BALTIMORE -- A's manager Bob Melvin isn't someone likely to fly off the handle. He's been managing off and on for a decade, and he had a 10-year playing career before that.
Not much comes around that he hasn't seen.
So the A's recent offensive malaise isn't something that's foreign to him. But for the first time Wednesday, Melvin seemed to want to scream his frustration.
He didn't. What he did was get up from his chair in the press conference room at the Coliseum and say "That's it" after voicing his displeasure about the A's 5-3 loss to Seattle.
What he said was to the point. The A's are not playing well now, they haven't been for a while. And while Melvin didn't say it, the inference was that unless the level of play improves, the A's aren't going to spend any time playing in October.
Oakland flew Thursday to Baltimore for a three-game weekend set with another struggling playoff contender, the Orioles.
Then it's off to Detroit for four games with the Tigers, who are tied with Texas for the best record in the American League. After that the A's return home for a pair of three-game series with Tampa Bay and Texas. That will make 10 straight contests against teams, who along with the Boston and the A's, are on a pace to win at least 91 games.
So what will it take for the A's to play better, especially against such good competition? Chili Davis has some ideas.
The Oakland hitting coach was so frustrated by the A's performances midway through this homestand that after one game he begged off talking to this newspaper because, he said, he didn't want to say anything he'd regret and didn't want to say anything without saying it to the players first.
Davis' frustration level hadn't decreased a few days later, but after the clubhouse cleared he sat down and talked about an Oakland offense that's the key to getting the A's right.
The pitchers have done their job; they rank in the top three in the league in earned run average. They are the reason the A's have 71 wins and are in postseason contention.
The hitters, on the other hand, are 12th in batting average, ninth in runs scored and home runs, and seventh in on-base percentage. With the exception of third baseman Josh Donaldson and middle infielder Jed Lowrie, the numbers have been disappointing all the way around.
Particularly troublesome is the club's performance with runners in scoring position. With men at third base, the team average is just .221; the league average is .267. With runners at second base, the A's are hitting .250, about the league norm, but they haven't hit at that pace lately.
"With what we've done with men at second and third, I don't know what to say," Davis said. "The pressure should be on the (opposing) pitchers, and we're putting the pressure on ourselves. And there's no excuse for it. The idea is simple. Get a pitch to drive and hit it.
"If you do that and you hit a bullet and somebody catches it, maybe you didn't get the run in, but the approach was right so there's nothing much else you can say."
The A's aren't hitting in that kind of bad luck. The problem is that they do the same thing over and over when it's time to drive in runs. It's about strikeouts and pop flies and the occasional routine grounder with men in scoring position.
The men who are supposed to be the complementary players -- infielder Eric Sogard, new acquisition Alberto Callaspo, rookie first baseman Nate Freiman, rookie catcher Stephen Vogt -- have been productive within the limits of their roles.
But the entire A's outfield has under-performed on a significant level, and now the club is waiting to hear if one key member of the group, Josh Reddick, is going to be playing at all. The right fielder sprained his right wrist Wednesday while making a diving catch -- the same wrist he hurt in April.
Reddick, center fielder Coco Crisp and left fielder Yoenis Cespedes all had big years in 2012, and the A's won. If they don't have big finishes now, it's difficult to see a repeat.
Crisp homered Wednesday, but that doesn't erase the belief that he might be hurt. How else to explain that he has all but stopped stealing bases? Crisp never willingly talks about injuries, but in his own words, "for me personally, this is not one of my best years."
There are times that Cespedes looks miscast in the club's dual roles of cleanup hitter and star. The slugger can run out a double into the gap as well as anyone, but Melvin and his coaches have to stay on Cespedes to run hard when he doesn't hit the ball well. He was always on the run last year as a rookie, but this year his body language suggests his level of frustration is through the roof.
Reddick's frustrations have been well documented, starting with the wrist injury he suffered in Houston on the first road trip of the season. He hit five homers in two games on the most recent trip, but he didn't produce an encore on the just-completed homestand. And now his wrist is an issue again.
Davis's message to his hitters is to the point.
"It ain't that (expletive) hard," he said. "It just isn't. Go up there looking for a pitch to drive and drive it. If you hit a rocket and it's caught, it happens. But what we've been seeing with the strikeouts and pop-ups, the pressure is building. And it shouldn't be.
"When you are up there with runners at second or third, don't get yourself out. Wait for your pitch. He's in trouble; let him dig his own hole. If he nibbles and walks you, then he's got to pitch to the next guy. If he nibbles and walks him, then he's got to pitch with the bases loaded.
"Sooner or later he's going to have to throw the ball over the plate. As hitters, we've got to be stubborn and wait for our pitch. We've got to be offensive and not defensive on offense."
A's (Dan Straily 6-7) at Baltimore (Bud Norris 9-10), 4:05 p.m. CSNCA
DOWN AND OUT(FIELD)?
The A's struggles at the plate have been especially prevalent in the outfield, where all three regular starters -- left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (left), center fielder Coco Crisp (center) and right fielder Josh Reddick (right) -- have seen their batting averages dip this season.
Player G AVG. HR RBI G AVG. HR RBI
Cespedes 129 .292 23 82 106 .231 20 58
Crisp 120 .259 11 46 98 .247 11 41
Reddick 156 .242 32 85 95 .217 10 46