OAKLAND — After grounding into a fielder’s choice to end the sixth inning, Danny Valencia crossed first base and spiked his helmet with such force that the thud could be heard from the press box above the second deck.
The moment of frustration epitomized not just the day, but also the season for the light-hitting Oakland Athletics.
“Sometimes the psychology [of it] comes into play when you’re struggling offensively,” said manager Bob Melvin after his club fell 4-2 to the Milwaukee Brewers on a breezy Wednesday afternoon at the Coliseum. “It happens as a group.”
In the getaway-day defeat, the A’s, who have scored the least in the American League, only put two runs on the board against 31-year-old journeyman Junior Guerra and a pair of Brewers relievers.
The first run came courtesy of Coco Crisp, who deposited a 92-mph fastball from Guerra into the seats beyond the wall in right field in the bottom of the fourth. Max Muncy drove in the second, lining an RBI single to right two innings later.
“He looks as confident at the big league level as I’ve seen before,” Melvin said of the 25-year-old who is making a bid to retain his roster spot with the return of regular right fielder Josh Reddick looming next week. “This is the best we’ve seen him and he’s really wanting to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Along with the quiet bats, the team’s suspect defense spoiled Daniel Mengden’s strong showing — his third in as many starts.
“He knows we think he’s good. And he is. He thinks he’s good too. He might not tell you that,” Melvin added with a laugh. “But he knows he’s good.”
The 23-year-old rookie allowed three runs on seven hits in six innings of work. He also punched out nine Brewers. Not that he was counting.
“You know it’s not my job to strike them out. It’s my job to get them out,” Mengden said. “So, if I get the strikeout, good. If not, hopefully I get them out on the ground.”
All three of Mengden’s runs came in the fifth — a frame that also featured a throwing error from Crisp. The miscue from the veteran left fielder was the team’s 10th in nine games and the 50th of 2016, which means Oakland once again paces the AL in that dubious distinction.