By Jason Wojciechowski on September 4, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Usually I have a little bit of a plan when I start a blog post. A transaction happened and I want to explore the roster and in-game implications of it. Someone on the internet said something silly and I want to take it apart. Some aspect of some player has intrigued me and I want to explore that aspect with some stats, some PITCHf/x data, what have you.
And then sometimes I don't have a plan at all, because the A's have lost two games in a row at home to the Angels and I don't know what to say about it. My working philosophy in the past has been "if you don't have anything to say, don't say anything." But I've come to realize that sometimes not saying anything can be kind of fun. Maybe two of you will read this and one of you will laugh at some joke I'm about to make. That's probably worth it to me. The hosting on this site doesn't cost that much. The psychic benefits I get from writing, even when I don't know what I'm writing about, pay that price easily.
So like I said, the A's lost twice to the Angels, which is both unfortunate and not that big a deal. On the one hand, the A's and Angels are direct rivals for a wild card spot. On the other, even after these two wins, Anaheim remains 3 1/2 games back of Oakland — this illustrates just how big a lead the A's had built up recently over their southern neighbors.
Of course, it's not just Anaheim the A's are losing to. It's also about losing ground in general. The Orankees / Yankioles (I think I prefer Yankioles) are now tied with the A's (by which I mean that the Orioles and Yankees, who are tied for first in the A.L. East, are tied with the A's — we might have reasons to prefer playing one of those teams in a play-in game over the other, but in terms of "who's in the wild card lead?" the two squads are interchangeable), the Rays are just 1 1/2 back, and even the Tigers aren't out of the fight yet, sitting four behind Oakland. (The Tigers are a game back of the White Sox for the division, though, so one suspects that just one of those two teams is destined to be playing after the regular season ends.)
It's not so much the place in the standings that bugs me about these losses, though. It's how they came about. In eighteen innings against mostly Zack Greinke and C.J. Wilson, the A's managed four runs. That's pretty old-school Athletics. That's not the A's who've been one of the top offensive teams in the league in the second half. That's the A's we've come to know and love loathe over the course of the last five years.
The Wilson game I've already blocked out a little, and Tommy Milone buried the A's early by giving up far too many hard-hit balls, but Greinke moved the ball in and out, up and down, fast and slow, and the A's looked helpless. Sure, in theory, Greinke makes everyone look helpless at his best, but his ERA in seven American League games prior to this one was just 4.82. The Rays, the team who can't stop getting perfect game'd, notched six runs against him. So did the White Sox. Our very own A's, in fact, scored four in five innings against Greinke less than a month ago.
I don't want to make too much of this because, as I've said already eight times, it's Zack Greinke. He's a great pitcher, and great pitchers go through periods of mediocrity just like the rest of us. The difference between great pitchers and us is that the great pitchers also have periods of greatness. Maybe the A's just ran into a period of greatness.
Then again, maybe the A's are sliding slowly back into their old ways. Beating up on the feeble old Red Sox is nice, but 20 runs still only counts for one win, and the Angels haven't sold their season (or their high-priced first baseman) for salary relief.
The A's can get one back tomorrow (today) if they can reach Dan Haren, and I would advise them to try their damndest to do so. The remaining schedule is brutal (even the six games against Seattle don't look quite like the locks they might have a month ago), and the A's need all the cushion they can get before their ten games against the Rangers and Yankees, not to mention the three with the Magic Birds of Baltimore.