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Great Scott--But Only For A While

There's quality and there's quantity. Scott Kazmir, one of the league's finest young pitchers but coming off the disabled list to make today's start, offered great quality. For 2.2 innings, he was perfect with 5 strikeouts, and it was no fluke. Kazmir is blessed with a mid-90s fastball and an excellent changeup. He's so good that he fanned 5 of 8 and retired all 8 without even throwing his plus-slider--perhaps he was instructed not to throw the slider, which is especially hard on the arm, in his first start back.

But Kazmir could not offer quantity tonight, and the A's knew that from the outset. They knew they would have a crack at the Devil Rays' bullpen for at least three innings, and by the time Kazmir stared into the Klown's mouth for the third time, he was at the end of his rope. If patience is a virtue, the A's were knee-deep in virtue tonight, because they faced extreme quality for 3 innings, outlasted it, and took care of business against a tiring Kazmir and a fresh-but-not-quality bullpen.

Score one for quantity. Danny Haren wobbled for three innings, found his groove, and wound up turning in another 7 solid innings. Duke is Duke. And Street was good when he had to be. One thing about Zito, Haren, Blanton, and historically Loaiza: They will get you deep into games, and especially in the cases of Haren and Blanton, they are often better in the middle-to-late innings than they were at the outset. Tonight provided one of many reminders of how important that is, and offers another possible explanation as to why the A's might be performing better than their maudlin "run differential": Their best pitchers throw most of their innings.