Aaron Brooks

A's are desperately in need of an ace, but there isn't one to be found

A's are desperately in need of an ace, but there isn't one to be found

The A's have fallen and they can't get up.

Oakland lost its sixth consecutive game Wednesday, a 7-3 defeat in Boston, falling to 14-19 on the season, dead last in the American League West. Bob Melvin and company are desperately searching for answers but have yet to find any.

This is when a team needs an ace -- someone who's going to grab the ball and throw eight shutout innings to carry his club back into the win column. The Nationals have Max Scherzer. Houston has Justin Verlander. Right now, Oakland has no one.

Among A's pitchers with at least three starts this year, only Frankie Montas has an ERA below 4.00. Montas has undoubtedly been the team's most reliable starter, but even he has struggled to pitch deep into games, failing to last longer than 6 1/3 innings in any of his six starts.

In fact, not a single A's starter has pitched more than seven innings this season, and only twice have they lasted that long. Normally that's not a problem for Oakland, as Melvin can turn to his talented bullpen in the middle and late innings. However, that pen has not performed nearly as well as it did last year.

Perhaps Sean Manaea can become Oakland's ace if/when he returns from injury later this season. He was certainly trending in that direction last year. Maybe even Jesús Luzardo or A.J. Puk will be ready to fill that void at some point. But for now, it's one significant area where the A's are seriously lacking.

It's not like Oakland's starting pitching has been terrible during the losing streak, but it hasn't been great either. Mike Fiers allowed three earned runs in five innings Wednesday. Aaron Brooks gave up four earned runs in 4 1/3 frames Tuesday. Montas surrendered just one earned run Monday, but allowed six unearned runs in 4 1/3 innings.

The A's usually thunderous bats have gone quiet during the skid, accounting for just 15 runs in the six games, while the pitching staff (and some poor defense) has allowed 37.

"We're going to have to play our way out of this," Melvin told reporters after Wednesday's loss. "We haven't been unlucky really here to this point. We just haven't played well and we have to do something about it."

Brett Anderson will try to be the stopper Friday when the A's open a three-game series in Pittsburgh. The Pirates recently snapped their own eight-game losing streak, winning their last two against the Rangers. Maybe they can help the A's end their skid, too.

Inside A's starter Aaron Brooks' three-year journey back to the majors

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USATSI

Inside A's starter Aaron Brooks' three-year journey back to the majors

On October 2, 2015, Aaron Brooks limited the Seattle Mariners to two runs in seven innings, leading the A's to a 4-2 win. He wouldn't make another major league start for nearly three and a half years.
 
That opportunity finally came this week when Brooks took the hill against the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox. The 28-year-old overcame his nerves and tossed six shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a walk, with six strikeouts.
 
"It was a good one to start on," Brooks told NBC Sports California. "The absence has been hard on me, but it's also been in the back of my mind that I believe I should be here and can be here. ... It feels good to get back and prove to myself that I belong here and I can compete."
 
Brooks spent the majority of the last three seasons in the minors as he struggled with injuries and poor performance. After stints in the Cubs and Brewers' organizations, he was traded back to the A's last September in exchange for cash considerations.
 
"I was excited," Brooks said. "I really feel like they appreciate what I can do and the work ethic I have. I think I fit right in here with the loose feel of having fun, but also getting work done. I'm super blessed and grateful that they continue to give me the opportunity."
 
Added A's manager Bob Melvin: "I have to give David (Forst) and Billy (Beane) credit on that one. We haven't seen him since 2015 and he hasn't started a big league game. So it's not like I was targeting him, but they kept a close on eye on him. I think now you're seeing him mature a little bit and gain some confidence."
 
Brooks missed most of the 2016 season with a hip contusion and struggled immensely in 2017, finishing with a 6.12 ERA in 26 games at the Triple-A level. He admits it was difficult to stay positive. 
 
"It was, but I'm a huge believer in positive vibes," he said. "Your mind is huge. For me to just go to the field every day, try to get as much work done as I can, stay as positive as I can -- just trying to do that every single day kind of helped me steer away from even trying to think about the negative side of things. I've got a great wife who tries to keep my mind off of it when I'm at home. So it hasn't been as bad as it could be, I would imagine, but I just try to stay positive."
 
Brooks got back on track in 2018, going 9-4 with a 3.35 ERA in 26 games for Colorado Springs, the Brewers' Triple-A affiliate. He says he didn't really adjust his mechanics but instead credits an improved mindset for the bounce-back season.
 
"A lot for me has been mental, just having conviction with every pitch and being able to adjust from pitch to pitch," Brooks said. "If you feel something out of whack with a certain pitch, you can flip the switch and not make it the same the next time."
 
Brooks' resilience and mental toughness impressed the A's. His ability to overcome adversity was a major factor in the team's decision to make him their number five starter.

[RELATED: Marcus Semien off to a hot start]
 
"It's a tough deal when someone keeps telling you no, trying to keep your confidence up and strive to get where you want to," Melvin said. "I know he's really embracing this opportunity and taking it pretty seriously. He's really working hard between starts and knows that he has a chance to stick in the rotation at the big league level for the first time in a while."
 
"Just being able to actually have a spot to call home is huge for confidence and it helps you relax a little bit," Brooks added. "Everyone in this clubhouse wants to have fun, first and foremost. When you're having fun and staying loose, you're able to relax and perform on the field."

A's players stop by local elementary schools for recess takeover

A's players stop by local elementary schools for recess takeover

Remember recess as a kid? We would actually be forced to take a break from out multiplication tables to go play?

Ahh yes ... those were the days.

And what if during your break, you were greeted with a fluffy, adorable elephant named Stomper? Or a few members of the Oakland A's?

That's exactly what happened when Aaron Brooks and Sean Manaea arrived at Vincent Academy in Oakland on Tuesday. 

The pitchers, along with Stomper, played some impromptu baseball with some of the students and it appeared they all had a blast.

"It's a lot of fun," Manaea said. "To play with the kids at recess. It's something that I know when I was a kid would have been super fun."

"One of the initiatives is to give back to the community and the A's do a really good job about setting things up."

And for the record, a couple of kids took Brooks yard. 

And so the fun continued for another lucky school.

On Wednesday, Brooks, and J.B. Wendelken visited Parker Elementary for another recess takeover. According to a press release from the A's, Parker Elementary is one of the team's partner schools through the Oakland Public Education Fund's Adopt and Oakland School program.

Wendelken continued his awesomeness later Wednesday night before the Red Sox-A's game when he gave a fan a birthday gift -- one his family thanked him for:

Wendelken threw the fan a ball that was used during warm-ups, and he finished it off with a Happy Birthday wish on the photos of the big day.

So cool. Nothing but class.