A's manager Bob Melvin’s team has struggled with the bat this season but they had a breakout performance against the Rays’ rookie starter Matt Moore on Sunday. The A's scored a season-high nine runs, clinching a series win over one of the best home teams in baseball, albeit a team that was without their injured star Evan Longoria.
Newcomer Brandon Inge’s three-run homer was the biggest hit of the day for the A's on Sunday and the biggest hit of Inge’s brief tenure with his new team. Tuesday's game will be his first in Oakland as a member of the A’s. He hasn’t fared well at the Coliseum during his career, owning a .144/.223/.224 slash line there over 125 at-bats. Melvin is hoping Sunday’s four-RBI performance can springboard his newest third basemen into a hitting groove, finally providing a semblance of consistency at the position.
The Toronto Blue Jays (16-13, third place in the AL East) are seventh in scoring runs with the 14th-best OPS, 709, in baseball. They’ve made up for their lack of average, just .239, with their power. Edwin Encarnacion’s early-season power serge has been the story for Toronto. The one-time A's waiver claim has hit nine home runs with 25 driven in. After hitting 97 long balls the last two years, Jays' star Jose Bautista is struggling early, hitting just .183/.313/.356, but has still managed five homers and 15 RBIs.
Toronto is counting on former top prospect Brett Lawrie to become a fixture for the organization for years to come. The talented third baseman is hitting .277/.328/.393 with three home runs in his first full season in the big leagues.
The A’s are still the worst hitting team in baseball with a .213 average and 619 OPS. Pitching has been their calling card, with the bullpen doing its part with a 2.59 ERA in 87 innings. Ryan Cook hasn’t allowed an earned run in his 14.2 innings while yielding just three hits. He has a tendency to be wild in patches with seven walks, but his explosive stuff has made up for it. Cook’s hard slider has been his signature pitch, throwing it off his lively mid-90s fastball.
Melvin will go with rookie Jarrod Parker on Tuesday and number one starter Brandon McCarthy on Wednesday.
Parker (1-0, 1.38) makes his third start for the A's on Tuesday after throwing very well against two pretty good offenses in his first two big league outings. Melvin has to be excited about Parker's ability to control the strike zone with his variation of fastballs to set up his changeup and sharp slider. He hasn’t allowed more than an earned run in a start dating back to his first start of the season with Triple-A Sacramento on April 6.
The Blue Jays will send out lefty Ricky Romero (4-0, 3.64) on Tuesday. The former first-round selection in 2005 has good stuff and a deep repertoire. He throws five pitches (fastball, cutter, slider, curve, change up), but has been more effective against right-handed hitters than lefties. Righties are hitting just .160 with lefties at a .260 clip. Combined, hitters are batting just .193 against him.
In five career starts, Romero has dominated the A’s, going 4-0 with a 1.49 ERA. It’s unlikely that the A’s will get many scoring opportunities against Romero, so they will have to capitalize when they have runners in scoring position. On the season, the A's have hit just .202 in those situations.
McCarthy (2-3, 2.96), the A's Wednesday starter, is coming off his best start since the A's Japan trip in March. Last Wednesday in Boston, he allowed just one run on five hits in 6.2 innings in the A's victory. McCarthy showed the best command he’s had all season in his last start. This season, McCarthy has been a victim of his club’s offensive woes. In the four losses the team has had in his starts, Oakland has averaged 1.25 runs per game.
Toronto counters on Wednesday with Rohnert Park native and Cal alum Brandon Morrow (3-1, 2.38). Morrow was teammates with A's starter Tyson Ross at Cal. In his last start, Morrow became the first Blue Jays starter to throw a road shutout yielding three hits or less with eight strikeouts and no walks. A former top prospect with the Mariners, Morrow has won his last three decisions, allowing just one earned run in his last 21.2 innings.
Morrow features a fastball averaging better than 93 MPH. He also throws a slider as his secondary pitch. When he’s thrown well this year, he’s gotten hitters out with ground balls at a good rate. In two starts at the Coliseum, Morrow has allowed hitters just .174 average in 18.2 innings.
Monday’s off day will be the last the A's have until May 24, giving them 16 games in a row that will be played predominately on West Coast. It’s still early, but the A's have to happy to be just four games behind the first-place Texas Rangers in the AL West standings after the Rangers' torrid start to the year.
The further into May the A’s go, the closer they get to the end of Manny Ramirez’ 50-game suspension. He’s eligible to join the team in Minnesota on May 30.