Note: Quotes are paraphrased as best as I can remember them given that I wasn't expecting the call and could not record the conversation. However, on my honor I did not "make s*** up". :-)
I had the opportunity to chat with ESPN Baseball Tonight analyst Mark Mulder on the phone just now to get his thoughts on the A's pitchers and the 2013 A's post-season. Fast-forwarding to the end of our conversation, when I asked "Can the A's go far in the post-season, do you think?" Mulder replied yes. "I can't give you a reason. It just think it's the A's turn," adding that he wasn't saying that out of bias, but more out of instinct.
In regards to the A's young pitchers, one comment seemed hugely relevant to today's game, which will be started by Dan Straily. "You have to attack hitters at this level," Mulder says. "And you can see in the pitcher's body language whether they have that demeanor out there -- sometimes I've watched games and can see that the pitcher isn't going to make it through 4-5 IP just by how they are carrying themselves out there on the mound."
Straily has been specifically cited, by Bob Melvin and others, as someone who sometimes shows that aggressiveness and sometimes doesn't, and Mulder believes the hook will be short in a playoff game. "You're not usually going to come back from down 5-0 in a playoff game, and if in the early innings a manager sees that the body language is off, that the pitcher doesn't have that aggressive demeanor about attacking the hitters..." I interrupt: "...This isn't the time of year to spare feelings." "Right."
Mulder was, naturally, impressed with Sonny Gray, who he described as calm, poised, aggressive -- but perhaps not the right choice if the series goes to a Game 5. "Yes he'd be on his 5th day, but he wouldn't be 'on turn,'" Mulder pointed out, "and switching things around puts a different kind of pressure on a young pitcher." Mulder noted, however, that the Pirates are doing just that in selecting Gerrit Cole over A.J. Burnett for their Game 5 showdown with St. Louis.
Hopefully, today Straily comes out with the right demeanor, the right stuff, and a "W" beside his name, and the issue of Game 5 is moot. If not, we'll see who gets the ball Thursday and how they fare. The A's have "2 to make 1" and while they don't have "Mark Mulder in his prime" they do seem to have the upper hand this year on a hobbled Tigers team. Thanks, Mark, for taking the time to talk to "some dude on the internet" and we'll see you at 2pm EDT for first pitch!