athletics morale, manaea

Athletics morale is high but there’s still work to do

Athletics morale high after series win over Rays

Morale on the Oakland Athletics’ plane on the way home from their long East Coast road trip was likely higher than it’s been all season after the dramatic way they won their series over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Teams have taken a win and run with it before. Winning usually leads to more winning, while a poor team morale often seems to perpetuate the cycle of losing. The A’s have a chance to make this last win work for them. They did win in dramatic fashion, ending their long East Coast road trip on a high note, one that may have carried over to Monday’s game.

valencia, athletics morale
Danny Valencia. Getty Images.

Down two outs and one run against the Tampa Bay Rays in the top of the ninth inning at Tropicana Field on Sunday, Danny Valencia walked up to the plate. Billy Burns was on second base, so all the Athletics needed was a single from Valencia to tie the game.

Quickly down 0-2, Valencia jumped on the next pitched served to him and hit that ball out of the yard. The A’s won the game, 7-6, after Ryan Madson quickly shut down the Rays offense in the bottom of the ninth.

It wasn’t Valencia’s first home run of the game, either; it was his third, and fifth in the series against the Rays. No member of the Athletics had hit five home runs in a three-game series since 1995, and those home runs were hit by Mark McGwire. It was also the tenth straight game in which Valencia had gotten a hit.

The question now is: “Can the Athletics harness all of that positive energy and high morale to keep winning games?”

The best answer: Maybe.

Of course, the A’s can’t rely on their third baseman to win all their games and on Monday night back home at the Coliseum where they faced the Texas Rangers, they didn’t have to.

The Athletics took game one of the four-game series by the score of 3-1; this time it wasn’t on the back of Valencia but on starting pitcher, rookie Sean Manaea.

It was the first time in recent memory that someone not named Rich Hill took the mound and pitched into the seventh, while holding the opposition to just a single run. Manaea gave way to allow the newly-overhauled bullpen to do what it was put together to do. The game also marked Manaea’s first big league win.

The bullpen was finally able to act as it was designed to with Sean Doolittle closing out the seventh, John Axford pitching the eighth and Ryan Madson picking up the save in the ninth.

Did it have to do anything with the team’s morale? Perhaps; their high spirits couldn’t have hurt.

The team may have scored just three runs off of Texas’ Derek Holland, but they came off the power bats of Khris Davis and Marcus Semien as well as a player whose bat hasn’t been so hot since coming to Oakland last season, Billy Butler.

Marcus Semien. Getty Images.
Marcus Semien. Getty Images.

It’s not as though the A’s offense has been that bad. On this past nine-game road trip, they averaged 4.5 runs per game, including games of seven (twice) and six runs.

However, only three players on their roster are hitting above the .300 mark: Valencia, Josh Reddick and Jed Lowrie, who is currently on the disabled list. Billy Burns (.274) is the only other player hitting over .250. That said, outfielder Khris Davis, who is batting just .217, leads the team in RBI with 21 and shortstop Marcus Semien is on pace to hit 30 home runs this season.

The offense has power, consistent hitters and guys that can drive in runs, but they haven’t been able to put it all together along with a good outing by a starter and using the bullpen in the way in which it was intended. At least not until Monday night. Monday, every part of the team worked in unison.

Each run was driven in by a different player, two of whom stepped up to the plate and finally got that hit with a runner in scoring position, while Semien continued to show off his power with his team-leading tenth home run of the season.

Over the weekend, with the help of Valencia’s bat, the team was able to stop the bleeding, but barely. Kendall Graveman and Sonny Gray both gave up too many home runs, something that is going to have to change if the team wants to turn the corner for good.

With a setback to the recovery of starter Henderson Alvarez, Eric Surkamp and Jesse Hahn are going to have to continue what Manaea started Monday night. They, like Graveman and Gray, need to find the strike zone, retire hitters and limit their walks.

That’s the only real way that the Athletics can string wins together. Still, it appears that the team’s high morale may have had a small part in not necessarily stopping the bleeding, but continuing to contain it.

They need to work improving most aspects of their game, with the exception of the bullpen, but it will certainly be easier if they can keep a high morale in the clubhouse and hold onto a positive, winning attitude. Morale alone won’t win a ballgame, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

Athletics perhaps beginning to turn a corner

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