The Oakland Athletics bounced back from their recent slump to go 3-2 last week, and their timing couldn't have been better. After splitting a pair of games against the New York Mets, the A's took two out of three from the division-leading Angels and cut the deficit in the standings to one game. It should be noted that this was the third stop on the Angels' three-city road trip, and that the A's struggled when put in similar travel situations this year, but there's no need to qualify these wins. Let's just enjoy the fact that our boys got back on track in the games that mattered most, against the team they are fighting for the AL West crown.
The offense reappeared thanks to both some usual suspects and some unlikely contributors. Alberto Callaspo led the way by going 8-for-17 with a homer and a double, Stephen Vogt and Derek Norris each went 5-for-15 with two doubles (and Vogt added a homer), and Coco Crisp got back into the swing of things by going 7-for-23 with a homer, a triple, and two doubles. Andy Parrino hit his first home run as an Athletic, and only the second of his MLB career. Josh Reddick also hit one out. On the down side, Brandon Moss went 0-for-13 and is hitless in his last 24 plate appearances (though he has six walks in that time). Overall, the A's scored 22 runs in their five games, and no fewer than four in both losses. They only managed two runs on Saturday against the Angels, with one scoring on a wild pitch, but that was enough to earn the win.
The pitching was a bit less consistent. Jon Lester was dominant on Saturday (seven innings, one run), Sonny Gray pitched into the ninth in Friday's victory, and Scott Kazmir allowed just one run through six to beat the Mets. However, Kazmir got rocked in his second start of the week and Jeff Samardizja got lit up by New York; both pitchers gave up seven runs without making it out of the fourth inning. Jesse Chavez came on in long relief for both of those disaster starts, but he was unable to put out the fire with a scoreless outing either time. Sean Doolittle picked up a pair of saves against the Angels but then went on the DL with a strained muscle in his side. Other than Chavez, Ryan Cook was the only reliever to allow a run.
Here are the main stories from the last week.
Coco is back
Coco Crisp has been struggling lately, and for the most part we assume it's due to his lingering neck injury. However, he came up with some big hits last week and allayed many concerns about his health. He even hit a home run from the right side of the plate, which is supposed to be the side that gives him the most problems.
... also, LOL:
That proved to be the winning run in a 2-1 victory.
Parrino makes his case
Andy Parrino is currently the guy who floats back and forth between Oakland and Sacramento whenever the A's need (or don't need) an extra middle infielder. Parrino would like you to know that he is interested in staying in the Majors full-time. Here he is flashing his leather:
... here he is with some quality situational hitting, driving in the runner from third in a close game:
And here he is hitting his first home run as an Athletic.
Callaspo had a big week at the plate, but he's been subpar overall this year, his defense is poor, and he's made a couple of huge, costly baserunning mistakes lately. I'm not making a decision either way right now, and it won't matter in September with the expanded rosters, but it's time to consider if maybe Parrino makes more sense than Callaspo when it comes time to construct a postseason squad.
This is not good. Sean Doolittle saved the first two games against the Angels, but he hurt himself in the second game:
Doolittle is now on the DL with an intercostal strain, which is a fancy term for "my ribs hurt." That's bad because Doolittle is a huge part of the bullpen, but there's also a bright side if you look close enough. He's put in a lot of work this season, and now he gets a nice break for a couple weeks right before the pennant races hit their fever pitch. If he can return in mid-September, and the A's don't blow a bunch of saves before that time, then this could actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise -- a relatively fresh closer for the stretch drive and October. If he needs longer to recover and misses most of the rest of the regular season, or even isn't ready for the playoffs, then this will be a big blow to Oakland's chances. We'll have to wait and see who is called on for the next save opportunity, but the safe bet is Luke Gregerson, with Ryan Cook as the dark horse candidate.
Other injury news
Unfortunately, Doo is not the only one who is banged up. We already discussed Coco, but John Jaso is also going to the seven-day concussion DL. According to Susan Slusser, Jaso took a particularly hard foul ball off his mask awhile back and is suffering from concussion symptoms. The A's acquired backstop Geovany Soto from Texas on Sunday, and it's assumed that he will take Jaso's place on the roster.
Meanwhile, Josh Donaldson sat out Sunday's finale against the Angels due to a knee injury that he sustained on Saturday. Slusser sounds optimistic that Donaldson won't need to go on the DL, since he wanted to play Sunday. Sam Fuld has a sore knee, but is only day-to-day. Finally, Kyle Blanks was transferred to the 60-day DL after a setback with his leg injury, but that's just a formality to clear roster space for Soto since Blanks is already past 60 days on the shelf. On the bright side, Slusser suggests that Jed Lowrie may only miss the minimum 15 days with his broken finger and that Nick Punto could be headed for a rehab assignment soon.
Craig Gentry came back from the DL (broken hand) and went 2-for-7 with a walk and a stolen base. He also came up with this sweet outfield assist to gun down David Freese at second:
That was Gentry's eighth outfield assist of the season, which ties him for ninth in MLB. That's particularly impressive considering that he hasn't even played 500 innings in the field this year; no one else has as many outfield assists while playing fewer than 600 frames, and many on the leaderboard are in excess of 1,000 innings.
The outlook from here on
Things look better than they did a week ago. The A's are now treading water rather than drowning, and that is decidedly a step up. They took care of business in their first key series against the Angels, and now they get another crack at the Astros as they attempt to enter this weekend's four-game series in Anaheim back on top of the division. The offense has gone from pathetic to adequate, and the pitching is still a plus overall (though with signs of mortality that we didn't see in the first half). There's still a month to go, and seven more heads-up meetings with the Angels, but the bleeding has been stopped for now.