‘Tough stretch’ a good test
A decent road trip east will be a big success
The Athletics are headed east without the desired momentum, and even in the game-at-a-time view of their manager Bob Melvin, it’s a rough road.
“A tough stretch … probably the toughest stretch that we’ll see all year,” Melvin said. “I know the guys are excited about going east and playing in ballparks that are basically museums as far as baseball goes. We’ll see how we stack up. It’s a good measuring stick for us, and we’re excited about it.”
After making a run to get over .500 following a three-game sweep over the struggling Baltimore Orioles, the Athletics got a dose of reality in losing three straight to the ultimate measuring stick — the defending World Series champion Houston Astros.
In finishing their homestand at 3-3, the Athletics left anumber of questions unanswered heading into this trip.
Truth be told, at 18-19, if they’re within striking distance of .500 when they return, it’s a success. Anything above that and let the way-too-early playoff speculation begin.
The alternative is Athletics fans speculating about which player swill be sold off in the coming weeks to legitimate contenders.
Five questions which bear watching as the Athletics play three games in New York against the Yankees, three in Boston and then four in Toronto before returning home to face Seattle on May 22.
1. CAN THE MATT S GET GOING? »
Infield cornerstones Matt Olson (first base) and Matt Chapman (third base) are struggling.
Counted on for much of the punch in the Athletics’ lineup, Olson hit .136 on the last homestand (3 for 22) and Chapman .100 (2 for 20).
Neither has produced the kind of power and run-producing ability they did last season upon breaking into the lineup.
You can throw outfielder Matt Joyce, 5 for 41 in his last 14 games, into the mix.
Melvin said it’s not one player, but a team-wide issue. But Chapman and Olson must produce for the A’s to contend. 2. WHAT’S UP WITH TREVOR CAHILL? » Cahill was pitching some of the most overpowering ball of his life, striking out 12 in his sixinning stint against Baltimore and 31 in 24 innings since signing with the A’s after Jharel Cotton was lost for the season with Tommy John surgery.
Melvin was comparing him to Brandon Webb, who became a strikeout pitcher in Arizona after adding a changeup that helped him better to set up hitters.
Cahill is on the disabled list because of an elbow impingement. Maybe he will miss just one start, like the A’s are hoping.
But even Cahill admitted the elbow is new territory.
“With it being a new area, it’s cautionary to take a step back and regroup,” Cahill said.
3. CAN DUSTIN FOWLER PROVIDE A SPARK? »
The player the A’s insisted on when they dealt Sonny Gray to the Yankees has been hitting and running bases with abandon at Triple-A Nashville af- ter knee surgery a year ago, when he crashed into an outfield wall before he ever got his first major-league at-bat.
He’s not coming to the big club to sit the bench. If Fowler produces, he’s not leaving. Center field will be his position.
The A’s face Gray on Friday, and Fowler is expected to be in the lineup.
“It’s just a perfect story,” Fowler said. “The guy I get traded for, (I) get to face him. It will be fun, nice to play in NewYork and play in front of that crowd, play in front of a bunch of guys I know.”
Melvin said he doesn’t expect to put Fowler immediately at the top of the lineup, but his base running and base stealing ability are another dimension the offense is lacking. 4. CAN SEAN MANAEA GET SOMEHELP? » Manaea could sue for lack of support. He has a 2.11 earned-run average and a 4- 4 record. His next start will be in Fenway Park. Last time Manaea faced Boston, he threwa no-hitter. The A’s have scored three runs or more in three of his starts.
The last thing the Athletics need on this trip is to see their bell cowslip below.500. 5. DEFENSIVE INDIFFERENCE? » The Athletics have made at least one error in five of their last six games and have given up 18 unearned runs, third most in the American League. Opponents have stolen 26 bases, most in the American League (although their total of 12 base runners thrown out attempting to steal is ranked second).
A’s third baseman Matt Chapman struggled during the team’s recent homestand, hitting just .100(2for 20).