The A’s lineup is stacked. There’s talent and power from top to bottom, with enough intimidators to keep pitchers on edge. It’s a little too right-handed to be utopian, but the depth keeps the runs coming even while some individuals are struggling.
That’s why the single run tallied in Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies raised a red flag. It wasn’t the lonely run itself that was bothersome. Sometimes a good lineup gets bested by a good pitcher.
It’s the lone run when there were opportunities to score so many more.
“We didn’t do a very good job with runners in scoring position today,” Bob Melvin said after Wednesday’s game. “Unfortunately, that’s the tale of the game. Frankie [Montas] pitched well. Their guy pitched well. The difference was that they got bigger hits that were more timely.”
The A’s were awful in that department over two straight losses to the Rockies. They were 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position and left 35 runners on base in the series.
That’s, well, not great.
It’s so early in the season that a few games can skew numbers, but we’ll present some more than should be viewed within that context. The A’s are 28th in Major League Baseball with a .182 average (6-for-33) with runners in scoring position. Only Robbie Grossman and Matt Chapman have more than one hit in those situations, though Matt Olson’s walk-off grand slam on Opening Day stands as the season’s biggest clutch hit. Outside Olson's big bomb, the A's haven't been good in the clutch.
Khris Davis’ plight personifies what the A’s have been going through lately and why even small sample sizes are blown up in a short 60-game season. The team’s designated hitter doesn’t have a hit this season, with seven strikeouts in 15 at-bats and left nine runners on base on Tuesday alone.
He got Wednesday off and might have to wait for a favorable matchup before getting back in the fray. The A’s believe Davis can emerge from his early-season slump but can’t afford to be as patient with him as they would in a regular season.
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While the positive momentum from winning a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels may have been slowed by two losses to the Rockies, the A’s haven’t fallen off the pace through six games that now represent 10 percent of the season. They’re sitting at 3-3 atop the AL West tied with Houston, with a great opportunity to make the postseason by finishing first or second in the division.
The A’s must be better at finding timely hits with runners on, but they can’t press after a few games. That’s what got Davis in some trouble and leads to a unique byproduct of a 60-game season. When every game is magnified, failure inherent to the sport hurts more. Bringing up numbers after six games is also abnormal and would not constitute a trend. It matters now because the A’s can’t afford to take significant time to rectify their issues with runners on.
Improving results quickly without stressing out over them is a major challenge for the A’s coaching staff. Players must stick to the process even in an intensified season.
“Everybody knows that it’s a shorter season and everybody wants to jump out and have success right now,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “It’s something that we have to monitor and make them understand that we have to think big picture. It’s about winning games. Just like with 162 games, in a 60-game season we have to stick to the process. It’s very hard to speed it up.”