OAKLAND — The A’s had their biggest regular-season home crowd in 12 years on hand Monday night, an atmosphere that begged for an inspiring performance on the field.
It never materialized, as the A’s mustered just five hits, turned in some shoddy defense and looked listless overall in losing their sixth in a row, 7-2, to the Chicago White Sox to open a three-game series.
At least there were fireworks.
That was the primary draw for the crowd of 40,019 on the eve of Fourth of July. It was the biggest gathering for a regular-season baseball game at the Coliseum since Sept. 4, 2005, when 43,874 showed up for a game against the Yankees. With the tarps removed from most of the third deck, the Coliseum’s capacity has increased over last season.
The A’s are mired in a scoring drought, the main culprit as they’ve lost the first four games of this six-game homestand. They’ve also dropped their past eight home games overall, tying their longest such streak over the past 16 years.
Oakland has scored just 10 runs total over their past five contests.
The defense rests: Officially the A’s committed two errors, but they could have easily been charged with two more in the eighth inning on back-to-back plays that were generously scored hits. Not that it’s a selling point, but this series features the two worst defensive teams in the big leagues. Oakland entered the night with a majors-high 74 errors, with Chicago in second at 67.
Chapman returns: Rookie Matt Chapman was activated from the disabled list and started at third base after missing 13 games with an infection in his left knee. It was a rough night at the plate, as he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, including a 7th inning punch out with the tying runs on second and third. Chapman did make a couple of nice plays charging in to field bunts. His return resulted in fellow rookie Matt Olson being optioned to Triple-A Nashville, though Olson will surely return to the big club this season, probably sooner than later.
Big inning costs Cotton: Jharel Cotton (5-8) gave up four runs over five innings, with the Sox doing their biggest damage in a three-run third. There were two aboard but Cotton had an 0-2 count on Todd Frazier before eventually giving up a two-run double. That was followed by Matt Davidson’s RBI double, and a 2-1 A’s lead became a 4-2 deficit. Pitching under the lights has not been kind to Cotton this season. He’s 1-6 with a 7.68 ERA in night starts compared to 4-2 with a 3.16 ERA during the day.
Tough times for Axford: Reliever John Axford came on for the ninth and issued four walks that pushed an insurance run across for the Sox. Axford’s ERA sits at 5.95. Under normal circumstances he would appear to be a potential trade target but those numbers surely hurt his value on the market.
Help on the way, eventually: Kendall Graveman, out since May 26 with a reoccurrence of a shoulder strain, threw off the mound and will fly to Arizona to continue his rehab when the A’s leave on their next road trip. Graveman will throw an extended session off the mound Thursday in Mesa, and if that goes well he likely would face hitters as the next step. Given he would require several minor league starts to build up his pitch count, it figures Graveman could return to the big league rotation sometime in early-to-mid August.
Reliever Ryan Dull, recovering from a knee strain, also threw off the mound Monday and said he’s hopeful of a return by the end of July.