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Open (pre) Game Thread: Game 159 - A's vs. Mariners

The A's open their final series of the 2008 season tonight at 7:10 in Seattle, as each team sends a promising right-handed flame thrower to the hill.

The A's, who can match last season's win total of 76 with their next victory, will throw Sean Gallagher, who has allowed only 8 hits and four earned runs in 17.2 innings since returning from the disabled list. Gallagher can truly feel he ended the season on a high note by wrapping up a four consecutive successful start tonight.

The M's will counter with Brandon Morrow, the fifth overall pick in the 2006 draft, who will be making his fifth career big-league start. After he compiled a sparkling 1.47 ERA in 40 relief appearances earlier this season, the Mariners inserted Morrow into the rotation in September, and he has continued to impress, albeit not as much as he did in relief.

Morrow's last start came against the A's on September 21, where the A's patient approach led to five walks in 6.1 innings against him. But Morrow held Oakland to just 2 hits.

Morrow's conversion back to starting pitching is a much-needed exciting development for Mariners fans, who have seen their team and organization fall into a state of disarray:

  1. With 101 losses, the Mariners recently became the first 100 million payroll team in history to lose 100 games or more.
  2. Today rumors surfaced that an anonymous Mariner player wants to "knock Ichiro out" for being selfish and playing only for his own stats.
  3. The team faces a no-win situation with injury-prone Erik Bedard in his final year of arbitration this offseason: Cut bait and acknowledge that last offseason's blockbuster trade was a colossal bust, or risk a $10 million arbitration award and a career-ending injury from him in '09?
  4. The Seattle Times recently reported that Kenji Johjima's puzzling 3 year, 24-million dollar extension - which was heavily criticized in sabermetric circles - was mandated by Japanese ownership. When up-and-coming GM candidates know that M's ownership will meddle in very important personnel decisions, It's hard to imagine the team's offseason GM search will yield a taker that's any less incompentent than the recently fired Bill Bavasi.

Conversely, I'm finding myself more and more excited about the 2009 A's. Travis Buck has a pair of homers in the past week and back-to-back multi-hit games. I find myself dreaming about a Cust-Sweeney-Buck outfield in '09, with Giambi at DH and Chavy and first, and the damage that could be done against right-handed pitching.

I'm also heartened by the September success of Cliff Pennington, who is making a strong claim for the '09 second base job. Cliff has played 17 games and has 58 at-bats in September, and he's gone .298/.406/.333, good for a .739 OPS. He's also an outstanding baserunner and he has a great throwing arm.

The other benefit to starting Pennington at second base is that he can also be the backup/emergency shortstop, reducing the need to carry a 6th infielder. That frees the team to carry a "true" DH (like Giambi or Frank Thomas) and yet still have 12 pitchers on the roster, which might be necessary due to the '09 starters' inconsistency.

If everyone's healthy (ha!) I could see the '09 A's opening the year with Hannahan and Donnie Murphy platooning at third, Pennington at second, Chavez at first, and Rajai Davis and Denorfia (both RHBs) backing up the all-lefty starting outfield and pinch-running for Cust and Giambi/Thomas/DHman.

The nice thing about that set of backups is that the team wouldn't be worried about stunting the development of any of them if they didn't get regular at-bats, and they provide nice complements for the left-handed-heavy starting lineup. Hannahan's numbers vs. righties (.676 OPS) are not good, but easier to swallow than his overall line. He can also back up Chavez as first and play good defense at either corner.

That group of 13 hitters would also mean optioning down a ton of studs and creating perhaps the best AAA lineup in a long time: Powell (C), CarGon (CF), Cunningham (RF), Murton (LF), Baisley (3b), Petit (SS), Patterson (2b), Barton (1b). It would probably be a bit easier for each of them to swalllow their pride about being in Sacramento when they look around the diamond and see a future big leaguer at literally every position. How many AAA teams in history have been able to boast that?

On a sad note, the A's will definitely the year second to last in home attendance, ahead of only this disgusting disgrace.

Let's go Oakland!


Oakland Athletics @ Seattle Mariners

09/26/08 7:10 PM PDT

Oakland Athletics Seattle Mariners
Travis Buck - LF Ichiro Suzuki - RF
Cliff Pennington - 2B Yuniesky Betancourt - SS
Ryan Sweeney - RF Raul Ibanez - LF
Jack Cust - DH Jose Lopez - 1B
Kurt Suzuki - C Jeremy Reed - CF
Carlos Gonzalez - CF Tug Hulett - DH
Bobby Crosby - SS Miguel Cairo - 3B
Daric Barton - 1B Luis Valbuena - 2B
Jeff Baisley - 3B Rob Johnson - C