Athletics

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's sixth straight loss

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's sixth straight loss

BOX SCORE

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.

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.