Athletics

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways after A's swept by Braves at home

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways after A's swept by Braves at home

BOX SCORE

The Coliseum is supposed to be the place where the A’s restore order on the diamond and rack up victories.

Lately, their home field has been too hospitable to opponents.

The Atlanta Braves finished off a three-game sweep with a 4-3 victory in 12 innings Sunday afternoon, sending the A’s to their fifth consecutive loss. They’ve now dropped a season-high seven in a row before the home fans.

It was an unlikely source that did them in, as former A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki went deep off John Axford — his second homer of the game — to snap a tie game.

Shortly before Atlanta’s winning rally, it was announced that A’s first baseman Yonder Alonso was selected to his first All-Star team via the players’ ballot. Stealing a victory in extra innings would have been a terrific capper to the day, and the A’s can’t say they didn’t have the chance.

After Bruce Maxwell tied the game in the bottom of the 11th with a run-scoring double, Jaycob Brugman was intentionally walked and the A’s found themselves in a bases-loaded one out-situation. But Ender Inciarte made a sliding catch of Adam Rosales’ shallow fly in center, too shallow for Yonder Alonso to tag up from third and try to score. Rajai Davis then took a called strike three from Jim Johnson, who pulled a Houdini act against his old team. Suzuki then led off the 12th and crushed a 3-1 fastball from Axford for a go-ahead homer to left-center.

Here’s five things you need to know from this one:

Different month, different Davis: Khris Davis homered just five times in June, a relatively low output for him since he’s been in an A’s uniform. So far, he’s homered both days in July. Davis led off the bottom of the seventh with his 23rd of the season, a towering wind-aided fly ball that didn’t appear to be going out based on the way Inciarte was tracking the ball as he went back in center. Sunday was game No. 82 for the A’s, one past the halfway point, and Davis is on pace to eclipse last year’s career-high total of 42.

So much for that day off: Franklin Barreto was not in the starting lineup, a chance for the rookie to clear his head after he committed two errors at shortstop Saturday. But when third baseman Ryon Healy exited the game with an injury before the third inning, Adam Rosales shifted over to third and Barreto took over at shortstop. He immediately made a tough backhanded stop that began a 6-4-3 double play. In the seventh, Barreto swiped second base for his first major league steal and would score on Rosales’ sacrifice fly to make it 2-2. But he couldn’t get a sacrifice bunt down in the 11th and flied out with two aboard for the game’s final out.

Before the game, Melvin said Barreto was due for a day off anyway, but the manager did take time to talk to the rookie Sunday morning in light of the rough game a day earlier.

Rotation update: Sean Manaea turned in his longest outing of the season, going 7 1/3 innings and holding the Braves to two runs on six hits. Both runs off him came in the second. Suzuki homered on an 0-2 pitch. Then Danny Santana walked, stole second and eventually scored on Ender Inciarte’s double, a sharp bouncer that got past Alonso and was ruled a hit.

The A’s will welcome Jharel Cotton back to the rotation Monday, Melvin announced before the game. The right-hander was pushed back two days to give a blister on his right thumb extra time to heal.

Olson shows off arm: The A’s give glowing reports on rookie Matt Olson’s abilities as a defensive first baseman. But much of his time in the majors to this point has come in the outfield. Olson drew the start in right field Sunday and delivered a strike to home plate to nail Ender Inciarte as he tried to score from second on Brandon Phillips’ single. Last season in a September call-up, Olson showed his athleticism with a couple of leaping catches in right. Sunday’s game provided the best example yet of his arm strength.

Healy exits the game: Third baseman Ryon Healy left the game after the second inning with upper back spasms and is listed as day to day. Healy appeared to be hurting after running out a 6-3 grounder in the second, and he also made a sliding attempt at a foul pop-up before that.

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

bartolousatsi.jpg
USATSI

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.
 

What Matt Olson injury means for A's offense, defense at first base

pindercanha.jpg
AP/USATSI

What Matt Olson injury means for A's offense, defense at first base

The A's fears became a reality Friday when Gold Glove first baseman Matt Olson had to undergo surgery on his right hand.

No timetable has been provided for Olson's return, but a 2018 article in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine which studied similar procedures suggests he will likely miss three to seven weeks.

This is obviously a huge loss for Oakland. Beyond Olson's terrific defense, the 24-year-old provided tremendous power in the middle of the lineup.

Last season, Olson slashed .247/.335/.453 with 29 home runs and 84 RBI. That production won't be easy to replace, but the A's do have some reasonable options.

Platoon players Mark Canha and Chad Pinder can both play first base, and carry plenty of power in their bats. Canha clubbed 17 home runs and 22 doubles last year in just 365 at-bats. Pinder, meanwhile, hit 28 homers in 580 at-bats over the last two seasons.

Another option for the A's is to move Jurickson Profar to first base -- where he played 24 games last year -- and start Franklin Barreto at second. Barreto is coming off a terrific spring, hitting .375 (12-for-32) with a home run, four doubles, three RBI, five walks, and eight runs scored.

Barreto now has a great chance to make the 25-man roster in Olson's place. The 23-year-old has long been considered one of the A's top prospects, but has never had a chance to get consistent playing time in the big leagues. Oakland moved him from second base to the outfield this spring, but now a return to second makes sense.

[RELATED: Can A's regroup after rough beginning to season?]

The A's are fortunate to have enough offensive depth to survive the loss of Olson, but the biggest impact will likely show up on defense. Olson's height and scooping ability at first base will be incredibly hard to replace.

Nonetheless, Oakland showed the ability to overcome injury adversity last season. The A's just have to do it again this year.