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Open Thread: Game 118 - A's vs. Rays

For teams out of playoff contention, the Dog Days of August are more about checking out individual players than focusing on the team's results. Tonight, we get our first look at Cliff Pennington, called up to give it a whirl at third base, and we get our second look at Gio Gonzalez, matched up against Scott Kazmir who, due to high pitch counts, has lasted only 5.0, 4.2, and 4.1 innings in his last three starts.

In his debut at Toronto, Gio showed his signature sharp curve, one with more lateral and less vertical movement than Zito's, a combination which seemed to help the home plate umpire not to give up on it as umps routinely do with Zito's curve. Gonzalez also showed a surprisingly solid changeup but less velocity (89-90 MPH) than many were expecting. Overall Gio was outstanding, but only after serving up - and that's really the best description for the pitch - a first inning 3-run HR to Rod Barajas.

It seems to me as if the single key to Gio's success will be his ability to paint both sides of the plate with his fastball. Once he started doing that, the Blue Jays were putty in his hands; however consistent command has eluded Gonzalez and as we have seen with Eveland, Smith, and Gallagher, a lack of fastball command can be quite the killer indeed.

Today's "not-so-fun fact": Remarkably, from July 11th to August 11th - in just one month  and over the course of just 24 games - the A's have managed to lose 16 games in the standings. Wow.

Tonight's starting lineups, with the Rays sans Evan Longoria after placing him on the DL with a fractured wrist, and also minus Carl Crawford, on the DL with a hand injury:

Iwamura - 2B
Upton - CF
Peña - 1B
Baldelli - RF
Aybar - 3B
Ruggiano - LF
Navarro - C
Zobrist - SS
Bartlett - DH

R. Sweeney - RF
Ellis - 2B
Thomas - DH
E. Brown - LF
Crosby - SS
Gonzalez - CF
Suzuki - C
Barton - 1B
Pennington - 3B