The A’s have just suffered perhaps their worst loss of the season—and I, for one, am not surprised. The positive feelings caused by Eric Chavez’ dramatic homer tonight lasted about ten minutes, long enough for Billy Koch to finally get his much-deserved third loss, the old-fashioned way—he earned it.
For those of us who remember—where have you gone, Dennis Eckersley? Billy Koch is making some of us pine for the cardiac event-inducing Jason Isringhausen. Billy the Kid has but one pitch, the blazing fastball, and half the time has no idea where it’s going. He has no command, and worse, apparently no smarts out there on the mound. Tonight his first six pitches were strikes, and with a totally baffled Darin Erstad at the plate behind, 0-2, Koch served up the worst possible pitch—right over the middle. Double, steal, double, ballgame, first place gone. Why couldn’t he continue to pound it at the ankles? Or throw one over the backstop, at least? Anything would have been better than the one he did throw. And do you think Scott Spiezio was waiting on a breaking ball? And he has no move whatsoever, last week’s lucky pickoff of Luis Alicea notwithstanding. How could you allow Erstad to steal third in that situation?! God, I miss Eck—he didn’t need a pickoff move because nobody ever got on base.
Meltdown in the Pen
Chad Bradford has lost his confidence--check out his body language. Jim Mecir is pitching with pain--it’s all over his face. Jeff Tam is scared s---less out there. Ricardo Rincon is not Clark Kent. What was two weeks ago the best relief corps in the league may now be one of the worst. Like the Mariners, the A’s bullpen has come apart at the seams, and if the A’s are going to win this thing, they better hope to get at least seven innings out of their starters every game. Anaheim’s bullpen, on the other hand, is for real.
Payback is Sweet
Scott Spiezio has come back to punish the A’s for letting him go. All he needed, he says, was a chance to play everyday. If he’s not killing us with doubles and homers, he’s taking key walks or making clutch plays at first, third, wherever—he always did have a good glove. A likable guy who is the son of a major-leaguer, I’m happy for the rock guitarist who has found a home in Anaheim. I just wish we could get him out…
Holes In Their Gloves
What in the hell has happened to the defense?! Lately we’ve had the worst outfield in the league: David Justice is bobbling balls left and right and making poor decisions, T. Long (I know, I’ve been his defender) continues to get awful breaks on flyballs (“he’s got no radar,” says my son) and Jermaine is still a step slow from his horrific injury, now almost a year old. Even Mr. Gold Glove over there at the hot corner has been asleep at the switch lately, allowing two steals of third by not paying attention. Ironically, only new-at-his-position Scott Hatteberg seems to be oblivious to the pressure, making play after play at first. Take a deep breath out there, guys.
Streaks of Zeroes
That seems to be what we see lately when we look up at the A’s half of the scoreboard. Why can’t the A’s score in more than one inning a game? Starting with that ugly 12-11 win last week, this disturbing trend has continued, putting tremendous pressure on the pitching staff to completely shut down the opponents. That might work against Kansas City or Detroit, but not the Angels, and probably not Seattle or Texas either.
Tomorrow a beat-up, pissed-off and very humiliated Seattle team comes into the Coliseum looking to turn things around. It is now or never for the Mariners. Can you believe they were swept by the Rangers? If they have any heart left in them whatsoever, they will come out fighting. A wounded, caged animal is always the most dangerous. And the second most dangerous? The one with absolutely nothing to lose. You guessed it—Texas.
So where does all this leave the A’s? Tied for first place, not such a terrible place to be with 17 games left for a team that was 20-26 in May and written off as dead. “They can’t win without Giambi”, “Tejada can’t handle the pressure”, “the Big Three will wear down”, and “they need a bat”. We’ve heard it all, and you know what? We are still the team to beat in the American League.
Anything Can Happen
Sure, it would be better to win the division and play the Twins with the home-field advantage. But then we’d have to play the winner of the Anaheim/New York series for the pennant. Going the wild-card route and meeting the Yanks first would not be so bad—after all, we do have some unfinished business with them, right? Why wait? The important thing is that the Athletics are playing well headed into October. If they play in October like they played this series, well, it will be a short post-season. But this is baseball, and if you’ve got the pitching, well, you know the rest.
The X Factor
Uncle Art, bless his heart, has come too far to see Mike Sciosia, George Steinbrenner, Bobby Cox, or Randy Johnson take it all away from him. But Miguel Tejada may have come even further. He used to shine shoes in his poverty-stricken hometown of Bani--soon he may be shining the World Series MVP trophy. The Oakland Athletics are down—not out. Let’s support them like never before, because this moment, right now, is their hour of need. Let’s do our part to make it their finest hour…
by Peter Elman
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