After deviating briefly to a cover of “Wild Thing” upon returning from the disabled list in late July, A’s right fielder Josh Reddick brought back the Wham! hit “Careless Whisper” as the walk-up music played before his home at-bats. Recently, the smooth saxophone strains behind George Michael’s vocals have been perhaps the best – and in Sunday’s case the only – indicator of impending offense for the A’s.
On Sunday, they preceded two loud swings from Reddick – solo home runs off of Royals right-hander James Shields in the sixth and eighth innings that left Reddick batting .390 since coming off the DL on July 22. Otherwise, the A’s offense was quiet as, well, a whisper, managing just two additional singles in a 4-2 loss to Kansas City.
The A’s, who were shut out in the first game of the series and won Saturday behind an eight-run fifth inning, were held scoreless by the Royals in 23 of 26 innings in which they batted. In all three games, they didn’t put a runner on until the fourth inning or later, with Shields throwing five perfect innings Sunday before Reddick lined his 0-1 pitch over the right-center field wall leading off the sixth.
Not coincidentally, the lack of offense has come with regular leadoff hitter Coco Crisp sidelined because of a neck strain. Crisp has missed the past seven games, in which the A’s are 3-4 and have scored a total of six runs in the losses.
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“It’s never the same without Coco in the leadoff spot,” Reddick said. “He’s our spark-plug, he gets things going for us … So we need him back in there as soon as possible.”
Manager Bob Melvin had encouraging news on that front after Sunday’s game. Crisp hit in the batting cage for the first time in several days and “had a good day,” said Melvin, who reiterated that typically once Crisp is able to resume baseball activities after injuries, he isn’t far from returning to the field.
“We’ll see how he does (Monday) in batting practice, and if everything goes well, maybe we’re real close to having him in a game,” Melvin said.
Melvin agreed that the A’s, overall, are “not swinging great, and to not have (Crisp) in there, a guy that gets on and creates a little havoc, takes the pitcher’s attention a lot of times off the hitter – it hurts.” They certainly could have used such a presence against Shields, who completed eight innings on 102 pitches and allowed only one ball to leave the infield in the first four innings.
After Reddick’s homer in the sixth, Alberto Callaspo lined a one-out single to right field but was erased when Sam Fuld lined into a double play, with Callaspo running on the pitch. Shields didn’t allow another hit until Reddick came up again with two outs in the eighth and homered on a first-pitch fastball.
Reddick, who was batting .229 when he landed on the DL in late June because of a knee injury, has gone 16 for 41 since July 22 with nine extra-base hits and seven RBIs. Melvin said Reddick’s ability to use his legs in his swing without thinking about the injury has been beneficial, but the biggest factor is “just his balance.”
Reddick said he’s “just not trying too hard. … Even with the home runs today, I’m not trying to hit them. It just happened, and that’s when I’m the best hitter I can be.”
With middle-of-the-order hitters Brandon Moss (.181 in his past 21 games) and Josh Donaldson (.194 in his past 47 games) searching for consistency and the departure of Yoenis Cespedes to Boston, Melvin has mentioned the possibility of moving Reddick higher in the lineup. The right fielder batted seventh against Shields.
“He is key for us at times at the bottom to knock in some runs,” Melvin said, “but if we feel like we need to scoot him up a little bit, that definitely could be coming.”
Reddick didn’t have the chance to drive in anybody but himself Sunday, as none of the top six hitters in the A’s lineup reached base. The Royals, meanwhile, amassed 14 hits, including 10 off of A’s left-hander Scott Kazmir, who allowed as many earned runs – four – as he did during all of July.
Like the A’s on Saturday, the Royals did all of their scoring off Kazmir in the fifth inning. Kazmir allowed five hits in the fifth, including four in a row with one out, and avoided more damage only by inducing an inning-ending double play from Alex Gordon, one of four the Royals hit into in the game.
“Just getting behind hitters, left a couple bad pitches up in the zone, and they put some good swings on it,” Kazmir said.
At the time, the A’s were still waiting for their first baserunner against Shields, whom Melvin said was “on it right away” Sunday.
“I don’t know about the early-inning thing right now,” Melvin said. “It might just be more a product of us not being at our best offensively.”