Times-Herald (Vallejo)

A's look to bounce back from homestand

- By Jerry McDonald

The A's believed they had an identity after their first road trip. Now they're faced with a reset.

On the road. Away from the Coliseum. That may or may not be a bad thing.

As the A's embark on an eightgame road trip to Minnesota and Detroit, they'll need to put a historic 0-6 homestand in the rearview mirror after breakdowns in virtually every area.

When the A's charter departed for Minnesota Wednesday, it was their first time leaving the Bay Area since April 17. After an encouragin­g 5-5 road trip to open the season against playoff contenders Philadelph­ia,

Tampa Bay and Toronto, the A's touched down in California secure in the knowledge they wouldn't leave home for 17 days (including two games in San Francisco against the Giants).

After going 4-3 on the first leg of the homestand against Baltimore and Texas despite some offensive deficienci­es, the A's split two games with the Giants in San Francisco and then returned home for threegame sets against Cleveland and Tampa Bay. They lost all six games -- the first time since the team moved from Kansas City it failed to win even once in a homestand of six games or more.

The end result? A 5-10 record in a 15-game stretch where they'd hoped to establish themselves as something beyond a strippeddo­wn team headed for between 90 to 100 losses.

Add it all up and the A's are 10-15 and playing whack-a-mole with starting pitching, the bullpen, hitting and team defense. It did little to encourage a skeptical fan base soured by a payroll slash, trades of star players, ticket price increases and the threat of relocation if the waterfront stadium plan doesn't materializ­e. The A's averaged just 7,451 for the homestand and 3,380 for the Tampa Bay series.

“We have to continue to learn who we are as players,” veteran Jed Lowrie said. “We have a lot of guys getting every-day at-bats who haven't had that opportunit­y before. You just continue to grind through it, especially on the hitting side.”

Rookie manager Mark Kotsay hasn't felt the need to flip a food spread or gather everyone together for a stern talking-to based on what he's seen.

“If it was a lack of effort, lack of fight, then there'd be a message that needs to be sent,” Kotsay said. “These guys are battling. This is part of the grind through the season. You try to weather the storm.”

Among the areas Kotsay, as well as executive vice president Billy Beane and general manager David Forst will be watching closely:

Lack of offense

The A's have been held to one run or fewer in seven of their last 12 games. They're averaging 2.4 runs per game in their last 11 after scoring at a clip of 4.7 per game in their first 14.

The hope is Ramón Laureano can provide at least a spark. He is scheduled to come off a PED suspension Sunday and will go immediatel­y into the lineup, probably in right field. But the Athletics also have to be concerned about Cristian Pache, the centerfiel­der acquired as part of the Matt Olson deal.

Pache's defense has been top tier, but he was 1-for-18 on the homestand and his batting average has fallen to .177. If Pache needs a tune-up in Las Vegas, Laureano goes back to center field instead of right.

Kotsay thinks if one player gets hot, others will follow suit.

“You get that one big hit and there's a big sigh of relief, and the momentum is contagious,” Kotsay said. “You see one guy take a good at-bat and it just seems to fall in line with the rest of the group.”

Starting pitching

Frankie Montas rebounded from a start against Cleveland where he couldn't hold a 4-1 lead to toss seven shutout innings against Tampa Bay. Cole Irvin, who has been a solid No. 2 to Montas, had an

MRI on his sore shoulder, and it's not known if he can take his turn Friday in Minnesota. Paul Blackburn has yet to show he can go beyond five innings, although he's been a decent end-of-rotation starter.

James Kaprielian comes off a disastrous first start where he lost sight of the strike zone, and Daulton Jefferies gave up 11 hits in five innings in his last outing.

Complicati­ng matters is a doublehead­er in Detroit on May 10 where the A's will need to call up an arm from Triple-A Las Vegas.

The only dominant arm in the rotation belongs to Montas, who was rumored to be in the trade mix prior to the season.

The bullpen

Surprising­ly good early on, the bottom has fallen out late in the last two games. Lou Trivino was lost to the COVID-19 list and was hit hard in Tuesday night's loss to the Rays. Kirby Snead gave up a game-tying two-run home run in the same game. Zach Jackson put three baserunner­s aboard with two walks and a hit batter that helped the Rays break open a scoreless game Wednesday.

Left-hander A.J. Puk has been very good with an 0.79 earned run average, but the A's are still being cautious with him because of his injury history. Puk was dominant in two innings against the Rays Tuesday night, then was pulled after

24 pitches. Kotsay said he considered sending him out for a third inning, but didn't so he could potentiall­y be available Wednesday.

But when Montas departed Wednesday, Jackson came on instead of Puk. Kotsay cited matchups, but Puk has been so good it's easy to envision him not needing righty-lefty considerat­ion. Puk has yet to be used on back-to-back days.

Defense

The A's had their second straight errorless game Wednesday after making one or more errors in 11 of 13. Corner infielder Sheldon Neuse, the A's most consistent hitter so far, has been the biggest offender with five errors.

Not surprising­ly, the A's aren't the same at the corners with the trades of Matt Chapman and Matt Olson. They've used six different players at first base already.

That's not to say the A's don't have some good defenders. Catcher Sean Murphy stands out, although his play is being watched closely as to not wear him out before July.

Although the clubhouse was quiet after the sixth straight loss, most of the lead-up indicated Kotsay, like predecesso­r Bob Melvin, has fostered an attitude that blends a serious approach with something more relaxed and light-hearted when it comes to enjoying the process and the grind.

 ?? JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO — BAY AREA NEWS GROUP ?? A's outfielder Ramon Laureano is scheduled to come off a PED suspension Sunday and go immediatel­y into the lineup.
JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO — BAY AREA NEWS GROUP A's outfielder Ramon Laureano is scheduled to come off a PED suspension Sunday and go immediatel­y into the lineup.

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