Scott Kazmir saw energy in the A’s Saturday that had been lacking for a while.
For five weeks, the A’s were performing a number straight out of Jackson Browne, Running On Empty.
They showed up daily at whatever ballpark was on the scheduled, convinced they were playing hard. But something was missing.
That something showed up again Saturday in a 4-3 walkoff win over Houston. The Coliseum crowd could sense it almost from the time Josh Donaldson led off the ninth inning with a single.
The A’s were down 3-1 at the time. In recent weeks, scaling Kilimanjaro was easier for the A’s by far than putting together a ninth-inning rally.
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.
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.’’
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.
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.
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.