Disclaimer: Just because I am excited about a certain pitcher coming back today does not mean that I do not appreciate the true ace of the 2006 Oakland A's, Barry Zito, who has quite literally held this team together in a month ravaged by pitching injuries by being consistent, healthy, and flat-out awesome in every way.
Wow. (HARDEN!) What a difference a day makes. And what a difference a month makes. Friday and Saturday's games could have gone either way. Coin tosses, and we split them. With a healthy bullpen, we would have taken them both. In May, we easily would have lost them both. In the most heartbreaking of ways, complete with lots of injuries. (HARDEN!)
The news keeps getting better and better. Street is back to himself, it appears. He sounded (curse you, Fox blackout Saturdays) great yesterday! And Milton Bradley, even though I don't quite believe it yet, has been rumored to be on his way back into the lineup before long.
Today, we (HARDEN!) go for three (HARDEN!) out of four (HARDEN!) and our first series win (HARDEN!) since what feels like last year.
And...something else is happening today...can't quite put my finger on it...might have to do with Halsey pitching in yesterday's game, because he is no longer needed as a starter. Hmmm...I'm sure (HARDEN!) I'll think of it later. (HARDEN!)
Not to put a damper on today's awesome news, because I couldn't be more excited about seeing more Harden starts, but let me put it this way:
Having a great starting pitching rotation will help, but not solve the A's problem. What is taxing the starters and the bullpen, and costing the team, is, quite simply, the offense.
I know it, and AN knows it, but it boggles the mind how The Powers That Be cannot see that certain offensive black holes are costing us, quite literally, game after game...even games we win! We used most of our [good] bullpen yesterday preserving a one-run lead in a game that honestly never should have decided by one run. When the A's score one run against Johan Santana, by all means, pull out all the stops, because when Santana's on his game, I don't expect any team to score much more than one run against him. But when the A's offense can only muster up two runs against a pitcher that they should have hit hard? Alarm bells should be ringing.
A quick glance around the league will tell you that most good teams will sacrifice offensive production from a second baseman in favor of good defense, as long as they have enough other offensive production to cover the gap. And quite to the contrary, good teams will sometimes completely sacrifice first base defense in favor of a bat (see: Ortiz, David starring at 1B). But which team has two terrible offensive players play first and second base? <points at the A's> Even assuming that Scutaro and Johnson are far and away the best defenders in the league (and we all know that they're not even the best on their own team at their respective positions), is that worth the offensive drop-off?
Jason Kendall's light-hitting bat should really be the only one in the lineup, and although he doesn't hit with much power, his OBP will be double Scutaro's before long. At this point, assuming that no trade will be made and no one will be called up, I'd venture to say that starting Adam Melhuse at second base would be such an offensive improvement over Scutaro that it might be worth it. Of course, Melhuse doesn't play second. But he has played first. <hint hint> To be honest, I'd play him at either position right about now, just to get his bat in the lineup. He must sit on the bench day after day and think, `Man, I can hit better than that!' Of course, my mom calls me after A's games and says the same thing, so it's not such a bold claim.
But...let's go back to sunshine, kittens, and puppies...because Rich Harden is starting today!!!!!
<busily goes back to new baseball book, "How to Throw a Complete Game Shutout in Less Than Eighty Pitches and How to Hit Pitchers With an ERA Higher Than Seven.">
The Lineup Fairy will be in action later today :)
L. Ford, LF
L. Castillo, 2B
J. Mauer, C
T. Hunter, CF
M. Cuddyer, RF
J. Morneau, 1B
J. Kubel, DH
L. Rodriguez, 3B
J. Castro, SS
J. Kendall, C
N. Swisher, LF
E. Chavez, 3B
F. Thomas, DH
B. Crosby, SS
J. Payton, CF
D. Johnson, 1B
B. Kielty, RF
M. Scutaro, 2B