OAKLAND — The Oakland A’s are three losses away from their third 100-loss season since the team moved out West 55 years ago. But through the historic lows are glimmers of promise that showed up in the A’s 5-2 sweep-preventing win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday afternoon in front of a crowd of 3,871.
It’s unfair to ask Oakland fans to care about the up-and-coming players that populate this A’s roster. Team owner John Fisher has, since buying the team in 2005, not only ripped beloved players from them, but is on the precipice of ripping their team right out of Oakland.
The new crop of budding core — Zack Gelof, Lawrence Butler, Tyler Soderstrom — labeled themselves “New Oakland,” but a relocation will have them playing anywhere from a minor league stadium in Las Vegas to San Francisco or a desolate Coliseum while a new Las Vegas ballpark is built.
The ties between fan and player are already severed beyond repair. Watching the newcomers’ grow through the cracks could sting, or serve fans a distraction from the impending devastation.
JP Sears — acquired from the Yankees last year in a bundle for Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino — didn’t have his best fastball, but tempered a powerful Blue Jays roster with his changeup in his team-leading 28th start of the season. Sears is coming off a rough August in which he posted a 8.25 ERA, but has given up one earned run over his last 11 innings pitched in September. That includes a five-inning outing in which he allowed one run against the Blue Jays on Wednesday.
“I don’t know if JP had his best stuff today, he had four walks,” manager Mark Kotsay said. “Not his best command probably, but managed the game and walked off the mound with a two-run lead and that’s all you can ask for.”
Then there’s Mason Miller, who was activated off the 60-day IL with elbow tightness and dealt two perfect innings and struck out the side in his second inning, touching 100mph with his four-seam fastball on Wednesday. He was limited to 50 pitches out of the bullpen, but has the stuff to contend as one of the nastier starters in MLB.
“That’s what kept me going is trying to get back on the mound by the end of the year,” Miller said.
Estuery Ruiz singled and stole his 57th and 58th bases in one trip around the base paths — he leads the American League in stolen bases. Zack Gelof went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts to snap his three-game hit streak, but entered the game 4-for-9 heading into Wednesday’s game.
The A’s scored their five runs on two big swings: A Carlos Perez two-run home run off Hyun Jin Ryu and a Kevin Smith three-run home run off reliever Trevor Richards. It was a moment for Smith, who hasn’t found his footing in the big league’s despite consistency in Triple-A.
“He’s here to take advantage of this opportunity and show us what he can bring to this club and he did that today with a big hit,” Kotsay said.
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A “Sell the team” chant broke out in the fifth inning among the few thousand that showed on a sunny afternoon in Oakland; it’s become tradition since the A’s announced their intention to relocate. It’s all that’s on fans’ minds. But the talent growing through the tumult is no joke; it’s too bad the organization paid no mind to a fan base that will care.