LOS ANGELES -– Earning a series split on the road against a first-place team is a respectable accomplishment.
However, the A’s knew they could have had more following a 10-7 defeat to the Dodgers, in which the home team erased Oakland’s three-run lead that was built with the A’s mounting their own comeback in the first place.
This is a team trying to forge an identity in the wake of trading Scott Kazmir, Tyler Clippard and Ben Zobrist in recent days. Had they pulled off the two-game sweep, and had the bullpen slammed the door in the first game when it mattered without Clippard, surely it would have instilled a surge of confidence, and that counts for something even for a team that has fallen out of contention.
The A’s bullpen had been performing quite well of late, posting a 2.80 ERA since the All-Star break. In its previous outing, four relievers combined for 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Giants. Things took a sour turn Wednesday, starting with the two walks issued by Fernando Rodriguez over a four-batter span in the bottom of the seventh after the A’s had commanded a 6-3 lead.
“Sometimes it’s better to throw a ball right down the middle and it’s a line drive or a ground ball through the hole or something,” Rodriguez said. “But walks always kill you. They always come back to bite you. Unfortunately it happened tonight.”
Three consecutive hits followed in the seventh off Drew Pomeranz that brought home three runs. Lefties came in hitting .141 off Pomeranz. When Adrian Gonzalez doubled home the Dodgers’ first run in the seventh, it accounted for the first extra-base hit off Pomeranz by a lefty all year.
“Usually you don’t see his curve ball get hit whether it’s up or down in the zone,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But he’s throwing the ball over the plate. If you hit him, you hit him. It’s when we’re walking guys and putting guys on when we have a lead that really hurts.”
But as these final two-plus months unfold, the final scores won’t always be the most important thing given where this team is. Brett Lawrie’s career-best four-hit night Wednesday, and his four RBI, were important for a player who suddenly becomes a more prominent figure in the lineup with Ben Zobrist having been traded.
“He just had great at-bats,” Melvin said.
Lawrie, who crushed a mammoth homer over the center field wall in the ninth, has a chance to really establish himself as one of the A’s foundation pieces in the middle of the lineup.
Josh Reddick’s 3-for-5 night improved his average to .292, encouraging stuff from a player who has never hit higher than .264 as an everyday (or close to everyday) player in the majors.
By the end of this season, the A’s should have a much better idea of whether Reddick and Lawrie are two hitters who can really help anchor this lineup, and that will be important in designing an offseason strategy.
Wednesday ended in disappointment for the A’s. Surely lots of games will until they hit the finish line, given the talent they’ve dealt away. But the subtle, individual storylines that develop within each game will be just as important in the big picture.