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Both offense, defense are what’s ailing A’s

@MartinJGallegos
May 1, 2019

BOSTON -- The A’s arrived to the Fenway Park visiting clubhouse on Wednesday morning feeling optimistic with the turn of the calendar. That feeling had worn off by the end of the day though, as the A’s lost, 7-3, to the Red Sox. Oakland has now lost a season-high six

BOSTON -- The A’s arrived to the Fenway Park visiting clubhouse on Wednesday morning feeling optimistic with the turn of the calendar.

That feeling had worn off by the end of the day though, as the A’s lost, 7-3, to the Red Sox. Oakland has now lost a season-high six in a row and nine of 12. The A’s have been swept in a series five times this year after being on the losing end of just three series sweeps in 2018.

“Guys are just frustrated,” A’s starter Mike Fiers said. “Everyone expects more out of themselves. Everyone is not clicking on all cylinders, and we’re not playing the baseball we know how to play. We know it’ll come, we just have to stay at it.”

These are not your 2018 Oakland A’s
When Fiers allowed three runs or fewer in 2018, it usually led to a sure-fire win for the A’s. In his 10 starts with Oakland last season, Fiers allowed three runs or fewer in eight games, of which the A’s won seven. But that was when the club was firing on all cylinders en route to a playoff berth.

On Wednesday, Fiers limited Boston to three earned runs over five innings. With the A’s mired in a slump that has seen them play uncharacteristically on both sides of the ball, Fiers' day wasn’t enough.

A slumping defense and offense are the main reasons this year’s team is different.

After committing just three errors through their first 13 games of the season, Oakland has made 16 in its past 20. There were no errors Wednesday, but poor communication led to costly runs.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, J.B. Wendelken induced a fly ball against Andrew Benintendi that Ramon Laureano raced over to in left-center for what looked like the catch. But left fielder Robbie Grossman also approached and Benintendi’s fly ball dropped between them for a two-run single that increased Boston’s lead to five.

"I think there was probably some miscommunication there,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “That’s a ball that maybe somebody does get to, we just didn’t communicate well.”

Errors are not the be-all and end-all when it comes to defensive categories. The A’s have just one defensive run saved in 2019, which ranks 19th in baseball. Oakland had 61, the third highest in 2018.

Where has the offense gone?
The A’s offense is still trying to find its way back. The Red Sox rolled out six pitchers in what was essentially a bullpen game and limited the A’s to three runs.

Since April 16, the A’s are batting .204 as a club and have hit just seven home runs, the least amount in the Major Leagues during that time.

Khris Davis was considered the heart and soul of the lineup throughout the 2018 run to the postseason. Davis is hitting just .188 since April 12, without a home run and only three doubles with five RBIs despite a run-scoring double in the ninth inning Wednesday.

“It would be nice to take away something from the last inning with some good swings and hope there is some carryover,” Melvin said. “But we’re going to have to play our way out of this. You don’t just sit around and wait for it.”

Missing Jed Lowrie
When the A’s lost Jed Lowrie in free agency this offseason, they lost a consistent hitter who Melvin could easily pencil into the No. 3 spot daily. They traded for Jurickson Profar with the hopes of getting similar value on offense as he was coming off a career year on offense with Texas, but the drop-off so far has been severe.

Here’s a look at Lowrie’s numbers to this point of the season in 2018 vs. Profar’s in 2019:

Jed Lowrie
Through May 1, 2018: .336 BA, 7 HR, 8 2B, 1 3B, 28 RBI, .392 OBP, .989 OPS.

Jurickson Profar
Through May 1, 2019: .165 BA, 2 HR, 3 2B, 1 3B, 13 RBI, .223 OBP, .495 OPS.

Fiers looking like himself again
The good news on the pitching side is that the A’s appear to have their No. 1 starter somewhat back on track. Fiers pitched through traffic on the bases for most of the game but grinded out five innings to keep Oakland in the mix, allowing three runs on five hits and a walk with three strikeouts.

After going through the worst stretch of his career and allowing six earned runs in three consecutive starts, Fiers has allowed three runs or fewer in back-to-back starts, completing at least five innings in each.

“He was pretty sharp,” A’s catcher Josh Phegley said. “His stuff played normal and his fastball had a little extra ride today for some swings and misses. Pretty solid.”

Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.