This is how deep a hole the A’s dug themselves early this season: Since May 23, they have gone 24-16, the best mark in the American League over that time, which comprises nearly half the games played to this point. Yet, they still begin play today with the worst winning percentage in the A.L.
Manager Bob Melvin was asked Sunday morning about the importance of winning series to get back into the race and said it’s simpler than that: The A’s are focused on getting back to .500, or as close to it as possible before the All-Star break begins next Monday.
The A’s climbed to seven games under by sweeping the Rangers in Texas at the end of their last trip but promptly returned home and were swept by the Royals. They are eight games under .500 at 38-46.
“It’s trying to stay consistent throughout,” Melvin said.
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“I think first and foremost we’re trying to get closer to .500. We feel like we’re a team that could do just about anything once we get deeper into the season.”
The question is whether the deficit the A’s built over the first month and a half can still be overcome. As of Sunday morning, the A’s were just 6 1/2 games out of the second wild-card spot, and there’s plenty of time to make up that ground.
Melvin also pointed out that the A’s, who have played the most games to this point (84.) of any team in the majors, are just five games. behind the second-place. Angels. in the win column..
“It’s the losses that we can’t take back at this point,” Melvin said. “But I think also the schedule may swing back in our favor in the second half, based on we will have some off days at times when we probably need them most.”
▪ All-Star Game starters will be announced later this afternoon followed by the reserves on Monday. The A’s probably won’t have a player in the starting lineup, but Sonny Gray and Stephen Vogt have strong cases to make the A.L. team, and Melvin again lobbied for Josh Reddick as a reserve.
Last year the A’s had seven representatives, including Jeff Samardzija, who had just arrived in a trade and was selected to the National League team. Of course, they also had the best record in the majors at that time.
“I guess there’s something to that maybe, yeah,” Melvin said.
▪ Something often valued in leadoff hitters is the ability to see a lot of pitches and work counts to tax opposing pitchers and give the rest of the lineup a sense of what the starter has on a given day. Saturday against Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, Billy Burns swung at the first pitch in three of his four at-bats and saw a total of five pitches.
The aggressive approach, however, has worked for Burns this season. He had two hits on Saturday and, when he puts the first pitch in play this season, he’s batting an astounding .519 (27 for 52) with 10 extra-base hits.
“We’ll let the second hitter see the pitches,” Melvin joked when asked if he’s OK with Burns’ approach. More seriously, he added:
“If we felt like it was a problem, then we would talk to him about it. Yeah, he swings at the first pitch pretty often. But there are other times that he doesn’t, and he’ll get deeper into counts. I think he has a good balance in what he’s doing right now and he’s had some success. So if he continues to do what he’s doing, we’re fine with him swinging at the first pitch.”
▪ Updates on two players on the 60-day disabled list: Reliever Sean Doolittle (shoulder strain) is still just working out, and Melvin said there’s no schedule yet for Doolittle to throw. Outfielder Coco Crisp (neck strain) may still be dealing with kidney stones. Melvin said there’s “some debate” on whether Crisp is fully past the issue.
“He had a couple of them,” Melvin said. “We’re not sure if one is gone or not.”
▪ Reddick started against left-handers in the first two games of this series but is not in the lineup today against Mariners left-hander Mike Montgomery. Melvin said he wanted to give Sam Fuld a start and get Reddick extra rest before the off day on Monday.
“At this point, these last few games, he’s not swinging the bat as well as he has, and he could be a little tired at this point,” Melvin said of Reddick. “So I think it would serve him well to get a day off.”
The A’s lineup against Montgomery:
The Mariners’ lineup against A’s right-hander Chris Bassitt: