After more than a month of being stashed and slighted at AAA, the A’s are finally giving Daniel Mengden his chance to prove he belongs in the major league rotation. Today, he threw 7 innings, struck out 5 batters, allowed five baserunners, gave up one run, and quieted all his doubters.
Though I’m putting a lot of stock into this one outing, after an admittedly bad one, it’s because it just seems to me that Mengden has been manipulated long enough by the organization. He’s posted solid number across the past two years — more than Aaron Brooks or Marco Estrada could say — and came into the year with a chance to be the A’s third or fourth-best starter. Instead, the team, due to their perplexing affinity for Brooks and some fluke fourth-option rule, sent Mengden back to the minors, where he proved he didn’t belong.
Now, in his second start, backed by a pair of homers, he’s proving that the majors is where he belongs. He still threw a few too many out of the zone for a control-over-stuff guy, but he limited his mistakes enough to punch in a quality start. Moreover, his ability to go deep into the games, which isn’t new for a guy with two complete-game shutouts under his belt, is incredibly useful to the A’s given their tendency to rely heavily on their bullpen.
Looking at the big picture, this is the third game in a row wherein an A’s starter threw at least 7 innings. This is huge given the recent struggles of our overused bullpen and the lack of stability they’ve had in the rotation. With Montas and Anderson providing stability, Fiers looking more like himself, and Bassitt stepping up in a huge way, Mengden’s emergence could be what gets the team back in the playoff race. He doesn’t necessarily raise their ceiling much, but not feeling like your throwing every 5th game away is critical for a team that has its eyes set on October.
Beyond the exciting progress that Mengden showed, the aforementioned homeruns were encouraging to see. It’s still not clear whether the A’s recent power binge is here to stay, but the more and more this team begins to resemble last year’s squad, the more faith I have that we can get back to postseason. Yesterday, it was Pinder and Canha; today it was Pinder and Hundley.
It’s always great to see your backup catcher contributing on offense, but the ongoing evolution of Pinder as the overqualified utility man is one of the consistent bright spots this year. His power is legit (see today’s moonshot for proof) and his value is undeniable. When you can give two of your best hitters a day off and not have to worry about the guys filling in for them, it sets your team up for a lot of success offensively.
On top of that, Profar, who had three hits in three chances, is starting to look like he’s settling in as the steady second baseman the A’s thought they were getting. And finally, TNT — Trivino and Treinen — pitched a strong two innings to seal the win, something that recently hasn’t come as easy as you’d expect for one of the most dominant relief duos in the league.
Overall, a solid victory filled with encouraging signs for the rest of the season. After securing a series victory, the team will come back tomorrow in pursuit of the coveted four-game sweep. Let’s go, Oakland!