February 2, 2023

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A's hope home woes won't follow on the road

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OAKLAND — Coming off a game in which the A’s were shut out for a Major League-leading seventh time this season, manager Mark Kotsay adjusted his batting order Sunday to get the few hitters who have been swinging the bat well closer to the top.

The early returns on the lineup shift appeared promising. Chad Pinder — leading off for just the fifth time this year — roped a double off of Red Sox starter Rich Hill to begin the bottom of the first inning and later scored on a double by Ramón Laureano — who was featured in the cleanup spot for just the second time.

“Just trying to get as many at-bats for those guys that are performing and swinging well,” Kotsay said. “We feel good about Pinder, Laureano and those veteran guys being at the top.”

That one early run was all the A’s could end up pushing across for most of the day. After Laureano’s double, Hill retired 16 in a row until Jed Lowrie’s single to lead off the seventh.

A second run was finally produced with two outs in the ninth on Tony Kemp’s RBI single, but the overall offensive product was again lackluster in a 5-2 loss to Boston at the Coliseum. Swept by the Red Sox over three games, Oakland finished 1-9 on its 10-game homestand, matching the second-worst record on a homestand of six or more games in Oakland history.

The confines of the Coliseum have been anything but friendly to the A’s. Their MLB-worst home record of 7-23 also marks their worst record through the first 30 games of a season in franchise history.

“This homestand was a tough homestand, in every way,” Kotsay said. “We’ll use [Monday’s off-day] as a reset. A lot of guys in there are grinding. It’s definitely not for lack of effort. It’s almost as if they’re trying too hard right now.

“We know the importance of playing well at home. Hopefully, when we get back here off this road trip, we can change things.”

Frankie Montas has performed as one of the American League’s best arms, yet low run support also continues to be a frustrating subplot of his 2022 campaign. Entering the day with a run support average of 2.55, which ranked third-lowest among qualified Major League starting pitchers, Montas’ sixth loss of the season was again one of tough luck.

Though he served up a go-ahead three-run homer to Franchy Cordero with two outs in the sixth on a splitter left up in the zone, all three runs were technically unearned due to a throwing error earlier in the inning that allowed Xander Bogaerts to reach first base.

Pitching out of a jam in the first in which he limited damage to one run despite allowing four singles, he surrendered just two hits the rest of the way, Cordero’s homer included, getting through six innings with four runs (one earned) allowed on six hits and a walk with seven strikeouts.

Over his last nine starts, Montas has been superb with a 2.87 ERA across 53 1/3 innings pitched. Due to that continued lack of run support, however, the A’s have lost the last eight of those nine starts.

At this point, the A’s are desperate for any type of spark they can get at the plate. Their offense ranks last in the Majors in team batting average (.210) and on-base percentage (.276), with a .600 OPS that is second worst only behind the Tigers.

Where does that spark come from? A stint on the road could do some good. The A’s have managed to play .500 away from home with a record of 13-13, also posting slightly better offensive numbers compared to their hitting statistics in Oakland.

Earlier this week, A’s starter James Kaprielian said that there seems to be a different energy about this team when dealing with the environment of an opposing ballpark. With a nine-game, three-city trip starting Tuesday night in Atlanta, perhaps a remedy for a slumping club can be found through those positive road vibes.

“Going on the road is probably going to be good for the boys a little bit,” said A’s first baseman Seth Brown. “We’re getting real unlucky right now, I think all the way around. A chance to get on the road will be good.”

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