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Open Thread: Game 56 - A's @ Rangers

The A's will look for some deja vu good luck with the lumber tonight as they face off against Sidney Ponson, whom they knocked around pretty nicely the last time he faced them back on May 11th, as the Big Aruban gave up 7 hits, 6 runs and 5 walks in only 5.1 innings of work. Hopefully, Brown and Ellis (combined 5-for-10 with a HR and 4 RBIs) can put in similar efforts tonight as they did in that contest and help the struggling Oakland offense get back-on-track.

Mr. Reliable Joe Blanton (3-6, 3.92 ERA) will take the hill tonight opposing Ponson. We all know the drill with Joe pitching well enough to win but never getting run support, and as much as he says it might not bother him, you've gotta think that pitching with a lead every once in awhile would do a whole lot of good for a guy who is so often aggressive in the strikezone - especially against a very patient yet potent Texas offense.

While all eyes will likely be on CarGon tonight to see if he can continue where he left off in his stellar big league debut, my eyes will be focused squarely on Travis Buck. "Goldilocks", as he is affectionately known around my household, has gone through a roller coaster few months. Coming off a solid .850 OPS rookie season, Buck seemed like someone that future A's offenses could be built around: a sweet-swinging, selectively aggressive corner outfielder with emerging power and better-than-average speed. And yet, Buck totally collapsed in the first few weeks of the season, looking totally lost at the plate, striking out a ton and rolling over on pitches he used to crush into the left-center gap. Curiously, Buck blamed some of his struggles on the departure of Nick Swisher , which is something I just find odd given that with both Swisher and Haren gone and the organization in full-rebuild mode, there should have been no pressure at all placed on Travis:

I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and I wanted to make everyone happy instead of just doing what I do best. A lot of stuff was being thrown my way with (Nick) Swisher being gone and I definitely wasn't ready - I let it get to me a little. So I took a step back and I proved a lot to myself by how I took (the brief demotion), how focused I was.

Buck seemed to get his act together in AAA, getting his OPS back up to .892 and pulling his BB/K ratio back up to a respectable level (13/16). And yet, watching him last night strike out looking on a pitch right down the middle in his first at bat, then roll over on an outside off-speed pitch his second at-bat and then flailing for a swinging third strike on his 3rd at-bat sure didn't fill me with a lot of confidence that he's overcome his demons. Hopefully, we'll see a wise, confident, even brash Buck from tonight on and not the feeble, passive Buck that got demoted to the minors at the beginning of the month and who reared his ugly head last evening...

And speaking of struggling "future bed rocks of the Oakland offense", Daric Barton has been given the night off and Jack "of all infield trades" Hannahan is getting his first start over at first base. Lordy lordy, it's been an interesting 48 hours!


Lineup

Oakland Athletics @ Texas Rangers

05/31/08 5:05 PM PDT

Oakland Athletics Texas Rangers
Jack Hannahan - 1B Ian Kinsler - 2B
Bobby Crosby - SS Michael Young - SS
Jack Cust - DH Josh Hamilton - CF
Eric Chavez - 3B Milton Bradley - DH
Emil Brown - LF David Murphy - RF
Mark Ellis - 2B Gerald Laird - C
Travis Buck - RF Frank Catalanotto - 1B
Carlos Gonzalez - CF Brandon Boggs - LF
Kurt Suzuki - C Ramon Vazquez - 3B