The 2014 Oakland Athletics were cruising on Monday night, when they got run over in the ninth inning at Comerica Park, and the team still is looking for the license plate of the vehicle than ran them over.
One thing is for certain: the A's better right the ship quick, because the Toronto Blue Jays and the San Francisco Giants—both first-place teams—are on the schedule for the next eight games.
And if you're counting at home, that will be 11 straight contests for Oakland against first-place teams, and so far, the A's are 0-3 in those contests—thanks to the aforementioned hit-and-run during the ninth inning in Motown on Monday evening.
Oakland closer Sean Doolittle had one of those patented meltdowns he has once in awhile, and this one hurt: entering the ninth up 4-1 against the Detroit Tigers, the A's lefty closer surrendered a game-ending grand slam to former Oakland outfielder Rajai Davis.
Doolittle has blown two saves in a row now, giving up five runs in 1.1 innings, after not surrendering a run in his previous 24 appearances. He had last given up scores on April 26th, when he also gave up four runs, against the Houston Astros. That day, he didn't get an out. Monday, he managed one out.
And while the A's are usually a resilient bunch, they folded in the next two games against the Tigers, getting outscored 12-3. They even let Justin Verlander beat them for his first win since May 30 on Wednesday. Oakland hit two solo home runs off the Detroit righty in the first inning, but then the team watched as Detroit scored the next nine runs of the game.
Just like that, the A's saw a positive, 4-1 road trip turn into a bitter-tasting, 4-4 road trip—and tonight, Oakland hosts Toronto back the O.co Coliseum, where the team can hopefully get its mojo back against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (6-7, 4.24 ERA). The A's send Sonny Gray to the mound (7-3, 3.20 ERA).
The Blue Jays swept the A's in Canada on Memorial Day Weekend, and now Oakland would like to return the favor on the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
But it won't be easy: Toronto (47-39) has a one-game lead in the American League East division, and the A's (51-33) still lead the AL West by 3.5 games over the Los Angeles Angels. The Tigers (47-34) lead the AL Central by 4.5 games. The Blue Jays know the A's are down right now, and they want to do what the Tigers just did.
(And remember, next up for Oakland is a four-game set with the Giants, who lead the National League West by half a game with their 47-37 record. The A's host at O.co next Monday and Tuesday before going across the Bay on Wednesday and Thursday to play at AT&T Park.)
For all the superlatives thrown about, the A's still need to keep winning, and no one knows that better than Manager Bob Melvin.