By Jason Wojciechowski on May 10, 2004 at 2:28 AM
Oakland finished off a series win over Minnesota, a team they'd had recent trouble with, by losing Saturday but winning Sunday, bringing them to one game under .500, while remaining six and a half games back of the Angels, who've won nine in a row. Things are starting to look like 2001, when the A's were 11-20 at the same point in the season while Seattle was 23-8, off to the start that would propel them to 116 wins. Oakland, of course, ran off a remarkable second-half to win the wild-card despite finishing fourteen games back of Seattle. At this point, Oakland is much closer to Anaheim than they were to Seattle, because the Angels are a game and a half worse than Seattle was and the A's, more importantly, are four games better than their own pace for that year.
Today's rubber game saw the A's put together decent offense with decent pitching for a formula that could win them a lot of 6-4 games. Mark Mulder pitched a complete game with 110 pitches despite giving up two homers and striking out just three, while Kyle Lohse used almost as many pitches just to get through 4 1/3 innings for Minnesota. Lohse's six walks seem like an indicator of the larger problem of wildness, as he threw just 53 of his 102 pitches for strikes. Mulder, for contrast, threw 70 strikes.
Bobby Kielty hit his second home run of the series in a game that saw him batting seventh and probably only starting because Jermaine Dye got a day off (though he came in late as a defensive replacement) and Mark Kotsay is having some knee trouble.
Speaking of knee trouble, Bobby Crosby is also having some, so Marco Scutaro moved over to second base and Frankie Menechino started the game at second. As weak as Crosby has been so far (.183/.242/.317), the A's take an offensive hit when Menechino's in the game instead of him, as he drags his .091/.143/.091 line to the plate. It almost makes me pine for Mark McLemore.
Eric Byrnes started for Kotsay, and despite not getting a hit, walked twice and stole a base, his sixth of the year. Eric Chavez also stole a base, by the way, his third of the season. Chavez has stolen eight bases each of the last three years, with just two or three caught-stealings each time, so it's not like he's ever really been Erubiel Durazo out there. He's OPF 11 steals for this year, and he hasn't been caught yet, so that'll add a little bump to his VORP.
Chavez also walked twice, as did Hatteberg and Kielty. The A's are back up to sixth in baseball in walks this year, after falling from second to sixth to tenth in the last three years, with the first drop probably being largely a Jason Giambi effect. Chavez in particular has been very impressive, as he's ninth in all of baseball in walks, after finishing 55th last year, 56th the year before, and a whopping 132nd the year before that. Perhaps most impressive is that he's done this with just one intentional walk. His decent walks totals the last few years have been fueled by a high number of intentional walks (about 1/6 of his walks were intentional the last two years), so it's nice to see an apparent improvement in unintentional walk rate this year.
Along with pretty much all of baseball, the A's have tomorrow off, then go to Detroit (while the rest of baseball goes elsewhere, of course) for three, then to Kansas City for a weekend set. Oakland gets a chance to tag Jason Johnson with his sixth loss of the year on Tuesday, then a phenom phace-off on Wednesday: Rich Harden vs. Jeremy Bonderman. That oughta be fun, and could feature a lot of strikeouts: Harden is average 9.5 K/9 and Bonderman is at 7.7.