Only sparse pockets of an announced crowd of 14,452 remained at O.co Coliseum on Thursday afternoon to see Stephen Vogt loft a lazy fly ball to center field for the final out of the A’s 8-1 loss to the Texas Rangers. Friday night, however, those seats are expected to be full, as the A’s bring their final homestand of the season to an unusual end with a three-game interleague series against the Giants.
“We’d better be ready to play these games,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said following Thursday’s loss, “because this place is going to be packed. There’s going to be some excitement, and our fans are going to expect us to perform better than we have here recently. So we’d better be up for it.”
The A’s were swept in a three-game series by the Rangers by a combined score of 26-10, blowing an early three-run lead in the series opener and finding themselves on the wrong end of blowouts in the final two games. Thursday’s loss was their 89th of the season – the most by an A’s team since 1997, when they finished 65-97. It ensured they will finish last in the American League West for just the second time in the past 17 seasons.
At times during the series, there was a listless feeling in the Coliseum, as on Thursday the Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and the A’s pushed across their only run when Texas center fielder Delino DeShields dropped a catchable fly ball with two out in the second inning that allowed Josh Reddick to score from third base. The loss dropped the A’s to 33-45 (.423) at home this season. If they do not win at least two games against the Giants, they will finish with their second-worst home record in the Oakland era.
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“It’s not like we’re not playing hard,” Melvin said. “You get in the position we’re in right now, you can kind of see the end of the season there, start losing some games, and there’s just not a lot of energy. But we’d better pick it up (Friday) – and I don’t know why there wouldn’t be energy because this place, it’s going to be exciting.”
Apart from the Giants-A’s rivalry, this weekend’s series has several compelling subplots. Friday night, Vogt is expected to catch for the A’s for the first time since taking a foul ball to the groin area Sept. 6. He will catch the final home start of the season for Sonny Gray, whose Cy Young candidacy has suffered from his 7.97 ERA in four September starts.
The much-anticipated pitching matchup of former teammates Barry Zito and Tim Hudson will occur Saturday, and the A’s will honor the former “Big Three” of Zito, Hudson and Mark Mulder in a pregame ceremony Sunday. Underlying all this are the Giants’ quickly fading chances of still catching the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.
“It’s going to be fun to play in front of a packed house for three games, something we haven’t experienced a whole lot this year,” Reddick said. “We’re just playing another team, but it always is a little better atmosphere, and it gets some of us a little more pumped up.”
Reddick was asked if that could benefit the A’s, given their performance against the Rangers.
“Yeah, I mean, today was a rough one,” he said. “But we’ve just got to keep playing the way we know how. … It’s just something that has to come from within – play the game hard like we’ve been doing all year until the season is over.”
While there is little left to salvage for the A’s this season, Thursday featured starter Chris Bassitt’s return to the mound for the first time since Aug. 26 after suffering a strained shoulder. Melvin said pitching before the offseason was important for Bassitt “psychologically and physically,” while Bassitt said he felt “really, really good” against the Rangers. His line, however, was messy: Bassitt allowed three runs on six hits and was lifted after three innings and 73 pitches.
For Bassitt, as for the A’s, any positives from this series were tempered by the results. Thursday afternoon, Melvin was asked what he thought of his team’s body language during the series, entering their final meeting against the Giants.
“We didn’t play very well,” Melvin said. “And when you don’t play very well, a lot of times, it looks like your body language is bad.”
Bay Bridge series
- Friday: Giants (TBA) at A’s (Sonny Gray 13-7), 7:05 p.m., CSNCA, CSNBA
- Saturday: Giants (Tim Hudson 8-8) at A’s (Barry Zito 0-0), 1:05 p.m., CSNCA, CSNBA
- Sunday: Giants (Chris Heston 11-10) at A’s (Sean Nolin 1-1), 1:05 p.m., CSNCA, CSNBA