MLB Coverage: Oakland’s AL West Lead Disappears
Oakland A’s outfielder Josh Reddick has been splashed all over the news this weekend, including on the home page at MLB.com, and with good reason. Reddick went on a power binge this weekend in Toronto, homering five times in two games. But the focus on Reddick’s long-overdue home run surge has obscured the fact that the A’s have fallen hard in the AL West and coughed up a six-game lead in two weeks.
On July 28, life was good in Oakland. They were 62-43 and led the Texas Rangers by six games in the AL West. The rumors—proven to be accurate were that Texas’ already floundering offense would take a further hit with the PED suspension of rightfielder Nelson Cruz. Those same rumors—again accurate—told us that Oakland starting pitcher Bartolo Colon would not suffer any suspension, as his ties to the BioGenesis clinic had already been penalized with a previous 50-game sanction.
Everything was set for the A’s to cruise home, but something happened on the way to the runaway. Oakland lost a series to Texas at home, lost seven of eleven overall, and as they begin play for this afternoon’s finale in Toronto, the A’s now trail the Rangers by a game.
What happened? We can start by pointing out that Texas’ hot streak is the biggest reason for the turnaround, but the focal point of our MLB coverage today is Oakland, and what’s gone wrong for them in August and whether it’s a blip on the radar or a sign of things to come.
It has to be troubling to Oakland fans that offensive production has dipped in spite of Reddick’s big power outburst. The A’s are 11th in the American League in runs scored for the month of August, as compared to ninth for the season overall. The team’s slugging percentage is second in the AL overall. Given Oakland has only played eight games in August, that’s a small enough sample to be dramatically impacted by Reddick’s outburst.
Therefore, just based on knowing these three facts—runs slightly down, slugging dramatically up, huge weekend from Reddick—you could deduce that no one else in the lineup is hitting. And, for the most part, that’s an accurate conclusion.
Jed Lowrie has been awful, Brandon Moss has a woeful .259 on-base percentage in August, and Yoenis Cespedes seems bound and determined that his win in the Home Run Derby will be the only noteworthy thing he does all year. Designated hitter Seth Smith has lost playing time and is doing little to get it back.
There are positives in the Oakland offense. Josh Donaldson has a stat line of .412 OBP/.464 slugging percentage in August. Alberto Callaspo, the new acquisition from the Los Angeles Angels, has a .350/.444 stat line. Its possible Eric Sogard, with his .333 OBP could play his way into more time. Sogard is a second baseman, and if the A’s want, they could insert him into the lineup, move Callaspo to short (a position he played in Kansas City) and bench Lowrie, should the latter continue to slump. We can also note that Coco Crisp is struggling.
When you add all this up, it’s not hard to fathom that Oakland lost consecutive games when they mustered just five hits in each , and one run combined. Derek Holland beat them in the rubber game eight days ago, and Mat Latos did the same thing this past Tuesday in Cincinnati. The A’s lineup doesn’t look ready to pass muster against good teams.
The pitching hasn’t been bad—seventh in the American League in August ERA, but given the extend Oakland relies on its pitching, they need better. Tommy Milone was rocked and then sent to the minors. Colon had a bad outing in Cincinnati. Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin have been respectable, with ERAs in the high 3s over the last two starts. But in a short sample size, no one has dominated, and with the offense not hitting, that means no opportunities for a bullpen that continues to pitch well.
After wrapping up their series in Toronto, Oakland goes home to face Houston. If that isn’t an invitation to start hitting, I’m not sure what is. Then the A’s host Cleveland over the weekend, another team that’s reeling after losing four straight to the Detroit Tigers. It’s another good opportunity for Oakland to right the ship and at least open up ground in the wild-card race—a race they still lead, along with Tampa Bay—regardless of what Texas does.
Oakland continues to hope for starting pitching help from Brett Anderson, who threw a simulated game this past week and I still expect to see come back. Texas got some bad news on the same front, with the word that Colby Lewis’ rehab efforts have concluded with season-ending surgery.
All that points to an A’s revival and re-assertion in the weeks ahead. Since this own site’s MLB coverage has changed picks from the Angels to the Rangers to the A’s in the AL West, I feel duty-bound to stay with Oakland. But the last 15 days were a rude slap in the face to anyone who thought Texas was going to go quietly.