Perhaps the best the Oakland Athletics can hope for now is that they are due for some kind of reverse karma.
The last two seasons, the A’s made the wild card portion of the American League playoffs by having the best record in baseball the second half of the season. And they got bounced in the wild card game both times.
This time, the A’s locked up the AL West with a week left in the season. But they have not played well down the stretch. On Saturday they were swept in a doubleheader, 5-1 in extra innings and 12-3, by a Mariners team that will be done after Sunday’s regular season finale.
The A’s have lost four of six since the title became theirs. And as they head into what is now a three-game wild card event beginning Tuesday, their offense has fallen off a cliff. Oakland had six hits in Game 1 and nine in Game 2, Seven of the nine in Game 2 came after the A’s found themselves down 8-1 after an eight-run Seattle third inning.
How bad is the A’s offense going these days? Seattle had five hits with runners in scoring position between the first and second outs of the third inning. The A’s have had four hits with RISP in the last four games.
Robbie Grossman, who had the first two-homer game of his career with solo shots in the first and fifth innings and who also singled, says the RISP numbers don’t matter that much.
“I just think it’s baseball,” Grossman said. “We’ve played many games in the last month. We’re at the last game tomorrow. Everyone’s just looking forward to getting into the playoffs and getting that second wind.”
They can use all the extra breeze they can muster, as Grossman himself admits.
“We are the best team in the division; I’ll take us over anyone,” he said. But it’s been a grind. I think this has been physically, mentally the hardest season I’ve ever been a part of in the big leagues. Nothing else is even close. You won’t go through a season like that ever again.”
When Mike Minor threw a seven-inning shutout against the Mariners in a Sept. 14 doubleheader, the A’s got 11 hits in the game to get their team batting average to .230, a season high. Since then, the A’s have played 11 games, going 5-6, and the batting average has been .199. Going into the last day of the season, the A’s have clinched the worst batting average in Oakland history, .224, and the worst average in franchise history, .223 by the 1908 Philadelphia A’s could be in trouble.
For all of that, manager Bob Melvin sees signs of a revitalization. Mark Canha, who hit the walkoff homer in Friday’s win, had two hits in Game 1 and a walk in Game 2. Grossman had three hits, including the two homers in Game 2 and was 1-for-2 Friday. Matt Olson had three hits in the doubleheader, getting his batting average up to .199 with a chance to get to .200 or better Sunday. Ramón Laureano, who sat out Game 2, has broken out of an 0-for-16 skid with a 4-for-13 spurt that includes two doubles and a homer.
“Our situational at-bats (the RISP at-bats) weren’t very good,” Melvin said of Saturday. “But I think you know guys are swinging the bats better across the board than may we saw three or four or five days ago.
“We want everybody to feel good going into the postseason, and (Grossman) is one of the guys, especially after today, that should feel very good. (Olson) has had some bad luck, but you look at the home runs (14) and RBI (42) and the walks (33).
Melvin points out those numbers because Olson leads the team in all three categories even has he’s struggled to get to his batting average on track.
It’s difficult for anyone to know just what to make of the A’s. As recently as Friday night, they had a chance to finish with the best record in the American League and get the first seed in the playoff. They head into Sunday as the third seed.
The A’s can point to bunches of clutch hits in the first 59 games of the 60-game season that ends Sunday. They have six walkoff wins and were a perfect 6-0 in extra-inning games before Saturday’s Game 1 loss in eight innings.
The question now is if they can turn recapture the momentum they once had.
But, as the 2018 and 2019 Oakland teams showed, momentum’s not everything.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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