bring him in for some of the tougher at-bats of the game and he ends up facing a left-hander all the time,” Melvin said. “He probably feels like he hasn’t faced a right-hander in two weeks.
“For a guy that’s been struggling, he’s getting some tough assignments right now and continues to fight. The results haven’t been there but for me, but I see the fight that he’s putting up.”
Melvin has seen Moss struggle before, but has also watched him carry the offense with tape-measure home runs. That streaky history is what keeps the A’s manager so optimistic that his first-baseman is due to snap out of his slump.
“I always think that he’s going to get out of it. There’s nobody that’s had a more difficult assignment than he has recently. But once he gets back into a groove, he’s a guy that gets hot. And when he gets hot, a lot of it ends up being home runs. He’ll get hot again.”
Sean Doolittle, the A’s one-time top prospect who now serves as one of Melvin's lights-out relievers, doesn’t have to worry about his manager making a knee-jerk reaction to a pair of ugly outings.
A day after Doolittle inherited a 3-1 lead from Dan Straily and promptly allowed the Chicago White Six to tie the game, Bob Melvin reiterated his confidence in his left-handed set-up man.
“I think it’s just a couple outings where some guys ended up getting the barrel on it,” Melvin said, also referring to a shaky performance Wednesday against the San Francisco Giants. “The reason it stands out so much is because of the success that he’s had. We’re just not used to seeing him get hit.”
Over his last two appearances, preceded by a career-high tying 13.1 inning scoreless streak, Doolittle has allowed four runs on six hits and a walk in 2.1 innings. His ERA has jumped from 0.78 to 2.13 in the process.
Melvin believes Doolittle is the type of player who can benefit from adversity.
“It makes you a little tougher,” Melvin said. “It re-energizes you to focus, like he always does, and we still have the same amount of confidence in Sean Doolittle as we ever have.”
It’s Little League Day at the O.co Coliseum Sunday and that means a group of young players get the opportunity to do a lap around the foul territory before the game.
The A’s security team might have to start performing background checks on Little Leaguers after one bold child screamed “You better beat the White Sox” at Melvin during the manager’s pregame session with the media.
For anyone with hopes and dreams of becoming a MLB manager one day, just remember that hecklers come in all shapes, sizes and ages.