How to draw inspiration from the lowly 24-31 A's

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How to draw inspiration from the lowly 24-31 A's

How can the A's possibly follow up Monday night's performance? They scored a season-high 12 runs. Seth Smith tied a career-high with four hits -- he was a homer shy of the cycle. Brandon Inge went 2 for 2, with a homer and four RBIs -- in the second inning alone! Cliff Pennington snapped a career-long 0 for 29 slump with an RBI double and got another hit later. And Jarrod Parker, well all he did was throw a one-hitter against the top offense in the game today.When a team that has been so bad offensively and struggled so mightily against the American League West-leading Rangers erupts like that, unfortunately there is no where to go but down. Yet, down doesn't have to be that far. Maybe the A's can find a healthy medium between scoring zero runs, then nine, zero again, then 12. With their pitching staff, just three of four runs a night will do them wonders. Maybe the A's find a way to build on this performance. After all the quiet nights in the clubhouse during the nine-game losing streak (they aren't allowed to play music after a loss) it has to feel good when they are blasting Weezy, aka Lil Wayne, at ear piercing decibels like they were last night. The A's haven't been good. There is no sugarcoating that. But their 24-31 record hides the fact that there are still good stories to tell. Take Tuesday's starting pitcher Travis Blackley, for example. Here is a guy that got released from the Giants this season after spending 2011 pitching for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization. He was picked up as a long reliever, and has earned himself a spot in the starting rotation. There's Collin Cowgill, a guy that was recalled from Sacramento after getting sent down earlier in the season to fill in at center field while Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes were on the disabled list. Both Crisp and Cespedes have since been reinstated, yet Cowgill remains. He earned playing time and a roster spot, and is currently on a seven-game hitting streak. Kila Ka'aihue was claimed off the scrap heap by the A's. He figured to be the first guy shipped out. Now he is the last man standing at first base. Brandon Allen has been designated for assignment, and Daric Barton was optioned to Triple-A. Ka'aihue launched his fourth homer Monday night. Also on Monday, the A's called up left-handed pitcher Sean Doolittle. Last Tuesday he was brought up to Triple-A and was telling me how excited he was to be there. Less than a week later his dream of being a big-leaguer is realized. He was drafted in 2007 as a first baseman, converted to a pitcher this offseason, and in two months, he went all the way from Single-A, to Double-A, to Triple-A, to the Oakland A's.Then there is Josh Reddick, a guy who is having a career year. It is June and he already has 14 homers and five outfield assists. He should be getting All-Star Game recognition, but I am sure A's fans won't mind keeping him their little secret. Reddick's father lost a hand and was declared dead on three occasions after an electrical accident. Today he is a little league baseball coach and is quick to pick up the phone to give Josh pointers. You think Reddick doesn't have reason to be motivated and happy for what he has? Look at the inspiration he draws from his father, and you will know what he is all about. So how do the A's follow up their performance on Monday night? They don't. They just need to find ways to draw inspiration from it, and from within. Sure, they are eight games in the hole to the Rangers in the A.L. West, but they have a chance to make a dent Tuesday. The Rangers starting pitcher for game two of four is Derek Holland. The A's might be catching him at the right time. On Wednesday, Holland allowed eight runs -- all of which came in the second inning -- to the Seattle Mariners. The final score of the game ended up being 21-8, Mariners. As a result of that start, Holland's ERA shot up from 4.05 to 5.11. It is safe to say the mustachioed lefty might still be a bit shell-shocked.

Faltering defense continues to be A's unwanted storyline

Faltering defense continues to be A's unwanted storyline

NEW YORK — A weekend that began with promise instead wound up feeling like another lost opportunity for the A’s.

Their defense once again paved the way to their undoing Sunday, and there were plenty of players willing to accept responsibility for a 9-5 loss to the Yankees in the rubber match of a three-game series in the Bronx.

When right fielder Matt Joyce had a catchable fly ball pop out of his glove for a third-inning error that loaded the bases, it seemed inevitable the mistake would come back to haunt the A’s.

On cue, one-time Oakland draft pick Aaron Judge drilled an opposite-field grand slam off Andrew Triggs to a turn a 2-1 A’s lead into a 5-2 deficit. Joyce said he couldn’t stomach to watch the replay of his missed catch afterward.

“It just hit my glove and I dropped it,” Joyce said. “Obviously that’s pretty tough to swallow for me in that situation. For me, I think that’s an easy play. It’s a little embarrassing. It’s obviously really frustrating, especially with what it led to.”

The A’s (22-27) chalked up two more errors, giving them a staggering 49 in 49 games played. When play began Sunday, they had at least 10 more errors than every other big league club. It’s no surprise, therefore, that they also lead the majors with 35 unearned runs, after five of the nine runs they surrendered Sunday were unearned.

That kind of bumbling play in the field is making it difficult for the A’s to maintain leads when they claim one, and tough to mount comebacks when they fall behind. In a factoid that helps explain why the A’s likely find themselves looking at another summer of selling off veterans, they have won just one of the eight road series they’ve played in 2017. Their 7-17 record away from Oakland is second worst in the American League.

The A’s took Friday’s series opener 4-1 but dropped the final two to the AL East leaders.

“I’ve said often, there’s a psychology to it too,” manager Bob Melvin said. “You feel like you have a chance to battle and come back and score some runs, and when your defense is poor, sometimes mentally it’s tough to overcome or get past it. We just have to keep working on it.”

Leading 5-2, New York added to its lead in the fourth with help from a Josh Phegley throwing error on Aaron Hicks’ stolen base. Hicks wound up on third and came home on Chris Carter’s sacrifice fly. The A’s pulled to within 7-5 on Khris Davis’ 15th homer which in the eighth, a two-run shot. But the Yankees answered right back with two more off reliever John Axford, who hurt his cause with two walks.

There were other mishaps that didn’t cost the A’s runs, like Davis making a poor throw to third that allowed a Yankee runner to advance an extra base, and third baseman Ryon Healy losing a foul pop up in the sun.

Regardless of the defensive issues, A’s starter Andrew Triggs wasn’t looking to hand off blame. Just one of the six runs he allowed was earned over his six innings. But Triggs still had a chance to preserve a 2-1 lead in the third if he could have retired Judge with two outs and the bases loaded. Instead he left a 2-1 sinker over the plate and Judge mashed it over the right field wall.

“In my mind it was either sinker away or sinker in, and I thought away was better,” Triggs said. “But you gotta execute the pitch and I didn’t.”

It was the first career grand slam for Judge, who was drafted in the 31st round out of high school by Oakland in 2010 but opted to attend Fresno State. The Yankees took him in the first round in 2013, and in clubbing his 16th homer Sunday (tying him with Mike Trout for the league lead), Judge continued building his strong early case for the Rookie of the Year award.

A's fall short of series win vs Yankees after Judge's grand slam

A's fall short of series win vs Yankees after Judge's grand slam

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge hit his first career grand slam and the New York Yankees took full advantage of Oakland's shoddy defense Sunday in a 9-5 victory over the Athletics.

Michael Pineda (6-2) tossed six innings of three-hit ball to win his third straight start. Aaron Hicks and Chris Carter each had an early sacrifice fly as the AL East leaders scored five unearned runs and took two of three in a well-pitched series.

Judge connected with two outs in the third for his 16th home run, tying Mike Trout of the Angels for the big league lead. The drive landed in the right-field seats, not far in front of The Judge's Chambers cheering section installed by the Yankees for the 6-foot-7 rookie at the start of this 4-2 homestand.

Khris Davis hit his 15th home run for the A's, who committed two more costly errors to raise their season total to 49. They began the day with 10 more than any other team in the majors.

The fielding failures put starter Andrew Triggs (5-4) in tough situations. He went six innings and gave up one earned run - but even that could have been prevented if not for a poor throw by the weak-armed Davis in left.

Gary Sanchez added an RBI double in the seventh that squirmed out of the glove of a diving Davis. Brett Gardner drove in two insurance runs with a pop-fly double in the eighth.

Adam Warren retired all four batters he faced for his first save since July 28, 2015.

The Yankees trailed 2-1 when Ronald Torreyes reached on a soft infield single leading off the third, and Sanchez singled with one out. Matt Joyce then dropped Matt Holliday's fly ball in the right-field corner for an error that loaded the bases.

After Starlin Castro struck out, Judge lined a fastball the other way to put New York ahead. Triggs had given up just three home runs in his first nine starts this year.

Hicks stole second in the fourth and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Josh Phegley. That set up Carter's sacrifice fly, which made it 6-2.

And while Triggs' defense was betraying him, New York's fielders gave Pineda a big boost when he needed it.

With nobody out in the second, Ryon Healy was thrown out by Gardner trying to stretch a two-run single to left field. Torreyes followed with a diving play at third base.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Athletics: 1B Yonder Alonso was back in the lineup after missing three games with a sore right wrist. ... CF Rajai Davis was rested in favor of Mark Canha, who batted leadoff for the first time in his major league career. ... One-time closer Sean Doolittle, on the DL since April 30 with a strained left shoulder, threw 20 pitches Saturday and felt good, according to manager Bob Melvin. "So we'll figure out the next step here in the next day or so," Melvin said. ... Oakland plans to put RHP Kendall Graveman (shoulder) on the 10-day disabled list Monday and recall RHP Daniel Mengden from Triple-A Nashville to make his first big league start of the season in Cleveland.

Yankees: Slumping 3B Chase Headley was given a second consecutive day off to work on his swing. He'll return to the lineup Monday, manager Joe Girardi said. ... All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) was scheduled to throw for the second straight day before a day off in his program Monday.

UP NEXT

Athletics: The 24-year-old Mengden began the season on the disabled list following surgery on his right foot. He was activated May 20 and optioned to Triple-A Nashville. Including his rehab assignment, Mengden is 2-1 with a 2.21 ERA in four Triple-A starts this year. He reached the majors for the first time last season and went 2-9 with a 6.50 ERA in 14 starts for Oakland. RHP Carlos Carrasco (4-2, 2.93) pitches for the AL champion Indians.

Yankees: Begin a seven-game road trip Monday afternoon in Baltimore, with rookie LHP Jordan Montgomery (2-3, 4.30 ERA) on the mound against Orioles RHP Dylan Bundy (5-3, 2.92).