(And there it is, folks - the last completely uncreative, 10-hours-late postgame wrap title you'll see this year. At least I got the gd score right this time).
You don't expect the A's to lose a game where they score eight runs. But the flammable combination of shoddy defense and Bad Gallagher on the mound opened the floodgates, as the A's wasted a great offensive night from Travis Buck and Jack Cust's 33rd home run.
To emphasize the positives, Buck is looking more and more every day like the player he was in '07. Last night he crushed a double and long home run, giving him three consecutive multi-hit games and four extra-base hits in that span. I think he's ready to reclaim the role of starting corner outfielder for the A's in '09.
His defense, on the other hand, looked a little too adventurous. Someone made an interesting comment in the game thread that a Cust/Sweeney/Buck outfield would look pretty rough and I'm curious if most ANers agree. I don't think Cust or Buck have even league-average range, and if they're the ones starting in the corners, they might need one of the team's excellent center fielders (CarGon, Davis) in between them to make up for it. The combo of Cust in left, Sweeney in center, and Buck in right seems like would be stretching all three players a bit, and the combined effect would be an outfield defense that wasn't good enough to support the young staff.
AN, I'd like to hear from you: Is Travis Buck just rusty, or is he just simply not a good defender?
Another positive from tonight's game was three innings of scoreless relief from Gio Gonzalez to keep the game relatively within reach. Gio struck out four and and walked only one, while allowing two hits. It was his third straight scoreless appearance in relief, and it appears that he'll end the year on a high note, which is probably great for his confidence heading in to '09.
Gallagher, on the other hand...yikes. You look at the box score and see only one walk and think, "well, at least he was accurate." But he wasn't: The reason he was hit so hard is because he wasn't hitting his spots, and he was leaving balls belt-high over the plate. It was the kind of outing that a 94-95 mph pitcher can be successful with in AAA, but not in the big leagues. Hitters don't miss 94 over the middle of the plate much here.
I think Nico has had some great advice about Gallagher and Hitman and Gio all season long, though: These guys are kids. They aren't finished products, and they can still improve.
However, I think it's almost certain this team is going to need to carry 12 pitchers (or even maybe 13 during rough weeks like the Twins earlier this year) during the '09 season. With the exception of Duke - who's health is anyone's guess - every potential starter in the '09 rotation has an inconsistent streak in him. Think about a rotation that includes any combination of Eveland, Gio, Gallagher, Outman, and Smith. Two or three of those games might be very good starts...and two or three of them might be three-inning stinkers that exhaust the bullpen.
Not having Haren, and now not having Blanton, and potentially not having Duke either, is going to create a greater burden for the bullpen to shoulder. If Duke is out hurt or gone, the staff literally doesn't have one guy who is either a.) economical with his pitches, or b.) a workhorse you can count on for 7 innings every fifth day.
I thought Geren overworked Casilla and Brown at the beginning of the year, when they both threw about half of our first 40 games. They were terrific during that stretch, but they both were on pace for 80-appearance workloads, and they both eventually faltered. If we can keep our entire fairly young staff healthy by carrying an extra pitcher '09, I'd want the team to do it.