By Jason Wojciechowski on July 1, 2004 at 3:30 PM
I called Barry Zito out yesterday, and he responded, throwing seven solid innings against the Angels, allowing just two runs (on a fifth inning homer by Adam Kennedy), leading the A's to victory, though he didn't get the "win" because Oakland didn't score the go-ahead runs until the eighth, after Ricky Rincon and Chad Bradford had combined to throw a scoreless inning. Octavio Dotel finished things off with a three strikeout inning to earn his second A's save. He did allow a hit and throw a wild pitch, but all's well that ends well.
I'll get my quibble out of the way early here: the offense put fourteen men on base and only managed to score four runs. They didn't hit into any double plays and they only lost one man on the bases (Vlad threw out Mark Kotsay at third in the third inning on a Mark McLemore single that scored Marco Scutaro from second), but the complete lack of power (two doubles, one by Kotsay, one by Eric Byrnes, was the grand total) resulted in guys not really being able to get past third base.
As long as the A's are winning, this is going to be a minor issue, and the game was in Oakland, so the lack of power can be explained away a little bit by the home ballpark. Also mitigating my recent complaints a little is the fact that the A's actually have the tenth best slugging percentage in baseball, though you could argue that it's batting average-driven, since they also rank tenth in that statistic. Believe it or not, they're actually tenth in on-base percentage as well. Unfortunately, all that hitting only results in a 13th-place showing in actual runs scored, so maybe there's some underperformance with men in scoring position here.
There's some weirdness on this list, I must say: Montreal, the BP offensive darlings at the beginning of the year, are dead last in runs scored, and they're not close, trailing Seattle by a whopping 47 runs. I'm sure someone at BP has addressed this at least once so far, but I'm still catching up on all the articles I missed. I'm up to April as of today. The other notable offense is Colorado, who place 10th, just twelve runs ahead of Oakland. And that's really inexcusable for the Rockies. With that environment, they've really got to have awful players to score runs at that low a rate.
With all that quibbling aside, it's nice to see everyone in the starting lineup get on base at least once, lead by the Mark Kotsay Revival Machine (single, double), who's got his OBP up to .361, and Erubiel Durazo (two singles, walk), who's putting up the kind of season this year that A's fans wanted him to have last year: .320/.395/.509, good for a team-leading 0.274 MLVr (for comparison's sake, that's David Ortiz-Hank Blalock territory), leading to 25.4 VORP, just trailing Scott Hatteberg for the lead.
Kirk Saarloos has been announced as the starter for tonight's game, which, thanks to these first two wins, can't affect the A's second-place standing in the AL West. Oakland's ahead of Anaheim by 2.5 games and trail Texas by 1.5.
And for all those who thought that the team that lost the AL East would run away with the wild card, Oakland leads Boston by a game in those standings, with Minnesota two games back, and Anaheim a half game behind the Twins.