A's Are Desperately in Need of an Ace, But There Isn't One to Be Found

The A's have fallen and they can't get up.

Oakland lost its sixth consecutive game Wednesday, a 7-3 defeat in Boston, falling to 14-19 on the season, dead last in the American League West. Bob Melvin and company are desperately searching for answers but have yet to find any.

This is when a team needs an ace -- someone who's going to grab the ball and throw eight shutout innings to carry his club back into the win column. The Nationals have Max Scherzer. Houston has Justin Verlander. Right now, Oakland has no one.

Among A's pitchers with at least three starts this year, only Frankie Montas has an ERA below 4.00. Montas has undoubtedly been the team's most reliable starter, but even he has struggled to pitch deep into games, failing to last longer than 6 1/3 innings in any of his six starts.

In fact, not a single A's starter has pitched more than seven innings this season, and only twice have they lasted that long. Normally that's not a problem for Oakland, as Melvin can turn to his talented bullpen in the middle and late innings. However, that pen has not performed nearly as well as it did last year.

Perhaps Sean Manaea can become Oakland's ace if/when he returns from injury later this season. He was certainly trending in that direction last year. Maybe even Jesús Luzardo or A.J. Puk will be ready to fill that void at some point. But for now, it's one significant area where the A's are seriously lacking.

It's not like Oakland's starting pitching has been terrible during the losing streak, but it hasn't been great either. Mike Fiers allowed three earned runs in five innings Wednesday. Aaron Brooks gave up four earned runs in 4 1/3 frames Tuesday. Montas surrendered just one earned run Monday, but allowed six unearned runs in 4 1/3 innings.

The A's usually thunderous bats have gone quiet during the skid, accounting for just 15 runs in the six games, while the pitching staff (and some poor defense) has allowed 37.

"We're going to have to play our way out of this," Melvin told reporters after Wednesday's loss. "We haven't been unlucky really here to this point. We just haven't played well and we have to do something about it."

Brett Anderson will try to be the stopper Friday when the A's open a three-game series in Pittsburgh. The Pirates recently snapped their own eight-game losing streak, winning their last two against the Rangers. Maybe they can help the A's end their skid, too.

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