The A's have weirdly switched gears recently. You probably haven't noticed this, because the results haven't changed – this team is still bad. But they're bad in a different way, which is pretty strange. Gone are the A's with the dominant starting rotation that was being held back by the bullpen and the offense. Over the past two weeks or so, a switch has been flipped.
The A's are second only to the Blue Jays in runs per game over the past two weeks. This is from a team that was solidly in the bottom third of runs per game before this stretch. In that same time frame, the starting rotation is 1-7 with a 6.57 ERA. That's... not good.
To be fair, three key members of the starting rotation – Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn, and Chris Bassitt – have been injured, and their spots have been taken by such luminaries as Felix Doubront and Aaron Brooks. Meanwhile, the ace of the staff is scuffling, and Jesse Chavez is a middle reliever.
I'm pretty convinced that Jesse Chavez isn't a starting pitcher long term. At all. This is the second year in a row where he's completely fallen off of a cliff after a dominant first two months. Today was one of the worst starts of his career – two innings and five earned runs, punctuated by five walks. Starts like these are a routine for him at this point.
This isn't an anti-Jesse Chavez screed. I think he's a great player! But I think his version of "great player" is an effective 8th inning reliever. The team needs that more than a 5th starter.
Anyway, the game went on, even after Jesse effectively walked the game away. Felix Hernandez wasn't absolutely dominant tonight, but he got the job done and remained efficient enough to tally eight innings. The improved Athletics offense remained improved – Mark Canha hit a massive solo homer, Stephen Vogt went 2-4, and Brett Lawrie smashed a double. Billy Butler would do the most damage by hitting a 2-run single in the 4th. But Felix is Felix, and the A's are the A's, and they could not even get close to coming back.
The bullpen was okay. Arnold Leon allowed two runs in three innings, but he's the long reliever, so the "three innings" matters more than the "two runs" .Pat Venditte got back on track with two clean innings, R.J. Alvarez allowed a run on a two-out rally, and Edward Mujica worked his way around trouble. Fairly drama free.
Also, Josh Reddick left the game with a "non-baseball illness". Not an injury, thank goodness. It'd be nice to not lose one of the brightest spots this year.
Brett Lawrie made a couple of spectacular catches, further fueling my theory that Canha/Lawrie/Semien/Valencia is the best infield the A's can start.
The tank marches on towards the inevitable, folks. Wake me up when September ends.
Get it? Because Green Day fireworks was tonight. It's hilarious. I'm hilarious.