OAKLAND -- Josh Reddick, who accounted for all the A’s scoring in a 4-2 loss Sunday with two home runs off Royals starter James Shields, gave a frank assessment of the A’s recent lack of offense.
"Our bats aren’t really where we want them right now," Reddick said. "We know we’re going to come out of it. We’re just tired of waiting. And we’re a better lineup than what we’ve shown the last week or so."
The A’s are 3-4 in their last seven games and have scored a total of six runs in the four losses. In losing two of three to the Royals, they were held scoreless in 23 of 26 innings in which they batted, and in all three games didn’t put a runner on until the fourth inning or later. Shields took a perfect game into the sixth Sunday before Reddick led off that inning with his first homer.
Asked to explain the slow offensive starts, manager Bob Melvin said: "You know, I don’t know. We just haven’t been at our best offensively, now we come up against some good starting pitching that seemed to be on their game early. Certainly (Shields) was on it right away, using all his pitches, right away going to the changeup and the cutter.
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"I don’t know about the early inning thing right now. It might just be more a product of us not being at our best offensively."
Another likely factor: The absence of Coco Crisp. Crisp missed his seventh consecutive game Sunday with a neck strain, and both Melvin and Reddick acknowledged not having Crisp leading off takes something away from the A’s lineup. Melvin defined it as "a guy that gets on and creates a little havoc, takes the pitcher’s attention a lot of times off the hitter" -- a presence the A’s certainly could have used against Shields.
On that front, Melvin did have some encouraging news Sunday afternoon. Crisp hit in the cage Sunday for the first time in several days and "had a good day," Melvin said. "We’ll see how he does tomorrow in batting practice, and if everything goes well, maybe we’re real close to having him in a game."
Reddick said he wasn’t trying to slight Sam Fuld or John Jaso, both of whom have led off in Crisp’s recent absence, but that "it’s never the same without Coco in the leadoff spot." The most telling statistic: Crisp has scored at least one run in 37 games this season. The A’s are 32-5 in those games.
"We need him back in there as soon as possible," Reddick said. "But we obviously know this is a process for him to go through and we don’t want him to come back too soon and risk losing him the rest of the year. … We need him in the long run, and he realizes that."
* The A’s won Saturday behind a big fifth inning. The Royals followed suit in this game, scoring all four of their runs in the fifth off A’s left-hander Scott Kazmir, who allowed as many earned runs in the fifth as he had the entire month of July.
Kazmir allowed five hits and a walk in the inning, with five Royals reaching base in a row at one point, and escaped further damage by getting Alex Gordon to ground into an inning-ending double play -- one of four double plays the Royals hit into in the game.
"Just getting behind hitters, couple bad pitches up in the zone, and they put some good swings on it," Kazmir said. "Other than that I felt good, felt like I had a good tempo. That fifth inning, just a couple hits in a row and I wasn’t able to keep them at bay."
Melvin said it seemed like some of the "balls that they did hit hard found some holes." Two in particular dropped just in front of left fielder Brandon Moss for hits. But Omar Infante’s two-run double was a bullet to left field, and Kazmir’s walking ninth hitter Alcides Escobar with one out and a runner on second in what was still a scoreless game at that point didn’t help.
Kazmir, who lost for the first time all season in a day game, chalked it up to "one bad inning. It’s something where I don’t look too far into it. I know what I did wrong, and it was a couple pitches up in the zone. They were in hitters counts, so just something you can’t do, especially to hitters like that."
* Reddick’s day included a highlight-reel defensive play in the seventh, where he ranged back to the wall to catch Nori Aoki’s drive to right-center and then fired a throw to first to double off Escobar, who’d led off with a single and already rounded second base by the time Reddick made the catch.
Kazmir said the play was "unbelievable, to be able to check to see where you’re at, look back (at the wall) a couple times and still make that play." Reddick joked he gave first baseman Stephen Vogt a little grief about coming off the bag for the throw -- it probably would have reached Vogt on the fly regardless.
It marked the A’s 30th outfield assist of the season, most in the American League and five more than they totaled all of last season. It was also further indication that Reddick has put any trepidation about his recent knee injury behind him.
* Collectively, the top six hitters in the A’s lineup did not reach base once Sunday. One could look at sluggers Brandon Moss (.181 in his last 21 games) and Josh Donaldson (.194 in his last 47 games) and say the improvement needs to start there. But this recent offensive skid has been fairly uniform.
Jaso is hitless in his last 10 at-bats. Vogt is 0 for his last 17. Lowrie is 6 for his last 30. It’s rare to see the entire A’s lineup hit a down period at once, but with the exception of Reddick, that has largely been the case the last week.
* The Angels won today, trimming the A’s lead in the West back to one game. It matches the A’s smallest lead since April 28.
* The A’s upcoming series against the Tampa Bay Rays might have looked less daunting two months ago, when the Rays were one of the worst teams in the majors. Now they’re one of the hottest, having gone 17-6 in July to enter today with a 54-56 record.
"Our timing isn’t great," Melvin said. "But you knew it was a matter of time with them.
"They always have great pitching, whether it’s in the rotation or the bullpen, and just enough offensively to win games. And when they get on a roll, they get on a nice roll."
The pitching probables for the series:
Monday: RHP Alex Cobb (7-6, 3.54) vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija (2-1, 1.39)
Tuesday: LHP Drew Smyly (6-9, 3.93) vs. RHP Jason Hammel (0-4, 9.53)
Wednesday: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (0-1, 3.29) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (12-4, 2.59)