It was a four-game series that could determine the AL West winner – and, in all likelihood, it did. The Los Angeles Angels swept the Oakland Athletics in four games this past weekend, winning by a combined 18-4.
The Athletics were competitive in the first game – they lost, 4-3, in 10 innings – but were embarrassed thereafter. In fact, they went 29 straight innings without a run.
“It was as sad as you could imagine,” Bay Area News Group Athletics beat writer John Hickey said on Ferrall on the Bench. “It really was. It was just dismal to watch the way they played. It was just brutal. They left the bases loaded five times without a ground ball or a hit or a wild pitch to bring these runs in.”
If there’s a silver lining for the A’s, it’s the fact that they scored five first-inning runs in a 6-1 win over Seattle on Monday. Even better? The newly acquired Adam Dunn hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat, which Hickey said was a “big, big momentum shift.”
Of course, the A’s had better enjoy Dunn while they have him; the 34-year-old has hinted at retirement after this season.
“In baseball, when you hit 460 home runs (by the time) you’re 34 years old, yeah, you can retire and you’re going to be set for life,” Hickey said. “What he said (Monday) was that he would not play again if he didn’t have a chance to win. He still says he’s thinking about retiring, but if he could get the right gig – where they say, ‘Adam, you’re our guy, we want you to DH and we’re going to go to the World Series’ – he conceivably could come back next year. I don’t think it’ll happen, but he left open the possibility today.”
But next year is next year. Right now, Oakland (79-58 entering play Sept. 2) just wants to make the playoffs. The A’s trail the Angels (83-53) by four-and-a-half games in the AL West and have a slim lead in the Wild Card standings.
While the goal is still to win the division, the A’s just want to make it to October – and in that regard, it helps that Jason Hammel is finally giving them quality innings. He’s allowed one earned run or fewer in four of his last five starts – this after allowing 18 in his first four outings after being acquired form the Cubs.
“It has not worked out the way they hoped,” Hickey said of the July trade for Hammel and Jeff Samardzija. “But the way they’ve pitched lately, it has a chance to help them a lot in September. Hammel was 0-4 with a 9.70 ERA in his first four starts and couldn’t get anybody out. Since then, his ERA is down under (2.50) for the last five games. He’s getting to the point where all of a sudden his slider’s back and that’s made a huge difference. I think (if) any of us went out there and lost four straight with a 9.70 ERA, we’d have some confidence issues – and he did. But he seems to have gotten past them.”
But let’s get back to Dunn for a second. Dunn, who has played for the Reds, Diamondbacks, Nationals and White Sox, said Monday’s crowd in Oakland was the best crowd he’s ever played in front of. He said it lit a fire in him.
“They love baseball, they love to yell and they know the sport,” Hickey said. “The weekends get even wilder. Down the stretch, I really expect this fan base to be a major weapon in the A’s arsenal.”