ANAHEIM – If it’s getting tough to watch A’s hitters struggle so badly on your television screen, imagine what the view must be like from the dugout.
Hitting coach Chili Davis, like the rest of Oakland’s coaching staff and roster, is looking for answers to help this team shake out of a prolonged offensive slump that has really taken a turn for the ugly this weekend at Angel Stadium.
With Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels, the A’s have been shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since May 30-June 1, 2012. They haven’t crossed home plate a single time over their past 22 innings dating back to Thursday, and they’ve lost three consecutive games to the Angels, who have opened up a four-game lead over Oakland in the American League West.
“You know, they’re fighting. They are,” Davis said inside a silent clubhouse after the game. “I don’t know what you say. I think anything that’s gotta be said, it’s probably gotta come from one of them to each other. We’ve got a whole month left. If this were September 20, I’d be a little more concerned. I mean, I am concerned now. I’m sure they are. But they’re fighting, man.
“One thing I look at, especially on a night like tonight, is you hate to feel like you wasted a pitching performance like (Jeff) Samardzija gave us.”
Samardzija (4-4) went the distance for the A’s, striking out nine and surrendering just four hits. He hit 100 miles per hour on the radar gun with his fastball as late as the eighth inning.
But all the mound heroics in the world can’t compensate for a lineup that has advanced just three runners as far as third base over the past two games. The A’s have generated just 15 hits and three runs in 28 innings so far this series. On Saturday, they were blanked by a committee of eight Angels relievers, with Los Angeles piecing the game together in the rotation spot vacated by injured ace Garrett Richards. The Angels tied the major league record for most pitchers used in a shutout.
Los Angeles is 14-4 over its past 18 games and brimming with confidence at seemingly just the right time. The A’s, meanwhile, are 6-13 over their past 19 contests and searching for answers, as their coldest stretch of the season is coinciding with the Angels’ surge.
“I’m not in anybody else’s head,” said catcher Derek Norris, enduring a 2-for-23 road trip. “But for myself personally, you wanna do so much for the club that when you actually get an opportunity in an RBI situation, you try to hit the ball 900 feet instead of just trying to barrel it. And I think a few guys might be falling into the same (trap) as myself.”
One of those teammates would appear to be Brandon Moss, who went down swinging three times Saturday and has now struck out 36 times in 23 games in August. Moss hasn’t homered since July 24, a span of 97 at-bats, and he has just four RBI in August.
“It’s really not (just) one guy we rely on,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s been a tough time for him. … But I still have a lot of confidence in him. And anybody hitting behind him on a particular day has the ability to produce.”
Sunday marks the final day teams can add players via trade and have them be eligible for the postseason. The A’s have been on the hunt – they reportedly put a claim in on Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar but couldn’t complete a deal. In light of the departure of Yoenis Cespedes in the July 31 trade with Boston, Melvin was asked if he thinks his team has enough offensive weapons.
“We’re pressing,” Melvin said. “We’re not near as good offensively as we’ve been all year. So any time you struggle like that, it’s gonna look like you don’t have enough. But I’m confident in the guys we have, and I think we’re gonna come out of it.”