Thank You For the A’s: Ups and Downs

As we come to the end of May, the AL West standings are a disappointing, if not surprising, sight for fans of the Oakland A’s.

This was a season entered into in a spirit of ‘let’s see what we get’ rather than any great expectations of success.

The division didn’t look formidable, despite the potential of the Houston Astros that has been realised quickly, so there was an outside chance of everything coming together and the A’s hanging in the race for a while before settling around a .500 record.

When you put to one side the 12 game deficit to the division-leading Astros, you could say this modest target is still within reach. The A’s trail the Rangers and Angels by two games and both of them are one game below .500.

However, we all know that as the season progresses, several of the players that are currently giving us a chance to win games and gain some ground will instead become trade chips to cash in.

Frankly, being able to get some talent back for Jed Lowrie and Yonder Alonso in a mid-season trade looked almost fanciful after their 2016 seasons, so their potential departures do not hang heavy over the team as normally is the case. We can enjoy their performances in the short term, especially Alonso’s unexpected power surge, and then wish them well when they inevitably move on.

You always hope for more as a fan, though, and the past nine games are a good example of that.

The A’s had been swept over three games in Texas and then lost two of three in Seattle before heading home for a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox.

It was a tough series in prospect but the A’s rose to the challenge, with Sonny Gray pitching well in Game One, Mark Canha hitting a walk-off homer in Game Two and Chad Pinder hitting an unlikely monster home run (460 feet) in Game Three. Taking three from four against the Red Sox was a very good return, but losing the finale when a sweep was in the offing was a slight let-down.

After splitting an odd two-game inter-league series against the Miami Marlins, the A’s then travelled to New York and took the opener in the Bronx. Sean Manaea took the start after shoulder soreness hit the scheduled starter Kendall Graveman and the lefty got the better of Masahiro Tanaka in a fun pitching duel. Having won that game, dropping the next two was a shame and particularly in the manner that they did.

Game Two couldn’t have been going much better as Jharel Cotton, called up that day from the Minors to replace the injured Jesse Hahn, was pitching a no-hitter until Matt Holliday brought a conclusive end to that with a two-run home run with two outs in the sixth inning. That game went begging and then Sunday’s early game similary started well – an early two run lead thanks to Khris Davis’s 15th long-ball of the season – before going south. Aaron Judge hit a grand slam and the A’s committed two more errors in yet another sloppy display in the field.

Errors are a subjective scoring decision, so only provide a partial insight into fielding performance, but the figures are hard to ignore. The A’s have made 49 errors in 49 games, their total being 11 more than the next worst team, Tampa Bay. Getting beat is tough to take, but so much worse when you feel you’re beating yourself.

Still, there’s always hope that things may turn around. Oakland now head into a four-game series in Cleveland – the opener today a 21:10 Memorial Day start – before heading back home where an inter-league series against the Washington Nationals will await. The latter will provide a particularly tough test for the A’s, not least with Stephen Strasburg on schedule to pitch the opener.

Fingers crossed he used up some of his strike-outs in his 15K performance against the Padres on Saturday.

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