Slow start puts A's in tough spot
Offense, pitching must improve for club to mount comeback
OAKLAND -- The Athletics have an off-day to ponder just what happened to them in losing the first two games of the American League Championship Series before they'll have to try to turn things around when the series resumes against Kenny Rogers and the Detroit Tigers on Friday night at Comerica Park in Detroit.
The problem for the A's is that there are multiple aspects of their game which will need to improve quickly if the AL West champions are going to turn things around in this best-of-seven series.
"It's about rolls right now, and they're on a roll," Oakland designated hitter Frank Thomas said.
The A's, on the other hand, were steamrolled in the first two games:
-- Their starting pitchers are 0-2 with a 11.73 ERA.
-- Their hitters have struck out 18 times and stranded 17 baserunners.
-- ALDS heroes Thomas, Nick Swisher and Marco Scutaro and Eric Chavez have fanned 11 times and are a combined 0-for-22 against the Tigers.
That kind of production won't get it done against Detroit. Thomas and the A's believe they can regroup and come back strong in Game 3, but they know it won't be easy.
"Sixteen years in this league, I've had bad nights, they come and they go," Thomas said. "They've done their homework on me. It's one of those things, they will miss sooner or later."
The Tigers learned from watching film of how the Twins pitched Thomas in the ALDS and from scouting reports. They are changing speeds and eye levels with every pitch. They're not trying to pound him inside like the Twins did unsuccessfully last week.
Thomas hasn't seen the same pitch in the same general location twice in a row in this series. That's why he was disappointed he didn't swing at the first pitch from Detroit closer Todd Jones with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth inning on Wednesday night.
Usually in that situation, the hitter is taking to get a more favorable count. Usually, but not this time. That first pitch from the right-hander turned out to be the best one Thomas would see, and the best one for him to drive, but Thomas didn't pull the trigger.
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"I love those situations, I should have swung at that first pitch," Thomas said. "It was a cutter up a little. He gets your eye level up and then he moves the ball around. He's a very good pitcher. They've got a lot of overpowering arms on that 'pen and on that staff."
Thomas missed his best chance against Jones, just as so many of his teammates have against Jones and his colleagues during these first two games.
Detroit's approach has been sound, the Tigers' execution nearly flawless. If they can carry it forward to Detroit, this series will soon be over.
The A's, conversely, will have to change things up in a hurry if they're going to bring the ALCS back here.
"We've got to pitch better, hit better and play better," left fielder Jay Payton said. "They've flipped things around on us, now we have to turn things around and start playing like we can play."
The A's aren't a bunt-and-run team, so manufacturing runs that way is not an option. They will have to get back to what they do best when they're playing well, and that's getting on base, getting runners over and getting them in.
Even if the offense can cut down on the strikeouts and start driving in baserunners again, there's still the matter of the starting pitching.
That, however, seemed to be less of an issue than the offensive struggles.
"We'll be fine," Thomas said. "I'm not worried about this team. Of course we do [have enough left]. We've have four-game [winning] streaks this year, that's all it takes. We've got [to face] Kenny Rogers Friday night [and] we'll be ready."
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.