If you watched Monday’s 5-4 A’s loss to the White Sox, you certainly don’t need a recount of yet another devastating loss for Oakland.
Here’s some thoughts on what’s transpiring with this team as it tries to find some way, any way, to put the breaks on a slide that seems to get worse by the day:
The A’s put up four runs against Chicago, and given their trouble mustering offense lately, that’s a pretty good night. Certainly it’s been good enough for them to win many nights this season. But even in games where they break through for a decent showing on the scoreboard, they could make things so much easier on themselves with a little more execution.
After manufacturing a run to command a 4-3 lead in the top of the eighth, the A’s were primed to add on in the ninth and really go for the jugular. But they left the door cracked for the home team, failing to take advantage of Derek Norris’ leadoff triple that inning. Josh Reddick grounded to first, then after Jed Lowrie was intentionally walked, Nate Freiman grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Without the added cushion, temporary closer Eric O’Flaherty couldn’t shut the door in the bottom of the ninth as Tyler Flowers delivered the tying homer, which wound up being a warm-up act for his walk-off blast in the 12th off Jesse Chavez. Until regular closer Sean Doolittle comes off the disabled list, the A’s need to find a way to give themselves some breathing room when the situation presents itself, plain and simple.
And it wouldn’t hurt to get the offense cranking earlier in the game either. Monday marked the eighth time in the past 12 games that the A’s have been held scoreless through at least the first four innings.
Another revealing stat: The A’s have grounded into 14 double plays in their past 12 games.
Doolittle threw off the mound before Monday’s game. He’s scheduled to face hitters Wednesday, and if all goes well, Friday seems a likely day for his return from the D.L. Until then, who’s the A’s best option for closing games?
Perhaps manager Bob Melvin throws O’Flaherty right back into the fire in the next save situation. Or perhaps he turns to Luke Gregerson, who was part of the A’s closer-by-committee approach earlier this season after Jim Johnson faltered, or lefty Fernando Abad, who has enjoyed a terrific first season with Oakland but has never notched a big league save. Over the past few weeks, the closer position has seemed the least of the A’s problems, but until Doolittle returns, it’s a dicey situation at the back end of the bullpen.
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Sonny Gray wound up with a quality start Monday – seven innings, three runs (two earned). Overall, it was a nice body of work. But the 24-year-old right-hander has yet to shake his early-game struggles, and he admitted afterward he needs to find the solution.
“It’s obviously something we’ve got to get better at,” Gray said. “We’re still working at it. It’s been like that kind of all year. I think I’ve just got to get into the flow of the game a little bit better.”
Gray issued two walks to start the first and gave up two runs that inning, though he didn’t get much help from his defense. He settled down after that and got an inning-ending double play to strand bases loaded in the fourth.
He gave up Conor Gillaspie’s home run in the sixth that tied it 3-3, but said he was happy with the pitch that he made.
“Lately it’s been going against me,” said Gray, who came in with a 5.84 ERA over his previous six starts. “So it was nice tonight to get out of some big jams -- I haven’t done that lately – and give us a chance to win.”
As a team, the A’s have gotten their chances to win. Finishing off a victory has been much tougher.