We all knew it wasn’t real. The Aaron Brooks mirage was bound to vanish; hitters were eventually going to start teeing off.
Two innings in, things seemed fine. He was mixing pitches, keeping hitters off-balance, inducing ground ball after ground ball. “Maybe another shutdown start,” A’s fans everywhere thought.
And then the 3rd inning arrived — the precursor to the fireworks. One might think a 1-2-3 shutdown inning against George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman was a positive sign, one indicating that Brooks could quiet even the league’s most potent bats. But this was not that kind of sign.
What we saw was three powerful hitters getting a few mph of exit velocity short of going back-to-back-to-back. Not only did they hit three deep flyballs, the latter two came on pitches that were nearly down-the-middle. At that point, it was clear Brooks would not get through the outing unscathed.
Over the next two innings — his last of the night — the Astros launched two homers and scored five runs. With the A’s lineup struggling up to that point, the team’s chance of evening this series seemed extremely slim.
If we could glean one silver lining from Brooks’ regression, it’s that he still has one more area in which to regress to his mean. Brooks, whom the A’s hired to induce groundballs, has only a 31.3% GB rate through his first two starts — 33.3% against the Red Sox and an even 30% today — despite a career average of ~45% in the minors. His success against the Sox came from his six strikeouts in six innings, an anomaly for him; he only struck out two today. If the A’s can expect any production out of him, he’ll need to start pitching lower in the zone and keeping the ball on the ground. Otherwise, stick him with an opener or give someone else a shot. Every win matters.
There wasn’t much more to appreciate on the hitting or defensive sides of the ball. Our lineup made a very hittable pitcher, Wade Miley, look practically unhittable, which hurts even more knowing we could’ve pushed to get him into our rotation. Piscotty stayed hot — bless his heart — but he needs help.
Pinder, meanwhile, didn’t look great at second base today. He missed a tough, but not impossible, throw early in the game and looked slow on a separate throw a little later. He’s a great outfielder but an average-at-best infielder, which enhances our need to get Profar going.
At first base, I couldn’t but notice how slow and tiny Morales looked compared to Olson. Olson probably keeps his foot on the bag for that wild Pinder throw. He also probably catches the foul ball that Morales dropped.
Overall, a disappointing but not surprising game. We need our bats to get going tomorrow if we’re to prevent a sweep.