SEATTLE — The A’s can only hope that the sight of Khris Davis and Stephen Vogt circling the bases leads to brighter days ahead.
If you need a positive takeaway from Monday’s 6-5 loss to the Mariners, it was those two hitters breaking long home run dry spells. But as the A’s are proving, the long ball doesn’t get the job done by itself.
Right now, the A’s are doing just enough wrong to negate all the right.
In getting swept by the Rangers, they took a lead in every game but couldn’t build on it, leaving the door open for Texas to break through against the bullpen.
On Monday, they fell behind early thanks to starter Sean Manaea’s wild ride of a first couple innings. They battled back with Davis’ solo homer and Vogt’s two-run shot to pull within a run. But then another shaky outing from reliever Liam Hendriks coupled with a throwing error from shortstop Chad Pinder led to two more Seattle runs in the eighth that ultimately proved the difference.
The game ended with the Rangers’ Tony Zych painting the outside corner with a 95 mile-per-hour fastball to ring up Adam Rosales with the bases loaded, an A’s comeback rally thwarted.
“‘We had one other bases-loaded situation and didn’t get anything out of it, which hurt us at the time,” manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s easy just to look back at how the last inning played out, but there were some opportunities when we had a chance to score some runs.”
Primarily, there was the seventh. The A’s loaded the bases that inning, trailing 4-3, but Matt Joyce chased a third strike from Dan Altavilla and Jed Lowrie grounded to second.
What to make of this A’s offense? They rank fourth in the American League in homers and they’re tied with the Yankees and Rangers for most multi-homer games (17). But it’s all or nothing, as the A’s rank second-to-last in the league in runs scored, which is the only stat that ultimately matters. Their .205 average with runners in scoring position is the lowest in the majors, and missed opportunities are contributing to losses of the most frustrating variety.
“We should have won that ballgame — bottom line,” Vogt said.
Manaea put them in an early hole, walking four in a two-run first and giving up four runs but finishing strong in a crazy five-inning return from the disabled list.
The lefty said his issue was trying “to make things too fine when I should be out there attacking and making guys put the ball in play and trusting my defense. I just didn’t do that. … It’s tough, I try not to think like that. But sometimes it just happens like that.
“That’s just been the story of this whole season is walking guys. I just gotta figure out a way to eliminate them.”
Big picture, Melvin and Vogt both came away encouraged with the way Manaea steadied himself with three perfect innings to close his night.
Davis came away encouraged with his homer to dead center that capped a 12-pitch at-bat and snapped a string of 12 games without going deep.
An inning later, Vogt — who lives in Washington in the offseason and always has a big cheering section at Safeco Field — hit his first homer since Opening Night and ended a career-long streak of 27 games without a home run. He’s been working hard with hitting coach Darren Bush and assistant hitting coach Marcus Jensen to turn around what’s been a dismal start to his season.
“The whole season has been weighing on me offensively,” said Vogt, who’s hitting .217. “I really didn’t think about homers as much as just trying to see good pitches. I got away from that my first six weeks. I’m still battling that and trying to come out of that. I felt really good about my last week, unfortunately it didn’t matter tonight.”
Individual triumphs will have to do until the A’s find a way to get all parts of their game clicking.