It’s been 14 straight months of regular season baseball since the Oakland Athletics have had a losing record. That streak ended Saturday night as they lost their third straight game to the Los Angeles Angels. Even if they win Sunday on August’s final day the Athletics will finish the month with a 13-16 record.
The team has been in a major offensive slump in August but it really started in late July. Brandon Moss who hit 23 home runs in the first half of the season hasn’t hit one out of the yard since July 24. The A’s still lead the league in runs scored but only rank 20th in that category for the month of August.
Some blame general manager Billy Beane for trading Yoenis Cespedes, who was third on the team in home runs, to the Boston Red Sox to bring their now ace Jon Lester to Oakland. Though the timing coincides well to blame the trade, the A’s offensive troubles lie deeper than that.
With both Moss and catcher Derek Norris struggling, teams can pitch around MVP candidate Josh Donaldson. Sunday the A’s acquired slugger Adam Dunn from the Chicago White Sox hoping he can quell their offensive struggles. In theory it should work.
Don’t let the two-time All-Star’s .220 batting average fool you. He hit 34 home runs in 2013 and has already hit 20 this season. Dunn is tied with Josh Donaldson for seventh in the American League in walks.
Characteristically throughout his career Dunn has been known to strike out a lot but again with the power and ability to get on base he should help spark the A’s sleeping line up. He will also provide a presence in the lineup that is lacking ,yes, without Cespedes but also without Moss and Norris really contributing they way they did in the first half of the season.
The A’s pitching did struggle a bit at the beginning of the month with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija all having some shaky outings. However, more great pitching performances have been wasted by lack of offensive than there have been poor starts put up by the pitchers.
Jon Lester has been absolutely great since joining the Athletics. The rest of the pitching staff (with the exception of Hammel, who they will not need to use in the postseason) has been stepping back up and pitching to their potential of late only lack the run support needed to get the win. The bullpen has been solid as they have been all season and soon All-Star closer Sean Doolittle will be returning from the disabled list.
The A’s also wracked up a fair number of injuries in August their already weak infield lost Nick Punto and Jed Lowrie. There’s Doolittle, catcher John Jaso and now center fielder Coco Crisp. They are expecting Lowrie to return from the disabled list this week and Doolittle likely the following week.
Crisp is day to day with a chronic neck sprain that was re-aggrevated by a collision with the center field wall at Angel Stadium this week. Jaso has been cleared from his concussion like symptoms to resume baseball activities and it is likely that Kyle Blanks and Punto will be back before the season ends.
The Athletics have the resources to make a comeback and retake the lead in the American League West from the Angels. It all depends on whether their bats will wake up or not. It also depends on how the Angels play but the Oakland Athletics generally play better baseball when they are considered the underdogs.
On August 31, 2012 the A’s were four games back of the A.L. West leading Texas Rangers and on August 31, 2013 they Athletics were two games behind the Rangers. The A’s are the back-to-back A.L. Western Division Champions so being four games back on August 31 really isn’t an obstacle too big to overcome.
They have all the pieces but need to put them together, as well as stay healthy during the month of September, to be able to overtake the Angels and win the division.
There will absolutely have to be a shift in their offense as the A’s were shut out the last two days by the Angels.
It’s definitely not a certainty yet it is always a possibility, so don’t count the Oakland Athletics out just yet.