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A’s Will Go As Far As They Can Single

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Oakland Athletics Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Khris Davis will continue to hit HRs that defy known physics, forcing umpires to huddle and confirm that the ground rules clearly state that a ball glancing off the moon is in play. The team will hit its fair share of HRs and according to baseball rules that means they will score some runs.

Apparently there are two constants with the A’s rotation: starting pitchers will continue to get injured, explaining the sign in the clubhouse which reads, “__ Days Since The Last Workplace Related Injury,” updated daily by Jharel Cotton writing with his left hand, and the same number of pitchers will emerge to keep the rotation above water, the latest entries being provided by Frankie “Oh by the way I’m good now” Montas and Paul Blackburn. So Graveman becomes Cahill, Triggs becomes Montas, Gossett becomes Blackburn, and the A’s continue to cobble together a rotation that while not great is also not bad. It helps that the replacements keep pitching better than the originals were pitching anyway.

So as Chris Bassitt prepares to become the A’s 11th starting pitcher to toe the rubber in the season’s first 10 weeks, can the team continue to defy logic and expectations and stay north of the .500 mark? That question can be answered in a single question.

The question is singles. Last night Oakland homered three times, but more important were the other 4 runs they put on the board. Singles by Matt Chapman and Marcus Semien, then a run driven home by a Jonathan Lucroy single up the middle. Singles by Semien and by Stephen Piscotty, both driven home by a Lucroy double. That’s 3 runs on 6 hits from a team that has been too “feast or famine” to sustain consistency.

That’s why I get more excited by a Matt Olson RBI single stroked through the left side hole off of a tough LHP than I do by the majestic “swung on, gone” bomb into the right-center field bleachers — each of those actual entries from Olson’s playbook this past week. I think Dustin Fowler is an important addition to the lineup, doubling the number of “high average hitter” types in a lineup previously anchored only by Jed Lowrie.

The ability to string hits together is one that if you have it, you can generally rely on it to show up day after day compared to the inherent streakiness power hitters bring to their game. You would like to think that your team could put runs on the board even when Davis is in one of those “2 for 21 with 12 Ks” funks or when Olson suddenly suffers a power outage for 2 weeks. They say that speed never slumps, and while batting average slumps the fact is that you are going to get guys in scoring position periodically throughout a game and throughout a week, and if you have enough hitters capable of adding the “get ‘em in” to the “get ‘em over” your team has a chance to be consistently on the board.

This is not to say that batting average is more important than OBP or SLG because it isn’t. But it’s an area where the A’s are vulnerable because so many of their key players (Davis, Chapman, Olson, Joyce, even Piscotty) have more swing and miss in their game than they have the ability to miss gloves when they hit the ball in the park.

As the A’s continue to lose and get back pitchers at roughly the same rate, expect the rotation to continue to be decent but not great, the back end of the bullpen to nail down most games, a pitching staff just needing enough consistent run support to win more often than they lose. The A’s will score a fair number of runs, even if it’s in a streaky pattern that does not lead to enough wins. Sprinkle in enough base hits in between the HRs and Ks and you might be looking at the kind of consistent run production that can yield more wins with those runs.

Perhaps the journey of 1,000 wild cards begins with a single (step).