Update 4: A Bullpen Implosion (May 8 – May 14)

Record: 16-21 (2-5), 5th place in AL West, 9.5 games back of Houston

Today, I’m sitting in front of my computer looking at the AL West standings, seeing that the A’s are 9.5 games back of first place and it’s just mid-May. Some would say that the most complicated mathematical equation is Goncharov’s polylogarithms which is a 17 page expression. I’d say it’s whatever the hell the Oakland A’s front office drew up on their whiteboard to build a sustainable bullpen and a lineup that is apt enough to put up more than two runs a game.

Turns out they still had one more walkoff in them, courtesy of a Jed Lowrie solo homer to right. The rest of the homestand was not too pretty, especially for Jharel Cotton. Cotton was sent down to Triple-A Nashville after giving up seven earned to the Angels’ lineup. Despite the lackluster performance from Cotton, Alonso tacked on another homerun to his season total which is taking everybody by surprise. One of my favorite players to watch this season is Andrew Triggs. It seems that every time he’s taken the mound this year, you can already etch in six innings and no more than three earned runs into the stat book. He did just that in the series finale with the Angels, turning in six innings, one earned and four strikeouts. Surprise, surprise, the Oakland relievers didn’t allow a single walk or run, helping Triggs to his fifth win of the year. Chad Pinder’s two-run home run was all Triggs needed to lift Oakland to its 16th win. A’s take two out of three from the Angels.

The story of the year for the A’s has been how terrible and gut-wrenching the bullpen has been on the road this year. I’m not sure what it is about Globe Life Park in Arlington but that jet stream going into the gaps of left and right-center field seem to be more accentuated whenever the green and gold take the field. The Oakland A’s starting pitchers all turned in three quality starts only to be let down, disappointed, off the hook for a possible win. The Oakland Athletics bullpen was responsible for this sweep by the Texas Rangers and it’s time that manager Bob Melvin start to take some heat for this. “We still like our guys (relievers), it was just a bad series for our bullpen… We used all our best guys and couldn’t come away with a win,” said BoMel. Well hell, BoMel. I could’ve done just as good as Casilla and Ryan Dull out there. You can’t be telling me that this is just a temporary thing. They’ve proved time and time again that they don’t have the stuff or the mental toughness to get out of those late inning jams. Jams? Wait, what jams? Ryan Dull came into relief for Jesse Hahn who just threw seven innings, allowing only one earned. Dull proceeded to hold the Rangers offense off, that is until the ninth inning. Casilla who was in for the save, looked like he had much more confident body language than in the past. But before you knew it, Casilla allowed the first two batters he faced on through two singles and after a Napoli sac-fly, it was all knotted up at 2-2. Another blown save. But Casilla wasn’t done imploding just yet. A moonshot from Texas slugger, Joey Gallo gave the Rangers a walk-off victory for the second straight night. But let’s be honest here, the A’s offense needs to produce more than two runs to allow their pitching staff some more breathing room. Joyce’s two run homer was not enough. A’s lose 5-2. You couldn’t of asked for more from Sonny Gray in just his third start of the year. He stuck it out for five innings and for what took many by surprise, Melvin sent him to the mound for one more inning. That inning was huge in Sonny’s progression back to stardom and towards his normal pitching self. Gray ended his day with 106 pitches in six innings, allowing only two earned. He was in line for the win with his team up 4-2 in the seventh. That is until Ryan Dull toed the rubber, looking for a hold. Dull gave up a four spot which included two walks and three hits while only completing a third of an inning. And just like that, the Rangers seized their opportunity and held control for the rest of the game. Alonso homers again in the A’s 6-5 loss. Another great start from Graveman came in the final game in the Rangers series. Graveman was sent to the showers in the seventh inning after nearly completing the inning. He was responsible for two runners that were left on base. Surely Ryan Madson could be Graveman’s savior and keep the A’s lead in tact? But, no. Right out the gate, Madson served up a big ole meatball right over the heart of the plate for a double to Elvis Andrus. Tie game 4-4. And just one batter later, the tie game was gone after Nomar Mazara knocked in Andrus. Texas sweeps the A’s after a 6-4 win.

At one point in each game of the Texas series, Oakland held a multi-run lead in either the sixth or seventh innings. You could say that the A’s should be a game over .500 right now and in sole position of second place. You need to capitalize on the performances from these starting pitchers, not pull a Sandy Alomar and spit in their faces. The Oakland faithful and its ball club are starting to lose their faith in one another. Good teams don’t allow go-ahead RBIs to Pete Kozma. Who the hell is Pete Kozma? It’s getting tougher and tougher to watch A’s baseball. This fan base doesn’t deserve this roster, this managerial execution and below .500 baseball.

 

Positives:

Sonny Gray: Inching back towards midseason form, Sonny is tacking on higher pitch counts in each outing, and that’s a good thing. In his start against the Rangers this week, Sonny worked himself into a few too many full counts but only gave up a few walks. To get back to being the Sonny we all know and love, he needs to have more stress-free innings. When Gray pitches at ease, there’s nothing more entertaining to watch. Keep on racking up those innings, Sonny. The strikeouts will come… maybe not the run or bullpen support, however.

Matt Joyce: This week, Joyce exhibited what he’s capable of. He ended the series with the Rangers with two home runs and was the only sign of life along with Yonder Alonso.

Yonder Alosno: Speaking of only signs of life, I don’t think Alonso has ever been more alive. The homerun he hit on his birthday a few weeks back must’ve been a sign of good luck for the rest of the year. He’s not pressured into a role of a power hitter like he was in San Diego and like I mentioned in my last article, he’s a lot more comfortable in the batters box. Alonso’s average is currently .297 accompanied by a career high 12 homers. Three of those homeruns coming this week. It’s looking like Alonso will be the only all-star in the A’s lineup this year.

Starting Pitching: The one thing that the A’s can hang their hat on this year is that their starting pitching has exceeded expectations. Andrew Triggs had to claw his way into the rotation and landed a spot in the back end due to injuries. So far this year, Triggs has a 5-2 record, a 2.21 ERA and has pitched 40 and two thirds innings while appearing to be the most confident Athletic whenever he’s on the field. Reliability is what Triggs has brought to the table at a potluck full of lazy bums. Jesse Hahn is a guy who profited through the failures of prospect Raul Alcantra. Hahn this year in six starts has put up a 2.74 ERA in 42 innings and has gone deeper into a game than any other A’s starter. Once, finishing eight shutout innings against the Angels and just this week, pitched seven stellar innings with only one earned. A couple of diamonds in the rough. Kendall Graveman has been no slouch either this year. Sure, he’s come back to earth after his brilliant start to 2017 but he is still putting up quality start after quality start whenever he goes out there. You know you got a shot with Kendall on the bump.

Negatives:

Bullpen: I don’t know if I can be any more clear about how unreliable this bullpen is. It’s time to send Dull and Casilla down to Nashville. They aren’t ready to pitch for a big league team. Casilla looks like a deer caught in the headlights in each outing and appears to always have the thought of another blown save in the back of his head. The only piece that I thought was solid was Ryan Madson and he laid an egg against Texas when in relief for Graveman, blowing his 4-2 lead. Bobby Wahl looks like he’s got some good stuff, throwing in the upper 90s but he’s very hittable with his 1.36 WHIP and ERA in the high 4s.

Khris Davis: KD has fell off the map. Homeruns do come in bunches but to have virtually no hitting from Davis is unacceptable. In these past seven days, Davis has a .050 average (only one hit in 20 at bats).

Hitting with RISP: With runners in scoring position, the A’s have the second worst average (.211). Can’t leave those opportunities out there, especially with our erroneous bullpen and when our lineup can only produce so many runs.

Next Up:

The A’s head up north to Seattle for their first away series against the Mariners. Then the Boston Red Sox and faithful will come to O.Co for a four game series.

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