OAKLAND –- Usually it’s the opposing pitcher that feels the pressure when a team fills the bases with runners.
Right now, it seems A’s hitters are the ones gripping too tight when they come up to bat in run-scoring opportunities.
The storyline from a 2-1 loss to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night is one that’s played out often this year. Generating base runners is no problem for the A’s. Advancing them that final 90 feet is where they stumble.
Oakland went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, twice failing to score with a runner at third and one out, and squandering a bases-loaded opportunity with two outs on another occasion.
“I think it starts to wear on the team, but it also starts to wear on us individually,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “Quite a few times I’ve come up in (a key) situation and just haven’t had the at-bat that I should have in that situation.”
Vogt was actually the one man to come through in a crucial situation for Oakland against Texas, driving in Ben Zobrist in the bottom of the eighth after Zobrist led the inning off with a double. That cut the deficit to 2-1, but it was the missed chances leading up to that that sent the A’s to their fourth defeat in a row.
[Instant Replay: A's can't spark offense, lose to Rangers]
Vogt, who has been the A’s best hitter but is battling his way through a 2-for-23 stretch, was steamed at himself for a fourth-inning at-bat. With a man on third and one out, he swung at the first pitch and grounded out to second with the infield in. Billy Butler followed with another ground ball to second, and Texas maintained a 1-0 lead.
“You’re not going to execute it every time, but you want to at least know that you gave a quality at-bat, and I did not do that tonight,” Vogt said. “Anytime that starts happening, it’s putting more pressure on your boy behind you. Billy goes up there trying to pick me up, do a little too much, and gets out of his approach maybe.”
Surely Vogt was voicing the frustration his offensive teammates must all be feeling. But he also admitted before the game he’s been pressing individually of late.
Who expected Vogt to be carrying such a big offensive load this season? He was supposed to be a complementary piece to this offense, not the focal point. He’s hit his first rough patch after enjoying a terrific first two months of the regular season, and perhaps he’s feeling a bit too much pressure.
But manager Bob Melvin was referring to his entire team when he responded to a question about the frustration felt when so many opportunities go to waste as they did Tuesday.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of frustration,” Melvin said. “A lot of frustration and a lot of things that are going on with us. Some close games like that, we can’t get a big hit. We’ve lost a lot of one-run games. … (Frustration is) not uncommon. You don’t want to press because of it, but when you don’t come through and you have opportunities, sure it’s frustrating.”
After winning nine of 12 games, the A’s have fallen back into a rut with this four-game losing streak. But Vogt says it’s important for he and his teammates to draw encouragement, knowing they have the ability to rattle off wins.
“Obviously we need to nip this in the backside as soon as we can,” he said. “At the same time, I don’t think anybody’s worried that we’re going to fall back into how atrocious we were playing earlier in the year.”