OAKLAND — In the ever-revolving cycle of A’s shortcomings this season, the offense is currently trying to shake itself out of the doldrums.
The A’s mustered just five hits and advanced only three runners as far as third base Friday in a 4-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers to open up a three-game series at the Coliseum.
Certainly the theme of the A’s season —aside from the bombardment of injuries — has been a starting rotation that simply hasn’t eaten up enough innings to get the job done. But Oakland’s hitters, while at times showing flashes of power and productivity, are in a dry spell.
Over the past eight games, the A’s are hitting just .179 and averaging 2.88 runs per game.
On Friday, Tigers top prospect Michael Fulmer (4-1) carved through them with ease and precision. He faced just three batters over the minimum through seven innings, leaving after 7 2/3 innings and holding the A’s to three hits. He walked one and struck out three, registering 13 ground-ball outs against just one fly out.
A’s rookie Sean Manaea fared relatively well, giving up three runs over six-plus innings, but with the A’s bats in a deep freeze, he had very little margin for error.
The A’s have dropped seven of their last eight to fall a season-high nine games under .500 at 20-29.
They avoided a shutout when Jed Lowrie banged a triple off the right field wall in the ninth against Fernando Rodriguez to score Danny Valencia.
Starting pitching report
Manaea did well to strand runners in scoring position in the second and third innings. Then a two-out rally bit him in the fourth. Justin Upton lined a single, Cameron Maybin also went the opposite way with a double that landed just inside the right field foul line that scored Upton on a close play at the plate. Then James McCann blooped a single that fell in front of Chris Coghlan in right to score Maybe for a 2-0 Tigers lead.
Manaea was helped by an unusual interference call in the fifth that helped keep Detroit off the board. With one out, Victor Martinez popped out in foul territory behind first base. Ian Kinsler, running at third, bluffed tagging up and going home, prompting a throw home from Yonder Alonso. His throw hit Martinez as he was starting to walk back to the dugout, and home plate umpire Joe West immediately called Martinez out for interference. Detroit made it 3-0 when Nick Castellanos hit Manaea’s first pitch of the sixth, a changeup that caught too much plate, for a homer well into the left field seats.
You certainly couldn’t fault Manaea (1-3) on this night given how his teammates went silent with the bats. He was penalized for not shutting off the Tigers’ rally in the fourth after he retired the first two batters. But for a rotation that hasn’t been working nearly deep enough into games, credit the rookie for lasting into the seventh for the third consecutive start. He left with no outs that inning, having allowed nine hits and three runs with two walks and four strikeouts.
Ryan Dull, Fernando Rodriguez and Andrew Triggs combined to allow one run over the final three innings.
At the plate
Fuller came in with a 5.13 ERA but he’d struck out 11 in his previous start against Tampa Bay. The A’s managed just three base runners off him through the first seven innings. They rallied in the eighth, as Coco Crisp’s ground rule double put runners on second and third with two outs and the score 3-0. Lefty Justin Wilson replaced Fulmer, and Billy Butler entered for the A’s as a pinch hitter. He chased a pitch out of the strike zone for strike three to extinguish that threat.
In the field
Neither team committed an error.
The announced crowd was 22,498.
Jesse Hahn (1-2, 4.07) gets the call for the A’s on Saturday. He’ll be opposed by lefty Matt Boyd (0-0, 0.00), who’s making his first start of the season and just his second appearance for the Tigers. First pitch is 1:05 p.m.