Matt Olson

A's can't explain disappearing offense as season again prematurely ends

A's can't explain disappearing offense as season again prematurely ends

OAKLAND -- All season long, the A's boasted one of the most powerful and productive offenses in all of baseball. Well, at least until the final week of the season.

Something strange happened a week and a half ago. Beginning last Sunday, Oakland's bats suddenly went silent.

In the final seven games of the regular season, the A's pushed across just 16 runs, an average of 2.3 per game, failing to surpass three runs in a single game.

Unfortunately, the offensive slump carried over into the Wild Card Game, where Oakland managed just one unearned run in its 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. After the game, the A's struggled to find an explanation for the sudden drought.

"Probably just bad timing," offered first baseman Matt Olson.

Suggested third baseman Matt Chapman: "I think just a coincidence."

Whatever the cause, it ended up costing the A's their season. Including the Wild Card Game, Oakland tallied just 17 runs in its last eight games, going 0 for its last 31 with runners in scoring position.

"It's just baseball," said outfielder Ramon Laureano. "We play 162 games. It's a roller-coaster. You're going to go up and down. It just happened that (in) the last week, we didn't score that many runs. It's that simple."

A's manager Bob Melvin rejected the idea that the team's sluggish finish to the regular season had any effect on Wednesday's performance, however.

"I think it's a clean slate," he said. "I don't think there's much carryover once you get to the postseason. They pitched really well. We got eight singles, couldn't do much with runners in scoring position. They did more damage on their hits than we did ours. I don't think anybody came into the game thinking about what we did offensively the last week of the season. We just couldn't string anything together."

Added Chapman: "Come playoff time, fresh stats, fresh attitude. Everybody was ready to go. I think we took good at-bats. It's just, they threw out some good arms. [Charlie] Morton started that game for a reason. They went out and got that guy because he's pitched in Game 7s. He's an ace. He knows what he's doing. When he had to make a pitch, he did, and he beat us."

The A's had their best chance in the very first inning when they were still down just 1-0. Oakland put two runners on base with one out, then loaded the bases with two outs. Jurickson Profar worked the count to 2-2 before flying out to right field to end the inning.

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"You know what, I felt like it was a successful first inning because we made (Morton) throw upwards of 30 pitches," Melvin said. "We made him work. He was walking some guys. Sometimes that kind of sets the tone for later on in the game, but he responded after that.

"We couldn't put together an inning like that where we had multiple guys on base. His back was (against) the wall and he made a big pitch to get out of the first and never got in a position like that again afterward."

So as the Rays move on to face Houston in the ALDS, the A's are once again left searching for answers as they prematurely head into the offseason.

A's vs. Mariners lineups: Matt Chapman, Matt Olson sit for season finale

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A's vs. Mariners lineups: Matt Chapman, Matt Olson sit for season finale

The A's finish out their regular season against the Mariners with the first "meaningless" game of the season. Oakland clinched a spot in the AL Wild Card Game on Friday night, and secured home-field advantage Saturday for the do-or-die game against the Rays on Oct. 2.

With nothing to play for, manager Bob Melvin will give a rest to a bunch of the regulars, including stars Matt Chapman and Matt Olson. Youngsters Sheldon Neuse, Seth Brown and Skye Bolt all will get the start today behind Tanner Roark on the mound. 

Roark, who owns a 4.50 ERA in nine starts with the A's since coming over at the trade deadline, is in jeopardy of being left out of the A's playoff rotation and is in need of a good start to carry momentum into the postseason.

The Mariners will send righty Justin Dunn to the mound, who owns a 3.86 ERA in three starts this year.

Here are the full lineups for the A's-Mariners game, which will be broadcast on NBC Sports California and the MyTeams app. Coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. PT, with first pitch at Noon.

Oakland A's (97-64)
SS Marcus Semien
LF Jurickson Profar
RF Stephen Piscotty
DH Khris Davis
1B Seth Brown
C Josh Phegley
3B Sheldon Neuse
2B Franklin Barreto
CF Skye Bolt

RHP Tanner Roark (10-9, 4.32 ERA)

Seattle Mariners (67-94)
LF Shed Long
SS J.P. Crawford
1B Austin Nola
3B Kyle Seager
RF Kyle Lewis
C Omar Narvaez
DH Daniel Vogelbach
CF Mallex Smith
2B Dee Gordon

RHP Justin Dunn (0-0, 3.86 ERA)

Matt Chapman breaks out of slump, saves A's season on one clutch swing

Matt Chapman breaks out of slump, saves A's season on one clutch swing

Wednesday night was shaping up to be a disastrous one for the A's.

Oakland had already left 11 runners on base through eight innings, going just 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position. The team was clearly pressing, down 2-1 in the ninth and just two outs away from losing the top wild-card spot to the Rays, who had already won their game against the Yankees.

Enter Matt Chapman.

The A's third baseman stepped to the plate with one out and Marcus Semien on second base, facing Angels closer Hansel Robles. Chapman wasted no time, demolishing the very first pitch he saw 436 feet to center field for a two-run home run, and the A's rallied for a thrilling 3-2 victory.

"Big-time players show up like that," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters. "That was obviously a big one for us. We weren't having trouble getting guys on base. We were just having trouble getting them in the last couple of days. Sometimes you start to press a little bit as a group, and then a lot of times, one swing of the bat ends up loosening everybody up, and certainly that was a key hit."

It was an especially important homer for Chapman, who had been mired in a 3-for-28 slump entering the game. He told reporters he was just trying to keep the rally alive for Matt Olson, who was waiting on deck.

"I was just trying to honestly get Oly to the plate with an opportunity to win the game," Chapman said. "I mean, he's been swinging the bat a little better than me. ... I was like, 'Hey, just stay short. Don't try to do too much right now. We just need a hit or a walk, get on base and just keep the line moving.' So I was just trying to do my part and not try to do too much and was luckily able to get a good pitch and do a little more than I expected."

With that one swing of the bat, Chapman turned a potential three-game losing streak into a dramatic, morale-boosting victory. Upon returning to the dugout, he was mobbed by his teammates, who could finally release their built-up tension in a wild celebration.

"It feels great," Chapman said. "I obviously haven't been playing as well as I'd like to and playing to my capabilities, in my opinion. But that doesn't matter. I think that's the great thing about our team. No matter how guys are feeling -- good or bad -- it's about winning baseball games. Everybody's going to do whatever it takes to win and that's all we care about. So to get that win and keep the lead in the wild card, everybody was pretty excited. Hopefully, we can carry that momentum into these last four games."

With the win, the A's remain half a game ahead of the Rays for the top wild-card spot and move two games ahead of the Indians for the second spot. Oakland's magic number to clinch a playoff berth is down to three with four games remaining in Seattle.

"We do follow (the scoreboard), but we've got to take care of our own business," Chapman said. "I think we learned that a little bit yesterday. We've just got to control what we can control. To be able to have four games left and a half-game lead, we've got to just keep taking care of our business and good things will happen."

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Added Melvin: "It's tough not to notice, but our objective is to take care of ourselves and just try to win our games."

On Wednesday night, the A's did just that. Now they have to do it four more times.