Hey, the best part of being a terrible team is the ability to play spoiler, right?
The Rangers are looking to go to the postseason for the first time since 2012, when their hopes and dreams were crushed by the upstart A's. So, what better way to get some degree of hope back than by crushing their hopes and dreams again? Minnesota is only one game back, and we've got the opportunity to give an entire fanbase flashbacks of their most painful season in recent memory.
Who wouldn't take that opportunity? That sounds fun as heck!
Just like in 2012, the assault was led by upstarts and various detritus from other teams that found a home in Oakland. Mark Canha, the rule-5 pick traded for a High-A reliever. Sean Nolin, the starting pitcher Toronto would never give a chance. Danny Valencia, waived by Toronto. Ryan Dull, the 32nd round pick.
Josh Reddick also had a good night, going 3-4, but I'm trying to construct a narrative here, gosh.
My point here is that when you step back and realize how this team is constructed, it's really impressive. Always appreciate that no other team is constructed like this, and no other team would pin their future on guys like Canha, Valencia, and Dull.
That's the fun part about being an A's fan. Every team has some sort of underdog story on it, but the A's are entirely constructed out of underdogs, year in and year out.
Sean Nolin got his first major league win! It was a pretty impressive performance, considering that his fastball is still around 87-89 MPH. That's not good. I'm holding out hope that, as his shoulder heals and his arm strength is built up further, he regains 3-4 MPH on that pitch in order to ramp it up to 91 consistently. That's what it'll take for Nolin to reach his potential as a mid-rotation pitcher – he doesn't have the Jered Weaver magic that would allow him to dominate with a mid-80s FB.
That said, he was really good tonight. The one blemish was a Mike Napoli HR, and if you're an extreme flyball pitcher in Arlington, that's going to happen from time to time. No big deal.
He struck out five in 5.2 innings (he's not built up to pitch more than that right now), and only walked two. That's a substantial improvement on last game's dreadful 1 K/3 BB peripheral numbers.
Meanwhile, the A's offense got all of its work done in the 5th. Sam Fuld and Marcus Semien singled with out out, and Canha continued his massive, surprising rookie campaign by hitting a three-run homer.
Man, Mark Canha makes me feel feelings.
Immediately after that, Reddick singled and Valencia homered – scoring five runs in the space of five batters, in the 5th inning.
The Canha/Lawrie/Semien/Valencia infield of the future, man. I keep telling y'all, there are real, non-Stockholm Syndrome reasons to be hopeful about this team going into 2016.
Ryan Dull, the set-up man of the future, pitched an absolutely beautiful two innings – three Ks, one walk, and one hit. No runs, because Ryan Dull doesn't ever allow runs. He's been about as impressive as any reliever can be, and he's been the one reliable part of the bullpen since Tyler Clippard was traded. He was in AA two months ago.
Sean Doolittle struggled a bit when he got the 9th (the A's were up by 4 runs, so not a save situation), allowing two doubles and two runs. He did strike out Napoli to end the threat before it got out of hand, and to be entirely fair, Craig Gentry absolutely whiffed on a line drive to LF that should have ended the inning. But he was hit hard, and it's not like the defense entirely screwed him over. He was mostly 91 MPH with his fastball – that's concerning, but he did ramp it up to 93 as he got deeper into the inning.
The A's are showing a spark in the final month of the season. I'm genuinely excited to see how 2016 turns out, and if these breakouts are sustainable. The team is young, likable, and, as always, filled to the brim with underdogs.
As much as I enjoy rooting for the Rangers to lose, it'll be pretty nice when the A's have reasons to win other than making others miserable.