By Jason Wojciechowski on May 2, 2004 at 6:11 PM
Erubiel Durazo led Oakland to another victory against the Devil Rays despite another shaky performance by the bullpen. The win pulls them back to .500, in third place in the AL West, three games behind Texas (!), who lead the Angels by one game.
Durazo hit a grand slam in the top of the ninth that made it 6-1, seemingly putting the Rays and their typically weak offense away. Jim Mecir came in and made it interesting, though, allowing four runs on three hits and a walk. Two of those runs came on Jose Cruz's third homer of the year, and the other two on Carl Crawford's second triple of the game.
Mecir said after the game, "I was just trying to get outs. We won. That's all that matters." Sure, Jim, that's all that matters, but you and your compadres giving up runs every time they come in the game in the late innings isn't such a nice omen for tighter games against better opponents.
On the other hand, Chris Hammond pitched a good two innings, giving up just two singles in two innings in relief of Rich Harden. I have to admit, I was very wary of Hammond when the A's picked him up in a trade with the Yankees this offseason, but with New York paying most of his salary, Oakland not having to give up much of a prospect, and Hammond pitching as well as he has (2.87 ERA), I'm coming around to the idea of having him in the pen.
Harden's not quite the new Tim Hudson just yet, but this is his second game (out of four) this year where he's had very good results and not come away with a win. He gave up just one run in six innings to the Rays, and though he didn't have as many strikeouts as he had in his good game against the Mariners (9 to 4), he also didn't have as many walks (4 to 2). In that Seattle game, he also gave up just one run, though he lasted seven innings that time before Seattle won it on a 9th inning homer by Raul Ibanez.
Pitchers pitching well but not getting a W in the books next to their name is usually a symptom of at least one of two things: poor offense and poor bullpen support. The former has described the A's of the past couple of years very well, and while Oakland has generally had a strong bullpen, any pitching staff will go through tough streaks. Jim Mecir and Arthur Rhodes appear to be in one right now, and Chad Bradford seems to be emerging from one of his own.
After Crawford had an awful night on the bases in the first game of the series, what'd he do last night? Come out running, of course. He stole his thirteenth base of the year, a pretty big number for a guy who's been on first base (by my count) 28 times all year. Of course, he probably has a few steals of third, but there were probably also a number of times when he had a runner ahead of him at second. On the other hand, with Geoff Blum hitting in front of him, perhaps he usually comes to the plate with the bases empty.
On Oakland's offensive side, Mark Kotsay continued to struggle, going 0-5 with a strikeout. What is it about center fielders with supposedly decent offensive abilities coming to Oakland and sucking? Johnny Damon, Terrence Long ... even Chris Singleton wasn't supposed to be as horrible as he was. Kotsay is just the latest victim. I bet even Carlos Beltran would hit 250/320/430 for the A's.
While Kotsay and Marco Scutaro went hitless in the one and nine spots, everyone in the middle did their part, getting at least one hit apiece. Eric Chavez had one hit in five trips, but it was a solo homer in the eighth that tied the game, giving him six for the season. Chavez is still hitting just .220, but since he's walking more than he strikes out (17 to 15, and who would've thought we'd ever be able to say that about him?) and is hitting a homer every 15 at-bats, has a .782 OPS and has managed 5.4 VORP. Now, that's not a great VORP or a great OPS, but when you've got a .220 batting average, it's got to be nice to say that you're above replacement level.
Scott Hatteberg continued to hit like the 2002 version of himself with a perfect day: 3-3 with a double and two walks. He's only slugging .422, but he's got a .408 OBP, and his walk to strikeout ratio is 3:1. Yes, it's 76 plate appearances, and it's early in the season, so any hot streak makes you look like you've turned your life around, stopped drinking and beating your wife, and started saving little puppies from fires, but we'll have to wait and see in the long run. Suffice it to say, though, that the A's would be thrilled with a .400+ OBP from Hatteberg, lack of power (relative to his position) aside.