Sean Doolittle wants to come back badly, but the A’s won’t rush him, even in a bullpen crisis.
How much do the A’s miss closer Sean Doolittle?
It’s not just that Oakland has blown one-run leads in the ninth inning the last two days and have lost 11 times in their last 15 games with their closer out to see a once firm grasp on the playoffs start to squirm away.
It’s that the A’s whole bullpen works better when he’s around. Over a longer stretch the A’s are 8-19, but the bullpen was holding together when before Doolittle landed on the disabled list with an intercostal (right side) muscle problem.
The A’s were 4-8 in the stretch from Aug. 10 to the time of Doolittle’s injury two weeks later. When he was around, the A’s had a 1.53 ERA in those dozen games. The team was losing, but not because of the bullpen.
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.
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?
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.
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.’’
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.
Drew Pomeranz gave teh A’s a huge lift Wednesday, but they may need his spot on the roster Thursday.
There have been a lot of “thanks, but no thanks’’ moments for the A’s of late.
They sent down reliever Dan Otero last week. when he had a 7-1 record and 2.28 ERA when they needed the roster space.
They told first baseman Nate Freiman they were sending him down Wedendsday because they needed roster space.
And the man Freiman was moved for, Drew Pomeranz, could be facing the same fate Thursday.
Pomeranz isn’t at all likely to stay in the starting rotation, and even after 5.1 innings in which he allowed one unearned run and did more than his share in a 5-4 A’s win over the Astros, it will be three or four days before he could pitch again. Because the rosters expand after Monday’s game, Oakland could send him down and have him back on Tuesday.
Jason Hammel had his best start yet with the A’s Tuesday, but wound up without enough support.
There’s no doubt Jason Hammel hasn’t done as much for the A’s he, or they, would have hoped.
The other side of the coin is that the A’s haven’t done all that much for Hammel, either, including Tuesday when they scored two runs in a 4-2 loss, Hammel allowing just one run in seven innings.
It was the eighth start for the right-hander, acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 4, and in those eight games the A’s have scored 17 runs. That’s barely two runs per game.
If the A’s were somewhere closer to their season average of 4.8 runs per game when he pitches, Hammel’s record might look a little better that 1-5.
Alberto Callaspo no longer the old man on A’s roster. (He’s even changed his number and wears 7 now.)
The idea that the A’s are a young, generally unknown team has lost some of its credence.
Starting with the trade of Addison Russell and Billy McKinney to the Cubs for starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, the A’s have added older, more accomplished players and they don’t strut that young vibe as much anymore.
At the start of the season, 30-year-old infielder Alberto Callaspo was the oldest man on the team (he’s 31 now). Now he’s fourth, with 33-year-old outfielder Jonny Gomes leading the pack.
The A’s haven’t traded for a bunch of codgers – Jon Lester is 30, Samardzija is 29 and Hammel is 31, a week away from turning 32. But they aren’t kids any more.
As manager Bob Melvin said before Tuesday’s game, “we’ve quickly gone from a young team to a veteran team.’’
Change has been the order of the day with the A’s. Six of the 10 starters Melvin fielded for Tuesday’s game with the Astros weren’t on the roster to start the season.
More than that, 11 of the 25 men on the roster weren’t around and active in April. Three of the current five-man starting rotation – Lester, Samardzija and Hammel – came from other organizations.
And maybe that has something to do with the A’s uneven play in August. This is a group just getting to know each other.
The popular belief is that anybody can fit in in the Oakland clubhouse, and while that’s generally true, it’s unlikely everybody can do it overnight.
Josh Reddick hit a two-run homer Monday, but his ninth-inning walk had equal importance.
August hasn’t been terribly kind to the A’s, so when Chris Carter hit a two-run, two-out homer on an 0-2 pitch, an A’s fan could be forgiven for thinking, “here we go again.’’
Then Josh Reddick stepped up against Tony Sipp, the Astros lefty reliever who was brought it because Reddick and the man following him in the Oakland batting order, Eric Sogard, are both left-handed.
Reddick isn’t much for walks, but he worked Sipp for one on a 3-2 pitch. And just like that, the Astros’ momentum was blunted. Sipp is a decent reliever, but all of a sudden he could not find the strike zone. He walked Sogard. And Andy Parrino. And Coco Crisp, driving in a run.
Later in the inning Josh Donaldson and Derek Norris would each drive in two runs. And it all came back to that walk.
Small things can get ignored, but this walk that helped get the A’s to 11-12 this month shouldn’t be one of them.