Re-enacting a version of the childhood game "Duck...Duck...Goose!" Alan Embree retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the 7th with the A's leading 4-3, before giving up a broken bat bleeder through the left side, a pop fly RBI single off the hands to left-center, and then a "no doubt about it" tie-breaking homerun to right: Dunk...Dunk...OOPS! And so the A's, despite a mammoth HR from Cust and a two-run bomb from Buck, drop back into third place pending tomorrow morning's rubber game in Arlington.
What I want to focus on, though, is a positive that you might not glean from the box score and that is the considerable potential I believe Josh Outman has as a starting pitcher. His fastball, consistently 92-94MPH with good movement, gives him the best "power arm" this side of Sean Gallagher. His slider impresses me with its late, sharp movement, and he mixed it up with an occasional curve that froze the Rangers' hitters the few times he showed it. His changeup is a work-in-progress, but he threw a couple that were extremely effective, notably one that had Michael Young out in front bouncing weakly to SS. Finally, while Outman's control is not great he appears to be confident enough about challenging hitters.
So why then did he allow 10 hits, and 3 runs, in 6 innings? Many came on 3-1 fastballs, meaning that - surprise, surprise - major league hitters, especially the best hitting team in the league, can hit a good fastball on a fastball count. Just like Smith, Eveland, and Gio Gonzalez, Outman needs to throw more strikes to be successful, but he has the stuff and I like his aggressiveness. He also handled jams well, minimizing damage at times when innings could easily have spun out of control. I hope the A's will give Outman a chance to prove his mettle as a starter next March - and if he doesn't win one of the five jobs out of spring training, so be it. But just as Braden, with his new-found facility at adding and subtracting on the fastball, has put himself into consideration, I think Outman, with his "power arm" and developing repertoire, has done the same. Plus he has a cool name.