OAKLAND, Calif. — If you were taking a survey of the Athletics’ post-game comments from starting pitcher Brett Anderson. the word “frustrating” would beat the word “tough” by a two-to one margin.
Either could be used to describe a word you never heard, “defeat.”
Yes, the A’s closed out this current home stand on Sunday getting pummeled, 8-2, by the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that has a 45-33 record compared to 41-38 for Oakland, whatever that means in June.
It was a beautiful day at the Coliseum, 80 degrees, and either waving to the TV cameras or running the bases after the final out, the 17,006 fans seemly had a grand, old time.
The A’s, notably Anderson, whose performance was called a “clunker” by manager Bob Melvin, were less enthralled.
“We could have taken the series,” said Anderson. “It was frustrating. I tried the best I could. It was one of those days. Frustrating.”
Anderson entered with a 7-4 record and a 3.68 earned run average. Three innings later — before he was removed by Melvin — Anderson had a 4.26 ERA and was headed for a 7-5 record.
“His velocity wasn’t great,” was Melvin’s assessment, “not that he’s a velocity guy. I think this might be the first time this year he didn’t have a whole lot.”
Maybe it’s time to ask what the A’s have. They’re marginally in the American League wild card chase, and indeed there’s a long, long way to go until October, but after their strong finish in 2018 one presumed they’d be better than they have been in 2019.
The starting pitching always was a question, something Melvin implied when Oakland was on a 10-game win streak in May. He didn’t quite say, “How did we get here?” but he knew what the A’s had, and the strength was at the plate and in the bullpen.
The loss Sunday ended a week bisected by the jarring announcement that Frankie Montas, an A’s starter with a 9-2 record and a 2.70 ERA, both excellent marks, had been suspended for 80 days — or roughly when the Raiders and Niners begin — for failing a drug test.
Montas, as does virtually everyone who gets caught — well, fails a test — gave the usual explanation, to the effect, “I don’t know how that stuff got in my system and I apologize to everyone this side of Cooperstown.”
The art of managing, we’ve been told, is not allowing players to get too elated when things are going well and not allowing them to get depressed — or frustrated? — when things are not going well.
And, of course, major league baseball is a sport where if you lose, say, 60 times, you’ve had a fantastic season. So you just keep showing up and performing as well as you’re able, reminding yourself you won’t always be facing Ryne Stanak (three strikeouts as the one-inning starter) or Ryan Yarbrough (6 innings, 6 hits, 1 run and the win).
“He has a funky delivery, crossfire,” Melvin said of Yarbrough. “Everything looks like it’s coming toward you, and it ends up going the other way. He had really good command.”
Which, certainly, the frustrated Brett Anderson didn’t have.
“Not much was sinking,” Melvin said of Anderson’s pitches. “He had trouble commanding the breaking ball. He just got off to a bad start.”
The Rays scored three off Anderson in the third and four more in the fifth. Brian Schlitter gave up the other run in the fifth. Wham, the game was decided, and Melvin, although not conceding — “It doesn’t mean we didn’t have the potential to come back” — took Matt Chapman out of the game.
The A’s literally had their bags packed and in the players’ parking lot. They left for St. Louis and a two-game series against the Cardinals.
When someone asked the importance of Sunday’s loss, Melvin pointed out a week ago the A’s won two of three at Tampa Bay and then at Oakland lost two of three against Tampa Bay. “It could have been a lot better with a win (Sunday),” he said.
To his credit, Melvin didn’t say it was frustrating.