By Jason Wojciechowski on May 7, 2004 at 2:49 PM
That was a relief. I turned the game off last night after Erubiel Durazo smoked a shot into right field off of Javier Vazquez, tying things up at four, because I needed sleep. Thankfully, the A's scored three more later on and Rich Harden stayed on his post-second inning track, striking out a bunch of batters (nine in all) and not allowing another hit.
Oakland's offense took advantage of some uncharacteristic Vazquez wildness (he'd walked just six batters all year, but walked four in this game), and came through with some timely hits, like Mark Kotsay's two-out, bases-loaded single in the bottom of the second. I think Kotsay's hit was particularly important because it capped Oakland's response to the Yankees four-run second inning. If the A's had gotten just one run out of their bases-loaded, no-out situation, things could have gotten ugly. Kotsay later came through with another single, two more RBI, and a stolen base, his second of the year. If he can heat up and get his OBP back to his recent career norm (.345 -- .365), that'd be a big boost for the offense.
Can I just say again that Durazo's home run was smoked? Vazquez hung a change up, I think, and Durazo turned on it. I swear the ball was still going up when it hit the stands 420 feet later.
Ok, ok, that's hyperbole. But it's pretty impressive to hit what amounts to a 420-foot line drive.
My favorite offensive play in baseball happened twice in this game: Damian Miller and Billy McMillon both drew bases-loaded walks. Four walks total, and 101 pitches seen in five and two thirds innings, against a tough pitcher is a sign that the A's offense is working.
My big complaint? If you've seen the box score or read a recap, it'll be predictable. Rich Harden threw 121 pitches. You read that right. Oakland management allowed a 22-year old pitcher, in his first full year in the majors, in May, to throw 121 pitches. The biggest problem? Something like eleven to fifteen of those pitches were thrown in the eighth inning, which means that Harden had a reasonable pitch count after the seventh, but was called out to pitch the eighth anyway, for no real good reason. Harden walked five batters in the game, and uses a lot of pitches in general, so there was no real reason to think that he'd be able to throw a quick eighth with few pitches and still have a reasonable load on his arm at the end of it.
It worked out in terms of this game, but we'll see how effective Harden is over his next few starts, and just hope that no great harm was done.