Athletics

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's 5-4 loss to Rays

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Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's 5-4 loss to Rays

BOX SCORE

The A’s leave Tampa Bay having lost three of four to the Rays but likely feeling like they should have won the series.

They jumped out to a three-run lead Sunday only to allow the Rays to rally back and post a 5-4 victory. The winning rally in the seventh was aided by a two-base throwing error by reliever Daniel Coulombe. That ran the A’s major league-leading error total to 62.

The ending came in extremely bitter fashion, as the A’s loaded the bases with one out but couldn’t push the tying run across against Alex Colome.

It was the second day in a row the A’s staked themselves to a 3-0 lead but couldn’t come away with a victory. They lost the opener of Saturday’s doubleheader on a walk-off hit in the 10th.

Here’s five things you need to know about the finale of this four-game series:

That’s ‘D’ for Deflating: The A’s entered Sunday having committed just three errors in their previous seven games, but a staple of this season has been the untimely —and very costly defensive mistakes — that crop up to beat them. That moment came in the bottom of the seventh. The Rays’ Mallex Smith dropped a well-placed bunt to the right side. Yonder Alonso got caught in no-man’s land charging the ball. Second baseman Jed Lowrie couldn’t get over to cover first and Coulombe wound up firing a throw to no one in particular. Smith wound up on third and scored on Corey Dickerson’s sacrifice fly to snap a 4-4 tie.

More opportunities wasted: The A’s loaded the bases in the ninth with one out and their 3-4 hitters due up. But Jed Lowrie popped up in foul territory and Khris Davis chased strike three to end it. It was an example of why Oakland entered the day last in the majors with a .163 batting average with the bases loaded.

Vogt provides a boost: After Josh Phegley got both starts behind the plate in Saturday’s doubleheader, Stephen Vogt was back in Sunday’s lineup and drove in the A’s first two runs. He went down and got a low pitch off Chris Archer for a run-scoring single in the second. Then Archer tried to throw a 95 mile-per-hour fastball by him in the fourth and Vogt drilled it to right-center for an RBI double.

Rays’ super sub strikes again: The A’s had no answer for Mallex Smith.

Mallex Smith?

Filling in for injured Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, Smith terrorized the A’s all series, going 8-for-14 with six runs, a homer, three RBI and four stolen bases. He showed some pop in his bat and speed to do ‘small ball’ damage. Exhibit A was the seventh-inning bunt Sunday that ignited Tampa Bay’s go-ahead rally.

Fifth-inning blues for Hahn: Jesse Hahn took a 3-0 lead into the fifth. He struck out the first two batters of that inning before Tampa Bay struck for three runs to tie it on five consecutive hits.

Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence

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Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence

OAKLAND – It really was a freak injury. One swing of the bat, a seemingly inconsequential foul ball.

But during Thursday's loss to the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo, Matt Olson knew right away something was wrong.

"I generally have a pretty high pain tolerance," the A's first baseman said Sunday. "I couldn't grip the bat when I came back (to the dugout) so I knew something was up."

It turned out Olson had fractured the hamate bone in his right hand. He underwent hamate excision surgery Friday in Los Angeles, and will be out indefinitely.

"It sucks," Olson admitted. "The timing of it is good and bad. Good because I get five or six days here to get ahead, but it sucks because it's the beginning of the year and you work all offseason to get to this point."

A's manager Bob Melvin added: "There are certain guys who you feel like are a little more replaceable than others. He's a tough one. ... He makes everybody in the infield better. All you've got to do is get it over in his direction. He's got a wide wingspan and he picks everything out of the dirt.

"It's tough not having him out there, but that's why we have a Mark Canha, a (Jurickson) Profar, and a Chad Pinder. It gives somebody else an opportunity."

Olson was not given a timetable for his return, but he noted a wide variance in other players with the same injury, anywhere from four to eight weeks. While he's obviously disappointed, he believes the team can survive without him.

"We've got guys -- Canha, Pinder, (Franklin) Barreto, and Profar -- all of those guys are very established and have good at-bats," Olson said. "They're guys who are going to get more at-bats because of it. I don't think it's a bad thing. It sucks for me, but I'm glad these guys are going to get a little more regular playing time."

[RELATED: A's have options at first base in light of Olson injury]

Although he hasn't missed any games yet, Olson joked he has already experienced the effects of sporting a cast on his right hand in his everyday life.

"I had to go to the store today to get stuff for my apartment. I got a ton of stuff. Then I got to the apartment complex, and thought I was going to have to make like five trips because I can only carry things with one hand," he laughed.

As Olson adjusts to life with just one functional hand, the A's must adjust to life without Olson's powerful bat in the lineup and his slick glove in the field. In both cases, it will be a difficult process.

Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

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Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

It's no secret the A's could use some starting pitching help.

The problem became more dire this week when the team announced talented left-hander Jesús Luzardo would be shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain.

Though the season is already underway, there are still several starting pitchers available on the free agent market. Former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel tops the list, but don't expect the A's to throw massive money his way.

Instead, Oakland may choose to pursue one of these five starters:

Edwin Jackson

Jackson certainly makes the most sense of anyone. The 35-year-old right-hander was the most pleasant of surprises last season. Jackson went 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts and was a key part of the A's clubhouse chemistry.

The two sides have been in contact for much of the offseason but have not been able to come to terms on a deal. That could change now that Jackson and the A's both figure to be a little more desperate.

James Shields 

At the age of 37, Shields is obviously nearing the end of his career, but he figures to get a shot somewhere in the league. The former All-Star went just 7-16 with a 4.53 ERA last season with the White Sox but did pitch over 200 innings.

Shields has a career ERA of 4.01 in 13 seasons. The right-hander would likely fair better on a team like Oakland, especially playing his home games at the pitcher-friendly Coliseum.

Miguel González

González is coming off season-ending rotator cuff surgery, but at just 34 years old he has a chance to bounce back. The right-hander went 8-13 with a 4.62 ERA in 2017, his last full season, but recorded a solid 3.73 ERA the year before.

González has a career ERA of 4.06 in seven major league seasons and could be another pitcher who would benefit from the Coliseum. He will be available for cheap, making him a low-risk signing.

Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo has struggled the past few seasons, but at just 33 years old, he still has time to regain his form. The right-hander has a career ERA of 4.06 in 12 big league seasons.

Gallardo's last productive season came in 2015 with the Texas Rangers. The former All-Star finished that year 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA. Like González, he should be available for a low cost.

[RELATED: A's have options at first base after Olson injury]

Bartolo Colón

Yes, Big Sexy is still going strong at the age of 45. You've got to think someone will take a flier on the former Cy Young Award winner, who will be entering his 22nd major league season.

Colón has 247 career wins and a 4.12 ERA, though he struggled to a 5.78 ERA last season in Texas. But three years ago, the right-hander went 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA and made his fourth career All-Star Game.