As far as days during the season go, yesterday sucked. Not as bad as losing a doubleheader and your closer within the span of six hours, but it sucked nonetheless. Five and a half games is scary when you've led by eight about three days ago, but let's put this in perspective: no one in their right mind would trade the A's position for the Angels' right now.
Not convinced? A few things are not going to hold true for much longer:
- The A's offense eventually will score enough runs to win a ball game.
- The A's starting pitching is better than it has appeared lately; they are not the only ones that the Rangers offense has dismantled this year.
- The Angels' starters have been very, very good lately. But they cannot and will not continue to be able to get 29 and 30 outs a game--which is basically what their crappy defense is forcing their pitchers to do--and continue to win.
- The Angels still have to play the Rangers, and it is extremely unlikely that the extra outs they allow opposing teams will not cost them against the Rangers' offense. It is also extremely unlikely that the Rangers have forgotten what happened last time those two teams hooked up. Which is all good for the green and gold.
It is Murphy's Law, I suppose, that a mere week after I wrote a list of worse managers than ours, that I would disagree with two of Macha's calls in back to back games. Those moves, of course, would be pinch-hitting for DJ in yesterday's game, a move that I thought was absolutely crazy; for DJ's confidence going down the stretch, for actually trying to win yesterday's game, and for obvious defensive reasons, but the second move--and the biggest worry for me in the hypothetical playoffs--concerns the A's ace starting pitcher, Barry Zito.
I was at the game in person on Monday afternoon, and thanks to the generosity of my best A's friends, I sat very close to the field. Close enough to really watch Zito.
One of Macha's strengths as a manager is that he listens to his players, especially his veterans, and lets them decide their place in the game. On the other hand, one of Macha's weaknesses as a manager is that he listens to his players, especially his veterans, and lets them decide their place in the game.
When Barry Zito tells Macha, "Hey, I'm done for the night", that's great. But when Zito says, "Let me continue", it needs to be Macha, not Zito that makes this call. After his no-hit bid was broken up in the 8th in Texas, and the team exploded for the runs in the top of the next inning, there was no compelling reason to send Barry out there again, and plenty of reasons not to. Similarly, on Monday afternoon, there was not a person in the stands, including the sleeping baby behind me, that didn't know Zito was in deep, deep trouble, already down 4-0, with runners at 1st and 3rd and a 2-0 count on the batter. The next pitch was no surprise to anyone, and if it was, you weren't really watching the game.
Macha had the very quick hook with Saarloos last night, which I applauded; it kept the A's in the game, but it seems that in Zito starts, Macha has always subscribed to the `barn door, horse' style of managing. Looking back, I can remember many times this year when Zito has been left in just long enough to fall apart.
So the A's lost Monday's game. It was one game. But in the hypothetical playoffs, what happens when Zito starts a game without his control? How much rope do you give him with Saarloos, Halsey, Gaudin, Kennedy, and possibly Harden in the `pen? Can the A's afford to spot the opposition a handful of runs in the hopes that the starting pitcher will settle down?
Well, why is September any different? Forget about the hypothetical playoffs, and start asking the question:
What about getting to the playoffs?!?
I said a long time ago that the only thing the A's needed to do was win series after series to pull this off. They failed for the first time since the All-Star break in this one, and now, they must pull out all the stops to avoid the sweep.
Tune in at 12:35 to watch the A's try and salvage a game. You can practice this cheer in the meantime: "Let's Go Bal-ti-more!".