I’ve been on somewhat of a hiatus for much of the last week, a first wedding anniversary and 5 days on the go will do that to you. While I’ve kept tabs on what the Oakland Athletics have been up to, I haven’t been able to keep the close eye on them that I’ve grown accustomed to. And without being under the watchful eye of yours truly, the Athletics have been grossly misbehaving.
They have lost six of their last 7 games, and have done so in very ugly fashion. They got swept by the Tampa Bay Rays last weekend at Tropicana Field, dropped two of three to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, and were bludgeoned by the Baltimore Orioles last night in their return to the O.co Coliseum for a four game set. That 12-4 record I referenced last week that had set the team up for success in the 2013 season has almost completely evaporated in the span of one disastrous week, now at 13-10. While all is not lost, and the team is still over the .500 mark, there hasn’t been much to feel encouraged about over this 7 game stretch. But the concerns don’t just lie in one bad week of baseball, there is a very disturbing trend beginning to take shape that started two weeks ago when the Detroit Tigers came to Oakland.
We’ve all spent a good portion of this season thus far rejoicing in the fact that the hapless Houston Astros are part of our division now and can serve as a slump-busting punching bag for all members of the AL West. The Athletics have taken full advantage of that fact, going 6-0 versus the ‘Stros in the early going. Those six wins account for nearly half of the team’s victories in 2013, but that isn’t the problem. The Athletics, and just about every MLB team, are supposed to beat the Astros; so one cannot judge them for doing what they’re supposed to do. What’s disconcerting right now is who the Athletics are not winning games against.
When the Detroit Tigers came to town two weeks ago with Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Anibal Sanchez slated to take the hill, it was clear that the Athletics would have a rough time putting runs on the board. It took a Friday night walk-off home run by Josh Donaldson to avoid what could have been a Tigers sweep. The team scored a total of 8 runs during that series, and failed to take advantage of a Justin Verlander that was not at his best on Saturday. It was a bit of a reality check.
They got right by sweeping the aforementioned Astros during the week, but then came the ugliness once again. The Tampa Bay Rays have had their issues so far this year, they were 5-10 when the Athletics came to town. But we all know the success they have had with this group over the last four years, and despite a record below .500 we all know they’re a quality team. With the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner in the fold, they’ll always have a chance to be successful… Only problem is that David Price didn’t face the A’s during this series. The A’s were swept by Alex Cobb, Jeremy Hellickson, and Roberto Hernandez. Not exactly the members of the ’92 Braves.
The series in Boston was unique in that the teams had to contend with some very harsh weather conditions, not exactly conducive to crisp and clean baseball. But the Athletics starting pitchers failed to stay out of the big innings, and the Red Sox were ready to pounce when they had the chance. Unable to mount rallies in the 9th inning against fomer Athletics closer Andrew Bailey, the A’s dropped two games they very easily could have won.
The MLB season is so long that the ebbs and flows have to be taken in context of the massive sample size that still awaits, they have played 23 of 162 games. So bearing that in mind, the panic button can’t be pushed just yet. Though perhaps a panic advisory can be issued right now. The starting pitching for the Athletics, thought to be a team strength has quite frankly been atrocious during this last week, save for the dominant performance by Bartolo Colon on Tuesday in Boston. Brett Anderson and Jarrod Parker have been shaky all year, and are at the forefront of the team’s issues, they’re getting hit very hard right now. The source of the problems are not clear, but they need to be resolved as soon as possible before this stretch of games erases all the good that their hot start created.
Don’t get me started on Josh Reddick.
The Athletics have a big problem when they face quality teams, they lose. By either simply getting dominated, or finding ways to drop games, the Athletics are being outclassed. The talent on the team is better than their play right now reflects, and there are some positive signs (Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie, the core bullpen guys). But we need to see those positive signs turned into positive results, or else the A’s will risk falling behind again in perhaps the toughest division in baseball.