If this is what the 2014 Oakland Athletics look like when they're struggling, then sign me up. The A's went through the closest thing they've had to a slump last week and still managed to go 3-3 against two contending teams. The lineup fell flat in Anaheim to begin the week, as had been the case in the final stops of the two previous three-city road trips (in Boston and Toronto); traveling is tough, and the ends of these long trips are proving to be a weakness for this club. However, they bounced back to wallop Jered Weaver for the second time in a row and then followed that up by taking two of three from the Yankees in fairly dominant fashion once they returned to the Coliseum. Add it all up, and we're still looking at the best record in the AL (42-27), a tie in the loss column with the scuffling Giants for top record in MLB (SF is 43-27), the best run differential in baseball (plus-132, followed by SF at plus-54), the most runs in the AL (351, trailing only Colorado in the NL), and the fewest runs allowed in MLB (219, followed by St. Louis at 236).
The biggest story of the week was the perplexing slump of Josh Donaldson. Indeed, the parched bat of the Bringer of Rain was the symbol of Oakland's relative offensive drought, as his stretch of futility extended to 0-for-33 before he poked a seeing-eye grounder through the right side for an RBI single late in the finale against New York. His last hit had come in the first Manny Machado game (the one with The Tag), but his struggles lasted so far past that incident that there must have been more to them. Overall, his average dropped from .280 on June 6 to .250 on June 15, and he made four throwing errors in a two-day span which all played huge parts in a pair of losses to the Angels. Here's hoping that he can rediscover his MVP talent in the comfort zone of the Coliseum.
Donaldson wasn't the only one struggling to hit last week. John Jaso is 0-for-20 dating back to the finale of the Baltimore series, Jed Lowrie went 2-for-20 last week, Brandon Moss went 3-for-23 (all singles), and the team combined for only three home runs in six contests (two of which came in the Yankees finale). It's normal for guys to go through slumps during the season, but it's unusual for the entire team to go down like this. Chalk it up to an unfortunate coincidence and stay the course, though, because one week of futility does not outweigh 10 weeks of dominance. Besides, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt picked up the slack by combining to go 11-for-25 as part of Bob Melvin's three-catcher lineup (Norris C, Jaso DH, Vogt RF/LF), and Yoenis Cespedes kept the middle of the lineup warm. Here's some simultaneous good and bad news: Oakland's 7-0 loss to the Yankees was their worst defeat of the season, eclipsing the 7-1 deficit at the hands of the Red Sox on May 2. That's a bummer, and it's even worse that it came at the hands of the generally unimpressive David Phelps, but it also means that this was the first time the A's had lost by as many as seven runs all year long. That is pretty sweet.
On the pitching side, the combo of Sean Doolittle (9th), Luke Gregerson (8th), Dan Otero and Fernando Abad (double-barreled set-up) has established itself as the back-end of the bullpen; they combined for 11⅔ scoreless innings last week. However, the rest of the pen (Ryan Cook, Jim Johnson, Jeff Francis) continued to struggle. Hurry back, Eric O'Flaherty! As for the rotation, Jesse Chavez spun a pair of quality starts and Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir each added one of their own. Tommy Milone dominated again, and Drew Pomeranz tossed his second straight seven-inning gem (one unearned run, four hits) but once again had nothing to show for it after the A's lost in extra innings in Anaheim. (Pom's season ERA is back down to 1.90.) The A's received a quality start in every game last week. Here are the rest of the top stories from Week 11.
I reckon rain's a-comin'
Sometimes, it starts with just the faintest drizzle.
That hit ended an 0-for-33 skid. And remember: oftentimes, when it rains, it pours. Don't forget your umbrellas this week.
Oh, and in case you were worried about Donaldson's shaky defense in Anaheim ...
Yo Knows Throws
On Tuesday, Yoenis Cespedes made one of the best throws in the last 25 years of Major League Baseball to nail Howie Kendrick at the plate in the eighth inning of a tie game.
That was incredible. What was more incredible was that he basically did it again the very next day.
The second play was eerily similar to the first. Cespedes misplayed the ball in the outfield, motivating the runner to try to take an extra bag. He then recovered, nonchalantly collected the ball, and threw a 100 mph strike straight to the necessary base. I don't know why the molasses-legged Albert Pujols thought it would be a good idea to test Cespedes right when the Cuban's arm was literally the biggest story of the day in baseball, but I guess even future Hall of Famers make mistakes. Also, he apparently hadn't learned from the night before, when Brandon Moss gunned him down after an even more egregious base running gaffe:
Dude. Albert. You're great at most things, but you're not fast. That is all.
(Note: Cespedes leads all of baseball with nine outfield assists, ahead of Michael Brantley with eight and Jose Bautista with seven.)
Anything you can do ...
... Coco can do better.
Trout and Coco took turns robbing opposing sluggers (Cespedes and Hamilton, repsectively) of first-inning home runs. Make sure to stick around for the end of the video to see Coco do a Mutombo finger wag when the Angel Stadium fireworks begin launching prematurely for a home run that never was.
Derek Norris really, really loves his parents
... but he loves his mom twice as much. You see, on Mother's Day, Norris blasted a pair of three-run homers against Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals. On Father's Day, he connected with another three-run bomb:
However, he only went deep once for his dad. Geez, I guess we know which parent he loves more now. Norris' post-game quote, via Susan Slusser:
"Parents' Days? I don't know if that's exactly how I was planning it," Norris said, adding later of his dad, Russ, "I'm sure once I talk to him, he is going to be like, 'Why didn't you hit two?' "
Is there a Grandparent's Day sometime during the summer? If so, I think I'd like to see what Norris would do with the bases loaded ...
You don't see this one every day.
No, I'm not talking about Lowrie making a sweet defensive play, diving to his right to rob a hit and turn it into a force out. Lowrie has actually been much better on defense this season (minus-3 DRS, slightly positive UZR), as he's one more year removed from his list of serious injuries.
I'm talking about what happened after that, when Carlos Beltran was called out after the play. You can't see it in the video, but Beltran thought that the force at second was the third out and started walking back to the dugout. The A's noticed, got the ball to first, and tagged him out as he was wandering around. I guess memory really is the first thing to go.
If you're keeping score at home, that's two future Hall of Famers (Pujols and Beltran) just completely forgetting how base running works in the same week.
For anyone who thought it was a bit of an idealistic overreaction when everyone was complaining about Manny Machado failing to check on Norris after whacking his helmet with his backswing, here is what it looks like when a normal human being does the same thing:
Notice how Aybar turns around to see if he's OK and starts to help him up even though they are opponents on the field. That is what a person does when he is not terrible. Now contrast that to Machado, falling somewhere on the spectrum between "not caring" and "actively smiling at the injury he accidentally inflicted." That's what we were talking about. There is indeed more to life than baseball, as much as I hate to admit it.
When the lights go out in the city
Saturday's game had a brief, 38-minute interruption.
Umpires, A's officials are discussing this: pic.twitter.com/qpkAxI3qkZ— Athletics Nation (@athleticsnation) June 15, 2014
On the bright side (of the darkness delay), at least it wasn't poop in the dugout.
Also, gotta give Lew Wolff some props for this photo, which shows the cause of the electronic malfunction.
Congratulations to the Callaspo family!
Alberto Callaspo spent the Yankees series on the paternity list after Oakland's Hot Dog man welcomed a new little cocktail weenie into the world. Athletics Nation wishes health and happiness to its newest pig-in-a-blanket!