It's a marathon, not a ...

By Jason Wojciechowski on May 12, 2004 at 6:38 PM

... nine inning game. Just when I was getting really down on the A's bullpen, they came through last night with eight shutout innings, holding the Tigers down until the A's could finally come through against Detroit's even more effective (nine shutout innings) bullpen. Damian Miller, who'll almost certainly get the day off today after catching 15 innings last night, finally came through with a go-ahead single, scoring Eric Chavez (it would have been a two-RBI single had Jermaine Dye not been thrown out at the plate). Miller had been 0-6 with two strikeouts, leaving six men on base, up to that point. That his hit came with two outs makes the win all the sweeter, and the hit all the more energizing, for the A's.

Barry Zito had an ok start, giving up four runs in seven innings. That'll win the game a lot of the time, but it's not the dominating Zito outing we're used to. He gave up ten hits in those innings, but there's also some encouragement: all ten hits were singles (in fact, the Tigers didn't have an extra-base hit all night), and Zito walked just one man.

What was truly helpful for the A's in this game, though, was having Justin Duscherer in the bullpen (as opposed to Chad Harville, I suppose). Duke pitched five innings, giving up a hit and a walk and getting four strikeouts. A five inning start with no runs and that few baserunners would be a tremendous success, with the only qualm being that it was a relatively short outing. In fact, seeing as how he'd thrown 79 pitches at that point, I think it's safe to say he had another two innings in him if the A's hadn't scored, prompting Ken Macha to bring on Jim Mecir to protect the lead, giving Mecir his second save of the game.

The A's put a lot of men on base, getting 16 hits and five walks, so there are a lot of positive individual games, including Eric Chavez's two walks, Jermaine Dye's eighth homer (finally), Erubiel Durazo's two hits, and Scott Hatteberg's 5-7 day in on-base terms (three singles, a double, and an intentional walk).

Hatteberg is hot right now, having started the year at .322/.419/.489 in 105 plate appearances. Incredibly, he's struck out just six times all year. Six, in ninety at-bats. It's OPF time, of course: Hatteberg, on this pace, would end the year with 37 strikeouts. Another cute note: Hatteberg has six doubles on the year. If he's hitting a double for every strikeout, you've got to think he's having a pretty good year. A big factor in this production might be the Weaverization of the first base job this year by Ken Macha: Hatteberg has come to the plate just fourteen times this year against left-handed pitchers. In true form to how he's performing in the rest of his at-bats this year, though, he's got five hits and two walks in those fourteen trips.

Bobby Crosby's struggle with the Mendoza line continued, as he inched closer with a 2-5 day, including his fourth homer of the year. Crosby's walk rate and isolated power are respectable, and a guy doesn't get to the majors if his ability pegs him for a .195 batting average, so he'll come around. His 33 strikeouts in 87 at-bats are alarming, of course, as, while strikeouts aren't inherently bad, strikeouts in huge bunches can be a warning sign. On the other hand, while Crosby struck out a lot in the minors, he didn't strike out this much, so it's probably just a cold spell. He's a young guy, he's replacing something of a living legend at short, and the closest thing he's tasted to failure in his professional career is hitting "only" .281/.335/.443 at Midland in 2002, so the biggest chore for A's hitting coach Dave Hudgens is to keep Crosby from pressing. This is a guy with a minor league record of a walk every ten plate appearances (very nearly exactly, as a matter of fact), so he knows what he's doing at the plate, and the last thing he needs to start doing is swinging at unhittable pitches to try to drive up his batting average. If Hudgens helps Crosby keep the same approach he's had his whole professional career, I'll consider it a job well done.

And I know how much my approval matters to this team.

By the way, Mark McLemore's been called up now, replacing Frankie Menechino. So long as he doesn't take too much playing time away from Marco Scutaro, it's all right. If Mac can still play six positions like he used to, he's a good guy to have around.