Update 5: A’s Break Out the Bats (May 15 – May 21)

Record: 20-24 (4-3), 4th place in AL West, 9 games back of Houston

With the Rangers surging up in the standings with their 10 game win streak and Houston soaring high, it was obligatory of Melvin and Co. to pick up the pace a little bit.

Time flies when you’re playing mediocre baseball, we’re already a quarter of the way through the season (44 games played by the Oakland Athletics) and the A’s are not on pace to meet their season ending goal set by me: play  a little above .500 ball.

In order to meet that goal, you gotta beat up on teams in the cellar of your division. Dropping two out of three to the last place Mariners is absolutely unacceptable. They’ve made it obvious; the Oakland A’s are a totally different (terrible) team away from their comforts at home. Here’s the splits:

Home: 14-9

Road: 6-15

On the road, the A’s pitching staff gives up an average of five runs a game.

To start the week, the “Baby Giraffe”, Sean Manaea had another five inning start *surprise, surprise*, walked five batters  *surprise, surprise* and gave up four earned runs in the A’s 6-5 loss to the M’s. The A’ did rally however with a couple of Stephen Vogt and Khris Davis homers only to be let down by a bullpen appearance from Liam Hendriks who let up a two-run bomb. Liam Hendriks is also the guy who’s been quoted by A’s pre/postgame host Brodie Brazil by saying in response to his mindset on the mound, “I’m going to embarrass his (batter’s) family.” That’s problematic, Liam. In your past two relief outings, you’ve given up three runs. Triggs pitched in game two and put up another solid six innings for Manager Bob Melvin, only allowing one run. Triggs left the game with a 4-1 lead and was in line for the win but Ryan Dull and the rest of the bullpen was right on cue. Dull: two runs, Coulombe: one run, Madson: one run (with the blown save) and Casilla with a run to cap it off. Despite the bullpen collapse, the A’s won this game 9-6 in dramatic fashion. Oakland put up a five spot in the top of the ninth after trailing 5-4. Matt Joyce put the A’s up with a two run, go-ahead homer and Mark Canha shortly followed with a two-run bomb himself. Canha must have had a revelation down in Music City playing for the Sounds because since his time back up, Mark has been tearing the cover off the ball. The Mariners and no-name Christian Bergman shut down the A’s offensively in the last game of the series, holding Oakland to two hits in a shutout.

The Boston series took many, including me by surprise. Especially after the A’s were outscored 40-19 by the Red Sox last year. In probably the A’s best game all year, Sonny Gray shined despite letting up a two-run homer to Mitch Moreland. Moreland always kicks the A’s ass. He’s taken Sonny yard four times and has a career batting average of .300 against the Oakland ace. Gray threw 103 pitches over six innings and racked a season high eight K’s while earning his first win of the year. Sonny got a lot of support from the Oakland lineup for once, exiting the game with eight runs of support. Two of those runs coming off the bat of up and coming Oakland sensation Chad Pinder. There’s something about Pinder I like. Scratch something – there’s a lot I like about Pinder. One of those things being that he kinda looks like Christian Laettner but he isn’t an asshole. Pinder grinds out there on the field. Keep in mind when watching these A’s games that Pinder is not a right fielder but he’s very expendable, very Brock Holt-like. You put him anywhere, Pinder works his tail off, trying to earn his stripes in the Bigs. I’m calling it now, folks: Pinder is the next big face of the Oakland Athletics franchise. He displays a lot of pop in his bat (as you’ll see later), he’s a scrapper and whenever he comes up to bat or there’s a liner to right field, I’ve got my eyes glued to the TV screen, wondering what the youngster will do this time. I cannot be any higher on Pinder than I am now. If I could describe him in word it’d be: GRITTY. He’s the FUTURE. Keep doin’ your thing Pinder, green collar baseball is loving it. But anyways, Plouffe had a solid day with an RBI double and Davis is starting to enter a slugging streak again with another homerun in game one. A’s win 8-3 as the bullpen doesn’t allow a single run. In game two of the four game series, Graveman had another quality outing of six innings and two runs coming off of a – you guessed it – a Mitch Moreland homerun ball. But the A’s were able to oust the BoSox again in the run and hit category, putting up three on the day and one big run in extras. After a Khris Davis RBI double in the 6th, there wasn’t any scoring on either end till Mark Canha grabbed a bat in the bottom of the 10th. Already with a two-hit game, including a double and a RBI triple, Canha walked off the A’s with a line drive, rocket over the left field wall, sending the A’s faithful home happy. He ended the day a single short of hitting for the cycle. Game three of the series would decide if this was a successful homestand for the Athletics. Luckily for Manaea, there was a plethora of run support again and his five inning start was enough for the win. After Boston got out to a quick 2-0 lead in the second, the A’s bats were quick to change that and with a couple of hits, walks and a throwing error from the Boston catcher it was all knotted up. This was the first time all year I’ve had confidence when watching the A’s down on the scoreboard. Everytime this team takes the field at home, there’s an aura of confidence, believing that they’re going to take away a win from the opposing team when leaving the ballpark. The 5th inning was a doozy for the Red Sox. The inning consisted of three homers, each one going further than the last. The first by Canha, then Khris and Pinder with a 483 foot moonshot to cap it off. That 483 foot bomb is the longest so far this season and Pinder earned some airtime on ESPN as a result… good to get the name out there. Two of the homeruns sent in another run with them, putting the A’s up 7-3. Lowrie would tack on with another homerun of his own to give the A’s the final score of 8-3. But success can only last so long for these Oakland A’s and they were in for a blow out in the series finale. Triggs allowed a season-high six runs in the 12-3 loss to the Red Sox. Five runs were allowed by reliever Josh Smith in the ninth who was kept out there to just mop up the 9th inning but ended up making a bigger mess.

Positives:

Mark Canha: Canha’s been a man on a mission since returning from Triple-A Nashville. This last week, he’s hit six extra base hits, three of those homeruns and two of them doubles. He’s averaged a .368 batting average while discovering a credence at the plate. Good to see an option to the minors affect a player’s personality and mindset positively.

Chad Pinder: Pinder has been playing great baseball for the past two weeks now and I think it’s safe to say that he’ll be playing at the major league level for the remainder of the season. Over the last seven days, Pinder has sent three homers over the fence and has a .286 batting average on the year while playing some tenacious defense.

Trevor Plouffe: Plouffe was very hot coming into this week and has cooled off a bit but you can’t keep expecting a player like him to have game after game of two-hit, multi-RBI performances. Nonetheless, he’s hit for a .313 average since the beginning of the Seattle series and has been getting on base for his teammates to knock him in.

Khris Davis: After a little cold spell at the plate (which means not hitting homers), KD has put on a power show at the dish these past couple of days with a few bombs. He still needs to cut down on the strikeout total – seems like he either hits a ball 450 feet and trots 360 feet around the bases or walks 45 feet back to the dugout. Power hitters, especially him, tend to go on spurts of homeruns and it appears that he’s starting to enter into one as we speak.

Andrew Triggs: Although he gave up five earned in the Boston finale, Triggs is proving himself to be the best pitcher in the A’s rotation this year, coming out of nowhere. In Triggs last start against Boston, the Oakland defense of old returned with three errors. Despite those errors, Triggs was able to work out of multiple jams and get his team back into the dugout.

Negatives:

Yonder Alonso: Alonso missed the past four games with a bothersome knee. He should be back in the lineup for this upcoming Marlins series.

Sean Manaea: I know I’m expecting a lot from a guy in the bottom of our rotation in Sean Manaea but for his progression, he obviously needs to perform. So far this season, it’s been a miracle if he gets through the sixth inning. Start after start, it’s a five or five and a thirds inning game with three or four earned runs allowed. Knock the pitch count down, quit walking batters and get through those late innings and we’ve got something cookin’.

The Road: As you saw above, these A’s can’t play confidently when leaving Oakland. Playing .285 baseball anywhere is unacceptable and all good ball clubs obviously don’t perform like that on the road. If anything, I’d rather see better baseball on the road – it’s a challenge to get things done on lengthy road trips and plane rides.

Next Up:

The Marlins come to town for an interleague, two-game matchup which starts today, Tuesday, May 23. Don Mattingly and Co. will be facing the strongest part of the A’s rotation in Hahn and Gray. It’d be a sweet little treat to see the A’s take two from Donny Baseball. Oakland then starts a seven day road trip, going to New York to face the Yankees and then to Progressive Field to battle the reigning AL Champs.

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