The A’s have been a rock of consistency to this point in the season, always nipping rough stretches in the bud before they mushroom out of control.
This three-game sweep at the hands of Detroit, capped by Wednesday’s 9-3 loss, had a bit different feel to it however. The A’s had the look of a team that hadn’t quite recovered from the sting of Monday’s walk-off defeat, and as resilient as the A’s have proven to be the past couple of years, losing on a ninth-inning grand slam will have a lingering effect.
Is it time to cue the hand-wringing? It’s already begun judging by the comments I’m seeing on Twitter. Keep in mind that the A’s went 4-4 on their just-completed road trip, and no major league team can be too disappointed with a .500 mark away from home.
But there’s reason for some concern moving forward.
Dropping three in a row to the team that’s had your number in the playoffs the past two seasons can’t be good for the psyche. Simply put, the A’s had better right the ship quick.
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Their next 11 games leading into the All-Star break come against teams that entered Wednesday a combined 28 games over .500. They begin a four-game series Thursday at the Coliseum against American League East-leading Toronto, which swept the A’s north of the border in May. Then comes four games against the cross-bay rival Giants that are sure to be emotionally charged, followed by a three-game series at Safeco Field against the Mariners, who are playing with the energized feel of a team that knows it is in postseason contention.
Will the A’s bats wake up with a return home? Sure, Wednesday’s game spun out of control when Jim Johnson entered in the sixth and allowed five runs on four hits (with two of those runs charged to starter Jesse Chavez). But the most disappointing aspect of the final two games of the Tigers series was the uninspiring at-bats the A’s took.
Astonishingly, the team that leads the majors in walks did not draw a single free pass either Tuesday or Wednesday, and the A’s had just one walk Monday. Detroit’s pitchers deserve a lot of credit for that, but the A’s have made their living this season by grinding out long at-bats and running up pitch counts.
That didn’t happen often enough against the Tigers. On Wednesday, Oakland had 11 hits but struggled mightily in situational at-bats, twice stranding the bases loaded.
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Chavez’s outing also has to be viewed with some concern.
He walked four and lasted just five-plus innings, and over his past two starts, Chavez has walked seven in just 10 innings total. Considering that Sonny Gray has not been particularly sharp over the past month, and given the injury to Drew Pomeranz that has further thinned the A’s rotation depth, it lends credence to the idea that the A’s would be wise to search for starting pitching leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
So if the nervousness is creeping up on you, it’s justified. The A’s go into Wednesday night with a three-game lead over the second-place Los Angeles Angels, who are playing very good baseball. But there’s been trying stretches before over the past two seasons and the two-time division champion A’s have answered the bell.
They’re about to be tested again, and how they respond will go a long way toward determining whether a third A.L. West crown is in store.