SEATTLE - There are various problems to diagnose over a six-game losing streak, but a glaring issue of late is the inability of A's starters to work deep into games.
It happened again Sunday, as rookie Daniel Gossett lasted just 3 2/3 innings, the bullpen got taxed and the A's were pounded 10-2 by the Seattle Mariners. Reflecting on his team's 0-6 road trip overall, A's manager Bob Melvin said: "It's terrible. I can't remember the last time we went out on a road trip and didn't come home with a win. And you feel bad for our fans that come and support us here too, because we get some fans here and in Anaheim. And to not get one out of it is pretty disappointing."
It's going to be tough for the A's to stay in games consistently when Melvin is forced to call on his relievers so early in games. Gossett's issue was simple: An inability to throw enough strikes. He labored through 89 pitches, just 46 of which were strikes.
"It's the single most important aspect of pitching," said Gossett, who walked a career-high five. "I wasn't able to do that and I got exposed. I just gotta be able to locate better, find a way to locate better."
On Saturday, fellow rookie Jharel Cotton fell behind hitters consistently and went just four-plus innings. A's starters went four or fewer innings in three of the six games on the just-completed trip.
Oakland's rotation ranks 10th in the American League in innings pitched. Their relief corps ranks middle-of-the-pack in innings - a manageable workload when viewed from that standpoint. But the earlier the ‘pen gets called upon in games, roles get thrown out of whack and the depth gets strained.
It's no wonder Melvin said Sunday that pitching reinforcements are on the way once Triple-A Nashville's season wraps up Monday.
But at some point, it's on the A's starters to simply throw more strikes and take some of the burden off the relievers.
"When you're bouncing some fastballs, it means you're just not commanding the baseball," Melvin said, "and you have to at this level or you're not gonna get away with it. You may get away with it for a little bit, but you won't sustain it, especially for a starter."