OAKLAND, California: The A’s had hoped the second half would see their starting rotation fall into place. So far the results are mixed at best.
Rookie Daniel Mengden had another tough go of it Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) in a 7-0 loss to the Astros, walking five and allowing five hits in five innings. He did well to limit the damage to just three runs.
But with the Oakland offense, which had been averaging 5.4 runs per game since the All-Star break, dominated by Houston starter Doug Fister, this proved to be as non-competitive a game as the A’s have played in a while.
Oakland is 4-2 coming out of the break, but that’s been mostly due to the offense. The starters have a 5.53 ERA over those six games against the Blue Jays and Astros, which is actually higher than the 5.00 the starters put together while going 24-39 before the All-Star break.
The issues aren’t just with who is pitching. They are with who is not pitching, too, specifically top pitcher Rich Hill, whose 9-3, 2.25 left arm is on the shelf while a blister on his left middle finger heals. Thanks in part to that blister, the A’s have an opening in their rotation for Sunday, and Hill, manager Bob Melvin says, doesn’t appear to be a candidate to fill it.
Lefty Dillon Overton, who started Tuesday, giving up nine hits and three runs in 61/3 innings, isn’t a candidate, either, because he’s been sent to the minor leagues. So “we’ll have to do something different,” Melvin said.
Melvin and the A’s had high hopes for Mengden when they promoted him out of Triple-A Nashville in early June, partly based on the command he’s shown in the minor leagues. But the right-hander, who’d allowed just 10 walks in 451/3 innings with the Sounds, has walked 23 in 44 innings since joining Oakland.
“He’s still trying to find his rhythm, I think,” Melvin said after Wednesday’s start. “It was better the last couple of innings. But the command has been his issue, basically with all his pitches.”
The manager said the rookie has four quality pitches, but when he gets behind in the count “he’s trying to jam all four pitches in there as opposed to trying to establish one or two early on.” Melvin said with things not going well, “maybe you have to simplify a little bit.”
Mengden said he “couldn’t really get in a groove the first two innings,” but came out of the game feeling the last three innings were a better indicator of his progress.
He is now 1-5 with a 5.52 ERA in his first six weeks in the big leagues, and catcher Stephen Vogt likes the way he fights, even if the results aren’t always what’s desired.
“At times he looked very good,” Vogt said. “He just kind of had issues with his command, having a hard time getting any kind of rhythm going. He battled to hold them to three runs. They made him throw a lot of pitches, taking a lot more pitches than that lineup normally does.”
The A’s have started the second half in a way Vogt calls funky — winning the first two games of the series, then losing the finale.
“As long as we’re winning the first two, we’ll take it,” Melvin said.