Oakland extends their lead

By Jason Wojciechowski on August 29, 2003 at 3:46 PM

The A's followed my advice from yesterday, taking advantage of the fact that Seattle lost again to Tampa Bay to increase their West lead to two games by beating Baltimore 6-4. You say you want updated playoff odds? How does 78.9% (compared to Seattle's 52.2%) sound? It's getting better with each passing day.

What won this game for Oakland? A little pitching, a little defense, a little hitting, apparently. A note on the defense, first. The AP game story had this to say for one of the reasons the A's won the game: "Fine defense from a club not known for its glove work." If they're not known for their defense, it's because people don't pay attention. Eric Chavez, Miguel Tejada, Mark Ellis, and Scott Hatteberg make up one of the best infields in baseball, especially on the left side, and running Chris Singleton, Terrence Long, and Jose Guillen (or Jermaine Dye, back when he was healthy) out to the outfield every day will cut down a lot of fly balls. Even Ramon Hernandez is well regarded behind the plate. In other words, if you pay attention to who the players are instead of Oakland's reputation, you won't be surprised that the A's Defensive Efficiency is higher than anybody else's in the major leagues.

The pitching was mediocre by Oakland standards, as Chad Harville had a bad day, giving up a run on two hits and a walk and throwing a wild pitch while not getting an out and Keith Foulke gave up a solo homer to Larry Bigbie in the ninth on his way to the save. Then again, Ricardo Rincon pitched the A's out of the seventh inning mess, Jim Mecir got his one batter out on two pitches, and John Halama allowed just two runs in six and two thirds innings to earn the win.
Halama didn't strike out anybody, and he walked two (which isn't bad, but it's not great, either), but the key to his success looks to me to be the 14 ground balls he got, compared to just six fly ball outs.

The A's bit players did me proud today, as Hatteberg led off the game with a home run and was later hit by a pitch, Adam Melhuse hit a three-run bomb later in the first inning, Long had a pair of hits (and guess where he was in the batting order. Yep, seventh), and Ellis hit an RBI triple. Erubiel Durazo appears to be slumping at the wrong time, as he had another 0-4 with a strikeout, but Chavez and Tejada ahead of him got on base a combined four times, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Tejada, it should be noted, walked twice, giving him 40 on the year, which sets him up to have his highest walk total since 2000. Chavez walked once, too. By pitches per plate appearance, he's having the most patient year of his career. He's actually walking right around the magical 1-in-10 ratio, with 53 walks in (by my addition) 537 plate appearances. Take out his nine intentional walks and he drops to 44 in 528, though, which isn't excellent, but isn't really hacktastic, either.

Baltimore and Tampa Bay switch places next, with the Rays coming to town for the weekend and the Orioles going to Seattle. Then, after getting Monday off, the A's go to Baltimore while Seattle goes to Tampa, then they switch places.
Oakland and Seattle's schedules down the stretch are completely mirrors of each other, which is neat, and it also means that it really will be whichever team plays best that wins. I think Baltimore can take one of the three games from Seattle, if they're lucky, but I don't think the A's will sweep Tampa, either, so I'd expect the travel day to come around with Oakland still on top by two games.