The Athletics, who are one of the multiple AL teams fighting for a wild-card spot, cannot afford to lose to one of their competitors.
That happened Monday night against the Seattle Mariners, who also are fighting for one of the final wild-card spots. An inopportune loss at an inopportune time.
Following the loss to the Mariners on Monday night, Oakland (82-68) sits just two games back of the Toronto Blue Jays (84-66) for the second wild-card spot. Ahead of them is the New York Yankees (84-67), and behind them (ever-so-closely) is the Seattle Mariners (81-69).
Competing with a division rival for a playoff spot is difficult as it is. Now factor in the A's 4-9 record vs. Seattle this season, and it becomes clear as to why the remaining six games against the Mariners are so important.
If the A's are to sneak their way into the postseason, they need to be nearly flawless throughout their remaining 12 games. A's starting pitcher Sean Manaea was not flawless Monday night, nor was Oakland's offense.
“Maybe not his best stuff," Melvin said of Manaea postgame. "It probably wasn’t jumping out of his hand like it normally does as far as the velocity goes. He gave up some hits but only one walk. Probably didn’t get the strikeouts that we normally see. We battled hard and they made him work hard, and he did work hard.
"At the end of the day, he only gave up four runs. We obviously didn’t score enough to support him. Maybe not one of his better days but he did battle really hard out there.”
The A's offense struggled to get anything going against Mariners lefty Tyler Anderson (W, 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks) on Monday night. Swinging the bats well as of late, the A's offense fell victim to good pitching, which is not an excuse.
“Scoring runs in the big leagues, big-league pitching is tough and when you have a staff like there’s that’s pitching confident, pitching well, sometimes it’s hard to muster up some runs," right fielder Chad Pinder said postgame. "That’s not an excuse, we gotta find a way. You gotta find a way to get it done, especially now that we’re running out of time.
"We gotta get after it tomorrow.”
In fact, Monday wasn't the first time Oakland's offense struggled against the Mariners' pitching. The A's have scored three runs or fewer in eight of their 12 total matchups against the Mariners this season.
A's manager Bob Melvin was asked about his team's struggles against Seattle's pitching this season.
“Yeah, I think especially out of their bullpen," Melvin told reporters postgame. "Their bullpen has been really good all year. It probably would have served us better to put a little more pressure on their starters so we didn’t have to fight against their bullpen the last couple innings. They pitched really well against us.”
Winners of five straight games before Monday night's contest, the A's were rolling. Their loss to begin the four-game series could be a blip or a sign of what's to come throughout the final two weeks of the season.
If the A's want to be a playoff team, they need to beat the teams they're competing with for said playoff spot.