Athletics

A's need to move on from last season and quickly find sense of urgency

A's need to move on from last season and quickly find sense of urgency

It's no longer early in the season.

The A's have already played 44 games, more than a quarter of their regular-season schedule, and they find themselves dead last in the AL West at 19-25.

Far too often, the team has looked lifeless, just going through the motions without passion or intensity. It's almost as if they expect to just flip a switch at some point and recreate last year's incredible second-half run.

"We have a group of guys that won a lot of games last year and we still feel like we have a chance to do that," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters after Tuesday's loss.

Starting pitcher Mike Fiers expressed a similar sentiment on Monday.

"We'll be fine. This team is too good to be losing as many games as we have so far. We've just got to put it all together and play good baseball throughout the whole game, through all nine. We've got a lot of guys being inconsistent, especially early on, so everyone knows what they need to do. We'll be back."

The problem is that last year is long gone. It's a new season and a new team, and this team has been one of the worst in baseball.

Legendary football coach Bill Parcells famously said that you are what your record says you are. For the A's, that means 19-25, six games below .500, a point they never reached last year.

"It's not like we're playing bad baseball," Tuesday's starter Brett Anderson told reporters. "It's just that we can't really get good starting pitching to sync up with timely hitting. Whenever we do that for consecutive series, we're a pretty formidable team. But we just haven't done that on a consistent basis so far. Whenever we do, it will be pretty scary."

That optimism might sound nice, but it's going to take more than words to turn things around. Oakland needs a spark. We thought Fiers' no-hitter last week might do the trick, but the team is just 3-4 since then.

Perhaps the answer lies in Triple-A in the form of a Jorge Mateo or Franklin Barreto. Maybe the team needs a shakeup in the batting order.

[RELATED: A's trade Morales to Yanks for PTBNL or cash considerations]

One thing is for certain. The A's need to start winning some games in a hurry. They have already dropped to 9.5 games behind the first-place Houston Astros. At this rate, the division may be out of reach by July.

A Wild Card spot won't be much easier to capture. The American League boasts incredible depth, featuring perennial World Series contenders like the Yankees and Red Sox, not to mention upstart squads like the Rays and Twins.

There's a thin line between panic and urgency. Obviously, the A's don't want to panic. But they sure could use a sense of urgency.

Bob Melvin returns to National League roots to key A's win vs. Cardinals

Bob Melvin returns to National League roots to key A's win vs. Cardinals

The A's received a number of great performances in Tuesday night's 7-3 win over the Cardinals.

Matt Olson, Chad Pinder, and Marcus Semien all blasted home runs, and Khris Davis added a two-run double. But you could argue that the best showing of all belonged to Bob Melvin. The A's manager made all the right decisions, with just about every substitution working to perfection.

Melvin's first big move came in the bottom of the fourth inning when the Cardinals, already leading 3-1, put two men on base with only one out. Starting pitcher Chris Bassitt was laboring, having already thrown 94 pitches, so Melvin chose to turn to his bullpen early.

He brought in recently-recalled right-hander J.B. Wendelken, who proceeded to retire Matt Carpenter and Paul DeJong -- the Cardinals' Nos. 1 and 2 hitters -- and get out of the jam.

"J.B. was huge," Melvin told reporters after the game. "He's not used to coming in the game like that. ... If that gets away from us right there, it's a whole different game."

Wendelken ended up only facing those two batters, but that was enough to earn him his first career win.

"It's a huge deal," he told reporters. "We were in a (position) to come back and win, without a doubt in my mind. But when you're asked to come into that situation, you're there to put out the fire and kind of carry us a little bit deeper into the game. Coming into that situation and having those boys come up and have the bats come alive was pretty awesome."

Bringing in Wendelken was actually only half of Melvin's first key move. The former National League manager made a double switch, also inserting Chad Pinder at second base, a decision that paid off the very next inning. Pinder blasted a two-run home run to the top deck in left field, also known as 'Big Mac Land,' to tie the game at three.

 

"You look for ways to try to get him in the game," Melvin said. "He's contributed to this team in so many different ways. To be able to come off the bench, he's used to doing that."

Pinder said it was the first time he's ever come into a game by way of a double switch.

"It's an interesting situation to be in," he told reporters. "That could've played a role in going up to the plate with no thoughts in my head, just 'I'm going up there just to hit.' You don't have anything to think about. You're not dwelling on things before the game. You're not thinking about different things. You're just going up there trying to get a pitch to hit."

Later in the fifth, with the A's up 5-3, Melvin turned to his bench again. With two on and two out, he called on slugger Khris Davis to pinch-hit for Wendelken. Davis came through with a two-run double to make it 7-3.

"Khris Davis' hit was big, having to come off the bench and get a pinch-hit there," Melvin said. "There were so many contributions tonight. ... A lot of good things happened for us tonight by a lot of guys."

[RELATED: Watch Piscotty get standing ovation from Cardinals fans]

From there, Melvin turned to four more relievers to lock up the victory. All four kept the Cardinals off the board. In total, the A's bullpen tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings, with seven strikeouts.

"Trying to cross my fingers," Melvin said of his tactical moves. "But yeah, it's fun to do the National League game every now and then."

A's Stephen Piscotty receives standing ovation from Cardinals fans

A's Stephen Piscotty receives standing ovation from Cardinals fans

Stephen Piscotty's whirlwind season continued Tuesday night.

Just over a week after making his return to the A's lineup following surgery to remove a melanoma from his right ear, Piscotty returned to the scene of his MLB debut when Oakland faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of a two-game series at Busch Stadium.

Piscotty, a Pleasanton, Calif. native, broke through with St. Louis in 2015 and remained there for three seasons. However, he requested a trade to the A's following the 2017 season in order to move closer to his mother Gretchen, who had been diagnosed with ALS.

The Cardinals graciously agreed, allowing Piscotty to spend more time with Gretchen until she sadly passed away in 2018.

In Piscotty's first at-bat after his mother's passing, he singled, prompting a standing ovation from the Oakland crowd. Then, after going on the bereavement list, Piscotty homered in his first at-bat back.

On Tuesday in St. Louis, the Busch Stadium crowd greeted Piscotty with a standing ovation ahead of his first at-bat in the second inning.

While Piscotty flied out to right, it was nonetheless a very heartwarming moment for all involved. To this day, Piscotty is extremely grateful to the Cardinals for permitting his trade request, and clearly, the respect is mutual.