Justin Duchscherer pitched seven solid innings and Santiago Casilla picked up his first save, as Emil Brown and Co. singled and productive outed the Orioles to Oakland's second straight win over Baltimore. Final Score: A's 4, O's 2.
Unless you're Billy Beane, you get to have one irrational wish, and mine is for the A's to sign Justin Duchscherer to a long-term deal. I don't think the A's probably should, given that Duke is 30, has a history of breaking down, and is flanked by a cavalcade of talented young pitching prospects in the rotation and the minors. Yet I still want the A's to keep him beyond 2008, I will be glad if they decide to keep him and I will mad if and when the A's let him walk - even though it's probably the wiser baseball decision not to tie up money in a player with a balky body (and not just in the 14th inning).
Yet Duke is everything I love about pitching, because despite his below average velocity, he does the most important thing: He gets hitters out. It really doesn't matter whether he is in a set-up role, closer's role, or starter's role, pitching one inning or seven innings (which he can do on 84 pitches), because each time a hitter comes up Duke is ready with the four C's: command, control, cutter, and curve. And he's awesome.
Meanwhile, a couple observations about Embree and Casilla. It was recently noted, on a Staturday, that Embree throws among the highest percentage of fastballs of any pitcher. His recent success of 11 scoreless appearances coincides, I believe, with more use of the slider. Hitters know Embree throws fastball after fastball, and the slider has been extremely effective during this run (actually, lack thereof) of success. And while Casilla put up zeros early in the year, I still didn't think he was ready to close games. In his last 4-5 appearances, though, he looks like he is "ready for prime time," throwing his fastball more aggressively and getting hitters out in the strike zone as well as out of the strike zone. For the first time, I think the A's could put Casilla in the closer's role and he would be ready. Nice to have options.