For the third time this season, the Oakland Athletics suffered a sweep at home.
This one, though, comes immediately following a 6-2 stretch that carried the team to within nine games of a .500 record, dealing a potentially crushing blow to its hopes of a resurgence.
In dropping three straight to the Pittsburgh Pirates (41-41), the A’s (35-47) coupled the damning combination of poor hitting in clutch at-bats, and pitching incapable of holding leads. Although the defense was once again outstanding, the offense fell short of the four-run mark in all three contests — while the pitching blew a lead in each.
Fastball: Defense does its part
With a nearly flawless weekend, the defense did all it could have been expected to in or order to keep things close.
Outfielder Coco Crisp tabbed his first outfield assist of the season, cutting down a runner at home to hold the deficit at one run in the 10th inning of Saturday’s 4-2 loss. One inning earlier, third baseman Danny Valencia made a highlight-reel play on a bunt attempt, keeping the score tied.
In addition to turning three double plays in the series, the Oakland defense reached nine consecutive games without an error — the longest such streak by the A’s since a 10-game streak in Sept. 2007.
Changeup: Davis continues to “Khrush”
While Crisp (.247/.310/.427 2016 slash) recorded three hits in the series, pushing his active hit streak to 10 games, it was Khris Davis’ bat which spoke the loudest.
Davis (.259/.295/.507) — whose average fell to .232 less than a month ago (June 10) — has pounded out 15 hits in his last nine games played. The exclamation point (thus far) on that run being a two-hit performance in Sunday’s 6-3 loss.
With his .333 average (25-for-75), five home runs and 17 RBIs over the past 19 games, “Khrush” is making a mad dash at an All-Star Game nod.
Curveball: Did the Raiders cost the A’s a win?
In the fifth inning of a tied game, on Friday, Josh Reddick (.313/.388/.446) sent a line drive into the same right field he has inhabited for more than four years. But his ball landed in a spot he had previously noticed but never truly acknowledged.
What looked to be a go-ahead double was instead reduced to a ground-rule double, with the go-ahead run having to stop at third base.
The ball did not hop over the fence, though, it landed in a small hole — three inches wide, according to Reddick — which houses a wheel used to adjust the fence line between baseball and football field settings. The lead run never scored, and the game remained tied into extra innings where the Pirates took over.
Sinker: Can’t hold the lead
Oakland base runners crossed the plate first in all three games against Pittsburgh, but the pitchers couldn’t hold.
A’s pitching has now been unable to maintain a lead in each of the past four games, sending the team record to 24-23 when scoring first. The offense didn’t help the cause, however, failing to add on. Green and Gold clad hitters combined to go 3-for-23 (.130) with runners in scoring position.
Slider: Valencia goes hitless
Valencia (.308/.358/.500), a mainstay in the cleanup spot, has been in integral part of the “Swingin’ A’s” prosperity.
For that reason, it is no surprise that his scuffle coincides with Oakland’s current four-game slide. Against Pittsburgh, the third baseman went 0-for-12, reaching base just once — on a walk in his first at-bat of the series, in the first inning of Friday’s 7-3 loss.
Pitch out: Taking it to the Twins
The AL’s fourth-lowest scoring offense (341 runs) comes with a .247 team average (third-lowest). In many offensive statistical categories, though, the Twins are comparable to Oakland.
Where “Bo-Mel’s” boys will have to make a difference is on the mound. With a 5.10 team ERA, Minnesota’s pitching staff is the only one that has been scored on more than the A’s (4.75). “Twinkie” hurlers also boast an overweight .288 batting average against, while the defense has committed a league-high 56 errors.
One thing the Twins do well is run. The catching tandem of Stephen Vogt and the recently recalled Matt McBride will have their hands full, handcuffing the league’s third-most successful base-stealing attack (54 stolen bases).