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It Wasn't Much of a Battle - Giants 11, A's 1

At first it was just the familiar refrain for an A's starting pitcher: one bad inning. But then it turned into two back-to-back bad innings, no response from the offense, another bad inning and then eventually morphed into a complete blow-out. The hemorrhaging started with Joe Blanton, who started off so well with 3 scoreless innings while facing the minimum 9 batters via 3 strikeouts. However, the wheels came off for big Joe and the rest of the A's in the 4th when the Giants batted around, putting together a 4-run, 5-hit inning, at one point stringing together 4 straight 2-out hits. Joe finally got out of the inning, but would not record another out, as he started off the 5th by giving up a triple, double (run) and a walk before being lifted for Andrew Brown, who followed the veterans' lead by coughing up a few more walks, hits and runs before ending the frame with the A's fatally behind at 9-1. That was really the game right there. Blanton got hammered on his second time through the Giant's order, and the bullpen and the offense simply couldn't recover from his disastrously bad start: 4 IP, 8 hits, 7 earned runs. Jack Cust mustered the only run for the Green n Gold via a Custian bomb to right center in the 2nd

(To add insult to injury, Rich Aurilia - scourge of the A's marketing department - tied his career high with 5 RBI's today and K-Rod just fist-pumped his way out of a bases-loaded 9th inning jam at Dodger Stadium to notch another save and extend the Angels' lead over the A's in the division to 4.5 games)

The big question coming out of this game is: what to do with Joe Blanton? I wish I could muster up some Batting-Average-to-Balls-in-Play data and tell you all that all of the multitude of hits Big Joe has allowed as of late were all lucky and that Joe will be an above average starter for the rest of the season. But even if I could find that data (and his BABIP IS in fact really high by the way) I wouldn't necessarily come to that conclusion. First off, batters aren't getting cheated when getting hits off of Joe. The Giants' meek offense absolutely hammered the ball on their second time through the order today. Hell, Joe allowed an extra-base hit to Dan Haren two starts ago for God's sake! And the A's defense is near the top of the league in defensive-efficiency, so it's not the defense's fault so many hits are falling. It might just be true that Joe is just not an above-average pitcher. He's an average, command-and-control-oriented innings eater that has not had very good command or control so far this season, which is truly the most alarming aspect of Big Joe's game.

All that said, Chad Gaudin is most definitely a better pitcher at this time and should be starting for this team. However, Blanton's trade value is negative at this point, and it seems like the Duke and Harden are fairly healthy and keeping the team competitive. So what are the A's to do? Switch Gaudin with Blanton straight-up? Trade Harden and/or Duke while their values are high thereby keeping both Joe and Chad in the rotation? Trade Gaudin? Designate Joe for assignment? Keep the status quo and hope Blanton's BABIP and ERA plummet in the next month so that he can be moved for a couple decent prospects before the deadline? Ahhhhh! The Sky is falling!