Justin Duchscherer tossed five stellar innings and the A's offense showed signs of life as the A's took the first game of the weekend series.
Duke was simply dominant, showing masterful command and recording six K's. He had good, late lateral movement on his fastball and painted the black on both sides of the plate. Here's what I found most impressive: he couldn't spot his hammer curve for the first three innings, and yet he was still unhittable. That's how good his location was.
In the second inning he struck out Hafner (L) looking on the outside corner, and then Franklin Gutierrez (R) on the inside corner to end the inning. But neither K was of the "completely fooled" variety; Hafner and Gutz took those pitches because they didn't have a chance at hitting them anyway. If Duke can spot his cutter that well all year, he'll be a force to be reckoned with.
But will he even get the chance?
Duke came out after starting the sixth inning; it was the training staff's second visit out to the mound. The early report is minor bicep tendonitis. Let's hope for a speedy return, because right now a staff of Blanton-Harden-Duke-Gaudin-Eveland looks pretty formidable.
Huston Street came on in the ninth and allowed a bomb to Hafner before closing the door on the win. His penchant for allowing the long ball has rightfully caused a good deal of consternation on AN.
I'm not sure how I feel about Street yet. The home runs are happening because his pitches are traveling through only one plane right now. His fastball is flat because of his low release point, and (apparently) he's not getting enough horizontal movement to offset that.
So...has he made a mechanical change inadvertently, or to alleviate pain? Has he lowered his release point at some point in the last two years to alleviate strain on his arm/shoulder?
The optimistic view is that Street's home run woes are a very fixable problem - adjusting his arm slot slightly higher on release, to create more downward/two-plane movement. The scarier version is, a higher arm slot is causing him pain, so he had to drop lower. In that scenario, Street is faced with picking the lesser of two evils: injured, or homer-prone but healthy