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Open Thread - Game 38 - A's @ Rangers

There's no doubt that this season has gotten off to a fairly odd start in the AL West. First off, the A's, supposedly in full-fledged rebuilding mode and without much hope of being competitive, have rode fantastic starting pitching and thoroughly un-Athletic-like clutch hitting to remain tied for first in the division 6 weeks into the campaign. Then there is Seattle, who, reloaded with a second ace (Bedard) and a solid innings-eater (Silva) seemed primed to build off of a nice 2007 and actually compete for the division...only to start slow out of the gate and look like the same old, middling Mariners. And what to make of the Rangers? We all assumed that by this time Ron Washington would be fired and that Milton Bradley would have lost his temper and another ACL or two along the way...but instead, in the oddity of all oddities so far this season, the attention has shifted to the Rangers' surprising pitching staff.

That's right, the words "good", "pitching" and "Rangers" have actually been seen in the same sentance recently. In fact, Texas pitchers have an aggreate, major-league-leading ERA of 1.71 in the month of May and have only allowed one run in the last 41 innings, tossing 3 straight shutouts along the way. Granted, most of those innings were tossed in a pitching-friendly environment (Safeco Field) and against unspectacular offenses (Seattle, Oakland), however, for a staff boasting the likes of Vicente "Swisher Hatin' Me" Padilla, Sidney "This is my 5th Last Chance" Ponson and a cadre of AAAA-fodder, this latest run is definitely a surprise.

Luckily for the A's, Texas will actually be sending their "ace" to the mound tonight in the form of Kevin Millwood, who is pretty much the only Texas pitcher not riding some sort of hot streak. On the year, Millwood is 2-3 with a 4.94 ERA and is coming off of an ugly 7 run/9 hit/3 inning performance against Seattle last week. He's 3-3 with a 4.34 ERA in 10 career appearances versus the Green & Gold.

Dana Eveland will take the hill tonight in Arlington for the A's. Dana's been pretty solid so far this season, with a 6.5 K/9 rate and 1.23 WHiP. He's issuing a tad too many walks at nearly 4 per game, but he's been remarkably adept at keeping the ball in the park to limit the damage, as he has only allowed one homerun so far this season for an impressive .22 HR per 9 innings rate. However, Dana's been extremely lucky with his Batting-Average-to-Balls-in-Play rate, which currently sits at an unsustainable and well-below league average mark of .270. Combine that stat with the Ballpark at Arlington's hitter-friendly confines and with the disconcerting fact that Dana "felt something pop" in his elbow during his start last Monday, and you have to be a little concerned that the bottom could fall out for him tonight, especially since he has a tendency to rely too heavily on his fastball (which could be a risky proposition tonight against fastball feasters such as Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley).

Notes

- Eric Chavez FINALLY did some fielding work yesterday on his road to recovery. There remains a chance that he'll be ready to come off the DL when his 60-days are over on May 27th, but I highly doubt it. The team should just DL him until the All-Star Break.

- TBuck finally had a decent game at the plate last night for the RiverCats, grabbing 3 hits in 5 at-bats, including a homer. And the reward he gets for busting out of his slump? Well, an option back down to Sacramento of course, now that his Rehab Stint is over! Can't say that this is a surprising move, considering his abysmal start to the season and the fact that Emil Brown has been performing so well in the clutch and Suzuki is doing a decent job in the leadoff spot. Hopefully, Travis can find his stroke back in Sacto alongside CarGon.

Lineups

OAK

Suzuki - C

Barton - 1B

Cust - LF

Thomas - DH

Brown - RF

Crosby - SS

Ellis - 2B

Hannahan - 3B

Sweeney - CF

TEX

Kinsler - 2B

Young - SS

Hamilton - CF

Bradley - DH

Murphy - RF

Boggs - LF

Laird - C

Shelton - 1B

German - 3B

With Rich Harden coming back for possibly one of his only starts tomorrow it would be really nice to snag this game tonight in order to set up a series-clincher tomorrow. Cust and Thomas have both been swinging the bat decently the past week or so and let's hope they can get the offense back on track this evening.