When you see Derek Lowe tonight (6:05pm start), you may have unpleasant flashbacks to paralyzed hitters watching two-seam fastballs come back over the inside corner. Or you may zoom out a bit further and associate Lowe with runners stopping for no good reason, and runners touching everything but the all-important 5-sided base. You may even see Lowe and blurt out, spontaneously and to no one in particular, "Throw a changeup to David Ortiz!" and then look around wondering who said it before noticing your own sweaty palms and realizing, with a touch of embarrassment, that it must have been you.
But all that resides only in the past and in our collective unconscious, while a fact more relevant to tonight lingers...Last we saw Lowe, he had two important qualities as a pitcher. One is that thanks to his power sinker, he rarely gave up homeruns. The other is that he could not hold runners on--he was a sitting duck for even the most average of base-stealers to have their way. I haven't seen Lowe pitch for a while, but unless a lot has changed, the A's, 4th in the league in HRs and fighting for last in steals, may need to make an adjustment in their approach tonight.
And here's the cool thing. For once, I'm not writing lamenting the A's inability to make this kind of adjustment. Kotsay's three steals in NY highlight the A's recent willingness to adapt their approach to match the opportunity in front of them. It's what good teams do, and the A's are doing it. There are many reasons the A's have won 8 straight and 11 of 13 even while filling the morgue's recycling bin with expired limbs and ligaments. The A's are being creative and adaptive, taking walks, steals, or sac flies, depending on what is offered for the taking.
Tonight, they really won't miss Frank Thomas, because tonight they need guys who can run more than they need guys who can clear the yard. They will miss Kotsay and Ellis, but will replace them with players of lesser talent yet equal speed and a recent hot bat. And so the A's, with the pitching matchup unfavorable and the lineup decimated, will shrug their shoulders and say, "Just like in New York, where we swept the series." When you're going good, you know there is some way to win--and you're prepared to find it.