SEATTLE — The A’s hit the road one week ago as a confident bunch with designs on climbing upward in the American League West standings.
They return home to quite a different story, having completed a disheartening two-city road trip that saw them drop five of six, including Wednesday’s 4-0 blanking by the Seattle Mariners that saw the A’s fail to advance a runner past first base.
Compounding things, first baseman Yonder Alonso exited Wednesday’s game in the seventh inning with a sore left knee after twisting it while trying to hold up on a swing in the fifth. He’ll be re-evaluated in Oakland and his status for Thursday’s series opener against the Boston Red Sox is up in the air.
Where exactly did things go wrong for Oakland as a team over the past week? That’s just it. If the A’s could pinpoint just one area to correct, they could start working to fix it. But in getting swept at Texas, their bullpen was the culprit. In Monday’s series opener at Safeco Field, starter Sean Manaea spotted the Mariners four early runs with faulty command.
Errors have bit them regardless of the day and made things tougher. And on Wednesday, one night after hitting three homers and scoring nine runs, the A’s offense was bottled up by Mariners right-hander Christian Bergman, who registered his first major league victory as a starter since September 2014.
“Offensively, I don’t know that we’ve looked much worse,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Now, you’ve got to give their pitcher some credit. He was on the corners, down at times. He had a little cutter. … (But) I didn’t expect that.”
It’s only mid-May, but the big picture already is beginning to look bleak for the A’s.
They were seven games out and tied for third place after completing a 4-2 homestand May 10. A week later, they are 11 1/2 games off the pace and mired in last place. Their 1-5 trip coincided with the first-place Astros rattling off a 9-1 stretch. Texas has won eight in a row to climb into a share of second place with the Angels, winners of four straight. But because the Astros aren’t taking their foot off the gas, the Rangers and Angels are stuck eight games back.
Not that the A’s are in position to worry about the outside world right now. They’ve got enough issues on their plate. The most pressing immediate concern is the health of Alonso. He said after the game he doesn’t feel his knee is a major concern, but he also wasn’t venturing a guess on whether he’d be in Thursday’s lineup.
“I was stopping my swing halfway and just got a little bit stuck,” Alonso said. “… I was trying to pivot. My whole body just turned and my back foot never really turned.”
Alonso cooled off at the plate during the trip, going 2-for-19. But it goes without saying that the A’s can’t afford to lose their home run and RBI leader for any length of time.
Oakland (17-23) now returns home and faces a daunting stretch of schedule, starting with four against the Red Sox, who will send Chris Sale to the mound Friday. The A’s catch a breather for two games against the Miami Marlins (14-25), but then hit the road to face the AL East-leading New York Yankees and the defending AL champion Cleveland Indians. They’ll return home from that six-game trip and welcome the Washington Nationals, who lead the NL East by a wide margin.
Regardless, the A’s need to focus on playing more fundamentally sound baseball regardless of who’s in the opposing dugout.
“I think as a group we know we can play a lot better,” right fielder Matt Joyce said. “We’ve just got to find a way to do it. Come back tomorrow, face a new team and start over again.”