There are many reasons to wonder if Dallas Braden was really that good tonight. He topped out at his usual pedestrian 88 MPH. He struck out only one batter. He got a lot of fly ball outs.
Yes, he was that good.
Braden tossed a complete game shutout in which almost every batter made contact and almost no batter made good contact. Against one of the league's better offenses, in a hitter's park, Braden put on a clinic on changing speeds, jamming hitters, and using head and heart to overcome less than amazing stuff -- right down to his staring down of manager Bob Geren at the end of the 8th inning to let him know, "The 9th inning is mine." And it was, with Braden throwing a career high 120 pitches in all.
Kurt Suzuki, who went from a deep hitting slump to hitting line drives and having only bad luck, put it all together tonight with a 4 for 5 night (emperor nobody calls it a "4-fer"), and Daric Barton added a single, double, and HR, as the A's knocked Rich Harden out early for the second time since the All-Star Break.
Tonight was another of those games where you can so easily see how close the A's to being a very good team. Heck, Braden is now 20-2 career in games where the A's score 3 runs or more for him. Just get these guys a few runs -- it doesn't have to be 12, folks, just a few -- and the A's will be the team making playoff rotation plans instead of the team going "well...8.5 with another head-to-head tomorrow, and...well..."
This team is not that good, but it's also not that far away from being very good. They have a ton of good young pitchers, and they have a heck of a staff leader -- and a really good pitcher -- in Dallas Braden.