About a month ago, the idea of Brandon Inge being an offensive force would be a punchline to some twisted joke. The 12th-year third baseman was released on April 26th after posting a .100 batting average with the Detroit Tigers. Three days later, the Athletics picked up Inge, who was expected to provide consistent defense on the left side of its porous infield and more than contribute with his bat.
Surprisingly, it was Oakland's pathetic offense that was Inge-cted with some life by the 35-year-old veteran. In his first 11 games with Oakland, Inge knocked in a staggering 17 runs behind four home runs—including two grand slams. It was an impressive mini-run that shockingly jump-started the Athletics’ languid lineup. But as quickly as Inge had settled into his new Oakland digs, he found himself on the disabled list with a strained groin, retroactive May 13th. And the A’s offense has not been the same ever since.
Obviously the higher scoring rate equates to—surprise!—more wins. The Athletics were 7-4 with Inge in the lineup; they are 4-9 since his departure and have been shut out three times. Who knew that Inge would be so important to the team’s offense?
The good news is that there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel—both for the A’s and for Inge. He has been getting back into the swing of things—literally—with a short rehab stint with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. In Saturday’s contest against the Reno Aces, Inge went 5-for-5, smoking two home runs, including a grand slam, two doubles and seven runs batted in. Needless to say, he seems ready. Inge is expected to rejoin the Athletics ballclub on Monday when the team travels to Minnesota to face the Twins.
Inge’s return couldn’t come any sooner. The Athletics are struggling mightily of late, losing four straight games heading into Sunday’s matinee against the New York Yankees. Oakland is sporting a .179 batting average in their last 13 games, which includes two contests where they have only eked out one hit.
A quick look at the A’s current lineup includes a slew of Triple-A performances. Without Inge, Oakland has been sending out Josh Donaldson to man third base. The 26-year-old rookie has a .139 batting average in 22 games, with 20 strikeouts and zero bases on balls. His on-base percentage is even lower, at .138. Worse is the fact that in Saturday’s tilt versus the Yankees, Donaldson was plugged into the fifth spot in the batting order. The right-handed hitter is only hitting .111 against lefties, and he was hitless against CC Sabathia, the Yankees’ starter.
It’s amazing to say this, but Inge needs to come back to the Oakland active roster. The A’s lineup is full of young and uninspired bats, though, even the veteran Athletics are terrible this season. Inge, however, will not only provide experience for the team’s struggling offense, but his glove work is much needed, too, as the A’s infield has accumulated a bunch of errors in recent weeks.
Right now, anything will help, really. But A’s fans hope that Inge’s bat will still be scorching when he returns.
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