ARLINGTON, Texas -– The tone in Bob Melvin’s voice said it all Thursday night.
It wasn’t Adrian Beltre’s walk-off home run that stuck in the craw of the A’s manager after a 2-1 defeat to the Texas Rangers. Watching Oakland hitters perform so feebly for so long gets to be an exasperating practice –- for the fan base as well as for the man running the show in the dugout.
“We just offensively aren’t doing our job right now,” Melvin said inside his office at Globe Life Park. “We have to find a way. That’s a game we’ve got to find a way to win.”
It wound up being yet another game the A’s found a way to lose, their seventh defeat in the past 10 days. Were the A’s playing even .500 ball down the stretch, knocking around opposing pitchers who should be knocked around, you’d say this is a team that has potential to do some damage in the postseason.
[STIGLICH: Beltre hits walk-off, A's lose to Rangers]
As it is, the A’s are just making awkward stabs at nailing down one of two American League Wild Card berths. Their magic number to clinch a spot remains two after the Seattle Mariners beat Toronto on Thursday.
The A’s can still do it Friday if they win and the Mariners lose. Or, they can take matters in their own hands and simply win two of their remaining three games against Texas in this regular-season closing series.
Hosting the Wild Card? Chances look slim.
The A’s need to win their final three games and have the Kansas City Royals -– currently the No. 1 Wild Card -– lose two out of their three. Or, the A’s need to win two out of three and have the Royals lose the next three.
In other words, if the A’s get in, there’s a very strong likelihood they’ll be heading to Kansas City for Tuesday’s one-game wild card play-in.
[STIGLICH: Moss' hip injury might require offseason surgery]
But somehow, the mere discussion of postseason scenarios just seems out of place with this team right now. Oakland is 27-37 since the All-Star break. The A’s are 14-29 since Aug. 10, when they led the AL West by four games, and a league-worst 8-19 dating back to Aug. 28.
Rather than playing with the edge of a team eyeing a playoff berth, the A’s -– at least in the batter’s box -– look like a team in a daze.
Thursday’s series opener marked the 10th time in the past 26 games that they’ve been held to one run or less. The A’s went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10, allowing Rangers starter Colby Lewis to navigate through seven innings of one-run ball despite issuing five walks.
The A’s only run came when Geovany Soto laid down a successful squeeze bunt in the top of the sixth. The Rangers, who have won 12 of their past 13, tied it on Elvis Andrus’ RBI single in the sixth and won it when Beltre hit an opposite-field walkoff shot off Luke Gregerson in the bottom of the ninth.
“We had too many opportunities not to score more than one run on a squeeze,” Melvin said. “We have some guys in the middle of the lineup with some numbers, and we gotta drive some runs in. We’re not doing it.”
Cleanup man Adam Dunn’s struggles were especially glaring Thursday. He went down swinging in the first with two men on (Brandon Moss followed with his own inning-ending strikeout). Then in the fifth, after Josh Donaldson was intentionally walked to load the bases, Dunn swung at the first pitch and hit a weak grounder to first.
The veteran slugger, looking for his first career trip to the postseason, has just eight RBI in 21 games (13 starts) since being acquired Aug. 31 from the White Sox.
“I know my job is to drive in runs,” Dunn said, “and I’m obviously not doing that and it’s killing us.”
Can he point to reason why the offense is struggling so bad as a group?
“I think if we knew that, we wouldn’t be stuck where we’re at,” Dunn said.
Runs are extremely tough to come by for the A’s.
So are answers.