Programming note: Angels-A's coverage starts Friday at 6:30 p.m. with A's Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
OAKLAND –- The ability to reboot and leave bad times in the rearview mirror has been one of the A’s biggest strengths for quite some time.
Could they ever use that trait right now.
Given the chance to finish off a sweep over an inferior opponent Wednesday, the A’s instead absorbed an 8-5 loss to the New York Mets. Instead of shutting down a team ranked 12th in the National League in runs scored, A’s right-hander Jeff Samardzija pitched his team into an early 5-0 hole and didn’t make it out of the fourth inning.
And with the bases loaded and a chance to stage one of their patented comebacks in the bottom of the eighth, the A’s couldn’t break through with the type of surge that the home crowd has grown accustomed to.
Indeed, the A’s are a reeling bunch as they take Thursday off before welcoming the Los Angeles Angels, the team that’s knocked them from the American League West perch, for a pivotal three-game weekend series.
But rather than hit the panic button, A’s closer Sean Doolittle said it’s more important to find the reset button.
“A few things haven’t gone our way recently, but the energy in here is still upbeat, positive,” he said after the A’s lost for the eighth time in 10 games. “We haven’t gone through something like this yet this year, and it’s something that just about every team goes through. It could also be that a team comes out of something like this that much stronger, after overcoming some adversity.”
The A’s have adjusted their rotation so that Sonny Gray, Jon Lester and Scott Kazmir will get the starting nod against the Angels. All three have sub-3.00 ERAs, the ability to dominate and set the tone for a team in the early innings. This is the reason the A’s worked so hard to beef up their rotation through two stunning trades in July, to have the ability to enter a series such as this and feel like they’re running an ace to the mound each game.
But that’s what made Wednesday so troubling. The A’s surely had that same confidence taking the field behind Samardzija, the key acquisition in the trade that sent top prospect Addison Russell and others to the Cubs. After two sharp innings, things unraveled for Samardzija in a five-run third, when he allowed two homers, a walk and a wild pitch that scored another run. Four of those runs crossed the plate with two outs.
“On a day your team gets you five runs, you’ve gotta turn those into victories,” Samardzija said. “It was a big game today and I didn’t do my part, so it stings. … Early, my split (fingered fastball) was great. It just kind of left me there as the game went on, and I kept going to it and kept falling behind in the count.
“I was trying to get some put-outs, and that’s usually my pitch to do it, and it wasn’t there. So I had to go back and throw some fastballs, and (hitters) get comfortable in there when they can eliminate that pitch.”
Samardzija is 3-3 with a 4.07 ERA in nine starts with Oakland. Jason Hammel, the other starter acquired in that Cubs trade, holds a 6.75 ERA and is having his next start skipped.
Speaking of Samardzija, manager Bob Melvin said: “You know what? We’ve got a lot of confidence in him. He’s pitched some really good games for us. Today was really the one tough game he’s had overall as far as his numbers go.”
The A’s mustered just six hits Wednesday, and though they scored five runs, two of them were the result of an error by Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy on Andy Parrino’s fourth-inning grounder.
If the A’s are to right the ship, certainly their rotation needs to show the way. And over the past nine games, their starting staff is 2-7 with a 5.54 ERA, though a couple of disastrous starts have contributed to that inflated figure.
The A’s have a chance to reverse their fortunes this weekend in front of what’s sure to be large crowds. Saturday’s game is headed toward a sellout, and Sunday’s nationally televised game could sell out as well.
“I think there’s gonna be enough attention on this series that we don’t have to put any more pressure on things,” Doolittle said. “ That’s been a strength of this team the past couple years, being able to play for the day and not focus too much on other distractions, of what’s been going on in previous games. I think that’s going to be a key for us this series.”