A's seek to get bats going over final weekend

September 25th, 2020

The A’s realize their offense is not performing up to its capabilities, with multiple hitters going through slumps. Fortunately, they still have a few more days to get things straightened out before the postseason.

Facing a stern test in Walker Buehler on Thursday night, Oakland’s bats went silent in a 5-1 loss to the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Dropping two of three games in Los Angeles, the A’s fell to the No. 3 seed in the American League standings.

The opponent in the Wild Card Series does not matter much for the A’s. What they want most is to enter the playoffs in good position to score runs early and often. That has not been the case as of late, as A’s hitters entered Thursday’s contest batting just .204 over their past 10 games.

“We were better yesterday and on it early on,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Today, they had some pretty good pitchers that struck us out quite a bit, starting with their first guy. Consistency is something we’re looking for. We were hoping to come in today playing off yesterday’s scoring effort, but it just didn’t happen.”

Buehler kept the A’s offense down through four shutout innings, and the Dodgers’ bullpen did not make things much easier. The A’s were held to two hits until the eighth, when finally got them on the board with a solo home run.

On one hand, the A’s can view this series loss against the National League’s top seed as a good test run for what postseason baseball will look like. Opposing teams will constantly throw their best pitchers at them in a short series, like Buehler, and the only likely path to victory will be to string together just enough hits for a rally. That will require getting on base more than they did over this series, as the A’s struck out 36 times over three games, with 16 punchouts on Thursday.

“Between their starters and the bullpen, there’s really not a weak link in the chain,” A’s second baseman said of the Dodgers’ pitching. “But that’s what you would expect from a playoff team like they’ve been the last several years. It was good for us to come out and match up against them. This is going to be playoff baseball.”

Making his final start before the postseason, did his best to keep the A’s in the game, tossing five innings of two-run ball. Considering the type of firepower up and down the Dodgers’ lineup, limiting them to two runs on five hits on a night where his only real mistake was a solo shot given up to Corey Seager should be viewed as a success.

“When you saw Seager’s homer, it was a curveball left up in the zone,” Fiers said. “You make mistakes, they hurt you. They make it tough and they came out swinging, which caught me off guard. I was able to minimize damage and get through the fifth.”

Much like the offense is looking to test itself against pitchers like Buehler, Fiers could use the Dodgers’ lineup as a barometer for where he’s at entering October. In his eyes, Thursday’s start left him feeling good about where he stands. After a rough first four starts that saw his ERA balloon to 6.86, Fiers ended the regular season with a 3.43 ERA over his final seven outings.

“I’m way better than early on,” Fiers said. “The first month of this season was rough for me. I think we’ve worked out some kinks and got some innings under our belts. I think I’m ready for a big game.”

That first big game comes on Tuesday, when the A’s open up the Wild Card Series at the Coliseum. Fiers will be part of that mix of pitchers considered to start Game 1, as will rookie starter , who pitched three innings of relief on Thursday night in order to stay on his regular pitching turn as the A’s keep their pitching options open for that first game.

“I’m ready to pitch whenever,” Fiers said. “I guess they want to see who we face first. A lot of things can change in the next couple of days. It’s all about matchups and putting our best starter out there.”

Whoever takes the mound for Game 1, the A’s will feel confident about. It’s the hitting that will need to get back on track, with a chance to do so beginning on Friday against the Mariners back in Oakland in the first of their final four games of the regular season.

“Consistency is the name of the game,” La Stella said. “On the offensive side, you’re pretty much always up against it. Teams go through this. Hitting is contagious. Hopefully, we’ll start to grind out some at-bats. One through nine, I think we’re going to be OK.”