The early part of tonight's game was mostly about Ben Sheets and the straight fastball and hanging curve that kept getting tattooed around the park. Sheets allowed runs in each of the first three innings, then a HR to Pablo Sandoval that would give the Giants a decisive 5th run and a 5-1 lead. Sheets was, frankly, very bad, but the A's bullpen kept the Giants at 5 as Oakland tried to comeback.
Adam Rosales' pinch hit HR made it 5-2 and once the Giants bullpen took over in the 8th Oakland made its bid, first cutting the deficit to 5-4, then loading the bases with one out in the 8th. Unfortunately, as bad as Guillermo Mota, Santiago Casilla, and Jeremy Affeldt were, the Giants have one very good reliever: Brian Wilson.
Wilson struck out Rosales, then retired Rajai Davis on a bouncer to SS and earned a tough 5-out save as the A's got Mark Ellis as far as third base in the 9th -- but not home -- and Barry Zito got his first career win against Oakland.
Sheets' stuff is just not impressing me. As evidenced by just 2 strikeouts in 6 IP tonight, one of them Zito, he's not missing a lot of bats. His fastball velocity ranged from 87MPH to 94MPH, but sat mostly at a straight 90-91MPH. His curve was sometimes sharp, usually meh. Overall he has been, I would say, a decent middle-of-the-rotation guy and nothing more. And for the A's to plunk down $10million for him, you know they expected better.
With Duchscherer and Anderson out, my calculation has been that the A's chance to stay competitive rests with Sheets' ability to take a big step forward. If his last couple starts are any indication, that's not happening -- a long way to go in the season, obviously, but the trend isn't good.
The A's are also going to have to take a long look at SS, because along with an average falling to .200 and an OBP under .300, Cliff Pennington is starting to make more mistakes at SS -- possibly taking his hitting woes onto the field with him. He made a key error tonight and was spared another only thanks to Bengie Molina's continental drift like speed. We'll see if Rosales gets more time at SS in the coming weeks.
Something I wrote Feb 7th in a prediction post:
Cliff Pennington Don't fall in love in September. Pennington surprised everyone with his offensive production late last season, but I expect his "Barton 2007" to become "Barton 2008" -- in this case, not because he isn't ready but rather because he isn't a good hitter. I'll predict a line of .225/.300/.350 with initially slightly above-average defense. But as it becomes clearer and clearer that Pennington is overmatched at the plate, he starts pressing a bit in the field and starts making too many errors on routine plays to where he is only an average to slightly below average defensive SS overall. Suddenly, Adam Rosales is pushing him for the job and/or another SS is entering the picture.