Sunday brought to an end the first three weeks of what will be a 26-week season for the A’s.
It didn’t end well, what with Andrew Triggs taking his first loss of the season and the Mariners bringing what had been Oakland’s season-best five-game winning streak to a close after Seattle’s 11-1 victory.
Still, even as Seattle starter Yovani Gallardo and his 6.46 ERA were slicing and dicing the Oakland lineup, the A’s had some positives to take away from this foray into the wilds of the 2017 season.
For one, they are in second place, three games behind American League West-leading Houston. For another, Oakland has a winning record. And while 10-9 isn’t a jaw-dropper, for a team that lost more than 90 games each of the last two seasons, it seems that the first tentative steps toward rebuilding the A’s have been taken.
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For yet still another Oakland has done these deeds with ace starter Sonny Gray on the disabled list for the entire time and No. 2 starter Kendall Graveman disabled for almost half of the 21 days. Graveman is due to come back to the A’s as early as this week’s series against the Angels in Anaheim. Gray, who threw five scoreless innings in a rehab start Saturday, should be back in the rotation by the time the trip makes its third stop, against the Twins in Minnesota.
Triggs came into the game with 17 2/3 innings pitched over three starts in which he had not allowed an earned run. That was good enough for a 3-0 record, one of just five A.L. pitchers with three wins.
The streak of innings without an earned run ended in the first on Robinson Cano’s one-out RBI single, and the streak of wins without a loss effectively ended in the third when Seattle shortstop Taylor Motter delivered his fifth homer. It had a bit of majesty to it, a two-out grand slam that slammed a door on Oakland’s winning streak.
Triggs’ ERA exploded at that point, although perhaps not as badly as it might for a pitcher with less lofty numbers coming in. His 0.00 cushion telescoped out to 2.42 as he fell to 3-1.
Still, the A’s went 5-2 on their homestand.
“When you have a great homestand and you’re missing your best two pitchers, I think that’s something to be pleased about,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “Getting Kendall back is huge. Obviously Sonny did great last night and felt great, which is more important than the results. We’re excited to get those two guys back.”
This was a homestand that could have crippled the A’s. They lost starting shortstop Marcus Semien for two months to a wrist fracture. The last three games have played without starting center fielder Rajai Davis, although his hamstring is healed enough he should be in the lineup Tuesday in Anaheim.
Instead it turned out to be a homestand that could be the making of this club. Adam Rosales at shortstop and Jaff Decker in center have made valuable contributions. Manager Bob Melvin says it’s too soon to assess exactly the nature of his team, but says “I’m OK with where we are right now.”
“We are playing better right now than we were earlier,” Melvin said. “The guys are grinding every day. The defense was poor early on; it’s picked up. The guys are kind of bonding together, everybody’s supporting each other. It’s good.”
The question hanging out there after back-to-back 90-loss seasons: could this be a successful team?
“No doubt,” the manager said. “We have some guys we have brought in who expect to win. That’s what you want, every game we go out there there’s an expectation to win.”
Although Triggs was hammered Sunday, he’s had three starts in which he’s kept the A’s in contention by allowing no more than two runs.
Graveman had three games like that before going on the DL. Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton have had two each. Jesse Hahn, the Tuesday starter in Anaheim, has had one, plus a six-inning, three-run game that also qualifies as a quality start.
So 12 times in 19 games the starting pitching has paved the way for the offense and defense to do what they do to succeed.
“The veterans new here this year have brought in a good energy,” reliever Ryan Madson said. “There’s a lot of young blood, and that brings in energy as well. You’ve just got to go play the games. That will tell you who the best team is. There’s no shoulda-woulda-coulda in baseball. It just is.”