Khris Davis and Chad Pinder were the only A’s hitters to reach second base against the Houston Astros in Game 2 of the ALDS on Tuesday, and only briefly while on home-run trots.
This is a real thing: They were 0-for-0 (and no walks) with runners in scoring position during a 5-2 loss to the rival Astros at Dodger Stadium. Oakland left one guy on base and grounded into a pair of double plays.
The A’s lineup can be intimidating. It can put pitchers in a vice grip and heap pressure on opposing offenses to score, score and score some more. That wasn’t the case in Game 2.
Davis stayed hot with a second-inning home run. Pinder hit one to the moon and back in the fourth. Both were individual marvels. Never were the A’s able to string hits together to threaten in a way to produce crooked numbers.
“When you’ve got runners on, you know the job you have to do,” Pinder said. “You know the approach you have to have. Everyone’s trying to do those things. Sometimes you don’t get it done. We do have to be better about it as a collective. We have tomorrow, and we have to keep fighting.”
The A's are and long have been reliant on the home run, but not as a standalone event.
Walk, single, blast. Double, double, blast. That’s how they can kill you harshly, with power and scary depth throughout the lineup.
There just aren’t enough guys going well in this unfairly small postseason sample size to go on those types of runs.
Davis is hitting well. Marcus Semien is picking it up. Sean Murphy has found his power. Matt Olson, Ramón Laureano and Mark Canha, by contrast, are in the icebox. And, despite the A’s getting production from third basemen, this team obviously misses Matt Chapman in times like this. He’s another elite talent in the lineup, someone with emotion and excellent defense and the ability to crush the ball at any moment. His absence is amplified by Olson’s recent struggles, with the first baseman’s Game 1 home run representing his only postseason hit.
The A’s came up with numerous big-time hits from the sixth inning on during the regular season. They haven’t scored in those innings since Game 1 of the AL Wild Card Series against the White Sox. They’ll need it against the Astros at some point, though the early start times -- as an aside: they stink -- are not ideal with shadows coming between the plate and the pitcher’s mound and making things a whole lot harder.
“It’s two games, but it’s the postseason. Those have been our best innings,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We tend to get better at-bats from the sixth inning on, especially against teams' bullpens. Their starter went seven and they only had to use two [relievers].
“The shadows had something to do with it, but you need to score your runs earlier if the shadows are going to come into play and it ends up being a problem.”
The A’s have scored early in both games this series, but have quickly lost leads to the Astros. They were up 3-0 on Monday before Houston tied it in the fourth. They were up 1-0 to start the third inning on Tuesday and down 2-1 the following frame.
“It definitely changed the energy,” Pinder said when asked about both instances. “We put them on their heels and then they put us on our heels. We knew going into this that this was going to be a dogfight. This is a team with experience in the postseason. They’ve got great talent. They’re not just going to roll over. We have to find a way to pull ourselves out of this. If it’s one big hit or one big inning, we have to find it in us to do that in [Game 3].”
The A’s are back in do-or-die mode as they were for two successful games against the White Sox. They’ll have to go three straight against the Astros, but this is a true one-day-at-a-time situation. Thinking big picture could be overwhelming.
“We just have to win [Wednesday], and then worry about the next day after that,” Melvin said. “We’ll put all our efforts into [Game 3]. Anything further than that is a distraction. All we have to do is win the game.”