MILWAUKEE — Players packed their bags and went about their business quietly in the A’s clubhouse Wednesday night following a fifth consecutive loss.
There have been many valleys for Oakland in this season that’s been sabotaged by injuries and wildly inconsistent play. But right now, it’s a perfect storm of adversity that is testing this team’s toughness, focus and resolve more than ever.
The A’s are 3-5 so far during an 11-game stretch that features four opponents with sub-.500 records. This appeared to be a chance for the A’s to make up some ground in the American League West. But not only have they fallen a season-high tying nine games under .500 (25-34), they face the possibility of losing Rich Hill, their best starting pitcher in 2016, to the disabled list with a groin injury.
Hill has been the most reliable constant for the A’s, a 36-year-old veteran who has emerged as one of the league’s best starters and the A’s best All-Star candidate. Losing him for an extended period would be the latest punch to the gut for a rotation that lost Sonny Gray for a recent two-week stretch due to injury, dealt with season-ending elbow injuries to Chris Bassitt and Felix Doubront in April, and is still waiting for Henderson Alvarez to make his debut after prolonged shoulder issues.
The A’s also took the field Wednesday night minus their two most dangerous run producers, Khris Davis and Danny Valencia, and they’ve been without their regular No. 3 hitter, Josh Reddick, for 2 1/2 weeks now because of a fractured thumb.
[INSTANT REPLAY: A's shut out in Milwaukee, drop fifth straight]
With all the injuries, catcher Stephen Vogt acknowledged that the A’s are probably pressing as a group to try to make up for all of their missing impact players.
“I think we’re all guilty of that at times, trying to do more than we’re capable of,” Vogt said. “You could look at how many different lineups we’ve used since Reddick’s been out, and I think that’s just trying to get things going any way we can. I think we have the people in here to do it, it’s just a matter of everybody clicking on all cylinders at the same time.”
The A’s flat-out looked like a defeated team Wednesday night with a toothless offense that mustered just three hits. But manager Bob Melvin said he’s hopeful Valencia can return from a stomach illness Friday at Cincinnati, and that Davis might be recovered enough from a nerve problem in his left hand to play also.
The more troubling long-range problem, and it’s been one all season, is a starting rotation that simply hasn’t been getting the job done beyond Hill. Jesse Hahn gave up four runs on eight hits Wednesday and lasted just 3 2/3 innings. This after his previous start in Houston where he couldn’t make it out of the first. Hahn is 0-3 with a 13.97 ERA on the road, and his ERA sits at 6.49 overall.
“Just a lot of base runners,” Melvin said. “Whether they’re hitting it hard or finding some holes … he’s just got to find a way to stop putting himself in some trouble and have so many guys on base where he has to try to work his way out of every inning.”
The A’s were hoping that Hahn and fellow right-hander Kendall Graveman could take that next step forward in their second seasons as part of Oakland’s rotation. But that duo is a combined 4-10, and Graveman’s ERA is 5.49.
Melvin said Hahn’s main problem is he’s falling behind in too many counts, allowing hitters to sit on his fastball.
“At times, he’s pretty predictable with his fastball in that he’s having a tough time at times with his offspeed stuff,” the manager said. “Now, he’s got a good fastball. It’s got some movement and pretty good velocity. But when you know it’s coming, guys are going to get decent swings off him.”
Said Hahn: “I’ve got to do a better job being more efficient and getting ahead of hitters. As a whole, as a team, we’re not playing the baseball we want to be playing in the last week or so. We’re capable of a lot better ball.”
Hill, scratched from this Saturday’s start after he aggravated his groin injury Wednesday, is getting an MRI on Thursday that should provide an indication of how much time he’ll miss.