By Joe Speaker
Los Angeles, CA
Look, we're friends, we've developed a certain trust, so I'm not going to lie to you. It's difficult to give too many shits about the A's when my Los Angeles Kings are locked in titanic struggle with the Sharks for California hockey supremacy (and doubly harder when the A's fans I follow on Twitter are rooting against me and my Kings, making me re-think my entire relationship with them). The Oakland Nine have been relegated to my personal back pages for the past two weeks and for that I apologize. Yesterday's 4-1 win over the Giants was the first full game I've watched since the Stanley Cup playoffs began. It's a tough problem, one I'm not used to having, as the Kings have only recently made May (and June) hockey a priority. I didn't miss the A's much when they were stinking it up in Cleveland, but they've since righted the ship, so I've been checking in on them more frequently between periods. Had I been able to muster the time and effort to write, you would have read a blistering diatribe about umpire Angel Hernandez (who is crooked and incompetent) and a lament about Brett Anderson's health (Jed Lowrie thinks he's fragile) or perhaps a plea for Josh Donaldson (.950 OPS) to be recognized as the bad ass he currently is.
So, sorry you missed all that, but we're back! As is the A's pitching, which, along with a series against the Astros*, has fueled the club on a 9-1 spurt and pulled them back to within three games of mighty Texas. I would also like to gleefully mention (as per the terms of my contract), the Angels remain 5.5 back of Oakland despite the Halos winning 8 straight. Though the aforementioned Anderson is on the shelf for at least a month with a stress fracture in his foot (take the over), the rotation has righted itself of late after an inconsistent start to the season.
I was about to call Dan Straily the Poster Boy for the A's rotation inconsistencies, but Jerrod Parker works, too. So let's take a quick peek at both. Straily, the erstwhile 5th starter was sporting an ERA in the 7s before handling two pretty good teams his last two outings, holding Texas and San Francisco to one run over 13 innings. Parker, who most A's fans will say is the most talented of the young arms thanks to his fantastic change-up, has now put together three straight quality starts. The problem for both, as with most young arms, has been command. They can get a lot of swings and misses with their off-speed stuff, but only if they get ahead by spotting the fastball. Certainly, there's been improvement in that area recently. In fact, the entire staff's OPS against is 50 points lower in May than it was in April. With the non-Donaldson part of the offense skidding, the pitching, and the Houston Astros*, have gotten the team firmly back in the race.
Up next this week is three more with the defending champion Giants, followed by a visit from the White Sox, though I probably won't see much of these games due to the fallout from tonight's Game 7. If the Kings win, it's off to Chicago on Saturday (most likely) for further torture. If they lose, I'll be over there in the corner, weeping quietly. I can't hardly bear it. I'm going to either vomit or crap myself at some point tonight. Guaranteed.