One thing is for sure, you never know what to expect from the A's. Be it good or bad, A's baseball surely isn't boring. When it's good, everything clicks. It's a work of baseball art. When it's bad, we try to forget it. They'll be swept and demolished, then come back and look like World Series contenders. Baseball as a whole is a strange sport, long and with so much ebb and flow, it's hard to determine what's coming up next, especially when your team is the Athletics.
Still, even the bad doesn't feel as hopeless and painful as last year. There's that glimmer of something to come. It isn't a giant, burning garbage can rolling down the hill, it's an injury-plagued team that's managed to do better than you'd expect, despite that fact.
I was going to do a wrap-up last week, but it fell through. So since we're getting ready to see Manaea pick up his second career win tonight against the Tigers (find some wood to knock on), let's talk about some of the cool things that have happened lately. Cause, yes, there have been a couple.
The Throwin Samoan racked up his first Major League W last week. Sure, what we've seen has been shaky, but he's also young, just getting his fist major league gig, and pitching for a team with more than a full lineup on the DL. For his win last week, Manaea crafted a beauty of a game, giving up only one run and four hits in over six innings of work. The A's offense didn't leave him behind, racking up four runs (including a Semien solo-shot in the bottom of the 7th) to give the A's the 4-1 victory over the Rangers.
No one is perfect right away, but Manaea has shown potential in the majors, and more than that on his way up. All we can do is wait and see.
And the festivities didn't stop there. Oh, no, they did not stop there.
Khris Davis, not to be outdone by Danny Valencia, blasted three homers in the A's 8-5 win over the Rangers last Tuesday. Oh, wait, there was more to that, wasn't there? In the bottom of the ninth, two out, bases loaded, Khris Davis found himself in the most terrifying and also tantalizing position a batter can face: a chance at a walk-off home run. No, a walk-off grand slam.
To put this in perspective, this is Davis' fourth year in the majors. While a proven power hitter, Davis has never hit a grand slam in his career. Not one.
Two balls, two strikes, two outs, one blink away from devastation or elation ... Khrush connects. For only the second time in MLB history, a player is able to bash three homers in a game, capping it off with a walk-off grand slam. Esoteric, but really, really cool (to say the least).
When interviewed the next day, humble as always, Davis gave us his "You gotta stay relevant" line when asked about his performance.
Davis is currently tied for 6th in the league with 13 dingers. And let's just take the time to state that he's already racked up more than Josh Donaldson.
Valencia has continued to produce and is showing us that he can still act like Superman, sacrificing his body for the sake of any ball hit near him. What he's going to do for the A's offensively and defensively this season has only just begun.
Since we've had to suffer through a lot lately, let's talk about some more A's dominance. How about in the form of Rich Hill?
My father was the first one to tell me about Rich Hill. I'm from Boston, but moved away while Theo Epstein was still the GM over there, so my dad keeps me updated on the Sox goings on. When the A's signed Rich Hill, my dad excitedly told me about how other-worldly he was, a small-town Mass native (he grew up a few towns over from me) with an unhittable curveball that had come back from ... okay, we all now the story by now. It seemed too good to be true, but as an A's fan, I love any quirky addition to our Island of Misfit Toys. Something about him struck a chord with me and many other fans. I got to see him in spring training, and, while he struggled, you could tell the spark was still there, his stuff was just off. He needed to figure himself out, and he was trying to.
And boy, has he figured himself out.
With each performance, Hill looks more and more in control of what's around him. Not just dazzling batters with his wild curveball and heater -- that still blazes into the low-90's -- but he seems to have the whole game wrapped around his finger. He gets into a tight spot, nothing about him changes. He's all about honing in on that single moment, that single pitch. Nothing else matters. Bases loaded? No problem. He looks almost lackadaisical while he's throwing, so loose he's like a big rag doll.
Being the youngin' I am, watching him reminds me of the days of Barry Zito and Dan Haren -- both incredible pitchers, both with that same air of nonchalance on the mound, same goofy, jovial smiles on the bench. Hill is unassuming, he doesn't have the deathly stare of someone like Jonathan Papelbon. He looks more like he'd like to give you a hug (or maybe your cats), then strikes you out on three pitches you can't see.
If he continues to thrive in this fashion, he'll surely make the All-Star Game for the first time at the age of 36. Rich Hill is exactly the kind of player the A's try so desperately to find, and they've struck gold.
Hill pitches again on Sunday against the Tigers at the Coliseum.
And Jed Lowrie's back! That leaves ... only 12 guys on the DL. He reappeared on the roster in the 13-3 debacle against the Mariners on Wednesday, picking up a couple hits in four plate appearances. He'll be back in action again tonight after a day off on Thursday. I'm sure he misses racking up RBI as much as we miss seeing him do it.
Gray has just started playing catch again for the first time since going on the DL and is eligible to be activated on June 6th.
No matter how bad the bad can feel, things can turn around in an instant in sports. You never know what's coming. You can try to predict it. We've already seen the good, the bad and the ugly, so let's just hope the good outweighs its foes for the rest of the season.