The A's have been incredibly, ridiculously streaky this year. I don't know if there's a reason for it, or if it's just random distribution of runs, or what, but part of the A's failure this season was a complete inability to build on good stretches of baseball. And trust me, those good stretches were there.
This past week was more of the same - the A's played maybe their best baseball of the year on their last road trip, going 6-1 versus the defending world champion Royals and the AL West champion Rangers. Since then, the offense entirely disappeared and the A's went 0-5 versus the Astros and the Rangers.
It's a complete relief to see the A's of last week come back, the fun, loose, young A's that will be comprising the 2017 team. Today was a very, very fun game from a team fully capable of providing fun games when it wants to.
Jharel Cotton, part of the return for Josh Reddick and Rich Hill, continued his nearly perfect start to his MLB career. This was the really exciting part of the game for me, the pitching was just about as good as it gets. In yet another game, the 24-year old dazzled, with one run allowed over 7 incredibly efficient innings, along with no walks, five Ks, and three hits allowed. Adrian Beltre, the most hated man in Oakland, was the one blemish on his nearly-perfect day, hitting a solo homer in the seventh inning.
Cotton lowered his ERA to 1.44, which is pretty alright. You know, it works.
Man, Jharel Cotton was supposed to be the third best piece in the Reddick/Hill trade. The guy was almost a throw-in on the back end of the deal. This run is magical, and the Gray/Manaea/Cotton/Graveman core of pitching is starting to look mighty good.
Meanwhile, the A's offense finally, finally got to Colby Lewis. The massive veteran righty had a career 2.87 ERA against the A's in 175 innings before today. Somehow, Colby friggin' Lewis would be a Cy Young candidate if he only pitched against us. With the amount of player turnover the A's have had during his career, that's starting to venture into spooky territory.
Maybe symbolizing the end to Lewis's tyrannical rule over Oakland, the baby A's got to him early and often, knocking him out after one out in the second inning. And what a beautiful second inning it was.
Three consecutive singles from Yonder Alonso, Marcus Semien, and Bruce Maxwell started the scoring off with a run, followed by an RBI groundout from Brett Eibner to score another. Matt Olson walked, which is apparently his #1 skill, and a Joey Wendle single loaded the bases. Stephen Vogt broke the game open by clearing the bases with a double, and Ryon Healy smashed his 12th homer to really put the game out of reach. By the end of the second inning, the A's were up 7-0 and the offense could take their foot off the base a bit.
There was a bit more action, but after the second inning the game was over. Matt Olson got his first MLB hit, and is now hitting .100/.400/.100. Which is one of my favorite small sample size lines of all time. He also made an amazing catch on the wall in RF, saving a run in the eighth inning. If he can handle RF full-time, that's huge for his future on the team – if Matt Chapman eventually pushed Ryon Healy to first base, Olson will find playing time very difficult to come by unless he can reliably fake it in the OF. If he develops into an actually good RF, well, there's our Josh Reddick replacement.
The back half of this season is more about finding the keepers in the A's huge pile of rookies than about winning, but doing both in the same game is nice. Thanks to Ryon Healy, Matt Olson, and especially Jharel Cotton, this team is very much capable of putting on a show.