Last weekend, the Oakland A’s rolled into Anaheim for a key four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels looking to make a statement as contenders for Major League Baseball’s top prize. They left Sunday night having made a statement all right, but one polar opposite from that intended.
The Angels swept the A’s in the series, but worse than the result was the way it unfolded – the A’s were outscored 18-4 over the four games, and suffered through one stretch of 29 consecutive innings without posting a run.
Sunday afternoon, A’s general manager Billy Beane addressed the need for added offensive punch by trading right-handed pitching prospect Nolan Sanburn for 34-year-old, left-handed hitting veteran slugger Adam Dunn.
An immediate impact
Dunn made his presence felt with his first at-bat, delivering a towering two-run home run to spark the A’s to a 6-1 victory over fast-closing divisional foe Seattle. His 461st career home run gave A’s fans hope that the A’s can rekindle the heat back into their bats after a two-month offensive slump.
Tale of two halves
The A’s tore through the first half of the season, pairing clutch hitting with almost flawless pitching. Going into the All-Star Game, the A’s had a plus-145 run differential, fourth-best of any major league team heading into mid-summer break since 1940.
That was then, this is now. Since the break, the A’s are averaging just 4.28 runs per game, down almost half a run, and of late, they’ve been worse than that.
The easy diagnosis is the A’s miss the bat of left-fielder Yoenis Cespedes, traded to Boston the end of July for pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes. After all, Cespedes is batting .275 with four homers and 25 RBIs in 28 games with the Red Sox.
But, the A’s are slumping up and down the lineup. Only All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson is on a hot streak, and his bat alone won’t lift the production of slumping Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss, and Derek Norris. To add injury to insult, centerfielder and club catalyst Coco Crisp is out of the lineup with a recurring neck injury.
No way the A’s can expect Dunn to magically find the fountain of youth and produce like he did earlier in his career – from 2004 through 2008, Dunn nailed 40 or more home runs for five straight seasons. Before his single game with the A’s, Dunn was batting .220 with 20 home runs and 54 RBIs for the Chicago White Sox.
However, Dunn does bring power from the left side of the plate, and he will force pitchers to respect his ability to change the game with a single swing. The pitching staff will keep the A’s in games early. If the A’s can find their clutch hitting from earlier in the season, they can make another run at the Angels through September.
Entering Tuesday’s game with the Mariners, the A’s sat 4.5 games behind the Angels. But the A’s host the Angels for a big three-game series toward the end of the month. They might be cutting it close, but it’s possible the A’s might be in yet another wild, down-to-the-wire finish for the A.L. West crown. If so, they’ll look back at the acquisition of Adam Dunn as the key in-season move.
Photo Credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty
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