The more things change, the more they stay the same. Unfortunately, the Oakland A’s just can’t seem to get out of their own way. A night after Gio Gonzalez pitched a one-hit gem and the A’s held on to beat the visiting Florida Marlins, the squad returned to their old habits and lost to the Marlins 3-0.
Guillermo Moscoso pitched six solid innings, striking out eight and only giving up four hits. Unfortunately, two of those hits were for home runs. After Emilio Bonifacio reached base on an error by short stop Cliff Pennington, all-star short stop Hanley Ramirez took a Moscoso fastball deep to center field and the Marlins jumped out early to a 2-0 lead.
For most teams, a two-run deficit would be easy to overcome. But for the Athletics, it might as well been 20 runs. This team is consistently plagued by inconsistent hitting and an inability to drive in runners that are on base.
Add to the mix, superb pitching by Ricky Nolasco who pitched a five-hit complete game shutout and offered little to the Oakland batter all night.
Despite the defensive lapses and a throwing error in the third inning by catcher Kurt Suzuki, the A’s were still in the game.
In the top of the fourth inning, outfielder Logan Morrison slammed the door of optimism shut with a 409-foot home run that put the Marlins up 3-0. Nolasco and the Fish never looked back.
There is a larger concern with this Oakland squad despite its anemic offense. This team was touted as having one of the best pitching staffs in the majors and a stout defense to go along with it.
The starting rotation has performed almost to expectations despite the loss of several key starters like Dallas Braden, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Tyson Ross and now Grant Balfour. The biggest problem has been the bullpen and a platoon of relievers that seem to give up runs at the most inopportune times.
The fact of the matter is that the Oakland defense ranks next to last in the American League and 28th out of 30 in team defense. Much is made of the lack of offensive firepower, and rightfully so. The Oakland A’s rank last or next to last in every major offensive category, but this team will only go as far as its bullpen and defense takes it.
Two games into a nine-game homestand and the Oakland Athletics are at yet another crucial point of the season. These next seven games will determine the fate of this underachieving team. The A’s have been an unimpressive at home, going 20-17, and must take advantage of the "home-field advantage” and gain some ground on a surprisingly weak and wide open American League West.
Manager Bob Melvin has his hands full with this squad and must continue to tinker with the lineup in order to find the one that will ultimately give his team the greatest chance at winning. Until he does, this team has nowhere to go but up. They have proven talented enough to turn it around and string together wins. The question is whether or not too many games have been squandered.