By Jason Wojciechowski on September 4, 2004 at 6:34 PM

How about Nick Swisher? The man spent all year tearing up AAA, ripping homers and doubles and walking like a mad man, making him a serious prospect despite a ~.260 batting average, so the A's give him a call-up when September rolls around. Not only that, but in the first game he'll be involved he sees in the majors, Ted Lilly is starting, so the A's would like to sit Mark Kotsay, especially since he's been having some minor knee owies. This means that Eric Byrnes will play center and Bobby Kielty will move into left, except that Erubiel Durazo has to sit out with a sore back, so Kielty moves to DH and, since the other reserve outfielder, Billy McMillon, is also a bit useless against lefties, Nick Swisher is inserted in the starting lineup in left field.

According to the game recap, getting into the lineup in his first day in the majors got Swisher fined $100 by the A's Kangaroo Court. Getting into the lineup his first day also provided a boost for the A's offense, though, as Swisher walked in his first plate appearance, and added a double and walk later on. Those walks aren't a surprise to anyone who's been watching, and it appears the A's major leaguers have been watching and waiting as well: Swisher was also fined $100 for getting called up solely because he works the count.

All of this, along with a Bobby Kielty homer off the man he was traded for, was in support of Tim Hudson, who didn't have his best day, giving up four runs in seven innings, but it was good enough to win, since Lilly had a worse day, giving up five in six innings. The A's bullpen also outpitched the Blue Jays's, with Arthur Rhodes and Octavio Dotel each pitching scoreless innings, while Justin Speier gave up two insurance runs to the A's in the top of the ninth.

This win was the A's 80th, against 54 losses, of the year, and this is the second earliest the A's have reached 80 wins in their now five year run of great baseball, trailing only the 2002 season, when they had just 51 losses at the 80-win mark, and didn't get their 54th loss until they already had 91 wins.

The Competition

My lesson learned from yesterday's predictions is "never undestimate Pedro Martinez." The still-brilliant Red Sox ace threw seven shutout innings against the Rangers and the potent Boston bullpen, including Keith Foulke at the end of the line, kept the Angels off the board the rest of the way. John Wasdin had a nice game for Texas, allowing just two runs, both on solo homers, in 6.1 innings, and the Rangers bullpen similarly threw shutout frames after him.

As extreme as Tim Hudson's ground ball tendencies can be, check out John Wasdin: three ground outs, 16 fly outs. That's a recipe for disaster, and would go a long way toward explaining his 6.48 ERA.

Anaheim shook off their malaise and whomped up on Cleveland, 10-5 (so I called the Indians's score correctly). I called Elarton for six innings and four runs, when he actually gave up six runs in six innings, but it was the bullpen that blew the game open, as predicted, as Jeremy Guthrie allowed two runs in his 1/3 of an inning, and Rafael Betancourt gave up two insurance runs in the ninth, making Troy Percival's ninth-inning appearance a non-save one.

Thus Anaheim remains four games behind Oakland, still on the fringes of the race, and 4.5 behind Boston. Texas's five-game slide has taken them to 6.5 games out of first place, and, in all likelihood, truly out of the race. I'll continue to update on their progress, because youneverknow, but they're dead.


Texas is at Boston again today in an afternoon game that starts in about an hour, with big rookie Chris Young facing Tim Wakefield. Pitching is still Texas's weakness, and it'll sink them here: 8-3, Boston.

The second game of the Anaheim-Cleveland series has Jarrod Washburn pitching against Jason Davis. Davis has had a terrible year and Washburn hasn't been all that much better. Still, bad beats terrible, especially since the inevitable bullpen battle that this one will become favors the Angels, so Anaheim wins again, 8-6.

Oakland sends Mark Mulder against the guy who was supposed to be the savior of the Toronto staff, Miguel Batista. The Toronto hurler has been just mediocre, and you have to start wondering whether 2003 in Arizona represented a late career year. Mulder has, of course, been very good, but he's been in a major decline recently, so his performance can't really be predicted to any degree of accuracy these days. I'll say A's win 6-5, which is pretty much my way of saying it's a toss-up.