Even when the A's win - as rarely as that seems to happen this year - it's been pretty dang stressful. Okay, that's a lie: this team has more blowout wins than any team eleven games under .500 has any business with. But every team has to win close games, and when the A's win close games (it's happened before!), it's been a slog.
You just know the opposing team's going to score some 7th inning runs, the A's are going to have to mount a comeback, but most of the time those comebacks are ineffective, and even then you have to get clean 8th and 9th innings from fairly shaky relievers and oh god what if there's an error or any ball hit near Marcus Semien and if it goes into extras we're screwed because this team can't mount a walk-off and oh god.
Sorry. Last night did a bit of a number on me. I'll never trust again, I'm afraid.
Hey, good news! None of that happened today. Today was a clean, simple win that normal baseball teams pull off with regularity. It's a huge relief to get a win that feels normal - no big, unsustainable burst of offense, no amazing performance from a pitcher that will still only pitch once every five days. Just a clean win where all the parts clicked.
Jesse Hahn continues to be a brilliant mid-rotation pitcher, and the Derek Norris trade continues to be one of those rare trades that works out for everyone involved. Norris has been incredibly solid in an everyday role, hitting 8 homers already (good for a 109 wRC+) and showing incredible progress on the defensive end.
That's really good for him, and I sincerely hope he succeeds. But trading him opened up room for Stephen Vogt, who has done nothing except be the #2 catcher in baseball, and brought Jesse Hahn over. It was a fantastic trade in theory that worked out perfectly in the real world. Those are rare.
Surprisingly, despite Hahn's tremendous numbers this afternoon - 7.2 innings, one earned run, four hits, four strikeouts, four walks - I didn't think he had his best stuff or best control. He's been fantastic, but the stuff can still vary pretty wildly from start to start, and today he didn't have his best curveball or fastball command. That said, his two-seamed fastball is an absolute weapon. Even without his best stuff, 60% of Angels batters today hit ground balls, a direct result of his great two-seamer doing its job.
He never really got into much trouble. One run was scored in the 6th inning by a single-walk-single rally from Trout, Pujols, and Aybar. That is the most boring type of rally, so that's very forgivable. Early on the Angels got his pitch count up by fouling off good pitches constantly, but that problem didn't last long.
I just feel the need to shout out Billy Burns here. Everyone knows how unpredictable and crazy his emergence was, right? And everyone knows he's been basically single-handedly keeping the A's afloat these last few weeks, right? Nothing much more to say.
He's just so fast. So fast. Here's a scout timing him from home-to-first today:
#Athletics Burns home to first in 3.93 seconds on weak dribbler in front of home plate. Second inf hit today. Five in two games. Speed kills— Bernie Pleskoff (@BerniePleskoff) June 20, 2015
In case you don't know, that's 80 speed on the traditional scouting scale. That's the top of the line. There's exactly one person currently in the MLB faster than that: Billy Hamilton. Combine that with the incredible ability to make contact with any pitch, and you've got a weapon.
Today he continued his crazy infield-hit hot streak by hitting two more. Is an infield hit hot streak a thing? He's got five in the past two days. I've never seen anything like that. That's not a thing that happens, ever. I don't know what to say about it.
The rest of the offense
The offense wasn't great today, but it worked out well enough. Stephen Vogt got it started, doubling in Marcus Semien in the first inning to jump out to a 1-0 lead. Vogt is now tied for the American League lead in RBIs. Think about that for a second. The guy we got for literally nothing now leads the AL in RBIs.
Weaver kept the offense in check until the 6th inning, in which the A's got an awesome triple-double rally going. Josh Reddick, Brett Lawrie, and Josh Phegley each hit RBI doubles, pushing the lead up to 4-1. Phegley's been a revelation as well, but that's a discussion for another day. It's always fun when the backup catcher turns out to be one of the top 3 hitters on the team.
Tyler Clippard got a relatively drama free four-out save, and that was that. Yesterday's disaster only counts as one loss, and the series is tied. We'll see you back tomorrow as the A's try to take their third series out of the last four.