A's Should Be Very Concerned About Marco Estrada's Ongoing Struggles

OAKLAND -- For the second straight outing, Marco Estrada failed to pitch into the fifth inning.

The A's veteran right-hander allowed seven earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings Tuesday night, including a pair of home runs, as the Astros routed the A's 9-1 at the Coliseum.

"Obviously, that's not going to cut it," Estrada said. "I can't go out there missing my spots like I was today. That's not going to work against anybody. I've just got to do a better job of locating."

Added A's manager Bob Melvin: "They kind of had him on the run most of the night. They didn't chase. He walked some guys and got into some deep counts. They made him throw a lot of pitches. ... He just wasn't throwing them anything off the plate that they were chasing."

While one poor performance against an elite team could be forgiven, Estrada's previous start in Baltimore was nearly as bad. The 35-year-old lasted just four innings in that game, surrendering six earned runs and two more homers.

"These last two outings, I haven't been myself," he said. "I'm just not locating pitches. Before that, I was doing pretty well and feeling pretty good out there."

For the season, Estrada is now 0-2 with a 6.45 ERA. He has served up seven home runs in just 23 2/3 innings and is averaging fewer than five innings per start. For a team that already has starting pitching concerns, that is a major problem.

"I think [he needs to] get off to a good start," Melvin said. "Get a couple of innings right away where you're going one, two, three, and get some momentum and confidence off of that. It's not a confidence issue. He's a pretty confident guy. But once you get a few innings where you're rolling and not having to throw a lot of pitches and have guys on base and use everything you have to get out of innings -- it's more just slow starts right now."

Oakland signed Estrada this offseason in hopes he would be their No. 2 starter. Unfortunately, the A's have lost all five of his starts so far. That's not all Estrada's fault, as the bullpen has blown a couple of his games late, but he has only recorded one quality start (six or more innings allowing three runs or fewer) in his first five outings.

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The slow start wouldn't be so concerning if Estrada were coming off a strong season last year, but that is not the case. He registered a 5.64 ERA in Toronto last season and wasn't much better in 2017 when he finished with a 4.98 ERA.

As Melvin noted, it's not an issue of confidence. Estrada has been around the majors for a long time and knows what it takes to be successful. Still, his next start will be crucial, as the A's desperately need more production from their starting rotation.

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