Between Time Off and Doubleheaders, Athletics Road has Gotten More Difficult
If this was football, then the fact that the A’s will be going almost a week between games wouldn’t be a big deal. That’s how football rolls.
Baseball’s flow is different. Playing 162 games in about 180 days makes the sport an everyday activity, and players, coaches and staff know how to work with it. Fans, too, although 2020’s pandemic and the barring of fans from attending games has made for a different flow.
When the A’s, whose three-game series in Seattle this week was postponed after the series finale in Houston was postponed, get back on the field Friday against the San Diego Padres in the Coliseum, it will be six days since they’ve played.
Over a longer stretch, they will have played on just one day – last Saturday’s doubleheader in Houston against the Astros – since Wednesday, Aug. 26.
More than that, for most of it, the A’s will have been self-isolated in a Houston-area hotel. That means no workouts, no throwing for the pitchers, no batting practice for the hitters. It’s not that the individuals involved will have forgotten how. It’s that baseball is a sport of timing, feel and momentum, and the members of the A’s roster won’t have any of that going this weekend when the Padres, along with the A’s one of five MLB teams coming into Tuesday with 22 or more wins, pay a call.
It’s possible the A’s might return to Oakland from Houston in time for a Thursday Coliseum workout that might shake off some of the rust, but it’s possible they won’t. Either way, the Padres will have the huge advantage of having played steadily through it all. San Diego had Tuesday off after a four-game series at home against the Rockies, and the Padres are scheduled for a couple of games in Anaheim Wednesday and Thursday against the Angels before arriving in Oakland.
And then there are the doubleheaders. The A’s are likely to have three of them in the week of Sept 7-14 alone. One is set for Sept. 12 in Arlington against the Texas Rangers. Another will be a twin bill against the Mariners in Seattle Sept. 14. Before that, the A’s are almost certainly going to have one game of their four-game set against the Astros Sept. 7-10 turned into a doubleheader.
There was a possibility that the A’s could have visited Houston on Sept. 14 to make up Sunday’s postponement because the A’s were going to be in Texas playing the Rangers just before that and both teams had a day off on the 14th. The doubleheader against the Mariners erased that possibility, and the A’s and Astros don’t share any other off days in common, so if a doubleheader isn’t played in Oakland next week, they’d have to play on Sept. 28, the day after the regular season is over, and it seems unlikely in the extreme that either team or MLB as a whole would go for that.
More than just the frequently of the doubleheaders – the A’s have lost the only doubleheader they’ve played this year – it’s also the fact that the games are limited to seven innings, and the A’s aren’t particularly built for seven-inning games.
Seven of their 22 wins, almost one-third of Oakland’s season total, have come in the eighth inning or later. They’ve scored 18 eighth-inning runs, 14 runs in the ninth, and another nine in extra innings. And while the A’s at-bats have seemed to get better later in the game, the A’s pitching bullpen has allowed one extra-inning run, five runs in the ninth inning and nine in the eighth inning.
That’s a 41-15 run differential in the A’s favor from the eighth inning on, and, save for the possibility of extra-inning games, that advantage gets erased in this new age of seven-inning doubleheaders. And four doubleheaders mean eight of the A’s final 26 games – almost one-third – will be limited to seven innings.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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