Athletics’ Struggles Continue in Astros Opener


Jeff Samardzija can’t save the Athletics from their slump. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Athletics were defeated by the Astros last night 4-3 and are now 6 games back from the top spot in the American League West. Hope is lost, depression is setting in and fans are beginning to look at the wild card as a best case scenario. The Athletics, since August 10, have turned a four game lead into a six game deficit and are all but eliminating themselves from the race through a dried up offense, sloppy defense and, occasionally, weak pitching. It has taken the A’s 23 games to drop 10 games in the standing.

If that’s not enough to make you pack up your glove and devote all of your attention to binge watching Breaking Bad, this will really get you going. Since the All Star Break (when things went south two weeks prior to “the trade”), the Athletics are 20-25 (.444) with Craig Gentry, Coco Crisp, Nick Punto, and Brandon Moss all hitting below .200, and are averaging 4 runs per game with only 38 homers.

The kings of the late inning push haven’t had a walk off since August 4th, have lost eight games by one run, and have been shut out 4 times. They have lost eight of their last ten, 14 of their last 20, and 18 of their last 30 including six series losses.

Ready to cry?

What do we blame for this free-falling spiraling descent into the nether-regions of the AL West? Some will blame the Cespedes trade. I will give that argument a little bit of credibility in terms of how the lineup is receiving pitches but I have two problems with that theory. First, anyone who wants to look at the stats can see that the slide was rearing its ugly little head prior to the trade and, secondly, after five weeks, the hitters should have adjusted to the new pitching. I don’t know if the numbers support my theory or if it’s just a perception but I seem to see A’s batters watching more strikes cross the plate than ever before. It is increasingly rare to see a battle at the plate and after five weeks, we should be battling at bats a lot better than this.

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Another theory is that there are some critical funks and injuries. This is absolutely true. Moss hasn’t hit a home run since the Clinton administration, Coco rarely plays three days in a row, Gentry only gets to play against lefties with W’s in their name on Wednesday evening games (or when Coco is out) and Norris stands at the plate but has forgotten how to do anything once he’s there. Even Josh Donaldson has had his off moments but he seems to be the quickest to rebound and contribute again. When you throw in injuries to Nick Punto, Jed Lowrie, John Jaso, Kyle Blanks and Sean Doolittle it’s amazing that the A’s are only six games back.

Then there’s the defense which, at times, has been abysmal. There have been way too many errors in the infield and a certain dude who shall Sonny Gray Takes Loss” href=””>remain nameless has spent too much time playing a position of which he has no ability or interest.

The starting pitching has, more or less, been solid. There have been some terrible outings but if those outings were surrounded by wins, you wouldn’t notice. You notice Scott Kazmir‘s implosion because it came in the middle of a terrible series. For the most part, though, the pitchers are throwing great and getting the shaft in terms of run support (or defense in a couple of those games).

We can pass blame all over the place. Last night, Jeff Samardzija pitched 7 innings with 9 K’s and 4 ER. During the first half of the season, he probably would have still pulled out a W for the outing. If there’s a silver lining to be seen, it’s that there is still a chance at taking the division. For that to happen, though, the Angels are going to have to start losing. If the A’s can drop 10 games in 28 games, certainly the Angels can drop 6 games in 23 but the only reason for that to happen is if the A’s also win.

I didn’t want to spend a billion dollars on my post-season strip but I also don’t want a refund because the team played their way right out of contention. There is still a chance and I am trying to be optimistic but my optimism is coupled with extreme caution. I’m not sure the A’s can lose much more in September before I lose all hope in this season. Here’s to a turnaround. They are due.