Athletics

All-or-nothing A's offense leads to another frustrating defeat

All-or-nothing A's offense leads to another frustrating defeat

SEATTLE — The A’s can only hope that the sight of Khris Davis and Stephen Vogt circling the bases leads to brighter days ahead.

If you need a positive takeaway from Monday’s 6-5 loss to the Mariners, it was those two hitters breaking long home run dry spells. But as the A’s are proving, the long ball doesn’t get the job done by itself.

Right now, the A’s are doing just enough wrong to negate all the right.

In getting swept by the Rangers, they took a lead in every game but couldn’t build on it, leaving the door open for Texas to break through against the bullpen.

On Monday, they fell behind early thanks to starter Sean Manaea’s wild ride of a first couple innings. They battled back with Davis’ solo homer and Vogt’s two-run shot to pull within a run. But then another shaky outing from reliever Liam Hendriks coupled with a throwing error from shortstop Chad Pinder led to two more Seattle runs in the eighth that ultimately proved the difference.

The game ended with the Rangers’ Tony Zych painting the outside corner with a 95 mile-per-hour fastball to ring up Adam Rosales with the bases loaded, an A’s comeback rally thwarted.

“‘We had one other bases-loaded situation and didn’t get anything out of it, which hurt us at the time,” manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s easy just to look back at how the last inning played out, but there were some opportunities when we had a chance to score some runs.”

Primarily, there was the seventh. The A’s loaded the bases that inning, trailing 4-3, but Matt Joyce chased a third strike from Dan Altavilla and Jed Lowrie grounded to second.

What to make of this A’s offense? They rank fourth in the American League in homers and they’re tied with the Yankees and Rangers for most multi-homer games (17). But it’s all or nothing, as the A’s rank second-to-last in the league in runs scored, which is the only stat that ultimately matters. Their .205 average with runners in scoring position is the lowest in the majors, and missed opportunities are contributing to losses of the most frustrating variety.

“We should have won that ballgame — bottom line,” Vogt said.

Manaea put them in an early hole, walking four in a two-run first and giving up four runs but finishing strong in a crazy five-inning return from the disabled list.

The lefty said his issue was trying “to make things too fine when I should be out there attacking and making guys put the ball in play and trusting my defense. I just didn’t do that. … It’s tough, I try not to think like that. But sometimes it just happens like that.

“That’s just been the story of this whole season is walking guys. I just gotta figure out a way to eliminate them.”

Big picture, Melvin and Vogt both came away encouraged with the way Manaea steadied himself with three perfect innings to close his night.

Davis came away encouraged with his homer to dead center that capped a 12-pitch at-bat and snapped a string of 12 games without going deep.

An inning later, Vogt — who lives in Washington in the offseason and always has a big cheering section at Safeco Field — hit his first homer since Opening Night and ended a career-long streak of 27 games without a home run. He’s been working hard with hitting coach Darren Bush and assistant hitting coach Marcus Jensen to turn around what’s been a dismal start to his season.

“The whole season has been weighing on me offensively,” said Vogt, who’s hitting .217. “I really didn’t think about homers as much as just trying to see good pitches. I got away from that my first six weeks. I’m still battling that and trying to come out of that. I felt really good about my last week, unfortunately it didn’t matter tonight.”

Individual triumphs will have to do until the A’s find a way to get all parts of their game clicking.

A's catcher Bruce Maxwell becomes first MLB player to kneel during anthem

A's catcher Bruce Maxwell becomes first MLB player to kneel during anthem

OAKLAND — A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell took a knee in protest during Saturday night’s national anthem at the Coliseum, believed to be the first major league baseball player to do so during the playing of the anthem.

Maxwell, stationed at the far left of his row of teammates and coaches in front of the A’s dugout, knelt with his hat over his heart. Outfielder Mark Canha stood next to Maxwell with his hand on Maxwell's shoulder, a show of support that's also been demonstrated by NFL players when their teammates have knelt during the anthem.

Athletes around the country have been hitting social media heavily Saturday, taking President Trump to task for a series of inflammatory tweets in which the President withdrew an invitation for the Warriors to visit the White House while also criticizing NFL players who kneel in protest for the anthem. Then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first pro athlete to draw attention for kneeling during the anthem last season, doing so as a manner of protesting racial discrimination in the country.

Maxwell, who’s been out of the lineup the past couple days as he undergoes concussion protocol, lashed out at Trump in a series of tweets Saturday afternoon:

Maxwell was born in Germany while his father, an Army officer, was stationed there. He grew up in Alabama.

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

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USATSI

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

OAKLAND — Matt Olson is aware of the company he’s keeping in the A’s record books.

His reaction is a mix of reverence and a shrug-of-the-shoulders type humbleness.

That’s the personality of the A’s rookie first baseman. Even as the conversation about him and his awe-inspiring home run pace grows louder, he remains the same steady, grounded presence.

“I’m happy for him,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “The guy’s worked his butt off. He’s the same today as was when he first got called up.”

Olson cleared the fences once again Friday night, his two-run homer off Nick Martinez in the second inning helping the A’s to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. At this point, it’s much more newsworthy when Olson doesn’t homer than when he does.

He’s crammed 24 homers into just 57 games this season. Taking into account his first call-up last September, and Olson’s 24 homers over the first 68 games of his career are the second-most in the history of major league baseball over that span to open a career. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger also hit 24 and only the White Sox’s Jose Abreu, with 25, hit more over his first 68.

Olson’s 13 homers in September are the most by any rookie in major league history for the month, and there’s still eight games left in it. But Olson’s hot streak dates back to Aug. 27. He’s hit a major league-best 16 homers in 23 games since then.

Among rookies in A’s history, only Mark McGwire (49) in 1987 and Jose Canseco (33) in 1986 have hit more than Olson’s 24. But neither Bash Brother, nor any other player in Oakland history, ever hit 15 homers in a 21-game span as Olson recently did.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Olson said before Friday’s game. “I grew up with a Mark McGwire poster on my wall. It’s a little surreal.”

Who saw this coming?

Olson went 2-for-21 without a single RBI in his first taste of the bigs last September. Then he shuttled five times between Triple-A and the majors this season before getting called up once again Aug. 8 and being told he’d get a shot as the A’s regular first baseman with Yonder Alonso having been traded. The constant shuttling took its toll, though Olson never let on about that publicly to reporters.

“You could see (the frustration),” said Ryan Christenson, his manager at Triple-A. “When he walks in and you tell him ‘You’re getting sent up,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, how many days is it for this time?’ He wouldn’t voice it necessarily, but you could sense it.”

Olson, with help from Bush and others, made an adjustment coming into this season. He began holding his hands out farther away from his body to begin his swing. With his 6-foot-5 frame, Olson had found himself getting jammed inside. Then in trying to adjust to that, he couldn’t square up pitches on the outer half.

“Now, his hands are firing from where he wants them to,” Bush said. “He doesn’t have to fight. You want your hands to have a clean path. Now he can stay in there, stay behind the ball, let his hands work for him.”

Olson, a 23-year-old from Lilburn, Ga., takes this sudden burst of success — and attention — in stride.

“I’ve been hit with so many stats here in the past week, I can’t even keep track of who’s done what, and honestly what I’ve done,” he said. “I kind of try to ignore all that.”

That’s OK. Others are taking plenty of notice.