The stopper was on the mound Sunday night, and still the A’s losing streak didn’t stop.
The search continues, therefore, as the A’s try to apply the breaks to their season-long five-game skid. Even Jon Lester showed he’s not immune to the problems, serving up two home runs and taking the defeat in a 4-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
[RECAP: Lester, A's unable to contain Braves]
This is the type of stretch the A’s weren’t supposed to be susceptible to, right? Equipped with perhaps the top starting rotation in all of the majors, they trot a potentially dominant pitcher to the mound four times out of every five games.
But each of their big four – Lester, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija -- has taken a loss in their most recent turn through the rotation. It proves a couple things: 1) These guys can be vulnerable just like all starting pitchers, and 2) even if they’re dealing, you gotta squeeze out at least a little bit of scoring to take advantage of that pitching.
The A’s have now been held to three runs or fewer in 14 of their past 18 games, and they’re 7-10 since the trade that sent left fielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox in exchange for Lester and Jonny Gomes. And whether that deal and the current struggles are strongly related, semi-related or purely coincidental, the timing of this slide assures that it remains a discussion point.
For much of this season, A’s hitters have dictated things from the batter’s box. They grind out at-bats and work deep into counts, testing a pitcher’s patience until he makes a mistake.
But now, doesn’t it feel like A’s hitters are already facing an 0-1 count before they even dig in?
If there’s a sliver of good news for Oakland, it can be found in Monday’s day off. Sunday marked the end of 17 consecutive games without a breather. And now the A’s will rest Monday, welcome the New York Mets (59-66) for a two-game series, then take another day off Thursday before welcoming in the Los Angeles Angels next weekend in a battle of the teams currently tied atop the AL West.
But it’s not even just a two-team discussion anymore, as the Seattle Mariners are 11 games over .500 and have climbed to within 5 ½ games of first place. They would be the second wild card team if the season ended right now.
The A’s and Mariners have six head-to-head games left, three in Oakland and three in Seattle. The A’s and Angels have 10 games remaining – six in Oakland and four in Anaheim.
The first of those series takes place next weekend at the Coliseum, but surely the A’s won’t be looking ahead. Two games against the Mets prove challenging enough for a team that’s currently lost its way.
The A’s can take no opponent for granted, regardless of whose turn it is in the starting rotation.