In just about every area right now, the A's are in a funk, with the exception of third baseman Josh Donaldson.
After his team fell 7-3 to Baltimore on Saturday, Oakland's fourth loss in a row and eighth in nine games, manager Bob Melvin said that the players are pressing.
"Everyone is trying a little too hard," he said.
Oakland starter A.J. Griffin had just one bad inning, but as Melvin noted, the A's aren't faring well enough offensively right now to afford big innings. Griffin gave up four runs in the fourth inning, walking two and allowing three hits - including back-to-back homers by Nick Markakis and Adam Jones.
"He pitched well every inning but one," Melvin said.
Griffin agreed with Melvin's premise, saying, "It might be subconscious, as a team, going out and all putting too much pressure on ourselves. We have to step back and relax. Do what we do well, play loose, have fun."
The A's mood should improve dramatically on Sunday: They get back slugger Yoenis Céspedes, who missed 15 days with a muscle strain in his left hand. Céspedes went 0-for-2 with a walk Saturday night in what was expected to be his final rehab game with Triple-A Sacramento.
The A's went 4-10 in Céspedes' absence, and without him available the past two years they are 16-32. They were 9-2 with Céspedes available this season, and last year, when Céspedes was in the lineup, they were 82-46.
"Hopefully we're about to get Cespy back because when you get one of your best players back, if not your best player, it's definitely going to give you energy," Donaldson said.
"He's our most talented player," first baseman Brandon Moss said. "We've missed him. We haven't played well without him, obviously, with the numbers. He makes our lineup completely different." The A's still have a league-leading 129 runs, but they are 0-10 when they score no more than three runs and 13-2 when they score four or more.
Starting pitching is the team's biggest concern, and Griffin was coming off an outing in which he'd allowed nine runs, seven earned, so Saturday was an improvement; he allowed only one hit through the first three innings and one hit in the final three innings he worked.