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A winning formula

Outstanding starting pitching + reliable defense with the occasional outstanding play + deep, reliable 'pen + lights-out closer + just enough offense = ... uh, = ...

Uh, I guess equals "patent litigation by Billy Beane against Terry Ryan."

It's hard to argue that the A's didn't have more than their share of simple bad luck today -- every ball the A's hit hard was either right to or just within the range of a Twins fielder; every ball the Twins hit hard was in a gap -- but it's also hard to argue against the fact that the A's really just aren't capable of manufacturing situations where "good luck" is either more likely or simply unnecessary.

We all knew that the near-untouchability of Blanton, Haren, and Gaudin would regress to the mean in the second half. But even more established-performance-level performances from those three (such as Blanton's outing today) should be enough to keep an average team competitive in games.

And the A's were, just barely, competitive today.

It will be very interesting to see how Blanton and the rest of the pitching staff react to pitching to Suzuki occasionally the rest of the season. I'd really like to hear an unvarnished opinion from one of the pitchers as to the tradeoff between the apparent security of mind that Kendall provides, and the utter lack of offense from the position.

The two other up-the-middle defensive stalwarts -- Crosby and Kotsay -- turned in improved days at the plate, albeit with opposite outcomes.

At this point, even the losing streak ceases to be of much concern. It's the small stories in player adjustments, personnel speculation, and laying of groundwork for the next steps that need to be taken. Whether you're a fan or an athlete on the field, your focus can't be on the larger picture, on the win or the prospects for the rest of the season -- it needs to be on those small moments and steps toward improvement.