By Jason Wojciechowski on May 9, 2004 at 12:11 AM
Oakland won semi-ugly last night, as their bullpen gave up six runs, allowing the game to go to extra innings after Mark Redman left fairly early, but the A's offense battled back every time and ended up winning the game on a 2-run homer by Eric Byrnes in the bottom of the 13th.
The best word for the bullpen continues to be "inconsistent." Chris Hammond, who had done a good job previously, gave up four hits and a walk while getting just two outs, and Ricardo Rincon had two earned runs charged to him. On the other hand, Arthur Rhodes and Chad Bradford, who've been struggling, pitched a combined five innings, allowing three baserunners apiece, but no runs, which was obviously important because they pitched the 9th through 13th innings.
On the offensive side, things were a little rosier, as they usually will be when a team scores eleven runs. Eric Byrnes had two hits and two walks, bringing him to a .312/.398/.545 line for the year, good for a .322 EqA, far and away the top number on the team. Byrnes is absolutely playing out of his mind right now, which is pretty much what he did in his first extended opportunity last year. He's pushed Mark Kotsay and Bobby Kielty into exactly the platoon I said they should be in: Kotsay starts in center against righties, with Byrnes in left, and Kielty starts in left against lefties, with Byrnes in center. The A's are taking a defensive hit with Byrnes in center field, of course, but it's probably no worse than having Terrence Long out there. What may be most amusing about that lineup construction is that it's exactly what I've been using for the A's in my MVP 2004 game. I've added the wrinkle that Billy McMillon starts for Jermaine Dye against righties, though, because Dye is, in the game, really pretty bad against that portion of the league.
Back to the game at hand, though. Bobby Kielty hit his first homer of the year, finally, popping a two-run shot in the first to score Byrnes and give the A's an early lead. Mark Kotsay came into the game late and added a hit and a walk, though he also made his second error of the year.
Eric Chavez hit his ninth homer of the year, also off of Johan Santana. Without looking things up, it seems that Chavez is hitting respectably against lefties this year. At the very least, it seems like he's hit more homers against port-siders in the early going than he has in full seasons past. Let's check those wild assertions, though. In a tiny 38-at-bat sample, Chavez is hitting .289/.400/.605, with four homers and seven walks. That's very good. The key word in the sentence, though, is tiny. Chavez has certainly had good stretches before, and he'll have them again. We'll have to, as with so many things, take a wait-and-see approach here. One of the things that's too bad about his current hot hitting against lefties is that he's had a reverse platoon split so far: he's batting just .213/.322/.440 against right-handed pitchers. It's bizarre, and it'll almost certainly change, but maybe he won't have to give back his gains against lefties when it does.
Erubiel Durazo looks good right now, and he had two hits and two walks last night, but it's almost entirely a batting-average driven change. His slugging percentage is 76 points higher than last year, but his batting average is 44 points higher. That's a marginal improvement in actual slugging. I'll predict that for the year, he'll slug better than last year, but still not quite what people were hoping from him: say .480. His on-base percentage, which stands at .388 right now, will finish up around .375, as he'll walk more once his batting average dips back to his established .265-.270 level. An .855 OPS is nothing to sneeze at, but it's something less than what you'd want from a guy who (a) is a great white whale of some sort and (b) has established a very strong power-patience combination, but can't seem to put it together into a Jason Giambi-type package.
Eric Karros hit his first home run as an Athletic, one of his two hits, and also walked once, and still managed to do something ugly: leave six men on base for the game, the most of any Oakland hitter. A million bucks for this guy? Please, Billy, say the owners made you do it.
With Tim Hudson going today, the A's can hope that the bullpen is able to get a rest. In fact, Hudson has pitched seven innings already, giving up two runs, and throwing 89 pitches. He'll probably go at least one more, and maybe even throw a complete game. It's a nice thing have pitchers like Hudson and Mulder in your rotation, guys you know will conserve pitches and go deep into a game.