Although still fifth place in the American League West, the Oakland Athletics appear to be turning things around. They’ve won six of their last seven games, taking three of four from the AL East first place New York Yankees and completing their first sweep of the season over the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers have been sliding downhill fast and while they began the season fighting the Kansas City Royals for first place in the AL Central, they’ve now fallen four and a half games behind the Royals and the Minnesota Twins after what is, after today’s loss to Oakland, a seven-game losing streak.
Oakland defeated the Tigers’ 5-3 on Tuesday behind Ben Zobrist‘s grand slam and solid six-inning start by Kendall Graveman. Evan Scribner and Tyler Clippard closed down the game without allowing another hit and combining for four strikeouts over three innings of work.
Wednesday’s the Tigers just couldn’t get to the A’s ace, starter Sonny Gray. Gray currently leads the league with a 1.65 ERA. Gray pitched eight-innings allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out seven. It was Gray’s third straight win and one of his best performances of the season.
Fernando Rodriguez gave the A’s a scare allowing two hits and run in the ninth. Lukily, they’d been backed by a solo homer by Josh Reddick, a bases clearing triple by Billy Burns, an RBI double by Brett Lawrie and a sacrifice fly off the bat of catcher Stephen Vogt for a total of six runs to Detroit’s one run and were able to take game two of the series.
Thursday, starter Jesse Hahn was dealing and the offense was going strong once again. Lawrie, Eric Sogard and Billy Butler each had two hits a piece. Hahn went seven innings allowing a run on five hits and a walk while striking out five batters.
Tigers starter Shane Greene allowed six of the A’s seven runs but two of them were unearned. The first unearned run was actually allowed because of a throwing error by Greene himself in the second inning. The second one came in the top of the fifth on an error by left fielder Daniel Fields.
Greene was removed after getting one out in the top of the fifth and was followed by four different Tigers relievers who held the A’s offense to just one run.
Reliever and part-time starter Drew Pomeranz pitched a hitless eighth inning in his first outing since being activated from the disabled list on Wednesday.
The A’s thought they had the game wrapped up going into the ninth inning up by six runs but there were two big scares in the final inning.
Dan Otero came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth. Otero allowed four runs on four hits and got only one out.
Besides allowing the Tigers to score four runs, Vogt, came up limping after chasing a foul ball that went into the seats.
Thankfully Vogt’s limping was caused by a leg cramp and nothing more serious. Vogt is currently second in the AL in RBI and is a huge part of the A’s offense.
With two outs left in the bottom of the ninth manager Bob Melvin removed Otero and brought in Clippard for what was now a save opportunity. Clippard handled the remaining two batters without allowing a hit and got credit for the save.
The ninth inning goes to show that while the A’s are surging, producing offensively and getting great outings from their starters, they still have some bullpen issues to work through. Clippard and Evan Scribner simply can’t pitch everyday.
It would be helpful to have left-hander Sean Doolittle back in the bullpen and hopefully he will be at some point, but dealing with injuries is a regular part of the long, drawn out MLB season.
The A’s defense still needs work after committing two errors during the three-game series but that’s actually an improvement for a defense that leads the league in errors.
The point is though that the A’s seem to be putting things together and getting their first sweep of the season. Both the defense and bullpen have shown improvement. The offense is strong, scoring a total of 18 runs over the past three games, and so is their starting pitching.
Friday the A’s travel to Fenway Park to play the, also floundering, Boston Red Sox. Starter Scott Kazmir will make his first start since being removed from his last one after four innings with shoulder soreness.