Jason Grilli got pushed back by the White Sox from Wednesday to tonight's game, but the result was what I predicted for the A's anyway: seven runs. Rich Harden and the bullpen did a better job against the White Sox than I believed they might, keeping them to two, one of them a meaningless ninth-inning homer off of Arthur Rhodes (How far have you fallen when you start the year as the closer and finish it pitching 7-1 ballgames in the last frame?). Rich Harden had a really nice game, allowing just four hits and, most importantly for him, no walks in seven innings, leading to just one run. Those no walks led to a nice low pitch count, so he got through seven having thrown just 103 pitches, 66 of them for strikes, which is a nice ratio. It's unfair, but that's the kind of game a lot of fans, myself included, expect out of the A's top four pitchers every time out. The problem is that, while they are capable of having games like that far more often than most pitchers, that still doesn't mean you can count on a one-run performance just as a matter of course. That's why it helps when an offense stakes you to a 6-0 lead in the first three-innings. Mark Kotsay, the game recap mentions, has a sore knee, which explains why he sat out a few games a few days ago. Jermaine Dye got this game off again, but at this point, I'd rather see Eric Byrnes in right and Billy McMillon or Bobby Kielty in left every day anyway. McMillon had an RBI single in this game, and Byrnes was 0-3, but he walked once. How about Eric Byrnes turning into a really solid player? His .289/.347/.486 line isn't Manny Ramirez or anything, but it leads to the same EqA as, for example, Moises Alou, who I'll forever equate with "solid hitter." Byrnes's durability and flexibility also add to that raw value, since you know he can play every day (despite that Jim Edmonds/free safety style in the outfield) and he'll play a respectable center field when Mark Kotsay sits. Meanwhile, it seems like every time Adam Melhuse plays, he gets a couple of hits. He added three yesterday, including a ninth-inning homer off former Athletic Jon Adkins. Melhuse's walk rate is slightly sub-optimal, but his power rate is very nice: 18 extra-base hits in just 172 at-bats. Damian Miller walks a little more but has hit for a little less power this year (and I'd count on the power to decline next year and ever after). Could Melhuse sustain this level of success as an everyday player? It's nearly impossible to say without throwing him in there and making him catch four days out of five.
The CompetitionThe A's had a good day yesterday, as they saw the schedule finally help them out, with Minnesota taking Texas down 8-5 and Anaheim losing to Boston. I'll take Boston winning games and staying with the A's so long as the wins come at the expense of the other West teams. It's also important for the A's to build a little lead going into their own Boston series, because with the Red Sox a hot team and one that I think is better than Oakland in general, you worry about extreme circumstances, like sweeps. Anyway, Minnesota turned the tables a bit, beating the Rangers with an 11th inning three-run homer off the bat of Torii Hunter. Kyle Lohse was as bad as I figured he'd be, but Ryan Drese wasn't good enough to take advantage. The bullpens both held up, neither allowing a run until that Hunter homer. The Ranger 'pen is making a believer out of me. Joe Nathan suspiciously pitched just 1/3 of an inning in the top of the 11th and, indeed, he sustained a cut on his finger, forcing him out. It'd be tough for the Twins to lose Nathan for a few days, especially against this Texas team. The Boston-Anaheim game, which I called 7-2 Sox, ended up 10-7, though it was 6-1 after the sixth inning. Boston made it a blowout by scoring four times in the bottom of the seventh, but the Angels made it a close game by scoring six over the final two innings, knocking Curt Schilling out of the box in the eighth and smacking Mike Myers around like a rented stepchild. Fortunately for the A's, Keith Foulke restored order and finished things off without much incident. Texas is now 4.5 back of Oakland and would have Anaheim to climb over to get to the top as well. I feel a worry in the pit of my stomach, but I'm going to call them "done." Anaheim is three games back now, while also falling 2.5 back of Boston in the wild card race.
TodayToday's schedule has Jason Grilli pitching for the White Sox (again; maybe he'll actually start this time) against Barry Zito. Zito had a run of three good games against bad teams in between struggling (though not really imploding) against the Yankees and Orioles. The White Sox right-handedness might scare you, except that Zito's struggles this year have come against lefties: he's allowed them to hit .350/.451/.504 against him. That's incredible. Right-handed hitters have fared better against him than you'd like to see, but nothing like what lefties have done. I still call seven runs for the A's against Grilli and assorted bullpen mates, while Zito will allow four in five innings and one more will score against the bullpen. 7-5 win (again). The zombies are going at it again: Chan Ho Park pitches against Terry Mulholland. Park got the better of Mulholland last time, maybe because he died violently and was thus reconstructed with vengeance, while Mulholland only passed because of old age, so there was so much deterioration, the Minnesota scientists just couldn't do much about it. That said, I think Mulholland will come alive (ha!) tonight and hold Texas to one run over five innings while Park has a 4-run, 6-inning night, and Minnesota wins 5-2. ... Ok, ok, ok, you knew I was kidding, right? Twins-Rangers, with two dead guys pitching, and the score is only 5-2? Yeah, right. 11-6, Twins. Finally, the marquee Angels-Red Sox matchup pits two less-than-marquee starting pitchers against each other: Aaron Sele and Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo has pitched ... well ... interestingly, as I mentioned last time I wrote about him, while Aaron Sele has basically been Aaron Sele. He gives up homers and hits, he walks guys, and he doesn't really strike anyone out, all while maintaining a 4.35 ERA. What!? You can't really expect him to get away with those things against the Red Sox, but Arroyo's superior strikeout rate will be minimized by an Angels team that, yet again, just does not strike out: they're 25th in baseball in team strikeouts despite racking up a ton of at-bats because they're 29th in the league in walks. I'm having a tougher time coming up with numbers off the top of my head for this game than I usually do. I guess I'm going 9-6 Red Sox.
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