Get the brooms out again ... for the A's

By Jason Wojciechowski on May 27, 2004 at 6:56 PM

The A's are going to have to work hard tonight and get a good outing from Mark Mulder to avoid a sweep in Boston. It's been an ugly series, so far, with the losses coming by scores of 12-2 and 9-6. In game 1, Tim Hudson was awful while Curt Schilling was essentially his usual self, while in game 2, the defense let Mark Redman down after the A's offense put themselves in a position to win against Derek Lowe.

Starting with the first game: Tim Hudson gave up nine hits and four walks in just four innings, resulting in five Boston runs. Just for flavor, four of his nine hits were doubles, he threw a wild pitch, and he even managed to hit two batters with pitches. In other words, he was terrible.

All of that said, Hudson left the game down 5-0, which is a big deficit, of course, but not one that a good offense and good bullpen couldn't overcome. Of course, the A's offense is bad, and the bullpen decided to be awful that night. Chris Hammond gave up four more runs in his two innings, helped along by Manny Ramirez's 12th homer of the year and Kevin Youkilis's first major league double. Ricardo Rincon then came on and gave up three more runs while getting just two outs. He was pulled for Justin Duchscherer with the bases loaded, and the Duke saved his bacon, getting his one batter that inning out. Duchscherer pitched the ninth, also, giving up a hit, but allowing no runs (making him the only Oakland pitcher to help his ERA this night). He finished with three more strikeouts than he started with, and maybe a lot more fans than he started with, too. Sometime soon, he'll have to start getting the appearances that Chris Hammond and Ricardo Rincon are getting, platoon split be damned.

The offense managed ten hits, but no walks, and seven of those ten were singles. When you're getting only small hits (since the other three were just doubles), you're going to have to bunch them together to score, and it's going to be all but impossible to overcome a 12-run night from the other team. Indeed, the A's did even worse than you might expect, scoring just two runs despite hitting into no double plays and not having anyone thrown out on the bases. That's pitiful in the "timely hitting" department.

If you're a Boston fun, it's a fun night to look at the box score. David Ortiz hit his 19th and 20th doubles of the year, putting him (wait for it) OPF 71 for the season, which would break Earl Webb's 73 year-old record by four. I already mentioned Youkilis's first career MLB double, but it's sort of neat that he's hitting .320/.471/.480 after struggling mightily in AAA last year after a late-season callup, earned by his on-base ferociousness and decent doubles-power in AA. Youkilis hit his first home run earlier in the season, and those two hits remain his only ones for extra bases, so it's pretty clear that his "power" is batting-average driven. His on-base percentage, though, isn't, as he's walked seven times in just 32 plate appearances, which is a much healthier rate than he showed at Pawtucket last year, with just 18 walks in 127 PA's. That's still above that standard 10-1 ratio, but this is a guy who had previously walked in the 1-in-5 range, so it's probable he was pressing to impress, and it's pretty clear that he's not doing so now, going back to his old ways of waiting for his pitch or waiting for his free base, whichever comes first.

Last night was maddening, because I was watching the progress of the game on the out-of-town scoreboard at Shea. The A's fell behind 1-0, then took a 2-1 lead, then it was suddenly (the next half inning) a 6-2 deficit before they closed the gap quickly (the next half inning) to 6-5, only to, an inning later, fall behind for good, 9-5. They did score once more, but that run only served to make the game a save situation for Keith Foulke, who of course shut the A's down on 12 pitches, earning his 10th save of the year and lowering his ERA to a preposterous-for-late-May 0.37.

Mark Redman pitched ok in the game, but two Bobby Crosby throwing errors meant that five of his nine runs allowed were unearned. Still, though, with the A's having just a one-run lead to overcome, Redman giving up a three-run homer to Jason Varitek can be blamed on no one but himself.

The bullpen pitched well this time around, as Chad Bradford ended the sixth before ceding the right-of-mound to Justin Duchscherer, who threw two innings, allowing just one baserunner (he hit Manny Ramirez) while striking out four. This lowered Duke's ERA to 1.05. I hereby declare the "Make Duke stopper" campaign.

Oakland got fourteen hits, four more than the night before, but eleven of them were singles, they walked just once, they hit into two double plays, and Erubiel Durazo was caught stealing (!). Bobby Crosby compounded his defensive issues by going 0-4. Crosby and Damian Miller were the only two hitless A's, though, so at least there's that bright side. Eric Chavez hit his 12th homer of the year, which means he's OPF a career-high 44 despite hitting a Griffey-like .249. That batting average can almost be thrown out, though, because he's also OPF 113 walks, which is a pretty amazing Giambi-like number, especially considering his previous best is 65 in 2002. In other words, if Chavez could just hit a few more singles and doubles (he's still hit freakishly few doubles this year), he'd be an easy MVP candidate.

Of concern, in our yearlong watch to see the effects of Rick Peterson's exit from Oakland, is that Mark Redman threw 127 pitches in the game. Redman's no longer a real young guy, of course, but that's still quite a few pitches for a guy on the way to giving up nine runs in a game. Again, the system that Peterson put in place is probably still in place, but it's certainly possible that Ken Macha doesn't buy into that system as much as he should, and that Young doesn't exert the kind of influence in the organization, much less the dugout, that Peterson probably did.

Or I could be completely overreacting, as usual. Whatever the case, Oakland needs Mark Mulder to be strong tonight. A fourth straight complete game, assuming it comes because he's pitching well, would be a blessing.