What's going on in Oakland?

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What's going on in Oakland?

ARLINGTON -- What's up with the A's? That seems to be a frequently asked question lately. They have lost six of their last eight games and are starting to look like they are leaking the winning lubricant that had recently made them a well-oiled machine. There's no denying the team is struggling. The bullpen that has been dubbed "The backbone of the team" has recently become a bit worn down, and there are no days off in sight. The team's most productive hitter, Josh Reddick, has been dropped from third, to sixth, to seventh, and most recently he is on the bench on Tuesday. The leadoff hitter, Coco Crisp, has a seemingly endless eye infection that couldn't have come at a worse time. Their starting pitching staff, which once boasted an embarrassment of riches, has been gutted. The three most experienced pitchers -- Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon, and Brett Anderson are all on the shelf. Lately, the A's have also forgotten how to play defense. They have nine games left, six against the American League West-leading Texas Rangers. Couldn't get much worse right?
Wrong.They A's are still two games ahead of the Angels in the Wild Card standings, and just one and a half games behind Baltimore. The seemingly crippling losses they keep suffering have come against three of the better teams in baseball in their home parks. Last weekend the A's dropped two of three to the Yankees in the Bronx, but pushed them to their limit, losing in extra innings in both games. All things considered they played pretty well and ended up with very little to show for it. The six games against Texas are tough, but they also give the A's a small glimmer of hope that they have can narrow the five-game lead the Rangers hold in the American League West.
RELATED: MLB standings
They may not for much longer at this rate, but for now the A's control their own destiny. Their magic number is eight to clinch a Wild Card playoff game. When asked about the struggles, two different players both spouted a nearly identical line: "Our backs aren't against the wall."They will have to fix things fast, things that fortunately can be fixed. The defense has been struggling lately to a tune of seven errors in the last three games. On Tuesday, Daric Barton is in the starting lineup and playing first base. Many may cringe at that thought but Brandon Moss and Chris Carter have both struggled defensively at first base in the last few games. Carter has reverted to the old Carter, and Moss made an error that lead to a Yankees walk-off win on Saturday.
NEWS: A's lineup: Pennington leading off
There is no quick fix in sight for the bullpen's fatigue, unless the starting pitchers can go deeper into games. One or two good starts will get the bullpen the rest they need to operate once again on full strength. Dan Straily's effort on Monday was a good step in the right direction. Tommy Milone on Wednesday and Jarrod Parker on Thursday need to do the same. In the meantime, A's manager Bob Melvin will have to be diligent in monitoring the use of his relievers. Unfortunately, that cost them the game on Monday. Reddick and Crisp have been nonexistent in the A's lineup lately for very different reasons. ForCrisp, it's a matter of waiting out the eye infection. The team is 62-43 with him in the lineup and 24-25 when he doesn't play. He looks closer to returning each day. Reddick gets a much needed mental break on Tuesday. He is 0-for-27, which is the longest hitless streak in his career, and hitting .190 with one home run and six RBI over his past 22 games. He has been too good all season long to stay in the dumps. It is a matter of time before he clicks. Before he hit the skids he went 14-for-28 with three home runs and nine RBI over a stretch of six games. One thing that is going well for the A's is that their middle of the infield problem appears to be resolved. Stephen Drew is hitting .317 (13-for-41) with six runs, three homers, and five RBI over his last nine games. Cliff Pennington has made 21 of his last 22 starts at second base and is hitting .364 (24-for-66) with 12 runs scored, three homers, and 10 RBI in his last 20 games. With Crisp out indefinitely, Pennington will be leading off. Maybe he can spark the team like Crisp has done. The A's still have the ability to hit for power. Yoenis Cespedes is surging again, hitting .326 (15-for-46) with five homers and 11 RBI in hist last 13 games. Moss has seven homers in his last 22 games. Josh Donaldson has filled in seamlessly for Brandon Inge, batting .305 (43-for-141) with 22 runs, 11 doubles, seven homers, and 21 RBI in 38 games since being recalled from Sacramento. Really, it isn't all bad. The A's are in the driver's seat for their first postseason spot since 2006. No one saw that coming at the beginning of the year. Let's put it this way: If someone told you in April that Oakland would be two games in the lead for a Wild Card spot with nine to play, you would have been pretty stoked. Things may be tough, but this is where a good team's mettle is tested.

Gray strikes out 11, Davis homers in A's 4-1 win over Marlins

Gray strikes out 11, Davis homers in A's 4-1 win over Marlins

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- Sonny Gray wanted to lighten the mood in the Athletics' clubhouse before the game so he lit a few candles in an adjacent locker, lowered the lights and had peaceful, pan-flute music piped into the overhead speakers.

Then the Oakland ace went out and put the Miami Marlins' offense to sleep with his best outing in two years.

Gray struck out a season-high 11 over seven innings, Khris Davis homered and the A's beat the Marlins 4-1 on Wednesday.

"We were just getting everybody nice and relaxed," Gray said of his pregame routine. "It was a good way to start the day. If we're going to put this thing together here . we're going to have to get everyone together and that's just a little way to do that."

Jed Lowrie matched his career high with four hits including two doubles, and Matt Joyce reached base three times and scored to help the A's earn a split of the two-game interleague series.

Gray (2-1) was dominant while earning his second straight win. The right-hander, who began the season on the disabled list because of a strained lat, retired the first nine batters, struck out the side twice and pitched out of a pair of jams to strand runners at third. Gray walked one and allowed three hits.

The 11 strikeout were one shy of Gray's career-best.

"That's what the really good ones do," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "They have a level and they have another level when they need it. We saw everything that makes him who he is today."

Ryan Madson pitched the eighth and Santiago Casilla got the last three outs for his seventh save, getting Tyler Moore to foul out with two runners on base to end the game.

Edinson Volquez (0-7) allowed three runs over six innings and tied the Marlins franchise record for most consecutive losses to open a season. The 33-year-old right-hander has dropped eight straight decisions overall dating to 2016, the longest drought of his career.

"When I signed on here I was hoping to be better than what I am right now," Volquez said. "The longer I'm pitching the way I did tonight, I'm good with it. I think I threw the ball pretty good today. One mistake. I threw a fastball to Davis and the ball keeps going."

The A's won despite three errors. They have 46 this season, most in the majors.

Dee Gordon singled and scored Miami's lone run.

LOWRIE WARMING UP:
Lowrie doubled and scored on Davis' 14th home run of the season, a two-out opposite field shot off Volquez. Lowrie added an RBI double in the fifth then singled in Adam Rosales in the seventh. It was Lowrie's team-leading 16th multi-hit game of the season and extended his modest hitting streak to six games. "Really consistent the whole year," Melvin said of Lowrie, who went 13 for 25 on the homestand. "Physically he feels better than he ever has. Durability-wise he's been out there more. I consistently talk to him about DH, but no, he wants to play."

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Marlins: LF Christian Yelich did not play and is day to day after suffering a right hip flexor injury during Tuesday's win.

Athletics: 1B Yonder Alonso wore a protective wrap around his right wrist and was held out of the lineup after getting hit by a pitch. Melvin expects Alonso to be in the lineup Friday in New York. . RHP Jesse Hahn, who left his start Tuesday with a triceps strain, underwent an MRI test but results were unknown . LHP Sean Doolittle (left shoulder strain) will throw live batting practice Saturday in extended spring training in Arizona. . RHP Bobby Wahl was placed on the 10-day disabled list with soreness in his shoulder and biceps tendinitis. RHP Zach Neal was called up from Triple-A Nashville.

UP NEXT:
Marlins: RHP Dan Straily (2-3) faces the Los Angeles Angels for only the second time in his career Friday in Miami. Straily has failed to make it past the fifth inning in seven of his nine starts this season.

Athletics: RHP Kendall Graveman (2-2) pitches against the Yankees on Friday when Oakland begins a three-game series in New York. Kendall is winless in five starts since coming off the disabled list.

A's lineup: Alonso out vs Marlins after getting hit on wrist

A's lineup: Alonso out vs Marlins after getting hit on wrist

A day after getting hit by a pitch on his wrist, Yonder Alonso is not in the lineup as the A's get set to take on the Marlins Wednesday.

Miami Marlins:
1. Dee Gordon (L) 2B
2. Giancarlo Stanton (R) DH
3. Marcell Ozuna (R) CF
4. Justin Bour (L) 1B
5. J.T. Realmuto (R) C
6. Derek Dietrich (L) 3B
7. Tyler Moore (R) LF
8. J.T. Riddle (L) SS
9. Ichiro Suzuki (L) RF
Edinson Volquez -- RHP

Oakland A's:
1. Rajai Davis (R) CF
2. Matt Joyce (L) RF
3. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
4. Khris Davis (R) DH
5. Ryon Healy (R) 1B
6. Trevor Plouffe (R) 3B
7. Chad Pinder (R) LF
8. Josh Phegley (R) C
9. Adam Rosales (R) SS
Sonny Gray -- RHP