Are we still watching baseball? After a disheartening week; one that saw the A's drop two sure-win games that could have kept them within at least shouting distance of the AL West, we find ourselves in the middle of a five game losing streak, nine games out of first, and facing excellent pitcher Scott Kazmir and the surprising Tampa Bay Rays tonight as the A's try to turn things around.
Yes, the massive team-wide injury bug hasn't helped the A's any this season, forcing them into playing the worst lineups anyone can remember seeing in Major League Baseball. The A's offensive numbers are abysmal, and although their starting pitching is the best in the league, games can't be won without scoring runs.
But this is not surprising. When you are a team loaded with starting pitchers (and prospects) at the expense of a bat, any bat, you don't expect to be an offensive powerhouse. It shouldn't be a surprise that the A's can sustain a close, low-scoring game well into extra innings. But it also shouldn't be a surprise that the A's can't knock in a run when it counts. And so much for old system of talking a lot of walks; it doesn't apply to us anymore. As the Yankees' announcers so eloquently put it, "Who cares if the A's walk? There's no one on the offense to drive them in!"
It's frustrating not scoring any runs. It's even more frustrating knowing that with the pitching staff the A's throw out there, sometimes just a single additional run could make the difference in the game every night.
But the really frustrating part? On the occasions when the rag-tag, cobbled-together rookie offense and the long-suffering starting-pitching staff manage to combine for a winnable game, and take the game to the ninth inning, against all odds, the great closer of the staff, who should be a bright spot on the team and in the 'pen, simply can't close out the game and the win, thus negating the hard-fought previous eight innings. That'll hurt every time.
There are bright spots, to be sure. Carlos Gonzalez' future, Ryan Sweeney (amazing already), Gallagher, Smith, Gio in the minors, Brad Ziegler (one of the most amazing rookie starts in Oakland history), and Blevins. Even Eveland (who is pitching tonight) has been a bright spot for the A's so far this year. I watch for these players. I long for the day when their performances count.
The 2008 season is not over. There are many more games to be played. But the A's simply have to be better, and it remains to see if they can. But ninety-nine games of competing has been more than we dared hoped for, and let's see if the A's can't take some of the frustrations of the last two series out on Kazmir tonight. Forget the Angels (yes, they're good), forget the last week of baseball, and let's enjoy tonight. Just this one baseball game.
Side note: The A's have called up Brooks Conrad. He's batting ninth. Donnie Murphy has been DFA'd.
07/21/08 4:10 PM PDT
|Oakland Athletics||Tampa Bay Rays|
|Mark Ellis - 2B||Akinori Iwamura - 2B|
|Kurt Suzuki - C||B.J. Upton - CF|
|Ryan Sweeney - RF||Carl Crawford - LF|
|Emil Brown - LF||Evan Longoria - 3B|
|Jack Cust - DH||Carlos Pena - 1B|
|Bobby Crosby - SS||Dioner Navarro - C|
|Carlos Gonzalez - CF||Willy Aybar - DH|
|Wes Bankston - 1B||Jonny Gomes - RF|
|Brooks Conrad - 3B||Ben Zobrist - SS|