The present season hasn't been going all too well for the A's thus far. What were high hopes and dreams just a few mere months ago have all but evaporated into the ether, and all the hope that is remaining is primarily focused in the draft, near-major league ready prospects, and up and coming trades. When the present team isn't any good or is dramatically underperforming and constantly putting up disappointments, it is comforting to focus on either past successes or potential future successes, and in this series against the Reds, the A's were able to do quite a bit of both. With all the excitement surrounding the draft paired with the historic A's of the early 1970's that commonly sparred with the Big Red Machine, it was almost as if the focus was anywhere but the current-
"Ok, yes that's all fine and good. How did Mengden do?"
With injuries to the starting rotation and its backup mounting, in addition to general incompetence of the starting rotation, these A's have had to dip into their reserves more than they would have liked this season. The first of these major callups was Sean Manaea, who, after a rough couple of starts following his debut, has started to settle in and show off a small fraction of what he can become in a few years, but most of the reserves to make appearances for the A's aren't likely to have a long future with the ballclub. Besides Manaea, Overton has been looked at as a future rotation piece, with further pitching depth in the lower levels of the minor leagues.
"Mengden was in the lower minors earlier this year, how did he do in his debut?"
Daniel Mengden was a well-regarded prospect going into this season, but few would have predicted the absolute dominance that Mengden showed off in the minors to start the year. Such dominance in the minors is rare, though the A's don't have to look back that far in their own history to find another example of a young pitcher rocketing up the minor leagues seemingly out of nowhere to make the big league club. Opposing Daniel Mengden today was Daniel Straily, who set a record for minor league strikeouts en route to making it to the show in the magical 2012 season. While he was never dominant for the A's like he was in the minors, Straily was a highly dependable starter for the A's through the day he was traded to the Cubs.
Straily looked dominant today, however. Pitching a total of seven innings and only allowing five hits and three walks, the A's offense was unable to figure Dan Straily out. That isn't to say that the A's didn't have opportunities to score throughout the game, the A's simply were unfortunately unable to capitalize on the run scoring opportunities that they did have. In the first inning, following a leadoff walk and a double, placing runners on second and third with nobody out, Danny Valencia managed to drive in one run with a single to left field, but that the only damage that the A's were able to do, as Straily was able to retire nine consecutive batters before the next one would reach base.
That batter would be Yonder Alonso, reaching on a walk in the fourth inning, which would spark the last substantial rally of the game for the Athletics. Semien followed the walk with a double, and Muncy walked as well to load the bases, but with two outs Billy Burns was unable to push any of the runners across the plate, and the A's would only get four runners on base for the final five innings. After scoring quickly in the first inning, the A's would not score anymore.
"The A's offense being bad and getting dominated by former A's is not news. How did Mengden look?"
This series against the Reds evokes a lot of positive past memories for the Oakland A's, namely the string of World Series' that the A's would win in the early 1970's. Those Oakland A's remain iconic to this day, and are in the history books as one of the greatest teams of all time. With his Rollie Fingers-esque mustache on full display, Daniel Mengden tried his best to channel both the ability and spirit of that team in order to revitalize the present-day A's team. By and large, Mengden was successful, with one glaring hiccup that would up souring the entire day.
Mengden isn't Clayton Kershaw and isn't going to be the guy who was allowing less than a run per outing this season in the minor leagues, but he should take up the role as a dependable middle rotation starter. His pitches today had a decent amount of movement, with a strong changeup and a fastball that actually reached the upper 90's a few times, and he had enough deception in his pitches to earn himself five strikeouts on the day, including the very first batter he ever faced at the big league level. When Mengden got into trouble, he didn't unravel or back down, and did a superb job of stranding baserunners throughout his outing.
Mengden did walk too many people, with four total walks in under six full innings pitched, and one of his walks really wound up hurting him badly as the walk was followed by an absolute monster of a home run from Jay Bruce, who took advantage of a poorly placed, mediocre fastball. Bruce's home run plated two runs, and with the A's offense unable to make any headway off of Straily after the first few batters of the ballgame, the home run wound up being the deciding factor in the game.
The A's of the past are amongst the greatest, most successful franchises in baseball's long and esteemed history. The A's of the future are a mystery wrapped in an enigma, where just about anything is a possibility. The A's of the present are a little bit depressing right now, but today proved why this team is still worth watching. Daniel Mengden, despite losing, is a perfect example of a pitcher who is taking the spirit of the past, and giving the team a glimpse of what they may have in the future, and it is likely that much more of the "future" A's will be making an impact at the big league level sooner than many are expecting.