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Could the A’s actually blow the playoffs altogether? Let’s just say they’re making folks more nervous than anyone thought possible

Thanks to an inability to deal with Chris Carter and an offense that continues to sputter, the A’s have fallen six games out of first place with 22 games to go. Simply put, a third straight American League West title suddenly isn’t looking very likely.

What’s really scary, though, is that the A’s have fallen so far so fast since they had a four-game lead in the West on Aug. 9, they’ve actually backed up to the wild card contenders. Seattle is two games behind them, anxiously awaiting that three-game series at Safeco next weekend. Detroit is 2 1/2 back. Kansas City’s record is just a half-game worse than Oakland’s, and could be right there should the Tigers ultimately assume the lead in the A.L. Central.

Let’s just say it: In what seemed inconceivable only a couple of weeks ago, the A’s could be the odd team out altogether after 162 games the way they’re playing. They’ve lost three in a row (all at home), seven of eight, nine of 12, 17 of their last 24. This is not looking good. Brandon Moss is MIA. Josh Donaldson is running on fumes. Coco Crisp was back Friday night, but he just doesn’t look right. Ditto Jed Lowrie. Stephen Vogt is out for the Houston series with bad ankle, and who knows for how long after that. Sean Doolittle isn’t back yet. Neither is John Jaso. Neither is Nick Punto.

Yes, the A’s still have the pitching to turn this thing back around, but because of the lack of offense, the margin for error has been miniscule. Just as Jon Lester paid the price with two solo homers that resulted in a 2-1 loss to Seattle on Wednesday, Jeff Samardzija met the same fate Friday night. This game should have been a cruise for him. He had great stuff, consistently in the 95-99 mph range and terrific command on top of that. The A’s cobbled together three runs in the third inning for a 3-1 lead over Houston. The Astros scratched for a run in the fourth to cut it to 3-2, but the A’s loaded the bases in the bottom half with nobody out and should have put the game away right then and there. In May, they would have. In June, they would have. Now? Craig Gentry hit a one-hopper to third for a force play at the plate. Donaldson followed with an identical one-hopper for a third-to-home-to-first double play. Inning over, no runs.

Two innings later, Carter worked back from an 0-2 count to 3-2, then unloaded on a Samardzija 3-2 97-mph fastball middle away. It was the fourth straight game Carter has homered against the A’s, the seventh time this year (the most ever by an opposing player in one season vs. Oakland). He now has 20 RBIs against his old team out of his 85 total.

Yes, the A’s can take some comfort in the remaining schedule. They play 16 of their final 22 against teams with losing records. They have seven against Texas, including the last four of the year at home. The Mariners, by contrast, have seven left with the Angels, not to mention a brutal 11-game road trip after they host Oakland next weekend. The Tigers and Royals have six against one another, and K.C. finishes with seven on the road.

But schedule doesn’t mean much if you can’t take care of your own business at home against a team like the Astros, significantly improved but still looking at 90 losses. The way they’re playing, even losing teams are a threat to them. Something better change quickly.

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A’s aren’t same as three months ago, but they need to be

Celebrations like this May 27 grand slam from Derek Norris have been hard to come by for the A's lately

Celebrations like this May 27 grand slam from Derek Norris have been hard to come by for the A’s lately

The A’s could get Coco Crisp and John Jaso back this weekend and Sean Doolittle back early next week.

When they do, the A’s will start looking a little more like themselves.

This team is not the team it was at the end of June.

Back then they were trotting out a three-catcher platoon, with Jaso, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt all major contributors. Yoenis Cespedes was in left field. Brandon Moss was at first base.

Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz and Brad Mills were all in the starting rotation.

With such a drastic makeover, it’s small wonder that the A’s aren’t playing like they did in April, May and June.

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Hits with men in scoring position may signal A’s turnaround

Brandon Moss was one of four A's hitters to deliver with a runner in scoring position Tuesday.

Brandon Moss was one of four A’s hitters to deliver with a runner in scoring position Tuesday.

There’s no masking the fact that the A’s lost again Tuesday, their second game of September looking very much like two-thirds of their games in August.

The A’s didn’t score for seven innings, which is the norm of late. But then something happened that was unexpected. They knocked Mariners’ starter James Paxton out of the game and came up with enough big hits to get the winning run to the plate in the ninth before losing, 6-5.

Oakland wound up with four hits with men in scoring position, all of them in the eighth and ninth innings.

Adam Dunn singled with men on first and third in the eighth.

Craig Gentry doubled with man on second and third in the eighth.

Brandon Moss doubled with a man on second in the ninth.

And Sam Fuld doubled with Moss on second in the ninth.

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Sogard still having trouble playing out of position at short

The transition from second to short for Eric Sogard hasn't been smooth.

The transition from second to short for Eric Sogard hasn’t been smooth.

The talk since spring training has been about the A’s depth.

It’s easy to see why Oakland wanted to get players like Craig Gentry and Nick Punto and Sam Fuld into the fold. They can play multiple positions, and when injuries crop up, the A’s would be covered.

Not so much right now, though. Starting shortstop Jed Lowrie is on the disabled list with a broken right finger. His backup, Punto, is on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.

That means second baseman Eric Sogard and minor league callup Andy Parrino have to play short. Sogard, the veteran, gets the bulk of the playing time against right-handed pitchers, but he’s not the player at shortstop that Lowrie is.

Lowrie is not Ozzie Smith. But his defense has been better this year, even if his range isn’t terrific. He can get a ball and start a double play. He makes some errors, but who doesn’t?

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Melvin’s pregame meeting doesn’t seem to help A’s much

Manager Bob Melvin held a pre-game meeting Saturday to loosen the club up, but A's lost 2-0 anyway

Manager Bob Melvin held a pre-game meeting Saturday to loosen the club up, but A’s lost 2-0 anyway

A’s manager Bob Melvin believes in meetings, lots of them.
Pitchers and catchers meet every day. Hitters have a meeting before each series. Sometimes it seems as if here are meetings to schedule meetings.
Melvin is fond of meetings just to make sure everyone is one the right page, and for the most part it works. They are ordinary meetings, expected meetings.
Saturday afternoon, however, he had a meeting of the less frequent kind. The A’s had lost the first two games of the series to the Angels and they’d lost center fielder Coco Crisp to the recurrence of a neck injury in the process.
It was the time for the skipper to step up and say a few words. The A’s had already clinched the first losing month since 2012.
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A losing August almost over, is a better September ahead?

Manager Bob Melvin says a bad August doesn't define his club.

Manager Bob Melvin says a bad August doesn’t define his club.

Win or lose the final two games of the series with the Angels this weekend, the A’s will finish with a losing record in a calendar month for the first time since May, 2012.

Believe it or not, A’s manager Bob Melvin finds some solace in that. Never mind that the A’s are further out of first place heading into Saturday night’s game in Angel Stadium than at any point this year.

“This is the first bad month we’ve had in three years,’’ Melvin said. “Think about that. It’s going to happen to any club.

“You’ve just got to persevere. You have to believe that things are going to turn for us. Because they are.’’

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Reddick, A’s frustrated after Friday night gets away

Josh Reddick couldn't have been more frustrated than he was after failing to get runs home in the sixth inning Friday vs. the Angels.

Josh Reddick couldn’t have been more frustrated than he was after failing to get runs home in the sixth inning Friday vs. the Angels.

When Josh Reddick flew out to left field to end the sixth inning Friday, he slammed his bat down so hard if his name was Jed Clampett he would have struck oil.

Reddick has been on a nice run since coming off the disabled list five weeks ago. Coming into Friday he had a .299 average since July 22 with eight doubles and six homers.

He would have given those extra base hits all away to have come up with a bleeder over the infield in the sixth inning Friday.

Oakland was in a 2-0 hole after Coco Crisp’s valiant try for an over-the-wall theft of a Chris Iannetta had gone for naught. The ball fell out of Crisp’s glove as the center fielder hit the wall so hard he knocked himself out of the game, giving the Angels a 2-0 lead.

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A’s may be in right, but probably won’t get protest upheld

Collision or obstruction? There is an excellent chance that the A’s and the Angels will play down to the final weekend of the season before deciding the American League West.

If that’s the case, I wouldn’t want to be umpire Greg Gibson, whose call against the A’s forced Oakland to play Thursday’s game under protest. If the protest isn’t upheld and the A’s finish one game behind, or even in a tie with, the Angels, Gibson will have had as much impact on the race as any player on either team.

The A’s see it as a potential win denied them, the Angels winning 4-3 in 10 innings. The A’s need all the wins they can get at this time of the season, and being denied one could be the difference between winning the division and advancing to a five-game division series or winning a wild card berth and having to win one game for the right to advance or be eliminated.

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