ATLANTA -- If their pregame transactions didn’t make it clear, Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Braves at Truist Park certainly did: The A’s are looking for a spark for their offense. The defeat marked the sixth time during its seven-game losing streak that Oakland was held to two runs or fewer.
The A’s entered the night 29th in the Majors in runs per game and slugging percentage, plus 30th in batting average and on-base percentage. So it was no shock that they added Matt Davidson, who had been lighting it up at Triple-A Las Vegas, and designated pitcher Parker Markel for assignment rather than a hitter, while also reinstating catcher Stephen Vogt.
The pitching on Tuesday was once again good enough to win on a lot of nights. Cole Irvin and three relievers held a potent Atlanta attack to three runs, all on solo homers. So the question is, what can the A’s do to get the offense going?
Of course, if they knew an obvious fix, they’d have already made it. Still, here are three keys to watch as Oakland tries to get its lineup in gear.
Although it didn’t show on Tuesday -- Kyle Wright played a big part in that -- getting out on the road should help. The A’s have been a better hitting team away from the Coliseum this year, which is understandable given the venerable venue’s cavernous dimensions. They’ve actually just been a better team overall on the road.
Sometimes during a team-wide slump, individual hitters will start trying to do it all themselves, and it just makes things worse. If the A’s are able to ease up a little bit and believe that friendlier ballparks will lead to more runs, it could make a difference.
They got out to an early lead for once on Tuesday, but an inning-ending double play in that friendly first took away some of the boost it offered. Still, it really can only take one big inning, especially now that they’re back on the road.
“I feel like on this road trip, bats are gonna start heating up and we’re gonna start rolling,” said second baseman Tony Kemp.
There are hitters in this lineup who have done significant damage in the big leagues before. Ramón Laureano is just three years removed from a 24-homer season, and he’s been coming on over the past two weeks. Having him stay hot would be huge.
Kemp posted an .800 OPS last year and is hitting .342 over his past 12 games. And Sean Murphy had 28 homers in 648 career plate appearances coming into this year.
It’s a very long season, and sometimes you slump. But there are good enough hitters here to produce more than they have been. Getting the established producers going at once is the most important thing.
Just catch a doggone break
This is easier said than done, but the A’s were close on two occasions on Tuesday. And both times, Murphy was the recipient of the hard luck.
After a second-inning single, Murphy drilled a liner into right-center field in the fifth, but Braves center fielder Michael Harris II made a spectacular running catch to deprive him of extra bases. Harris’ catch probability on the ball was 40%, and if it gets past him, the A’s have a leadoff double. Three innings later, Murphy smoked another liner, and Ronald Acuña Jr. almost lost it in the lights -- but didn’t quite.
Two potential leadoff base hits, two tough-luck outs instead.
“The ball in right-center, the kid made the play in center, that’s an unbelievable play running down that ball,” said manager Mark Kotsay of Harris’ catch. “That could have been a turning point for the offense as well.”