By Jason Wojciechowski on August 5, 2003 at 3:40 PM
The A's did exactly what they were supposed to do against the Tigers tonight.
They scored seven runs against Nate Cornejo, Harden gave up two runs in six innings, and the bullpen closed out the last three in what looks like fairly routine fashion.
One note is that the Tigers became the first major league team to score more than one earned run against Harden. Harden also threw too many pitches, as he had 95 when he was lifted after the sixth. That's not too many in the sense of, "They're gonna ruin his arm"; rather, it's too many in the sense of, "Harden needs to be more efficient." He walked two batters, a not inordinate amount, so that wasn't the problem. He had a 20-pitch second, when he gave up three hits and a walk, and the first out of the inning came on a strikeout. Actually, for that level of activity, twenty pitches is pretty reasonable. Ah-ha. It was really the sixth that ran Harden out of the game. Through the fifth, by my quick calculation, he had thrown 64 pitches, which is pretty good. Then came a 31-pitch sixth, highlighted by an 11-pitch at-bat in which Alex Sanchez singled, five pitches to get Warren Morris to ground out, a six-pitch walk to Bobby Higginson, five pitches to get a fly out from Dmitri Young, and then four to get the last out from Kevin Witt.
All that said, then, I take back what I said about Harden needing to be more efficient. The thirteen or so pitches he threw per inning through the fifth should have taken him right through the eighth, but a big inning killed his chances of lasting that long. Everybody is going to have those innings sometimes, and you have to just be glad when that kind of inning only results in one run being scored.
The offense looked decent, with five doubles and a triple compared to just three singles. Three walks isn't a great number, but when everybody but one player (Scott Hatteberg, in this case) reaches base during the game, you can't really complain about how they do it, especially when the base the hitters are reaching is more often second and third than it is first.
Ted Lilly actually pitched out of the bullpen, which is a little odd. The A's had an off-day yesterday, though, and with Harden starting today, I realize that means it was Lilly's start that was skipped, so getting him a little work is probably a good idea, especially when (a) he's been scuffling all season (b) it's the Tigers and (c) there's a five-run lead. He actually pitched the best of the three relievers (Rincon and Harville being the other two), giving up one hit compared to two for the others and needing only 12 pitches to get out of the inning.
Chad Harville getting an appearance is also a neat thing. When Jim Mecir went down, I was a little worried that with Harville up, there would basically be only two relievers in front of Keith Foulke that Ken Macha trusted (Chad Bradford and Ricardo Rincon). Again, this was a five-run lead against the Tigers, so I'm surprised Mike Neu didn't pitch, but if Harville can rack up a couple more two strikeout innings in the next few days, maybe he can earn enough trust to not essentially be dealing Macha an even more foreshortened 'pen.
Seattle and Boston both won as well, so no ground was made up anywhere. While we don't officially care yet, the Yankees and Red Sox could flip-flop the Division lead, so New York could be in the Wild Card fight (which is essentially a tag-team match with Oakland and Seattle on one side and New York and Boston on the other); thus, it's too bad that they beat Texas.