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Game #38: Offensive woes continue in 3-1 loss to Twins

At least the pitching held up its end

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Oakland Athletics Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The A’s dropped the series opener to the Minnesota Twins on Monday night, losing 3-1 for Oakland’s third straight loss.

The A’s rookie starting pitcher was solid enough, and four bullpen arms combined to yield just one run. But the lineup collected just four hits and a pair of walks, going 0-for-4 with RISP. Oakland has scored just seven runs in their last five games and continue eto be lost offensively.

*** Click here to revisit today’s Game Thread! ***

Things were looking up to start this game. Starting pitcher Zach Logue pitched a clean top half of the first, throwing 10 of his 13 pitches for strikes, then leadoff man Tony Kemp pulled a single into right field to get the A’s going. A Ramon Laureano walk put a runner in scoring position with just one out, but the struggles in these situations continued as Seth Brown and Sean Murphy both went down without bringing in an early run that Oakland could have used.

The Twins opened the scoring in the third on the strength of their middle infield. The Twins’ #1 prospect, shortstop Royce Lewis, doubled to leadoff the frame, and while Logue almost escaped the inning unscathed after getting two weak flyouts, a two-out single by second baseman Jorge Polanco brought Lewis in and gave Minnesota the early lead.

The A’s haven’t historically been a team that uses small ball all that often, eschewing steals and sac bunts almost completely. Here and there, maybe, but never too often. That’s changed this year, with new manager Mark Kotsay needing to use it with Oakland’s offense sputtering and only hitting three home runs in all of May.

It paid off for the A’s first run. It looked like the A’s might waste a Brown walk, but shortstop Elvis Andrus (2-for-3, RBI) was up to bat, and he’s been one of the A’s better hitters over the past week.

With the count at 2-2, Kotsay sent Brown, and Andrus took a pitch over the heart of the plate and nailed it into right-center:

It was surprising that Kotsay sent Brown on a 2-2 pitch when the conventional baseball thinking is sending a runner on a 3-2 count, but it turned out to be the right call as Brown probably doesn’t score right there if he isn’t moving on the pitch. That was only Andrus’ second extra-base hit in his last 26 games. He was ultimately stranded at second after a Luis Barrera groundout that he made close with his speed.

There was no shutdown inning, however, as Minnesota went to small-ball themselves, getting a leadoff walk, sacrifice bunting him to second, and singling on a slider that hung up in the zone to retake the lead. A walk ended Logue’s day, with Kotsay turning to Domingo Acevedo for his 18th appearance this season.

  • Zach Logue: 4 13 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 K, 82 pitches

Alright, perhaps he set the bar too high with his previous two starts. This wasn’t the best performance in the world but you’ll generally take your starter giving up just a couple runs. Considering he was facing the Twins so close to when he last faced them, they were probably much more prepared for what Logue had to offer tonight and it showed. His spot isn’t likely in any immediate danger, so we’ll probably see him again for at least another turn in the rotation.

Acevedo got the two outs to finish the fifth, but not before Laureano showed off a little bit:

Oakland gave up just one more run, a booming home run off Acevedo that everyone knew was gone the second it left the bat to start the sixth. He’s been one of Kotsay’s biggest workhorses down in the bullpen, as he finished off the inning and got two strikeouts along the way. He is tied in all of MLB in appearances after tonight’s work.

Minnesota threatened again in the seventh, putting two on with two out against A.J. Puk and bringing up Gio Urshela. A single right here would have probably been the nail in the coffin with the way the offense has been going, but on a day he’d been going off, Andrus made a sensational play:

That play not only saved a run, but got the out and sent the A’s into the dugout with some momentum. Andrus even led off the bottom half of the inning with a chopper that went over the first baseman’s head to put the leadoff man on base. Instead, Barrera immediately grounded into a double play and Kevin Smith struck out swinging. Oakland went down 1-2-3 in the eighth and ninth innings to wrap this one up.

The A’s just cannot find a groove offensively. Aside from the series with the Tigers, the bats have gone completely cold. They’ve cut down on the strikeouts, which is positive, but there just hasn’t been the ability to string together hits. Offense is contagious, and that works both ways. Per Steve Berman:

The A’s have the worst team average (.199), on-base percentage (.268) and slugging percentage (.306) in all of Major League Baseball.

On the bright side, the pitching was solid yet again, the squad stayed in it against one of the best teams in baseball, the defense made some nice plays, and perhaps most important of all, A’s fan prospects look like they’re coming along nicely:

Same time, same place tomorrow against these same Twins. It’ll be James Kaprielian on the bump for Oakland, set for his fourth start of the season and looking to help snap the current three-game losing streak.

Notes:

  • Reliever Lou Trivino made an appearance today, pitching a scoreless eighth. This is the second game he’s been brought into a low-leverage situation and he’s done well in both. He’ll probably need a bunch more of those appearances if he wants to get back into higher-level situations. He needed the trainers to check on him after the first out, but he stayed in and struck out the next two batters.

Kotsay after the game:

“A little bit of history with this. He gets amped up and has trouble sometimes catching his breath. … He’s experienced it before, but you gotta go out and make sure he’s OK.”

  • Cristian Pache went 0-for-3 today with a strikeout, but the stat sheet won’t show he put two good swings on a couple pitches, lining out on one and getting a hit stolen on the other. Those hits are bound to start falling, hopefully soon.
  • The batting averages up and down the lineup are getting hard to look at. Six of the nine starters today have averages below the Mendoza line, with a couple more within just a few points of falling below it. Rough.
  • Left-hander A.J. Puk continues to be a force out of the bullpen, having not allowed a run in his last 10 appearances. It was close today but the streak continues.