Pitcher's Duel

By Jason Wojciechowski on May 13, 2004 at 6:39 PM

Last night's game was what everyone could have hoped for out of Jeremy Bonderman and Rich Harden. Both pitchers went seven innings, and probably would have gone more but for pitch counts (99 for Harden, 105 for Bonderman), and neither gave up many runs: two by Bonderman, but just one by Harden, as he was able to lead his team to victory.

Harden's performance looks a little nicer overall, even aside from allowing one less run: Adam Melhuse hit a homer off of Bonderman for one of Oakland's runs, while Harden's only run allowed came on a mini-rally that ended with a ground-ball double play, and Harden won the strikeout battle, 8-2, and the walk war 3-5. Bonderman did give up just four hits, though, to Harden's seven, and allowed no one to reach base more than once, except for Eric Chavez, but one of his two walks was intentional.

Those two walks for Chavez gave him 26 on the year (in 153 plate appearances), which places him third in the American League, and seventh overall. Of the guys above him, only Mark Bellhorn is hitting as poorly overall as Chavez is, and even then, Eric's hitting for better power. If Chavez can maintain this patience and power (his nine homers are third in the AL, though he's hit only two doubles, an alarmingly low number) combination and just get a few more singles to drop in, he'll be the MVP candidate A's fans have been waiting for the last few years, especially when you consider his excellent defense at third.

A minor oddity of Melhuse's third homer of the year is that it also gave him his third RBI of the year. Melhuse is hitting for very nice power (.543 SLG), just as he did last year (.584 SLG in 77 AB's) and a useful OBP (.333). When your starter is a catch-and-throw singles hitter like Damian Miller, it's useful to have a guy on the bench who could provide a little late-innings pinch-hitting pop and on-base ability in tight situations. Macha hasn't really shown a willingness to use Melhuse this way, which is a shame. Oakland may have won that 15 inning game the other night a lot earlier if Miller hadn't been left in to keep piling up outs as the game went on. He later became the hero, but Melhuse might've done the same thing five innings earlier and saved some wear and tear on Justin Duscherer's arm.

Final note: Bobby Crosby's single in three at-bats pushed his batting average to .200. Here's to the Mendoza line!