6-7

Coming into a three-game series against the defending World Series champion Royals, especially right after getting swept at home by the Angels, I wasn’t expecting much from the A’s this weekend. So I’m pretty surprised to be sitting here writing a blog post about how the A’s are 6-7 and not 5-8 or 4-9. But that’s just what I’m doing!

Friday’s game went about how I expect all games against the Royals to go. They jumped ahead early and then score just enough to hand the ball over to their lights out bullpen in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. You better be ahead after six innings or it’s goodnight, Charlie. And it was that way for the A’s on Friday as they lost 4-2.

reddick480_dxg9tq6m_rm0t179fSaturday, however, the A’s were able to turn the tables, jumping ahead in the 1st inning thanks to a three-run homer by Josh Reddick. Untimely errors by Jed Lowrie at second base and a shaky 9th inning from Ryan Madson nearly cost the A’s this one, but the A’s hung on to win it 5-3.

Then came Sunday. This was a game that, early on, felt very much like the games in the Angels series. The Royals again scored early, taking a 2-0 lead after three innings, and the A’s offense just muddled along, hitting popup after popup and grounder after grounder, their bats looking incapable of doing anything resembling scoring runs. Scoring opportunities were wiped out by a Billy Butler double play and then a Butler strikeout looking. In fact the A’s first run came on a strikeout with a passed ball with a runner at third. I certainly expected the late inning Royals bullpen to nail this one down.

And that bullpen had their chance. The Royals had a 2-1 lead going into the 7th and after starter Kris Medlen allowed a ground rule double to Chris Coghlan, they handed the ball to that lights out bullpen. But Jed Lowrie, pinch hitting for Butler, singled to right field on Kelvin Herrera to tie the game up at 2-2. And the in the 8th, Billy Burns got to the Royals 8th inning man, Joakim Soria, leading off the inning with a triple and Reddick provided the sac fly to put the A’s up 3-2 and the A’s would hang on to win by that score after another Madson save.

Pretty impressive, all things considered. I don’t think this is a game that the 2015 A’s would have won. Maybe things are really different this year! These 2016 A’s are now 4-2 in one-run games.

Now the A’s head on their first long road trip of the year – 10 games against east coast teams. That’s good for me because that means the games are all on at a reasonable time for me to be able to watch them live, but I know teams don’t love long road trips like that. If the A’s can pull off 5-5, I will certainly take that. First stop – the Bronx and a three-game series with the Yankees. Go A’s…

4-6

Oof. So much for all those good feelings I had after the weekend sweep in Seattle. I’m back to feeling “meh” about this team after after one bullpen meltdown and a lackluster offensive performance from most players not named Marcus Semien contributed to a three-game sweep by the Los Angeles Angels. It’s only been 10 games and this is already a roller coaster.

Los+Angeles+Angels+Anaheim+v+Oakland+Athletics+mBhluGNVhiclI’m not sure which A’s are the real A’s. Are the A’s that got dominated (again) by Nick Tropeano the real A’s? Tropeano is only even in the bigs because of an injury to the Angels’ main fifth starter, but  he looks like Cy Young against the A’s. This was his third career start against the A’s (out of total 12 in the big leagues) and he’s 3-0 with an ERA of 0.51. What is it with this guy, or is this just the A’s?

Are the A’s that blew a 4-1 lead on Tuesday night the real A’s? This would be the most distressing to me, honestly, as we already went through that last year and I’m ready for things to be different this year. And of course this happens just days after I sang the praises of our new and improved bullpen after the weekend in Seattle. But Ryan Madson gave up two runs on a two-out, two-RBI double by Albert Pujols, and then in the ninth with a one-run lead, Sean Doolittle allowed a two-run homer to former A Geovany Soto and that was that. I’m not sure what to make of this, as Madson has been really solid

otherwise, and I think the pitch to Pujols was a good pitch that a future HOFer was just able to pull into the right spot on the field. But as for Doolittle, this was the second time in this very early season he has allowed a homer at an inopportune time (the other was the Jimmy Rollins HR that broke a 4-4 tie in the second game of the season) and that just can’t happen on a regular basis.

Or are the A’s that were dominated by Matt Shoemaker on Wednesday afternoon the real A’s? These A’s looked a lot like Monday’s A’s, so maybe these are the most likely real A’s. Or maybe it was just a bad series and things will get better. We’ll have an off day to think about it and then it doesn’t get easier this weekend as the world champion Kansas City Royals come to town for a weekend set of three games. They have owned us ever since that gave in late September of 2014 that shall not be mentioned. But maybe they’ll surprise me. Go A’s………

4-3

Well that’s more like it. On Friday I said that it’d be nice if the A’s could go up to Seattle and get a couple. Well they got more than couple. They got three – all three! – and completed the road sweep to stand at 4-3 with one week of baseball in the books.

Oakland+Athletics+v+Seattle+Mariners+iZqDt63UD6rlThe big story of this weekend series against the Mariners – and of this very early season so far – is the bullpen. So far, this is just night and day from last season. The 2015 saw bullpen implosion after bullpen implosion, and many late leads evaporate and turn into one-run losses. What’s going on right now with the A’s feels like the opposite. Tie game late? No problem. Here’s John Axford to make sure it stays tied. Starter had to leave after 5? No problem. Ryan Dull will be the bridge to the late inning setup men. And then at the back end, you’ve got not one but two capable closers in Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle. We’ve got a closer-by-committee going on, but not out of necessity or desperation, but out of luxury. Just look at Friday night’s game, in which Bob Melvin called on Doolittle in the 8th to face the heart of the Mariners’ order with two dangerous lefties, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, due up. That was just the more favorable matchup for the A’s and who cared that it wasn’t the 9th inning? BoMel sure didn’t, and neither did Doolittle and neither did I. He got the job done and Madson nailed down the save the next inning.

crop_exact_519940964The other story is that Rich Hill doesn’t suck. Whatever problems he had going on in spring training in and his lackluster Opening Day start are gone, or at least it was for one start. Saturday night, he struck out 10 batters in six innings pitched, allowing just five hits and one earned run. That’s more what we were hoping for from the veteran lefty, and hopefully there is more of that to come.

We also saw some clutch home runs late. The 2016 A’s aren’t a high-scoring offense, but they came up in big moments this weekend. First, there was Chris Coghlan breaking a 2-2 tie in the 9th inning on Friday with a solo shot the ended up being the game-winner. Then on Sunday afternoon, Marcus Semien‘s 8th inning solo homer tied the game at 1-1, and then Coco Crisp (isn’t it nice that he’s finally healthy!) blasted a solo shot in the 10th inning that put the A’s ahead. Josh Reddick also homered twice this weekend.

So yeah, I’m feeling all the good feelings right now. The A’s are over .500 after one week, and I believe that this year will be different than last year. The green and gold are headed back home for a three game series with the Angels beginning Monday night, and hopefully they can keep it going. Go A’s…