The current state of the Oakland A’s was captured in two very similar snapshots Saturday afternoon.
In one, Josh Donaldson was running to first base and slammed his helmet to the Rogers Center turf after he realized his sixth-inning fly ball would be caught for the third out. The other showed Josh Reddick, standing at home plate and throwing down his helmet in disgust after his strikeout to end the top of the seventh.
Words weren’t needed.
Frustration bubbled over during the course of a 5-2 setback against the Toronto Blue Jays. It was the A’s third consecutive defeat, and it proved once again what we already knew --- that any upper-echelon baseball team, no matter how hot it gets for however long a period, will eventually take a turn for the frigid.
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The key is how a team rebounds from that stretch of adversity, and right now the A’s are being tested. They went through a stretch from May 7-18 where they scored 71 runs over a 10-game period. And now?
Oakland has scored just 12 runs over the past five games while hitting .175 (29-for-166) over this stretch.
Granted, facing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on Saturday was no way for a struggling team to right itself. To a certain extent, it should be treated as its own isolated one-day incident because it’s so different from what the A’s typically see every other day. They got to him for just five hits over 8 1/3 innings.
But Oakland’s struggles Saturday were simply an extension of what we’ve seen, offensively, in these past five games.
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There have been several different keys that fueled back-to-back A.L. West championships for Oakland –- consistent pitching, home runs in bunches, late-game comebacks … But another characteristic of this team is the ability to apply the breaks before bad times really hit.
Consider this: The A’s haven’t endured a losing streak of more than three games since May 6-10 of last season, when they dropped five in a row.
On Sunday, lefty Drew Pomeranz will take the mound in the series finale. He’ll try to help the A’s (30-19) avoid a sweep before starting a big four-game series at home Monday against the Detroit Tigers, the only team in the American League with a better record than the A’s.
Pomeranz has delivered three straight starts of five scoreless innings, and manager Bob Melvin has hinted that the team will be more aggressive in stretching him out deeper into games. They need the lefty to step up with another strong start against the Blue Jays’ dangerous lineup, which showed Saturday it can do damage not only with power but speed.
Anthony Gose’s legs might have played a factor in left fielder Craig Gentry’s error on a Melky Cabrera single in the third, which allowed Gose to score from first and pull Toronto into a 1-1 tie. In the seventh, Jose Reyes scored from second on a 6-3 groundout, as A’s shortstop Eric Sogard threw to first not even realizing that Reyes was rounding third and burning toward home.
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But it isn’t pitching or defense that stands out about this mini-slide the A’s find themselves on. It’s the hitting, or lack of it.
There will be no knuckleball to worry about against left-hander J.A. Happ, who takes the hill Sunday for the Jays.
Can the A’s steer things back in the right direction? That’s been a strength, and they need to lean on that strength right about now.