They were held without a hit into the seventh inning Tuesday, and quieted to just three hits on Wednesday, with the A’s (25-34) creating just six RBI situations over the two games. The Brewers (28-31) countered Oakland’s 0-for-6 series performance with runners in scoring position by going 4-for-12.
Timely hitting in Wednesday’s 4-0 win, along with a pair of homers from former Athletic Chris Carter in Tuesday’s 5-4 victory, proved to be the difference for the Brew Crew.
Fastball: Bullpen turns the lights out
In 5-2/3 innings pitched, five A’s relievers combined to allow just one hit, while striking out seven. The bullpen also refrained from free passes, without walking or hitting a single batter.
A scoreless inning from Fernando Rodriguez (1-0, 2.05 ERA) set the offense up to make a run at a ninth-inning come-from-behind win Tuesday. Ryan Dull (1-1, 2.53 ERA) came on in relief of Jesse Hahn (2-4, 6.49 ERA), who was knocked out early in a second straight game, to strand two more inherited runners.
Getting 13 outs while facing just 14 batters, the bullpen gave the bats the opportunity to come back on Wednesday as well.
With its strong performance the A’s relief corps lowered its season ERA to 3.86 (T-14 MLB).
The little right-handed reliever entered an inning in which the Brewers had already hung two runs on the board, and with former MVP Ryan Braun due up with runners on first and third, were poised for more. Needing just four pitches, Dull got the slugger to swing at a slider in the dirt to end the threat.
Changeup: Khris Davis‘ ailing elbow
Playing his former team, at a park in which he has hit 33 of his 74 career home runs, in front of fans who were no doubt waiting to give him a boisterous cheer, Davis (.234/.265/.488 2016 slash) was unable to shake the pain in his strained elbow. Davis finished without so much as a pinch-hitting appearance.
The team leader in home runs (14) and RBIs (36) has been listed as day-to-day since being hit by a pitch on Sunday.
Sinker: big hits still missing
Oakland is home to the American League’s fifth-worst batting average with runners in scoring position (.251), which is a huge reason for the A’s having scored the AL’s third-fewest runs (231).
In two games at one of the game’s most hitter-friendly parks, the A’s could muster just four runs.
The reason? They went 0-for-6 in those run-scoring situations. There is no certainty as to which is worse: getting just six such at-bats over a two-game period, or going hitless in those six at-bats. Now heading to another of the league’s most offensive parks, the “Swingin’ A’s” will need to start creating runs from all their swinging.
Since tossing 6-2/3 scoreless innings in his first start of the season, the 26 year-old has gotten progressively worse. After coughing up seven runs, while getting only two outs, in Houston on June 3 Hahn was unable to finish the fourth frame on Wednesday.
He has now given up 26 runs in 28 innings since dazzling on April 30.
Pitch out: Salvaging positives
Having already clinched a losing road trip, the focus now shifts for the A’s as they will take on the Reds in Cincinnati.
After appearing to have turned a competitive corner with a 5-1 home stand, the green and gold are in search of their first win in a three-city, eight-game roadie. And the search for a win over the Reds got a little tougher on Thursday, when the A’s placed acting ace hurler Rich Hill (8-3, 2.25 ERA) on the DL with a groin strain.
The good news is that Sonny Gray (3-5, 5.77 ERA) emerged from a DL stint looking to be in ace form, allowing one run in five innings in his return.
The A’s can also expect a return of Danny Valencia (.343/.387/.580), who missed both games in Milwaukee due to a stomach bug, and his return will be a welcomed one for a struggling lineup.