Programming note: A’s-Yankees coverage starts tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. with A’s Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California (Channel locations)
OAKLAND -- The month of May seemed a period of extremes for the A’s.
They started out losing five out of six, only to go on a tear and win 11 of 12. They followed that by losing six of eight before pulling off a three-game sweep of the Angels over the weekend.
At times they crushed any opposing pitcher who took the mound, but they also fell on some very hard times offensively. All told, they went 16-12 in May and finished the month in the same position that they began it: First place.
Let’s hit rewind on May and hand out some awards …
Most Valuable Player: Nobody epitomized the A’s offensive firepower in the month quite like Brandon Moss. He led the A’s both in homers (nine) and RBI (25), and he firmly anchored himself as an imposing threat in the cleanup spot. There was the five-RBI game May 13 against the White Sox, and a 6-for-10, six-RBI showing in a three-game sweep of the Indians that helped him capture A.L. Player of the Week honors. Moss even nudged his way past one of the biggest names in Oakland A’s history by collecting 19 extra-base hits in May, which surpassed the previous record of 18 for the month held by Jason Giambi.
Most Valuable Pitcher: It’s not the first name that jumps out at you in the A’s stellar starting rotation, but left-hander Tommy Milone has greatly helped the A’s cause with his recent work on the mound. OK, so Scott Kazmir’s 2.67 ERA in May and Drew Pomeranz’s 2.70 mark might have bested Milone’s 2.97 figure. And Pomeranz’s four wins were more than Milone’s three. But Kazmir was already a known quantity to us at the end of April. Milone was a question mark through the first month but really put things together in May, and that had to be encouraging for the A’s. He’s made a mechanical adjustment to stay a little “taller” in his delivery, in the words of manager Bob Melvin. He also ate up more innings than Pomeranz (36 1/3 compared to 26 2/3), so Milone gets the nod.
Biggest surprise: The A’s may be getting more national attention, but it was still crazy to see Josh Donaldson leading A.L. third basemen in All-Star voting when the first round of results were announced. Catcher Derek Norris, shortstop Jed Lowrie and Moss (a DH on the ballot) are also among the vote leaders at their respective positions. There is still a long way to go in voting, but it’s fun to speculate how many Athletics might be getting their name introduced in the July 15 showcase.
Biggest disappointment: We’re not going original here by repeating April’s pick, but the unsettled bullpen situation is still an issue. No doubt, it’s important that Sean Doolittle (a strong Pitcher of the Month candidate) has emerged as the regular closer and done well. That lends some clarity and allows Melvin to try to set up defined roles in front of Doolittle. But with Jim Johnson still searching for answers to his rough season, Melvin will keep relying on right-handers Dan Otero and Luke Gregerson more and more until Ryan Cook re-establishes himself in the mix. Cook is needed to shoulder some of the load once he comes off the D.L.
Most memorable moment: There’s great stuff to choose from here, including Yoenis Cespedes’ spectacular all-around game Saturday night and Norris’ two-homer, six-RBI game against the Nationals. But we’ll go with Donaldson’s walk-off homer against Detroit’s Joe Nathan on Wednesday, which made a winner of Scott Kazmir in just the second complete game of his career. This game was a beauty to watch leading up to that homer, as Kazmir and Anibal Sanchez were locked in a 1-0 duel going to the bottom of the ninth. Watching as the A’s rally built up to Donaldson’s eventual game-winning blast was terrific drama, pure and simple.
Biggest reason for encouragement: How about the offensive production the A’s got from their catchers in May? This position seemed like a potential weak spot in the batting order when the A’s arrived at spring training. But John Jaso has provided a boost in his return from last year’s season-ending concussion. Norris, despite struggling of late, has already contributed plenty with his bat. Together, Jaso and Norris combined for seven homers and 23 RBI in May.
Biggest reason for concern: It might be nit-picking here, but the A’s need to see Jesse Chavez start pitching deeper into games again. He’s completed as much as six innings in just three of his past seven starts. Couple that with the fact that Pomeranz has yet to go as deep as six innings in any of his five starts so far and that’s leaving a lot of work for the bullpen. Chavez’s 2.78 ERA is still terrific, but the A’s need both of their relievers-turned-starters to show the stamina to eat up innings all season long.