ANAHEIM – Think a day off sounds pretty good to the Oakland A’s right now?
They capped off a three-city, 10-day road trip with two games at Angel Stadium that lasted a combined 23 innings. It ended on a sour note Wednesday night, as Los Angeles’ Chris Iannetta hit a walk-off homer in the 12th to hand the A’s a 5-4 defeat and a missed opportunity at a series sweep.
But as the A’s unwind Thursday and take stock of their travels, they will see this:
A 7-2 record on a nine-game trip that featured three games in Minnesota plus back-to-back series against division opponents in Seattle and the Angels. The A’s captured all three series, generally got terrific starting pitching and received offensive contributions from all over the batting order.
“Going 7-2 on a 10-day road trip is no easy task,” A’s catcher Derek Norris said. “(Wednesday) definitely does not put a damper on it at all. We played good baseball throughout all three series, and I don’t think anybody is walking out of here feeling anything but great about what we did this trip.”
The A’s hold a two-game lead over Texas for first place in the A.L. West. They are the only team in the majors not to lose back-to-back games this season, and they’ve won their first three road series for the first time since 1990.
But the truth is, despite bolting out to an A.L.-best 10-5 start, they clearly have yet to play their best all-around baseball. An optimist says it’s good that they’re finding ways to win even when they’re not bringing their ‘A’ game. A pessimist says the A’s can’t let some areas where they’ve broken down become habit.
They committed two errors Wednesday, and their 14 errors overall are second-most in the league behind the Rangers’ 15. They’ve also made several baserunning miscues that have stunted rallies. Some of those mistakes can be attributed to the funky new ball-transfer fielding rules that have caused confusion, but not all of them can.
The back of the bullpen remains unsettled in light of Sean Doolittle and Luke Gregerson blowing ninth-inning leads Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Has Jim Johnson done enough yet to regain the closer’s role? Or does playing the matchup game in the ninth remain the best option for one of the major leagues’ deepest bullpens?
A’s manager Bob Melvin wasn’t in the mood to consider that question after Wednesday’s defeat.
“I’m tired of answering these questions every day,” he said. “I’ll let you know when it comes up. It’s tough to answer those right after games.”
The bottom line: Life is pretty good when you’ve dealt with these issues and still have the A.L.’s best record to show for it. The A’s sport an A.L.-best 2.57 ERA, and getting that kind of pitching on a regular basis gives you a great chance to win a lot of games.
The A’s already have played four extra-inning games. They won the first three – Wednesday didn’t turn out as planned.
“We fought hard the entire time,” third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “We had the lead going to the ninth and you’re expecting to win those games. But that said, we still had a very successful road trip.”