Open Thread: Game 113 - A's at Baltimore

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All of a sudden the A's are pretty fun to watch again. They're hustling and scrapping, and when the team isn't that good as a whole that's all I ask for: effort.  Winning more often than they're losing doesn't hurt, either. There's a case that can be made for certain people basically auditioning for a role on the team next year even before spring training but there has been a definite shift in the way the team has played over the past month or so. It involves running, and lots of it.

This is just a gameday thread so I don't really have the time to go back and find all the specifics of how much more the A's have been running lately but all of a sudden they're 7th in the Majors in stolen bases, 5th in the AL. Their success rate is 74.8% (86 SB, 29 CS), which is pretty solid. The four teams ahead of them in the AL are Tampa Bay (155 SB, 37 CS, 80.7%), Los Angeles (112 SB, 43 CS, 72.3%), Texas (97 SB, 19 CS, 83.6%) and Boston (88 SB, 29 CS, 75.2%).

Since the A's aren't a power-hitting team these days it became more important that they utilize the speed they have at their disposal to the point that a single or a double would score a run instead of just putting someone at third base where it'd then usually then take another hit to plate him. Rajai Davis leads the team with 21 SB, caught 6 times (77.8%). Adam Kennedy has 14 against 5 CS (73.7%) while Matt Holliday had swiped 12, caught just 3 times (80%) and Orlando Cabrera took 11 against 4 times caught (73.3%).

Technically the A's are on pace for about 125 stolen bases but that doesn't factor in their tendency to run a lot more over the past month or so. Given the trades of Holliday and Cabrera most of their running ought to come from Davis and Kennedy, though players like Cliff Pennington and Eric Patterson (when he's here and actually reaches base) can also run so they could get even more overall if they keep this pace up. Suffice it to say, it's been a long, long time since they ran this much. They stole 131 in 1998, when some guy approaching 40 by the name of Rickey Henderson swiped 66, and they hadn't had four players in double figures since 1993 when five did it (Rickey 31, Ruben Sierra 25, Scott Hemond 14, Lance Blankenship 13 and Mike Bordick 10).

It's not just the running that's helped. It's also the hitting. As a team the A's are finally tied for dead last in the AL at .255, but since dealing Holliday they've hit at a .278 clip, .271 after moving Cabrera. Their record since the Holliday trade is a respectable (for them) 10-8, 7-5 post-Cabrera. They've collected double figures in hits in half of their eighteen games, including four in a row beginning with that 21-hit attack in Boston. Over that time they've homered fifteen times, though eight of those came in two games. That's just seven in the other sixteen. I think we can see how the running helps. All this during their longest stretch without a day off, too. Fortunately for them they don't have to play on Thursday.

Tonight Trevor Cahill gets another chance to right the ship. He has just a 1-6 record since June 22, the lone win coming against Minnesota on July 22. July and August have been his worst months this season by far and he continues to allow way too many home runs. In fact, the last time he didn't cough one up was on June 17 in Dodger Stadium. It was one of only six games in which he's kept the ball in the yard the whole time. Half of them were his first three starts of the season. One was at home against Baltimore in June, a game he won by allowing a couple runs over six-plus innings in a 9-4 victory.

Cahill will be opposed by Sacramento native and Cosumnes River College product David Hernandez, who the Orioles really seem to like. On the season he's 3-4 with a respectable 3.96 ERA, though his 1.55 WHIP shows he's getting into and out of a fair amount of trouble so far. He gets by on a lot of balls put into play, proven by a total of just 28 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings. After a strong July his first two starts in August have been subpar and the only time he faced the A's was in relief in that game Cahill won, working 2 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, allowing four hits to go with four strikeouts, which ties his career high.



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