Come here little boys and girls and let me tell you a story about a pitcher that once wore number 15 for the Oakland Athletics. He was a smallish pitcher from the South who had a wicked sinker. He also had several years with the Oakland A's where he would pitch beautifully, yet for some reason the guys who wore green and gold refused to score runs whenever he took the mound. Either that or the bullpen would wind up giving away his wins.
Apparently Danny Haren didn't ever hear that story when he decided to switch his number before the season began from 24 to 15. Haren has been cursed by the same issues that Tim Hudson once was. Either the A's refuse to score or the bullpen gives it up.
Regardless, the A's got Bucked tonight in more ways that one. The home plate umpire clearly missed strike three on Justin Duchscherer's pitch to John Buck and the next pitch, Buck parked over the left center field wall. Duke's cutter still isn't working the way it has in the past because in years gone by, there's no chance that Buck does that on a solid Duke cutter. It seems like the only pitch Duke has working for him right now is that curveball and when Ron Kulpa decided that several curves that were strikes weren't, Duke switched back to the cutter and began getting pounded all over the field.
I did think that the A's had some more magic in them tonight. I thought for a brief moment that Joakim Soria would join Rivera, Papelbon and Borowski as pitchers who've blown saves to the A's this year. But alas, it wasn't mean to be and the pitcher who now sports the best ERA in the American League and the third best in all of baseball still sits at a paltry three wins and two losses. Poor, poor Danny.
As for Duke, you've got to think that there is something wrong with him because that key pitch, the cutter, sets everything else up for him. If he doesn't have it, he becomes an average pitcher. Even the outs tonight were loud ones. I'm wondering if all the innings over the past couple of years (I believe he's second in usage out of the pen behind only Scot Shields who has also given up really crushing hits this year) has taken its toll on him. Is he hurting or just experiencing some arm fatigue? I'm not sure, but I might've gone to Street in this one early because the A's had a good chance to score some runs off the Royals bullpen. It's easy to say that in hindsight, but I did say it aloud when I saw that Duke had come into the game. Don't get me wrong, I love Duke, but he just doesn't seem like himself yet this year. In seasons past, a situation like tonight was automatic.
Oh and kudos to Bobby Crosby for starting to look a little more major league every day. It's good to see him have good games on a consistent basis. Now if he could just string at least a couple of weeks like that together, the A's offense would get a huge boost.