It would have been nice to write about how the A’s swept the Baltimore Orioles today and put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat towards a spot in the postseason. But that didn’t quite happen. The A’s were presented with an immediate opportunity to seize this game, knock around Randy Wolf a bit, and put it in cruise control en route to the sweep. That didn’t happen either. Josh Reddick did put the A’s out in front early with his 29th home run of the season, but they had opportunities to add on and they failed to do so. Wolf wasn’t long for this game, lasting only 4 innings while allowing just those 2 runs. It didn’t seem to matter much though, The A’s couldn’t score against Tommy Hunter or Brian Matusz. By the time they figured out how to hit again the Orioles had opened up a comfortable 7-2 lead. Stephen Drew connected on his second homer in as many days to cut the lead to 7-4, giving the A’s a fighting chance still heading to the 9th inning. Here’s where the head scratching came to pass.
In the second game this week, Bob Melvin put Jesse Chavez on the mound in a high leverage situation. While this wasn’t as dire as the bases loaded situation he entered the game with on Thursday in Anaheim, which he allowed all runners to score in by the way, the game was still in a position the A’s had a shot to make a comeback. Chavez once again wasn’t fooling anyone, and allowed 2 ER on 3 hits in his 1 inning of work. The reasonably reachable 3 run deficit became a 5 run deficit that would take a miracle 9th inning comeback to erase. Looking at the box score and seeing guys like Jim Miller, Tyson Ross (who gave up 3 runs of his own), Evan Scribner, Pedro Figueroa, and Travis Blackley along with Chavez makes you wonder. Of those 5 pitchers, only two have a real chance of being on any potential postseason roster should the A’s make it (Scribner and Blackley). So while these guys carried the load after Straily’s exit, pitchers like Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook, Pat Neshek, and even Grant Balfour remained in the bullpen.
It’s hard to understand what Bob Melvin was thinking during this game, and the game on Thursday. I haven’t been one bit critical of Melvin at all this season, but he either has way too much faith in some of these pitchers, or he’s subtly throwing in the towel on some of these games that he doesn’t feel the A’s have a chance to make a comeback in. It’s really difficult to make sense of these moves. At this point in the season there are no meaningless games for the A’s, and hopefully a move like this doesn’t cost the A’s a game that comes back to haunt them later.
While I disliked the way the bullpen was handled, I’m certainly not declaring a state of emergency. Although both the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels won their games, putting the A’s back to 3 games behind Texas, and the Angels gaining a game on the A’s, making them 4.5 back, the A’s can still make some serious headway this week.
Now comes the big brutal test for the A’s, the road trip that all the so-called experts have claimed will bring down the Athletics is here. Over the next 11 days, 10 games against the Detroit Tigers (3), New York Yankees (3), and Texas Rangers (4). After an off day tomorrow the A’s will face none other than the multi-color eyed Max Scherzer (16-6, 3.77 ERA) Tuesday in Detroit. Scherzer has been on fire lately, and loves to strike out hitters, unfortunately the A’s love to strikeout as well. It’s essential to get this trip off on the right foot, they can swing and miss all they want, as long as they connect on a few and put some runs on the board. The A’s do have perhaps their best counter to Scherzer in A.J. Griffin (6-0, 1.94 ERA). If he can shut down the Tigers offense like he has everyone else, the A’s will be in fine shape.
This is crunch time for the A’s, this is when that character they’ve shown all season will come in handy.