August 22, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) is congratulated after being removed from the game in a pitching change against the Los Angeles Angels during the ninth inning at O.co Coliseum. The Athletics defeated the Angels 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
No one is more glad to see the brutal month of August over and the calendar flip to September than Oakland A’s fans. August marks the A’s first losing month in over two years, going 12-17.
In less than a month, the Athletics have lost 9 games in the AL West standings. On August 9, the A’s were 4 games ahead of the Angels and after today’s 8-1 loss, they find themselves 5 games back, with one month of baseball left in the regular season.
The brutal month can’t be blamed on the lack of starting pitching – well, maybe with the exception of Scott Kazmir who with two terrible outings vs. the Angels, going 2-4 in the month with a Jim Johnson-esque 7.80 ERA.
The obvious fault in the A’s right now is the abyss of hitting throughout the line-up – and again, maybe with the exception of John Donaldson who’s gone 30-for-96 (.312) for August.
Since August 1, the A’s have a -11 run differential of only an average of 3 runs per game compared to a +162 runs for April-July and over 5 runs averaged per game.
The A’s were last in the American League and 29th in offensive production for all of Major League Baseball in August hitting only .223.
The four-game sweep by the Angels exemplified the current A’s funk despite good pitching with its offensive production floundering along with defensive gaffes that squandered first-rate pitching performances by from the Gray- Samardzija-Lester aces.
Thursday saw Sonny Gray go 7 strong innings allowing only 7 hits and 3 runs; however the A’s wasted scoring chances in the fourth inning that saw a runner on third with less than two outs and a bases loaded chance to take the lead after tying it up in the sixth. In the tenth inning, reliever Ryan Cook couldn’t get an out after surrendering a couple hits and a sacrifice fly to end the game.
Friday Jon Lester, who had a minuscule 1.94 ERA for August, only allowed two earned runs in his outing (it could have been less had Coco Crisp held onto the ball when he crashed into the centerfield wall with terrific effort for a spectacular catch). In that game, that saw the A’s get only 5 hits and leave 9 on base, the A’s again missed scoring chances in the sixth when they had the bases loaded leaving them all stranded along with later defensive miscues that led to additional runs in the 4-0 loss.
Saturday saw Jeff Samardzija go eight innings, allowing only one earned run, yet the A’s missed scoring chances in the fourth when they had second and third and no outs and later the bases loaded and only one out resulting in a Jonny Gomes double-play. An inning later a what-would-have-been inning ending double play turned out to be an error by Eric Sogard leading to the only two runs of the game to score. The A’s, shut out for the second night in a row, got only 3 hits and stranded 4 on base.
The 8-1 loss on Sunday can be blamed on Kazmi’s performance with a six-run second inning that saw 10 batters come to the plate, but the A’s didn’t do themselves any favors waiting until the eighth inning to finally score a run after 29 scoreless innings, with Sam Fuld taking second after a walk on a defensive indifference play and a sharp single by Josh Reddick.
With 27 games left it’s time to get real.
2014 was supposed to be the A’s year. Let’s hope the month of September and the addition of Adam Dunn can bring the A’s back to where they had the best record in baseball. Four games aren’t too big a hurdle to conquer but the bats will have to wake up and scoring opportunities will have to be taken advantage of for the A’s to have October celebrations.