A's can't explain disappearing offense as season again prematurely ends

A's can't explain disappearing offense as season again prematurely ends

OAKLAND -- All season long, the A's boasted one of the most powerful and productive offenses in all of baseball. Well, at least until the final week of the season.

Something strange happened a week and a half ago. Beginning last Sunday, Oakland's bats suddenly went silent.

In the final seven games of the regular season, the A's pushed across just 16 runs, an average of 2.3 per game, failing to surpass three runs in a single game.

Unfortunately, the offensive slump carried over into the Wild Card Game, where Oakland managed just one unearned run in its 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. After the game, the A's struggled to find an explanation for the sudden drought.

"Probably just bad timing," offered first baseman Matt Olson.

Suggested third baseman Matt Chapman: "I think just a coincidence."

Whatever the cause, it ended up costing the A's their season. Including the Wild Card Game, Oakland tallied just 17 runs in its last eight games, going 0 for its last 31 with runners in scoring position.

"It's just baseball," said outfielder Ramon Laureano. "We play 162 games. It's a roller-coaster. You're going to go up and down. It just happened that (in) the last week, we didn't score that many runs. It's that simple."

A's manager Bob Melvin rejected the idea that the team's sluggish finish to the regular season had any effect on Wednesday's performance, however.

"I think it's a clean slate," he said. "I don't think there's much carryover once you get to the postseason. They pitched really well. We got eight singles, couldn't do much with runners in scoring position. They did more damage on their hits than we did ours. I don't think anybody came into the game thinking about what we did offensively the last week of the season. We just couldn't string anything together."

Added Chapman: "Come playoff time, fresh stats, fresh attitude. Everybody was ready to go. I think we took good at-bats. It's just, they threw out some good arms. [Charlie] Morton started that game for a reason. They went out and got that guy because he's pitched in Game 7s. He's an ace. He knows what he's doing. When he had to make a pitch, he did, and he beat us."

The A's had their best chance in the very first inning when they were still down just 1-0. Oakland put two runners on base with one out, then loaded the bases with two outs. Jurickson Profar worked the count to 2-2 before flying out to right field to end the inning.

[RELATED: A's fan has best reaction to Rays homer in wild-card game]

"You know what, I felt like it was a successful first inning because we made (Morton) throw upwards of 30 pitches," Melvin said. "We made him work. He was walking some guys. Sometimes that kind of sets the tone for later on in the game, but he responded after that.

"We couldn't put together an inning like that where we had multiple guys on base. His back was (against) the wall and he made a big pitch to get out of the first and never got in a position like that again afterward."

So as the Rays move on to face Houston in the ALDS, the A's are once again left searching for answers as they prematurely head into the offseason.

Relive three iconic A's victories, performances against rival Astros

Relive three iconic A's victories, performances against rival Astros

Programming note: NBC Sports California will air three classic A’s-Astros games beginning Saturday at 3 p.m. PT.

Since joining the AL West after switching leagues in 2013, the Houston Astros quickly have morphed into one of the A’s most hated rivals.

Those seven seasons have produced plenty of classic matchups, as the clubs finished the season as the division’s top two teams in four of the seven years.

However, the coronavirus outbreak forcing an indefinite suspension upon MLB has robbed teams of getting a chance at revenge on Houston, after the organization was implicated in a nefarious sign-stealing scheme this offseason.

Nevertheless, there's still a way to get your fix, as fans can tune in to NBC Sports California on Saturday afternoon to relive three memorable A’s victories over the Astros.

Lowrie caps comeback -- Sept. 8, 2017

The A’s had their backs against the wall entering the bottom of the seventh inning, trailing Houston 7-3 on a cloudy fall evening in Oakland.

Then Marcus Semien walked to the plate. It took just one swing for the game to be tied at seven as the Bay Area native connected on his third career grand slam. After former A’s outfielder Josh Reddick gave Houston back the lead in the top half, the A’s brought out the power once again. 

Boog Powell led off the bottom half by tying the game with a solo home run, then a few batters later Jed Lowrie brought Semien home to deliver a walk-off win.

The A’s clearly fed off the momentum of that victory, as Oakland went on to sweep the four-game set.

Olson beats Astros -- Aug. 17, 2018

Neck-and-neck in the divisional race, these two adversaries faced off once again at the Oakland Coliseum just under a year later. 

In his 29th career MLB appearance, outfielder Nick Martini was the night’s first hero, tying the game in the bottom of the ninth with an RBI double to bring home Ramon Laureano, who initially was called out before a replay review reversed the ruling.

Slugger Matt Olson came up in the 10th, and lifted a towering shot just over the right-field fence, bringing the A’s to within one game of the AL West lead.

[RELATED: Why Olson's walk-off homer vs. Brewers was so impressive]

A’s offense explodes -- Sept. 10, 2019

A day after the A’s were hammered 15-0 at Minute Maid Park, the A’s returned the favor in a big way with a 21-7 win.

Astros starter Wade Miley lasted just a third of an inning before being relieved, having allowed six runs, all of which came on RBI singles.

Oakland ended up with six total home runs, including two apiece from Olson and young catcher Sean Murphy. It also was the first time in the expansive history of the A’s that the team scored 20 or more runs, had 25 or more hits, and hit at least six home runs in the same contest.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy what likely would have become America’s new greatest pastime this summer: Watching your team beat the Astros.

Chad Pinder, A's players will feel 'residual effects' when MLB returns

Chad Pinder, A's players will feel 'residual effects' when MLB returns

A’s utility man Chad Pinder is home in Charlotte, North Carolina getting plenty of things done. Watching Netflix, painting nursery furniture, and getting in decent workouts in his garage.

Productive, but not reassuring.

“This is kind of unprecedented in our lifetime, basically to have the nation on hold right now,” Pinder told NBC  Sports Bay Area this week. “It is a very scary time, especially in some the areas that are affected bad right now.”

It was only a few weeks ago Pinder and his Oakland teammates were in Mesa, Arizona getting ready for a highly anticipated 2020 MLB season. 

They, like most of the country, didn’t fully interpret the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at first.

“I don’t know if we initially realized what was going on,” Pinder said. “Thought maybe this would be a two-week break, month maximum. The more information you get, the more you see going around, you realize this is a long-term thing.”

Pinder, a highly-regarded clubhouse leader, now keeps in touch with teammates mostly through text messages.

“We have a group thread, everybody’s talking,” Pinder said.

Their main conversations are about MLB developments, and to keep each other in the loop of when baseball could resume. Players don’t have any more assurances or insights than the average fan does these days. But there are some certainties. 

“Even when we resume stuff, there will be residual effects of what’s been going on,” Pinder said.

[RELATED: Stewart better after coronavirus scare]

That aforementioned nursery project is indeed preparation for Chad and his wife Taylor’s first child, due in the late summer months. He is certainly seeing different perspectives of events right now, as they relate to the future.

“The way we handle this, the way we come out of this,” Pinder said. “We’ll look back on the rest of our lives and remember this time.”