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Their Celebration, Our Frustration

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The A's lose 6-2, as the team's 3-8 hitters go 0-20, and Dallas Braden gives up 6 runs in 3 1/3 innings... enabling Cleveland to clinch a playoff spot.

Hopefully, Lew Wolff and Billy Beane are working hard to erect bullet-proof glass and a thorough case of body armor around Daric Barton. Were it not for his 2-run megablast in the 6th inning, and a timely double in the 8th which gave the A's something resembling a chance to catch up to the Indians after spending the afternoon trailing, the game would have been completely without merit.

With an opportunity to delay the Indians' playoff-clinching celebration one more day, the A's followed the same script we've seen all 2007 season long: Put an inexperienced pitcher in a situation over his head, fall behind early, avoid getting on base, and when you do, be sure to strand the runner. Also, if possible, make the other pitcher look like a genius. Today, playing the role of the bullied, was Dallas Braden, who fell to 1-8 after spotting the Tribe 6 runs. Meanwhile, Shannon Stewart was the only Athletic not coming up empty, managing 2 base hits in 2 at bats on the way to a 3-4 day, before Barton too woke up.

While Braden slumped to the dugout, his counterpart, Jake Westbrook, was en route to a career high in strikeouts with 9, assisted by a home plate umpire, who clearly confused, thought the strike zone also included the widths of the adjoining batters boxes - ringing up strikes on Jack Hannahan and Jack Cust that were beyond criminal. The A's didn't complain, and look to be just going through the motions as the 2007 season comes to a close, eager to move along and start looking forward.

I'm ecstatic about what I've seen from Barton in this short time, just as I was when Buck debuted, and in Cust's seemingly superhuman first few months. I hope that as the new season approaches, we get the opportunity for each of them continue to amaze us with consistency, and that others who haven't yet done much, like Dallas Braden, can surprise us and prove us wrong.