Final Score: Blue Jays 5, A's 0
On a day when Dallas Braden was pretty hittable - literally - he showed that he is made of steel - apparently also literally. In the 1st inning, Braden was creamed by a Vernon Wells line drive that got Braden about 3" below the collarbone. Braden sagged to his knees and then sat hunched down on all fours for what seemed like an eternity, before getting up...and staying in...and gutting his way through 6 solid innings.
Braden left the bases loaded in the 1st, was touched for a solo HR by Alex Rios in the 3rd, and survived a bases loaded, none out crisis with just one run in the 5th before allowing one more in the 6th. Billy Beane's master plan this year was to add enough offense so that the young pitchers could go 6 IP, 3 ER and the A's could still win. Nice try.
Why is the A's offense so bad? Partly it's bad hitters, as the losses of Chavez, Garciaparra, and Ellis - hardly offensive juggernauts at this stage of each one's career, mind you - have forced the A's to overexpose even worse hitters like Hannahan, Crosby, Petit, and Kennedy. But it's far more than that.
Baseball is a game of adjustments and the A's approach a 0-0 count like it's 3-0 instead of looking to drive the ball (as Rod Barajas did for a sac fly off Braden in the 6th), while handling wide strike zones by leading the league in "head shakes and muttering." Three times today (Giambi twice, Cust once) a hitter played pepper right into the shift. That's how you go 0-3. It's the same weather for both teams, folks, the same umpire, the same fundamentals.
The Angels, with just as much adversity and more (Lackey, Santana, Escobar, Adenhart, Vlad) have endured it brilliantly and sit over .500. They have done exactly what the A's needed to do and that is do enough things right to win half the time. The A's are no longer in a pennant race. They are in a holding pattern to see if they can find a way to get to .500, and most importantly to see if they can find a way to play good baseball more often than not.
The best 3Bman the A's have on the horizon for now for, or for 2010, is Eric Chavez or maybe a 21-year old Adrian Cardenas. The best SS on the horizon for now, or for 2010, is an even older Orlando Cabrera. The only CFer the A's have on the horizon for now or for 2010, is Ryan Sweeney, who misread two more shallow fly balls today and once again looked helpless against LHP.
Billy Beane has done exactly what he cautions against - he has rebuilt halfway and now has a team missing Haren, Harden, Blanton, or Swisher, but also lacking many key pieces to compete now or even next season. And the rest of the league is taking advantage whenever they get to play Oakland.