By Jason Wojciechowski on June 19, 2004 at 6:19 PM
Matt Clement pitched about as well as you'd expect him to against the A's, going eight innings and giving up just two runs while walking none and striking out eight. Unfortunately for the Cubs, Mark Redman did him one better, giving up only one unearned run in eight innings before giving way to Chad Bradford, who closed the 2-1 victory with a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his first save of the year.
The other Mark that carried the team last night was Kotsay. The offensively-disappointing center fielder hit his fourth homer of the year and an RBI-double to provide all the runs the A's would get. Kotsay didn't hit his first homer of the year until June 2, but since then, he's added three more homers while raising his OBP by 29 points and his slugging percentage by 74.
It's too much to expect the June Mark Kotsay to continue happening (.410 OBP/.582 SLG), but the overall Kotsay that has emerged (.355/.413) is pretty decent and wouldn't be a huge drain on the offense at the top of the order.
In about an hour, a battle of two more Marks will begin: Mulder vs. Prior, which should be a hell of a matchup. Mulder has been everything the A's could have hoped for this year, and over his last seven starts, starting with the first of his three consecutive complete games, he's been great: in 54.2 innings, he's allowed 14 runs on 35 hits and 16 walks (seven of those coming in one game), while striking out 36 batters and getting 97 ground balls to 52 fly balls. The ratios for those numbers: 2.3 RA/9, 2.6 BB/9, 5.9 K/9, 2.25 K/BB, 0.93 WHIP, 1.87 GB/FB. Everything looks really good except for anything involving the walks. Obviously, his atrocious seven walk game is inflating things, but even without that, he's been walking a few more people than we should expect, so that could be an issue. On the other hand, the Cubs aren't a particuarly patient team, seventh from the bottom in the majors in walks (reflecting over the midpoint from the A's, who are seventh from the top), so Mulder's sinker that's so effective in getting ground balls when guys are chasing it down could result in a whole bunch of 6-3, 5-3, and 4-3 outs on first and second pitches.
Mark Prior, on the other side, has had two very effective games (no runs in eleven innings) sandwiched around one bad game (5 runs in 3.2 innings). He could still be on a short leash, though, as he threw 92 pitches in five innings in his last start before being lifted, so even if he strikes out eight A's, like he did in that start, if the A's can make him throw a lot of pitches to do it, they can get into the Cub bullpen early and perhaps wreak some havoc there. Or they could get lucky and get to face the bad Prior, the one who gave up five walks while striking out just one against St. Louis ten days ago. More likely, though, we'll see another game like last night's.