OAKLAND – Chris Bassitt’s first reaction was to give the filtered answer when asked if his lack of run support was growing tiresome.
“Yes and no,” the A’s right-hander said, before offering the honest take:
“I mean, it just sucks.”
If that sounds like someone throwing his teammates under the bus, understand that Bassitt is much tougher on his own performance than anyone else’s. He didn’t have his best stuff in Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. But that in itself showed continuing growth from the rookie.
He still found a way to hold down the Rays on another night when Oakland’s offense just couldn’t get it in gear, stranding nine men on base that included the tying runs on second and third in the bottom of the ninth.
As they sputter closer to the finish line, the A’s must draw their positives wherever they can be found. Right now, Bassitt is providing a big one. He’s posted a 2.31 ERA over nine starts, and that drops to 2.18 over six starts since his most recent call-up from the minors. He gave up just one run over 6 2/3 innings Friday, and although that lowered his overall ERA to 2.48, another loss dropped his record to 1-5.
The A’s have provided him one run or less of support in six of his nine starts. But Bassitt credited a couple of his rotation mates for helping him keep his composure on the mound when the margin for error is razor thin.
“Thankfully, Sonny (Gray) is here, Chavy (Jesse Chavez) is here, and they’ve really taught me a lot,” Bassitt said. “(Lack of) runs are going to happen. In the past this would have been completely different, where the offense wasn’t really going and I was gonna try to do a lot more -- hold them to zero, and I end up giving up four or five and walk away even more mad than what I am.”
Bassitt posted his seventh consecutive quality start, even though he struggled to harness his command.
“I pretty much had to bag my curve ball,” he said. “My slider was kinda there. My fastball was kinda there. I was just trying to throw everything down the middle.”
Catcher Josh Phegley, so familiar with Bassitt from their time together with the White Sox, concurred with Bassitt’s assessment that he was “effectively wild.”
“He always seems to kind of zone in. Tonight, he couldn’t really find it,” Phegley said. “But when you’re a hitter, it’s tough to be comfortable in the box when a guy is kind of throwing all over the place.”
The A’s frustrating night included coming up empty with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth. They scored their only run in the ninth, and that came via a check-swing single from Coco Crisp. Then the game ended with the tying and winning runs being stranded at second and third, with Marcus Semien striking out and Billy Burns flying out against Brad Boxberger.
In a sign of how bad things are offensively, Billy Butler – expected to help anchor the middle of the order this season – was penciled at the seventh spot in the lineup and was pinch-hit for in the sixth.
FanGraphs.com released an updated ranking of the game’s top prospects who have yet to make their major league debut, and A’s shortstop Franklin Barreto, currently playing for Single-A Stockton, came in at No. 14. Barreto is sidelined by a wrist injury, and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to return this season. Another of the A’s top prospects, Stockton third baseman Matt Chapman, is drawing closer to a return from his own wrist injury. The A’s have Chapman slotted as one of their participants in the Arizona Fall League.