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The Dreaded Eighth Inning

Exhale, Ken Macha, no need to reach for the acid reflux medicine anymore.

A's manager Ken Macha had a quick and definitive answer when he was asked what he'll remember most about the 2004 season.

"The eighth inning," he said.

Not the eighth inning of any particular game, mind you. He was talking about the many, many eighth innings that led -- directly and indirectly -- to an A's loss.

It's truly what every A's fan dreaded about last season. And what's beautiful is the fact that this year's Oakland Athletics are going to have a variety of options for those late innings that are proven successful.

No more white knuckle endings...suddenly, A's fans can stop asking their doctors for blood pressure medicine.

Yes, there will likely be someone who doesn't work out in the pen, be it Juan Cruz or Kiko Calero or even Dotel, but the truth is that now the A's have depth in the organization and can reach down into the system to pluck someone like Huston Street to take the role. Or even Jairo Garcia.

If the A's young starting pitching can hold up this year and go five or maybe six innings, the A's pen will actually win them some games. Especially when you combine it with that much improved offense.

It's going to be a new dynamic for us A's fans, having the games decided early rather than late...but I'm feeling like I'm free from the Prevacid once and for all.

Free at last.