OAKLAND – A’s third baseman Max Muncy answered all the questions that came his way about his sixth-inning error that helped turned the tide in the Royals’ favor Sunday.
That was an individual breakdown, and Muncy took accountability for it. Then the rookie spoke frankly about his team’s struggles after a deflating sweep at the hands of Kansas City.
“One of the toughest things about is we were getting a lot of momentum going, playing really good ball lately, and then this happens, against a team like that, that we’ve got a little bit of history with,” Muncy said.
The A’s continued their ragged, start-and-stop pace to this season by dropping three in a row to the Royals, on the heels of a five-game winning streak that understandably led to so much anticipation for this weekend series.
The A’s went to great lengths to distance themselves from a controversial April series at Kansas City, where tensions boiled over between the teams and a rivalry was renewed after last fall’s Wild Card game. Manager Bob Melvin and those players who were asked about it said all the drama was in the rear-view mirror, and that the emotions from that series didn’t carry over into this weekend.
From the standpoint that a team should be concentrating more on playing baseball than feuding, it was a healthy outlook. But there was no denying that A’s-Royals Part II had a little extra intensity to it based on past events. You could feel that from the Coliseum crowd all weekend. This wasn’t just another series.
The fact that the Royals brought the AL’s best record into Oakland added to the magnitude of it. It was a chance for the A’s to further place the stamp of legitimacy on their recent stretch of improved play.
Instead, the offense that looked so dynamic over the past couple of weeks went flat. The A’s entered Friday having averaged just under seven runs over their previous 11 games. But they simply didn’t come through with the big hits when they needed them, scoring just seven runs total in the three-game series.
For all the talk about the Royals’ vaunted bullpen, it was Kansas City’s starting pitching that really held the A’s down. Oakland mustered just five runs (four earned) in 19 combined innings off starters Edinson Volquez, Chris Young and Jeremy Guthrie. Volquez and Young have been tough on most opponents this season. But Guthrie entered Sunday with a 5.90 ERA and seemed vulnerable.
“The first two starters I thought threw the ball well,” Melvin said. “I think we had some opportunities with Guthrie today. We got his pitch count up. He didn’t look to be as sharp as the first two starters we saw. Then when you get in their bullpen and they have a lead, everybody has a tough time with it.”
Muncy’s error was a costly one in the sixth. With the A’s up 2-0 and runners on the corners and one out, he charged in to field Salvador Perez’s bouncer and tried to cut down Mike Moustakas at home but threw high, allowing the run to score and runners to advance. Alex Rios’ sacrifice fly tied it and Omar Infante’s RBI single put Kansas City ahead for good, 3-2.
“I thought I made the right play, I just rushed myself and made a bad throw,” Muncy said.
Melvin agreed that throwing home was the smart call.
Then the A’s had a prime opportunity to tie the game in the seventh but couldn’t push a run across with a runner at third and one out.
Afterward, Melvin said there was no issue with his team’s intensity or focus in the series.
“We don’t just all of a sudden after five games lose our intensity and our focus,” he said. “We just got beat. They played better than we did.”
Though Muncy acknowledged the history with the Royals added a bit of sting to the weekend, he also saw the bigger picture.
“More frustrating is the fact that we had good momentum going as a team and were playing really good ball” before the weekend.
Melvin talked before the game of the need for the A’s to play better at the Coliseum. The A’s are an AL-worst 14-23 at home, a main reason they’re mired in last place in the AL West, 10 games behind division-leading Houston.
They’ll welcome Colorado on Monday, looking to erase the weekend’s bitter memories and once again rediscover the momentum that’s proving so elusive this season.