OAKLAND – In an effort to get your mind off the A’s 3-0 loss to Detroit on Tuesday as quickly as possible, we present the “Best of June” awards. Oakland turned in the majors’ best record for the month at 17-9, which runs their string of consecutive winning months to 13, matching the longest such streak in Oakland history. The A’s haven’t had a losing month since May 2012. Enough with the details, here’s the winners …
Most Valuable Player: Yoenis Cespedes was a staple on highlight shows after his monster throw to nail Howie Kendrick at the plate in a June 10 game in Anaheim. But the left fielder came up big in all facets of the game. He hit .324 for the month, homered four times and led the team in RBI (18) and runs (20) in addition to making teams pay for running on his throwing arm.
Cespedes’ production was big in that it coincided with a prolonged offensive dip from Josh Donaldson, and when Donaldson was dropped from the third spot in the order, Cespedes stepped into the ‘3’ hole and became a force.
It goes to show how much of an impact Cespedes can make, and why A’s fans should hold their breath that his left hamstring injury isn’t serious.
Most Valuable Pitcher: The bullpen had a few good candidates for the honor, but we’ll go with Sean Doolittle even though the lefty closed his month with two blown saves. That 3.14 ERA is skewed by those two poor outings at Miami and Detroit, but ERA isn’t always the true gauge of a reliever’s effectiveness anyway. Look at the seven saves, the fact he gave up just six hits in 14 1/3 innings, and collected 22 strikeouts with just one walk.
Doolittle cemented himself as the regular closer in June, and that helped the bullpen roles behind him fall into line.
Biggest surprise: Admit it … you were skeptical when you heard Stephen Vogt would shed the catcher’s gear some days and patrol right field. Who knew that Vogt would get called up from Sacramento and flash some pretty impressive outfield skills? He’s no Josh Reddick out there, and no Brandon Moss for that matter, but Vogt drew eight starts in right field in June and held his own. That allowed manager Bob Melvin to keep his productive bat in the lineup and it helped make up for the absence of Reddick, who spent much of the month on the disabled list.
[RELATED: Is Vogt proving to be a keeper?]
Biggest disappointment: It’s hard not to go with the knockout punch that Drew Pomeranz delivered to a wooden chair after he was pulled from a rough outing against Texas on June 16. Pomeranz let the chair have it as he walked up to the clubhouse and wound up with a fractured right hand that landed him on the D.L. It created a bigger depth problem for a club that is already down two starting pitchers (Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin) for the entire season. The only good news is that Pomeranz didn’t injure his throwing hand, but surely the left-hander learned a lesson. And the Coliseum furniture should be safe moving forward.
Most memorable moment: Does it even need to be discussed? The A’s and Angels were tied in the bottom of the eighth on June 10 when Cespedes, after letting Mike Trout’s double bounce off his glove, rifled a throw that covered more than 300 feet on the fly to nail Howie Kendrick at the plate. Some have called it the best throw they’ve ever seen in a big league game.
There were other big moments – Coco Crisp’s walk-off single in the 10th that beat the Red Sox after Melvin was ejected on a controversial play; Jeff Francis entering a bases-loaded, 1-out situation and saving a 7-6, 14-inning victory against the Marlins. But no moment was re-lived as often – on a national scale – quite like Cespedes’ incredible heave.
Biggest reason for encouragement: Ok, so it’s not the largest, most convincing sample size, but right-handed relievers Ryan Cook and Jim Johnson have shown sharp form in their recent outings, and that seems to bode well for a bullpen that is relying heavily on Luke Gregerson and Dan Otero from the right side.
Over his past five games, Cook has thrown 6 1/3 innings and allowed just four hits. He’s struck out eight, walked just one and earned a save. Johnson, over his past five outings, has surrendered just one earned run with seven strikeouts and three walks over 8 1/3 innings. He’s starting to get the ground-ball outs he was known for in Baltimore. Perhaps it gets Johnson into more crucial situations for the A’s, or perhaps it makes him more attractive in trade scenarios. Either way, it’s a positive development.
Biggest reason for concern: Maybe Sonny Gray’s last start, when he allowed five runs over five innings, can be written off because he was pitching on a nine-day layoff. But the fact of the matter is Gray wasn’t himself in June. He’s carried a 5.50 ERA over his past six starts (we’re cheating here, because the first of those took place May 27). Over that span he’s allowed 39 hits in 36 innings. No need to panic yet. But the A’s need their young right-hander, so terrific for most of the first half, to rediscover his form.