Athletics

A's still believe best is yet to come after untimely sweep

Athletics
Bob Melvin

Two hits and an 8-0 loss against the Toronto Blue Jays to complete a sweep and end a frustrating road trip for the Athletics. There wasn't too much to be happy about for the green and gold after the final out Sunday at Rogers Centre. 

Just don't tell that to Bob Melvin. 

Oakland's manager of course wanted more from his team to end a tough weekend. That doesn't mean he has lost any confidence in his squad. 

"You know what, I think the best part of our season is yet to come," Melvin said Sunday to reporters after the loss. "I really do. I think we're gonna get home and we're gonna play our best stretch of baseball and we're gonna get on a run before this season's over.

"Then we have two teams we need to beat there at the end. I think our best baseball is yet to come."

The A's ran into trouble early when starter Cole Irvin allowed three earned runs in the second inning. Toronto then tacked on four more runs in the third and another in the fourth, putting this game out of reach with the Blue Jays' ace on the hill. 

Irvin pitched just 2 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and seven earned runs. The lefty also surrendered two home runs -- a solo shot from Marcus Semien and a three-run shot by Alejandro Kirk. Irvin now has allowed at least seven hits in each of his past five starts and has averaged just 3 1/3 innings in his last three starts. 

 

While he took the blame for the loss, and even channeled his inner Ted Lasso after the game, Irvin echoed his manager. 

"I still think we haven't played our best baseball yet this year, and that's gonna be scary going into the postseason," Irvin said. "You want to be hot going in. Not too hot -- not completely scorching, but you want to be hot going in. 

"I saw it firsthand when the Nationals swept us when I was with Philly in September and went on to win the World Series. I've seen it happen in the other dugout and I want to be part of a team that does that, and I believe this is the right group."

The A's went just 2-4 on their six-game road trip before getting a needed day off on Monday. However, there are reasons for optimism. The offense went to sleep Sunday, but that happens at times when you run into Robbie Ray, the AL's ERA leader at 2.60. In their previous five games, the A's scored at least six runs in every contest. In their two losses to the Blue Jays on Friday and Saturday, they plated 10 and eight runs respectively. 

And Melvin's right on the pitching, too. Irvin and Paul Blackburn struggled the last two days, but for the majority of the season, the A's have been carried by a strong staff. Unfortunately for Oakland, the tides have taken a tough turn since late August. 

With Sunday's loss, the A's fell to 74-63 and behind the Blue Jays in the AL wild-card standings. They sit four games back of the second wild-card spot before welcoming the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday for a huge three-game series. The schedule then turns in their favor with series against the Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Angels before the season ends with two series each against AL West foes in the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros.

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"We've done this before," A's third baseman Matt Chapman said. "We've been to the playoffs three years in a row. We won the division last year, we've been in the wild card the last two years before that. We have a lot of those same guys. We have a lot of that same attitude of 'Hey, you know, we can do this.' 

"We've been there before, we know how to grind out games and how to win tough games down the stretch. ... I know what this team's capable of, and I know we control our destiny. If we're gonna do this thing, we've got to go out and win baseball games. I think this team has a ton of talent and a ton of belief and a lot of guys who have been there before.

"It's not out of our reach. When you're still in striking distance, there's no reason to believe you can't do it."

 

The A's are losing a race against time right now. Confidence, however, remains sky-high as they stare at the standings.