Are Slumping Oakland Athletics in Trouble?

Coco Crisp Rounding Second

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

On the heels of a pair of ugly losses to the Seattle Mariners, the Oakland Athletics are now set to embark on one of the most challenging road trips of the 2013 season.

The Athletics finished the underwhelming homestand 4-5, and that included a 2-4 mark against the Houston Astros and the Mariners, two of the bottom dwellers in the AL West.

Oakland now plays the Baltimore Orioles in a three-game set at Camden Yards before moving on to Comerica Park for a four-game series with the Detroit Tigers next week. When the team returns to the O.Co Coliseum next Friday, the Athletics will be greeted by the Tampa Bay Rays and then the Texas Rangers.

That means the Athletics are about to begin a stretch of 13 straight game against playoff contenders. The team has not only been playing some of its ugliest baseball in 2013, but it is also quite dinged up. Derek Norris, whose game-calling and presence behind the plate are essential to the success of the staff, recently suffered a fractured left big toe. The catcher might try to play through the injury, but his status remains unclear.

Defensive standout Josh Reddick meanwhile has re-sprained his right wrist, which he originally injured in Houston back in April. The right-fielder is awaiting the results of an MRI.

The pitching staff needs a boost as well. A.J. Griffin has literally been throwing nothing but walks or home runs. In his last three starts, the right-hander has issued 15 free passes. On the season, he’s offered up a MLB-leading 30 home runs.

Brett Anderson continues his return from injury as the lefty should be making his final minor league tuneup tonight for the Single-A Stockton Ports. Anderson certainly has the talent to slide in and anchor the staff as the team tries to make a late season run. That’s exactly what he did in 2012, but it’s hard to know what to expect from a guy who last stepped onto a big league mound on April 29.

Bartolo Colon is also a giant question mark. The 40-year-old right-hander could very well come back and be effective. However, it seems hard to imagine him pulling back any more 94 MPH two-seam fastballs that saw him barge his way into the Cy Young conversation.

The prolonged slide of the team parallels the decline of table-setter Coco Crisp. The leadoff man and center fielder has been bothered by a left wrist injury for at least six weeks, and at this point it’s hard see the injury going away altogether. Crisp has been bothered to the point that he quite literally can’t hit right-handed. Off lefties this year, which the switch-hitter faces as a righty, Crisp is swinging at a clip of just .203.

Crisp did crank a home run to lead off the game on Wednesday, so perhaps the veteran is returning to health and rounding back into form.

The next two weeks will prove a crucial stretch for Oakland. As the second place club learned last year, it doesn’t matter who’s leading the division on the second day of the season or even the second to last day of the year. What matters is who’s in first on September 29, the final day of the season.

Karl Buscheck is an Oakland Athletics writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @KarlBuscheck and add him to your network on Google.

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