Coming after a nightmare 0-7 roadtrip, where everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong, a series like this one can really cleanse the palate. Aside from some bullpen shakiness yesterday, the A's played the Dodgers perfectly and came away with two well-deserved, well-earned victories.
And all thanks to some unlikely contributors: Mark Canha! Felix Doubront! Billy Butler, a man who a majority of A's fans would like released immediately! Jake Smolinski, who was in Nashville yesterday!
Today's unlikely hero was Jesse Chavez, who is trying his hardest to get his season back on track.
Jesse Chavez looked to be the weak link in the rotation coming into today's game. Yeah, the 5th spot - split between Aaron Brooks and Felix Doubront - is in flux, but Jesse has been bad since the All-Star break. Not like, "he's been a little shaky but he'll get it together" bad, I'm talking 5.28 ERA over 30 innings bad, with a steadily declining K/BB ratio and tons of hard contact. He has not been good recently, in any measure of the word.
Today, he was good. Not quite to the level we saw early in the season, but for the first time in over a month, he looked like a legitimate MLB starting pitcher. There were still a few too many walks and a few too few strikeouts, but the hard contact was kept to a minimum, he worked quickly and efficiently, and kept the ball down. It's hard to quibble with 8 innings and two hits.
Of course, one of those hits did leave the park. Jimmy Rollins (who is about to reunite with his BFF Chase Utley in the Dodgers middle infield) took a mistake pitch out to the right field bleachers. That was the only damage Jesse allowed today, the only trouble he ever really was in. Weak contact and weak groundballs were the name of the game today, and that is always a positive thing.
Apparently Jesse attributes his success to an adjustment he made with his head placement, so, cool. You do you, Jesse. Just keep pitching like this.
Meanwhile, the offense looked competent for the first time in weeks. Mark Canha continued the tear he's been on, going 2-4 with a walk. He's just been stellar lately – in his past ten games, he's been hitting .400/.432/.600. And that's before today's game. The comparison has been drawn between him and 2012 Josh Donaldson, which is wishful thinking of the highest order, but it's a really, really good sign going forward.
Maybe he could be rewarded by GETTING CONSISTENT, EVERYDAY PLAYING TIME. pls.
Danny Valencia contributed by... barely beating out a double play in the first inning (he was initially called out, but replay went in the A's favor and the call was overturned) and proceeding to actually ground into a double play in the 6th. But it's okay, because both times Billy Burns was on third base with no outs, and both times he scored easily. So I'm willing to forgive and forget, primarily because Danny Valencia is amazing and nothing he could ever do would make me love him less.
Billy Burns had a great day, going 3-4 with a double, three runs scored, and an RBI. Every time I think he's fading, he has a game like this. The emergence of Billy Burns is so weird, guys.
Jake Smolinski only went 1-4, the day after presumably catching the red-eye from Nashville to Oakland, but the one hit was a pretty dang good one: an RBI double in the 8th to put the game fully out of reach.
Drew Pomeranz, inheritor of the title of "closer, I guess", shut the door in a refreshingly drama-free 9th inning. I feel the need to mention any time the bullpen doesn't screw up. Call it positive reinforcement.
This was the sort of series that can really give a team confidence. The execution from the entire team was at a level I haven't seen since the A's sold off their veterans last month. It would've been nice to have that sort of confidence and execution a bit earlier in the season, but I'm not complaining or nitpicking or anything. All I want out of the next six weeks is to see young players playing well. This series gave me that in spades.