OAKLAND — At least the schedule is doing the A’s a favor, even if it seems all else is coming up snake eyes in their world.
After another sad showing offensively in Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels, the A’s get a day off Monday, a chance to hit the mental reboot button.
Is it ever needed.
A combination of poor hitting, inconsistent pitching and continuing tough luck on the injury front has done the A’s in lately, to the tune of a 4-12 record in June and a 15-29 mark since the start of May.
A look at the standings shows the slippery slope the A’s have been on. On June 1, they wrapped up a five-game winning streak and sat just 6 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West. From that point forward, they’ve gone 3-12 and lost 9 1/2 games in the standings over a span of just 15 games, which is how they’ve gotten to their current 16 1/2-game deficit.
On Sunday, the story was the continued deep freeze their offense has been in. The A’s have scored just five runs over their past four games. They’ve been held to one or fewer runs six times over the past 11 contests. They managed just three hits Sunday off soft-tossing Jered Weaver, who entered the game with a 5.71 ERA and having been shelled for six runs by the Yankees in his previous start.
He struck out just one but had the A’s off-balance all day. They generated little in the way of hard contact and didn’t advance a single runner past first base.
“Today was frustrating,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “I think up and down the lineup, myself included, we didn’t make him work today. He was very, very good, but we didn’t help matters. We didn’t make him work.
“He’s the kind of guy that feeds off aggression, and a guy like him every pitch looks like you can hammer it, and it’s just not the case. He stays off the middle of the plate and so we expanded — a lot. We got ourselves out on 1- and 2-pitch at-bats a lot.”
Weaver’s fastball consistently sat at just 83-84 miles per hour, but the veteran showed that savvy and command can off-set what a pitcher loses in velocity. The postgame comments coming from the A’s side were a familiar theme from the day before, as manager Bob Melvin criticized his team’s collective approach at the plate.
“The guy throws a three-hit shutout, you gotta give him some credit,” Melvin said. “But I thought our at-bats were pretty poor and stayed pretty consistent as the game went along. Once you’ve faced him once or twice, you know exactly how hard he’s throwing. At some point in time, we should be on to that. Certainly give some credit to the way he pitched, but I thought our at-bats were consistently disappointing.”
On a day the A’s got bad news on starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez’s shoulder injury, they at least got an encouraging performance from left-hander Eric Surkamp, who tied the longest start of his career by going six innings and allowing just two runs.
Alvarez was expected to make his A’s debut this week during a four-game series in Anaheim against the Angels. But he suffered a setback with his shoulder in Saturday’s rehab start with Triple-A Nashville. Surkamp, who entered the day having allowed 14 earned runs in just 9 2/3 innings over his past three big league starts, had seemed to run out of his chances to remain in Oakland’s rotation.
Until Rich Hill and/or Sean Manaea return from the disabled list, it seems like he’ll be needed. And Surkamp responded Sunday with his best major league start of the season.
“Up here you can’t be working on stuff,” Surkamp said. “You’ve just gotta get out there and compete, kind of take your mind out of it almost. Almost pitch stupid out there, I guess. I guess (just) get out of my own way with my head and let your athleticism take over and throw the ball.”