Update 3: A Terrible Road-Trip Sweetened by a Couple of Walk-Offs (April 24 – May 7)

Record: 14-17 (4-9), 4th place in AL West, 6.5 games back of Houston

Listen, the A’s are making it really hard for me to bash them on their abysmal nine-game road stand they had to conclude their month of April after those 2012 season-like back-to-back walk-offs against Detroit.

Oakland faced the Angels and Astros for two series on their road trip. The A’s desperately needed to win at least half of those games in the series for it was a great opportunity  to make up some ground and stay in contention in the early portion of the season. But, instead they ended up shooting themselves in the foot.

In game one of the Angels series you could not of ask for more from righty Jesse Hahn. He pitched eight dazzling shutout innings, allowing only one hit and two walks. This starting pitching staff is doing much more than expected and it’s time for the lineup to pickup their end of the bargain. And of course, Santiago Casilla, the game blower, was right on cue, tensing up and blowing a save after a heroic go-ahead pinch-hit Josh Phegley solo homer in the top of the tenth. A’s drop game one 2-1. Game two gave the A’s another great opportunity to utilize the MLB’s new toy this year: the 10-day DL. Manaea left the game with some shoulder discomfort in the third inning – no timetable on his return. In his brief outing, Manaea gave up three earned runs and the bullpen collapsed as well. Specifically Ryan Dull. Fast forward to now – it seems that every time there’s a tie game, Dull trots to the mound and craps an egg each and every opportunity he gets. A’s lose game two 8-5. Our ace 2.0, Kendall Graveman pitched in the series finale. Surely he could salvage game three and give the A’s something to hold their head high about going into the red-hot Houston Astros series. Right……? No. Well, sort of. Graveman put forth another quality outing for the Athletics (6 IP, 2 ER and a helluva unassisted double play) but again, the run support became an issue and vacated him. Oakland again could muster up only one run off of an Alonso single. A’s get swept by the Angels of Anaheim after another 2-1 loss.

Khris Davis’ two-homer game in the ‘Stros series opener was not enough motivation for the A’s dugout or pitching staff for that matter. A’s lose 9-4 after Jharel Cotton served up ten hits accompanied by three errors from the Oakland infield. Andrew Triggs earned his fourth win of the year in another great start, going seven innings and striking out nine. Triggs was helped with another Davis homer (back-to-back games) and a Lowrie solo-shot. Casilla also notched his fourth save of the year. Get Triggy with it, Oakland. A’s take game two, 2-1. In the rubber match, I’d say Hahn pitched well for being a back-of-the-rotation guy. Jesse went six innings, allowing four runs, three of them earned. Flamethrower Frankie Montas threw the possibility of an A’s comeback out the window after serving a meatball to Marwin Gonzalez for a three-run homer. However, the A’s did strike for a run in the eighth with a Chad Pinder RBI single. Pinder has taken the call-up opportunity and ran with it. I really like what I’ve been seeing from the 25-year-old utility man. A’s lose 7-2.

He’s baaaAAAack. Sonny Gray, that is. Despite the fact that the A’s lost the opener against Minnesota in a 9-1 blowout, it’s great to have our ace back on the mound. In his outing, Sonny’s pitches were sharp, his curveball and slider both breaking and looking like the Sonny repertoire of old. His fastball maintained a steady velocity of between 92-94, touching 95 occasionally throughout the course of the ball game. Gray left some pitches up in the zone which were gobbled up for three home runs, one coming off the bat of the cuban slugger, Miguel Sano. Sonny finished the game with 88 pitches over six innings. Cesar Valdez came into relief for Gray and like his outing in Los Angeles, it was not pretty. In just one inning of work, Valdez gave up another three home runs. The A’s were able to tack on one measly run thanks to a Yonder Alonso homer. Alonso would take his bat and his power-hitting ju-ju into the rest of the week. A’s lose 9-1. Graveman toed the rubber for game two. Before this game, Graveman had allowed only five walks in his first four starts of the year. Kendall Graveman, you are now entering the Twilight Zone. He only pitched into the fourth inning while putting four runners on base via the walk in the process.  Graveman would see his ERA skyrocket after opening up the flood gates for six earned runs. The A’s would try to keep it close with a pair of doubles from Pinder and Matt Joyce and another Alonso big fly. Oakland and Jharel Cotton bounced back in game three. Cotton put up a quality start of six innings with three runs, two earned. Montas then proceeded to try to waste Cotton’s performance by serving up a two-run home run. Offensively, the A’s bats woke up from their deep slumber and struck for three doubles, a home run from the recently slumping Healy and a triple from none other than Stephen Vogt. Casilla closing games in the ninth is always nerve-racking to watch. Like standing on pins and needles. Casilla was able to load the bases with two walks and a hit by pitch before finally getting the monster Sano to go down swinging. A’s win 8-5.

You could say that Triggs was due for a poor outing after his amazing start to the 2017 season. Although he was not aided by two errors from Plouffe and Rosales, Triggs ended his day with five runs, three earned and five and a thirds innings pitched. The only runs, and you guessed it, came off of an Alonso two-RBI double. A’s lose 7-2. Now I get to the fun part of A’s baseball. After Montas came into the dugout once he concluded a scoreless top of the ninth, he was greeted by teammates saying, “We’re gonna get you your first major league win.” And who better to do it than Adam Rosales. I was in the rain at my local junior college on my nightly run listening to Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo call the bottom of the ninth. Already two outs in the inning, Bruce Maxwell worked a full count, A’s down to their final strike. Surely he was going to strike out on a ball in the dirt or swing at something eight inches outside the zone. But no, he gets a walk and we have the tying run on base. Maxwell isn’t the fastest guy but Melvin’s got no one in the dugout who can run. With no hesitation, Matt Joyce swings at a first pitch fastball and belts it down the right field line but Maxwell’s legs aren’t fast enough to pedal his way home. Runners on second and third, two-out rally still alive. The spark plug of the A’s lineup, Adam Rosales steps into the batters box and on a 0-1 count, singles to left field to knock in the tying and winning run in the bottom of the ninth. A’s win in dramatic walk-off fashion 6-5. End Scene. Side note: Alonso had the first two home run game of his career.

Next scene. Heralded closer Francisco Rodriguez makes his way to the mound looking to recuperate after a blown save last night. Tigers lead 6-5. Speedster Rajai Davis starts off the bottom of the ninth by working his way on base via a full-count walk. Jed Lowire lines one into the left-center alley and doubles home Rajai. TNT by ACDC is cued over the PA system and the Oakland faithful are on their feet. Tie game 6-6. We’ve got something cooking. After a Khris Davis line out, Ryon Healy is up to hit, much needing to get something to cheer about after his defensive struggles as of late. And he did just that. Healy popped a ball up to high left field, looking like a routing fly out but the Oakland wind kept carrying his ball into the left field bleachers. Healy celebrated is way to home plate and was trounced by his teammates. The only worries he has is getting lemon-meringue pie out of his nostrils and about the seagull he almost hit with his moonshot after the two-run walk off blast. A’s win 8-6. Side note: Alonso went deep again today.

So since my last article, the A’s have swapped a winning streak for a couple of losing streaks and then redeemed themselves with back-to-back walk offs to end the first month of May.

Positives:

Yonder Alonso: The most home runs Alonso has hit in a single season is nine. He’s at eight already, and it’s the seventh of May. Four of those home runs came this past week. Yonder has hit for a .421 average while knocking in eight RBI’s over the past seven days. Yonder looks so much more comfortable and relaxed at the plate than he did last year, he’s really coming into his own in 2017. I guess I’d feel good about myself too if I had a .311 batting average.

Ryon Healy: Healy has been pretty hit and miss this season, never really able to find his rhythm. It’s possible, and probably is due to his playing time in the field compared to his time spent in the DH position. You can tell in his body language and certainly in his postgame interview after his walk-off homer that it’s affecting his psyche. Hopefully the two-run homer will be a reversal of fortunes for the promising youngster. We can’t do it without him.

Chad Pinder: As I mentioned earlier, Pinder has been turning some head in the A’s clubhouse. Currently sporting a .308 average, Pinder doesn’t look at the scoreboard and clock out when he got up to the plate in blowout games. He’s take advantage of his time spent in the lineup and making it obvious he’s not wanting to go back down to Nashville. He looks like a real gritty player out there too, almost Dustin Predoia-like. I like his animosity and I look forward to seeing how and how much Melvin chooses to utilize him.

Sonny Gray: He may not be performing like he did a couple years ago but by the end of May, I expect Sonny to be back to regular mid-season form. You’ve got to admit, whenever Sonny takes the mound, it’s something all A’s fans can get excited about. Glad to have you back Sonny and keep the curveballs down.

Andrew Triggs: Forget his last start. Triggs has been absolutely dominant this year. His demeanor on the mound and his confident charisma really show whenever he’s on the bump. After he strikes someone out, he’s got a little strut he does and is like, “Yeah I sent your ass down on three pitches. And I’ll do it again.” You could argue that with Graveman, Triggs and Gray once he’s back to normal, the Oakland A’s have the best top-three starters in the AL West and Hahn’s no slouch either. Triggs this year posts a 2.34 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.

Negatives:

In my last article I was just talking about how the A’s have improved their sloppiness on defense. Well, they’ve reverted to old habits with several multi-error games that automatically hand-cuff their pitchers from the get-go and eliminate any possibility of a comeback. Over the past 12 games, Oakland has had 13 errors and has 28 for the whole year. With the amount of run production (or lack thereof) from the Oakland lineup, we can’t afford to be giving opposing teams free runs.

Bullpen: It’s always the bullpen… Montas, Dull and Casilla need to get their act together. Altogether, Oakland’s relievers have a 4.60 ERA and the only reliable arm for BoMel has been Ryan Madson although Casilla seems to be Melvin’s go-to in the ninth.

Next Up:

The A’s with their late-inning heroics will host the Angels in a three-game series for the second time this year and will then leave for a six-game AL West road trip, facing Texas and Seattle.

 

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