I keep waiting for signs that our green and gold is going to turn it around in 2009. Some little sign that the young pitching has matured enough and that the hitting, while never expected to be near the top of the AL this year, would at least be a vast improvement over last season's abysmal squad. It's tough to point to any one game, but maybe the calendar turning to June is a good one for a mostly young Oakland A's team is exactly what they needed.
Josh Outman backed up the excellent Vin Mazzaro debut yesterday with an a great outing of his own today. It looked like it was going to be a rough night when Alexei Ramirez beat out an infield play to barely get on board and then old Oakland Athletic Jermaine Dye crushed a two-run home run. But alas, Outman really didn't see much more trouble until he gave up a run in the third inning.
The bottom of the A's order almost immediately tied the game up in the second and then Bobby Crosby and Landon Powell went back-to-back to leave the home run friendly park on two consecutive pitches in the fourth inning.
Outman didn't exactly rack up the strikeouts (only 2), getting 12 flyouts instead, which is a bit of a dangerous game in Chicago but the air is heavier there at night and a couple of times, the heavy air seemed to knock down balls enough to prevent the damage. I'm thinking of a Thome shot to the wall in particular that Matt Holliday pulled down. I'm wondering if Outman is going to remain for real. He's got 42 strikeouts in 53.2 innings this year and he's kept the walks down. I'm just not sure. He seems to hide the ball well and gets good velocity on his fastball. He also mixes up the speeds well. And damn it, I love that he rocks the old socks. I just had to say that. Still, he and Braden feel like the two pitchers on the staff I feel really confident about right now. And if you look at the bigger picture, Joe Blanton's ERA for the Phillies is up in the 5 plus range right now.
The A's should win a lot more games if they get the kind of power they got tonight, but it isn't like I expect Crosby and Powell to turn on two pitches every night. Still it's nice to get three home runs from Powell, Crosby and Giambi. There was a bit of discussion in the game thread about using Andrew Bailey to get the last five outs, but I like the move. The A's feel like they have two closers now in Bailey and Brad Ziegler, so why bother to throw someone out there like Russ Springer against Jermaine Dye or Jim Thome when you can come back tomorrow with Ziegler if you need him. The bullpen isn't exactly stacked with a ton of options right now since they had to send Cameron back down to make room for Mazzaro. So I don't mind that move.
So is the A's rotation coming together nicely? Are we seeing this team slowly turning the corner? I mean it's going to be next to impossible to compete in 2009 but at least that team that wasn't so interesting earlier in the year is starting to look a bit more interesting. For example, I loved how they all jumped off the bench to scream at the first base umpire when he clearly blew a call in the ninth inning on Orlando Cabrera. That's exactly what we need from the entire team.
That will make it a bit more interesting. That and the continuing maturation of a very young rotation.