If there was ever a game that showed how far the A's need to go from where they are currently to where they want to be, it would be tonight's contest. From start to finish it just seemed like the Angels were the better team. They were better prepared, they executed their game plan to perfection and they were able to make adjustments that the young A's seemed incapable of doing. Whether it was Angel starting pitcher Jon Garland throwing to the A's hitters' weaknesses (namely, by just throwing strikes to get 8 strikeouts), to the Angel offense capitalizing on an uneven outing from Greg Smith (6 IP/3 walks/3 K's/7 hits/5 runs allowed), there was no doubt that the better team won tonight and extended their lead in the division to 5 1/2 games.
Sure, the A's offense eventually woke up in the 8th as the team finally got on board on a flukey opposite-field homerun by Travis Buck...and it was sure nice to get something going against K-Rod as Cust finally made contact with a pitch and homered to lead off the 9th (after he struck out every other at-bat this game) and Chavez followed that up with a long double to bring the tying run to the plate. But after Ellis grounded out, Barton struck out (looking, more on that later) and Buck walked, K-Rod got Cargon to wave at an off-speed 3-2 pitch that probably should never have been thrown.
You know, sometimes the A's youth and their take-and-rake hitting approach will get exposed and both were on full-display tonight. While the savvy Angels were using a very liberal strikezone to their advantage by getting into favorable counts against A's hitters, the young A's failed to recognize the expanded zone and failed to adjust, continuing to take borderline pitches in two-strike counts and racking up the K's (10 total on the game), thereby wasting whatever offensive-momentum they could muster. Just gotta hope that Geren, Van Burkleo and company will have a stern talking-to with these guys to get them reacquianted with a lesson that every 8-year old little leaguer knows by heart: protect the plate with two strikes.
In closing, I'm hoping that the A's get one thing out of this series that they've already lost fairly convincingly: an idea of what it takes to win this division. The Angels have outplayed the A's in virtually aspect of the sport the last two games. This should be a good wake-up call to the A's that more focus and more adjustments are needed in order to make up those 5 1/2 games as the season progresses.