Offense saves the day

By Jason Wojciechowski on August 24, 2003 at 4:12 PM

Oakland was in a tough spot last night. Mark Mulder is likely done. Tim Hudson's been pushed back, and who knows how he'll be when he pitches on Sunday, and the offense has just plain sucked. John Halama was starting the game, and the bullpen had been stretched near its limits the last few days against Boston.

So what happened? The offense came in and scored a few early runs, then really came alive in the sixth inning to basically put the game away. Finally, finally, the bats picked up some of the slack.

Everybody earned their way on base at some point (though you'll hear arguments that getting hit by a pitch, as Jose Guillen did, isn't really earning it), and everybody either scored or drove in at least one run. Those kinds of things happen when your eleven runs in a game come mostly from a six-run sixth inning.

Individual performances to note are Miguel Tejada's two doubles and a walk, Chris Singleton's three hits, including a double, and a walk, Adam Melhuse's three-run homer to go with a single and a walk, and Terrence Long's two singles and a double.

That's right, even Long got into the act. Here's something, though, that was pointed out on Fanhome the other day. Terrence Long was batting seventh last night. ESPN carries statistics by spot in the batting order, and there are four places where Long has received more than a token number of at bats: leadoff, where he's hitting 209/385 (OBP/SLG), sixth, where he has an awful 220/182 line, eighth, where he's a little better at 252/301, and, finally, seventh, where Long has hit 363/532. Which of these is not like the other? Of those four spots, Long has hit in the seventh place more times (by about 80 at-bats) than any other. Is this all just a massive fluke? Almost certainly. What are the odds that Long is actually mentally affected by his batting spot to the point where he's a better hitter in the seven hole? Very long (no pun intended), especially since his 2000-2002 splits show that the seven hole has actually produced his second worst performance, right on the heels of batting fifth.

That said, if Long isn't going to be jailed, I'd like to see him hitting seventh. There's no reason to have a guy with a sub-.300 on-base percentage batting ahead of Guillen, Chavez, and Erubiel Durazo. That's the main reason. A secondary reason is that maybe Long traded all his batting skill in the other spots to some demon who would make him a pretty good hitter (if he hit like that all the time, he'd be immediately surrounded by Rafael Palmeiro and Edgar Renteria in the OPS standings) in that one spot in the batting order. And when you combine those two reasons, is there really any justification for letting Long lead off any game for the rest of the year?

Oh, guess who was the leadoff hitter for the A's in this game? My boy, Billy McMillon. He had a hit and a walk in the game, and only played because Scott Hatteberg is having back trouble (Durazo moved to first, so McMillon DH'd), but it worked out, didn't it?

How about that sixth inning, though? It was a classic rally, with no home runs, and a classic A's rally since they scored those six runs on just five hits.
Long had two hits, an RBI, and a run in the inning. The outs were made on two fielder's choices by Guillen and Mark Ellis, and an inning-ending fly out by Melhuse (who had earlier walked and scored).

The pitching was less than spectacular, as Halama gave up three runs in four innings, and Mike Wood gave up two in his inning and two thirds (but got his first major league win regardless), but the bullpen shut things down from there, with Ricardo Rincon, Jim Mecir, and Keith Foulke pitching a scoreless three and a third innings.

Even better outcome? Boston beat Seattle, so while the A's are still tied for the wild card, they move to just two back in the West. As the AL Central has shown, two games isn't a huge cushion for the front-runner, especially since Oakland and Seattle have six head-to-head games coming at the end of the year.