As good as the A’s pitching was last year, the thing that turned matters around in 2012 was when the offense went from lame to flame.
When the A’s began to hit home runs in bunches last season, they became a team to fear and a team that believed in its own special destiny.
This year, the A’s aren’t waiting until June and July to go in search of the long ball.
Coco Crisp has homered in each of the last four games.
Jed Lowrie has gone deep three times, including twice over the weekend.
And the team as a whole has come up with some big power. On Tuesday, it was a three-run homer by John Jaso and a two-run homer by Brandon Moss that rallied the A’s after they’d blown a 4-0 lead.
Yoenis Cespedes is still limping along with a .179 average, but two of his four hits are bombs, one of them a three-run blast that broke open a close game against Seattle and got Oakland back to .500 after two early losses to the Mariners.
In all, the Mariners have hit three homers in each of their last three games. For the season they have 15 homers, which ties the Yankees for the most in the American League.
It’s just eight games, but the fact that the A’s are out of the gate early in the home run derby suggests they may be in it for the long haul. And that can only be good for Oakland.
PROBLEMS FOR PARKER
Jarrod Parker is used to being able to throw the ball where he wants when he wants.
That’s how he came up with 13 wins last year.
In his first two games this year, that’s been a problem. And it was a problem in spring training, too.
“That’s something I take pride in,’’ Parker said about his ability to throw strikes. And it clearly bothers him that he hasn’t.
Manager Bob Melvin said the Parker he’s seeing right now isn’t the one he’s used to seeing, but Melvin has faith. Parker will continue to get the chance to start and work out his problems as he goes.
“Jarrod was missing, and missing by a wide margin,’’ Melvin said. “That’s not like him. But we’ll continue to send him out there.’’
JASO JACKS ONE
In the first 11 games of the 2012 season in Seattle, John Jaso got just one start. He went 2-for-4 with a triple and an RBI in Game 7, then immediately sat for a week.
Then came Game 12. He crushed a three-run homer. From that point on, he started to get more regular work. By the end of the season he’d gone from third-string catcher to the most consistent hitter on the team.
How consistent? He wound up starting 45 games as the Mariners’ cleanup hitter. And when he had to come off the bench, he averaged .333 as a pinch-hitter.
The A’s don’t need him to bat cleanup. But he’ll have to pinch-hit occasionally. And if you want to know why Oakland traded for Jaso, all you have to do is watch video of his at-bat against Kevin Jepsen of the Angels Tuesday.
With the A’s down 5-4 after having squandered a four-run lead, Jaso went to the plate looking for a fastball. Jepsen gave him one and Jaso lashed it barely over the right field wall for a three-run homer.
“We know what he can do,’’ Melvin said. “He went after the first fastball he saw, and he elevated it.’’
It wasn’t a great night for Chris Young in right field.
He dropped a routine fly ball in the sixth inning, then later in the inning, got a bad break on a Howie Kendrick line drive and saw the ball get past him for a triple in a three-run Angels inning.
“I think he took his eye off that one,’’ Melvin said of the error. “The next one fooled him a bit.’’
Young is a center fielder by trade. On the triple in particular, it was easy to see his lack of right field experience. The line drives between the player and the line tend to fade toward the line, and Young didn’t seem to be ready for that.
He’s a good enough athlete to learn the position, but he’s going to be learning as he goes, and it’s likely some of those lessons will be tough love.