I won't say this on behalf of the entire AN community, but I will say it for me: if the A's win today, they will have done a lot in the past few series to help me forget about their mostly horrible month of August. In taking 2 out of 3 in Anaheim against one of the top clubs in the game, and now showing a lot of fight in not 1, but 2 walkoff victories in 3 games against a very good team that is fighting for a playoff spot, this young team is finally showing glimpses of what it is capable of. They still aren't scoring many runs, but the young pitchers are coming around and the position players are playing solid-enough defense and are focused enough so that they can keep the game close and take advantage of the other team's mistakes. That's a big improvement from just two weeks ago, and it's finally showing in the win-loss record.
Today's game also marks the final game in August and the final game before rosters expand and September call-ups take-effect. A win today combined with a gradual reinforcement of the roster from prospects over the next week could finally conspire to give the A's something that has been anathema in the team's clubhouse since early July: momentum. With some mo' and some confidence and a full, healthy pitching staff, this team might just pull-off a .500-season when all is said and done. So, disagree with me if you will and excuse the hyperbole, but I feel like today's game is the biggest of the year so far for the A's.
The team will send the mostly capable left-arm of Greg "The Nibbler" Smith to the mound against the Twins for the contest this afternoon. Smith got battered by the Angels last time out last week, but still lasted a full 6 innings in the process. Since the All Star break, Greg has not been all that effective: 1-6, 5.08 ERA and 25 walks against only 21 strike outs. So, I'm guessing the best-case scenario today is that Smith is wild, yet effective for 6+ innings, Devine can come in and shut the door in the 7th and Ziggy can provide one of his patented 2-inning saves.
In order to do that, the A's will need to scratch out at least a few runs against Smith's fellow Louisiana-native Scott Baker. Scott, like the rest of the Twins' young rotation, is an aggressive strike-thrower that probably won't do the A's batters any favors (3.55 to 1 K/BB ratio). Best case scenario: Cust stays hot, belts another homer and newly-arrived Aaron Cunningham makes his major league debut one to remember with a multi-hit game that sparks several rallies that give the A's a one-run lead going into the later innings...
(I've been called in to work to help monitor the growing monster that is Hurricane Gustav, but I'll have internet access and will be monitoring the Game Threads and listening to the game on radio, so I should be able to stay on top of things, but if I need to abruptly halt my blog activity, I would appreciate it if someone could open a new thread if necessary...)
08/31/08 1:05 PM PDT
|Minnesota Twins||Oakland Athletics|
|Denard Span - CF||Rajai Davis - CF|
|Nick Punto - SS||Ryan Sweeney - RF|
|Joe Mauer - DH||Bobby Crosby - SS|
|Justin Morneau - 1B||Jack Cust - DH|
|Jason Kubel - RF||Kurt Suzuki - C|
|Delmon Young - LF||Daric Barton - 1B|
|Mike Redmond - C||Jack Hannahan - 3B|
|Brian Buscher - 3B||Aaron Cunningham - LF|
|Alexi Casilla - 2B||Eric Patterson - 2B|