11-12

Road trips are hard, especially long, east coast road trips. So a 5-5 road trip really isn’t that bad. But it sure feels bad considering the A’s started the trip winning four in a row and then proceeded to go 1-5 the rest of the way, including dropping three out of four in the most recent four-game series in Detroit. And though the A’s usually have strong starting pitching, it was the starting pitching that mostly failed them in this series.

bassittFirst, on Monday, Kendall Graveman allowed six earned runs and 10 hits in just 4 2/3 innings pitched. Then on Wednesday, Sonny Gray had the shortest outing of his career, going just two innings and giving up four earned runs. Then on Thursday, Chris Bassitt gave us seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings pitched. Rich Hill was the only starter to turn in a quality performance this series, as he had another stellar showing on Tuesday night with seven shutout innings and eight strikeouts. The veteran lefty saved the A’s from being swept out of Detroit.

Graveman and Gray’s outings are not worrisome, appear to just be blips on the radar, but Bassitt’s rough game – his second in a row – was apparently a sign of larger problems as the A’s placed him on the 15-day disabled list today with a strained elbow. That doesn’t sound good when we know what elbow issues can lead to. I hope that we see him back soon, but in the meantime, the A’s have reinforcements.

Sean_Manaea_d0k07v16_7wxpr5aoThe first of the reinforcements is the man we’re all excited about, top prospect Sean Manaea, who will get the start tonight against Houston, making his major league debut. Manaea looks to take the fifth starter job from the recently demoted Eric Surkamp. The 24-year-old lefty has a 1.50 ERA through three starts at Triple-A Nashville and is clearly ready for the bigs. It’s hard not to be overly optimistic about a big prospect, and I’m sure he’ll have his ups and downs, but I’m really looking forward to watching him pitch every fifth day.

We also got word that Jesse Hahn will be back up to start Saturday’s game. Hahn will effectively take Bassitt’s spot in the rotation, pushing Graveman, Hill, and Gray all back a day. A little extra rest is always nice when you can get it. And Hahn has been very solid in Nashville as well, posting a 2.04 ERA in four starts.

So the rotation gets revamped a little and the A’s are back home after a long road trip, ready to take on the surprisingly scuffling Houston Astros. The rest of the A.L. West is hovering around .500 while the Astros occupy the cellar at an A.L. worst 7-15. Hopefully they don’t find what they’ve been missing until after this weekend. The A’s, on the other hand, are just 3-7 at home, so something is going to give. Go A’s…

10-9

There is only so much a team can do against an offense like the Blue Jays have. Even with the A’s going into the series with one of the best pitching staffs in baseball (statistically speaking), it is hard to keep this team from scoring lots of runs, especially in the friendly confines of Rogers Centre. So even though the A’s winning streak was snapped and they lost a series this season, I’m glad they managed to at least get one game and still have a 4-2 record on the current road trip.

crop_exact_523309292Friday night’s game saw the A’s jump out to a 6-1 lead by the fifth inning, highlighted by a Chris Coghlan three-run HR, and they chased starter Aaron Sanchez after just 4 1/3 innings. Normally a 6-1 lead in the hands of Sonny Gray would feel pretty safe, but no lead is safe at Rogers Centre and against this offense. Sonny battled through seven innings, allowing three runs and six hits and striking out seven. By the time the A’s bullpen came into the game, it was 6-3, and, after Ryan Dull got the first two outs but then allowed a couple of baserunners, Sean Doolittle allowed a two-out single to Kevin Pillar that scored a pair and the lead it was a nail-biting 6-5 lead. These were the first two inherited runners that the A’s bullpen has allowed to score all season. That’s how good they’ve been. Doolittle did manage to get Ryan Goins to ground out to end the threat and go into the 9th with the lead still barely intact.

Jose+Bautista+Oakland+Athletics+v+Toronto+GuK_KAOb3rvlWe certainly did not want to go into the 9th with only a one-run lead, not with Josh Donaldson due up third in the inning and the other big boppers looming behind him. And Khris Davis apparently got the memo. Wanting to make sure we know he is definitely over his slump, Davis drove in a pair of runs with a 2-RBI single in the top of the 9th to give the A’s a little bit of breathing room. Ryan Madson pitched a 1-2-3 9th for the save and the A’s won 8-5.

Saturday and Sunday’s games both felt over early. Both starters – Chris Bassitt on Saturday and Eric Surkamp on Sunday – got pretty roughed up early, as Bassitt allowed six earned runs in five innings pitched and gave up two HR, while Surkamp got through just 4 2/3 with six earned runs allowed and also two HR. There was never much of a sense that the A’s could catch up to that kind of offense producing, and they didn’t.

So the A’s get out of Toronto, allowing 20 runs overall to the Blue Jays on the weekend, and managing to win one of the games. I guess I will take it. It’ll be nice to not have to see that lineup for awhile though. Next it’s off to Detroit to finish up the road trip with four games against our old 2012-13 playoff nemesis. Go A’s…

9-7

When the A’s run off a string of wins like they’re doing right now, I often wonder if the A’s are good or if the team they just played is bad. After taking two out of three at home from the Royals, they headed to the Bronx and swept the three-game series with the Yankees. We know the defending world champion Royals are good – they were 8-2 going into the weekend with the A’s – but what about the Yankees?

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsThe Yankees haven’t been the dominant force for a few years, but they still boast the A.L.’s highest payroll and every time you see guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Teixeira, you’re reminded of those big free agent contracts that are so very Yankees. But the fear just isn’t there like it used to be. And these Yankees seem to be modeling themselves after the Royals – dominant arms in the bullpen and timely hitting – but both of those factors failed the Yankees in this series.

Both teams’ bullpens were on full display in Tuesday night’s game, as Eric Surkamp and Michael Pineda dueled to a 2-2 tie through six innings. We got to see the Yankees’ best – Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller – mow down the A’s for a couple of innings, but the A’s followed suit and this one went to extras. I was watching as A’s fans opined on Twitter that the Yankees had the advantage in the battle of the bullpens, but it was the A’s that broke through in the 11th inning, as Mark Canha singled with a runner at third and two outs, and Ryan Madson picked up the save for another one-run win for the 2016 A’s.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle MarinersWednesday night was another close game but the A’s were able to get the cushion they needed to avoid another battle of the bullpens. With the A’s already up 3-1 in the 8th, Khris Davis, who had been struggling to make his presence known in the lineup up until this point, finally came through with a big hit, singling with the bases loaded to drive in a pair. Carlos Beltran would add an inconsequential solo homer in the 8th off Ryan Dull, but the A’s cruised to the 5-2 win.

And Davis wasn’t satisfied with just a single on Thursday night. The A’s traded for him for his power and he finally got ahold of one, launching his first home run as an A over the center field wall at Yankee Stadium. Then immediately after Davis’ bomb, Coco Crisp crushed one to left to go back-to-back. Four A’s in all homered on Thursday, as Chris Coghlan and Canha also went deep and the A’s won 7-3, completing the sweep and putting the Yankees in the cellar in the A.L. East at 5-9.

So the Yankees’ plan of dominant bullpen (6.55 bullpen ERA this series) and timely hitting (4-for-22 with RISP this series) did not work out and the A’s have now reeled off five wins in a row and are 6-0 on the road. The Yankees may be struggling, but sweeping any team on the road is pretty tough, considering the A’s didn’t even have Sonny Gray and Chris Bassitt pitching in this series. We’ll see those two in Toronto, as the A’s head north of the border for a weekend series against a really scary offense. Let’s see if they can keep it going and pad that road record. Go A’s…