The road gets no easier for A's as they wobble home from 1-5 trip

The road gets no easier for A's as they wobble home from 1-5 trip

SEATTLE — The A’s hit the road one week ago as a confident bunch with designs on climbing upward in the American League West standings.

They return home to quite a different story, having completed a disheartening two-city road trip that saw them drop five of six, including Wednesday’s 4-0 blanking by the Seattle Mariners that saw the A’s fail to advance a runner past first base.

Compounding things, first baseman Yonder Alonso exited Wednesday’s game in the seventh inning with a sore left knee after twisting it while trying to hold up on a swing in the fifth. He’ll be re-evaluated in Oakland and his status for Thursday’s series opener against the Boston Red Sox is up in the air.

Where exactly did things go wrong for Oakland as a team over the past week? That’s just it. If the A’s could pinpoint just one area to correct, they could start working to fix it. But in getting swept at Texas, their bullpen was the culprit. In Monday’s series opener at Safeco Field, starter Sean Manaea spotted the Mariners four early runs with faulty command.

Errors have bit them regardless of the day and made things tougher. And on Wednesday, one night after hitting three homers and scoring nine runs, the A’s offense was bottled up by Mariners right-hander Christian Bergman, who registered his first major league victory as a starter since September 2014.

“Offensively, I don’t know that we’ve looked much worse,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Now, you’ve got to give their pitcher some credit. He was on the corners, down at times. He had a little cutter. … (But) I didn’t expect that.”

It’s only mid-May, but the big picture already is beginning to look bleak for the A’s.

They were seven games out and tied for third place after completing a 4-2 homestand May 10. A week later, they are 11 1/2 games off the pace and mired in last place. Their 1-5 trip coincided with the first-place Astros rattling off a 9-1 stretch. Texas has won eight in a row to climb into a share of second place with the Angels, winners of four straight. But because the Astros aren’t taking their foot off the gas, the Rangers and Angels are stuck eight games back.

Not that the A’s are in position to worry about the outside world right now. They’ve got enough issues on their plate. The most pressing immediate concern is the health of Alonso. He said after the game he doesn’t feel his knee is a major concern, but he also wasn’t venturing a guess on whether he’d be in Thursday’s lineup.

“I was stopping my swing halfway and just got a little bit stuck,” Alonso said. “… I was trying to pivot. My whole body just turned and my back foot never really turned.”

Alonso cooled off at the plate during the trip, going 2-for-19. But it goes without saying that the A’s can’t afford to lose their home run and RBI leader for any length of time.

Oakland (17-23) now returns home and faces a daunting stretch of schedule, starting with four against the Red Sox, who will send Chris Sale to the mound Friday. The A’s catch a breather for two games against the Miami Marlins (14-25), but then hit the road to face the AL East-leading New York Yankees and the defending AL champion Cleveland Indians. They’ll return home from that six-game trip and welcome the Washington Nationals, who lead the NL East by a wide margin.

Regardless, the A’s need to focus on playing more fundamentally sound baseball regardless of who’s in the opposing dugout.

“I think as a group we know we can play a lot better,” right fielder Matt Joyce said. “We’ve just got to find a way to do it. Come back tomorrow, face a new team and start over again.”

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

OAKLAND — Bruce Maxwell’s gesture to take a knee during the national anthem Saturday night at the Coliseum was no knee-jerk reaction by the A’s catcher.

It was something he’s considered for a long time, balancing his own personal convictions to make a statement with how it might affect his teammates and organization.

Think it was bold of Maxwell to become the first player in baseball to kneel during the anthem, in protest of racial discrimination and the inflammatory remarks of President Trump? It took just as much guts to stand before his teammates, manager Bob Melvin and GM David Forst and explain why he felt he needed to do it.

He did so in a pregame meeting Saturday that made for a degree of discomfort in the room, but also seemed to have played out in a healthy way.

“I didn’t want them to sugarcoat or aid me when it comes to the media and their personal feelings,” Maxwell said, “because the whole point of this is the ability to protest (based on) our personal beliefs and our personal choices.”

Many athletes have been critical of the President, with things intensifying across the sports landscape Saturday after Trump, among other things, withdrew an invitation for the Warriors to visit the White House and harshly criticized athletes who have knelt during the anthem, saying they should be booted off their teams.

After blasting Trump on both Instagram and Twitter, Maxwell took the field for the anthem and took the action that will define him in the eyes of the baseball world. Maxwell had been wanting to make a statement in some way. He said he and his sister dealt with racial discrimination growing up. Watching Trump’s rally play out in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. on Friday further persuaded Maxwell to finally do so.

“This goes beyond the black community, it goes beyond the Hispanic community, because right now we’re having … a racial divide in all types of people,” said Maxwell, who is African American. “It’s being practiced from the highest power we have in this country and it’s basically saying it’s OK to treat people differently. And my kneeling, the way I did it, was to symbolize the fact that I’m kneeling for a cause. But I’m in no way or form disrespecting my country or my flag.”

A’s outfielder Mark Canha stood next to Maxwell during the anthem with his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, a show of support. Canha said he’s considered kneeling before in protest himself but had chosen not to. As he listened to Maxwell address the team, Canha wasn’t going to let his teammate make his statement on his own.

“I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that’s going on in this country right now,” Canha said. “I felt like every fiber of my being was telling me that he needed a brother today.”

Canha added that he sensed some “discomfort” in the room as Maxwell addressed the team. But he also said there was support.

“It was an open forum to ask him questions. It was as articulate as I’ve seen him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “This wasn’t an emotional thing just today for him. … I think he handled it really well and everybody was comfortable after the session. I’m proud of him for the fact he went about it the way he did.”

Maxwell, who was born in Germany while his father served in the Army over there, said he will continue to kneel for the anthem. He doesn’t expect his teammates to do the same, only to stick to what they believe in.

“I have plenty of family members, including my father, who have bled for this country,” Maxwell said. “At the end of the day, this the best country on the planet. My hand over my heart symbolized that I am, and will forever be, an American citizen. But my kneeling is what’s getting the attention because I’m kneeling for the people that don't have a voice.”

MLB issues statement on A's Bruce Maxwell kneeling during national anthem

MLB issues statement on A's Bruce Maxwell kneeling during national anthem

A's catcher Bruce Maxwell made history Saturday night in Oakland. The 26-year-old became the first player in big-league history to kneel during the national anthem. 

Below is the official statement from Major League Baseball:

Major League Baseball has a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions. We believe that our game will continue to bring our fans, their communities and our players together.

MLB media services contributed to this report