The Oakland A’s have lost 26 games by one-run and it feels like they have all come in the last six weeks. It’s a stretch of dismal baseball that the game hasn’t seen in years; and it has the Athletics playoff hopes teetering.
With last night’s excruciating 6-1 loss to the Texas Rangers the A’s are now in a flat-footed tie with the Kansas City Royals for the top wild-card spot in the American League and are a mere two games in front of the Seattle Mariners for the second and final spot. There are losses, then there are the inexplicable, the cosmic, the numbingly torturous that we saw on Wednesday night.
Jeff Samardzija had pitched 8 innings of shut-out baseball and the A’s were looking for added insurance in the bottom of the 8th. After loading the bases with no one out the A’s proceeded with two pop-ups and a fly ball and failed to score. They handed the ball to reliable closer Sean Doolittle to close out the win. Instead it was an epic implosion as the woeful Rangers tagged the A’s pen for 6 runs. To borrow a line, “it was so quiet in Oakland you could hear Anaheim.”
The Angels and their fans were hoping to turn Angels Stadium into their own version of Disneyland after they had disposed of the Mariners 5-0. The win had clinched a tie for the American League West title for the Halos. With the A’s loss the Angels were able to pop the bubbly and celebrate their first division title since 2009. The Angels are the anti-thesis of the Athletics. While Oakland has dropped 17-of-27 the Angels have won an amazing 18-of-22. Incredibly, the Angels surge coincides with the loss of their best pitcher Garrett Richards who tore up his knee in Boston last month while covering first base. Since then numerous players have stepped up in Richards absence while the offense has found their stride.
Fan message boards and chat rooms will point to Billy Beane’s trading of Yoenis Cespedes as the reason for the team’s foibles over the last month-plus. While the loss of Yoni may have had an adverse affect on the chemistry of the team, to point to THAT as the lone reason for Oakland’s troubles is being short-sighted.
Oakland has been decimated by injuries. Short-stop Jed Lowrie spent considerable time on the DL forcing Bob Melvin to piece together an infield of punch-n-judy hitters. Coco Crisp missed significant time because of a blow to the head as he chased a fly ball and with hellacious slumps by multiple hitters (Moss & Donaldson) the A’s weren’t giving themselves a chance to win on a daily basis. In short, they stopped scoring runs and when they did, the back-end of the bullpen was failing in Doolittle’s absence. The result has not only been losses in the standings, but a loss of that Oakland swagger that they used during the summer. The Athletics need to find that swagger and confidence FAST.
The irony is that if the Athletics actually make it to the post-season they will be a very dangerous team. The game of baseball and the fortunes of teams’ can turn on a dime. There is not one team in the American League that “wants” to play the A’s in a series. I will give you four reasons. Lester, Samardzija, Gray and Kazmir. The A’s greatest asset is that glorious rotation.
It was 8 years ago that the St. Louis Cardinals were in danger of not making the post-season. They lost 8 straight games going into their final regular season game, needing to win to get into the post-season. The Cardinals would win that game. The Cardinals would also win the World Series even though they only won 84 games during the regular season.
Pitching wins in October but if Oakland can’t at least figure a few things out offensively over the next 11 days, they may not get a chance to prove it.