20 August 2013

Weekly* A's Digest: Looming

by Joe Speaker
Los Angeles, CA

Brandon Moss hit a walk-off homer last night to dead center, on a night when the ball was carrying about as well as a pastrami sandwich. This made me happy. He did not, however, get hit in the face with a pie following his heroics, because starting--and winning--pitcher Jerrod Parker was interviewed on the TV post-game show. This deprived us A's fans of an important ritual we've come to enjoy after walk-off wins. And the faithful were not afraid to make it known on Twitter.

Which is silly.


It's tradition, man. If there's one thing that must be respected in the Game of Baseball, it is Tradition. I hope this thoughtless act of not smashing a tin of whipped cream in Moss's face doesn't come back to bite the team, because there's danger just over the next ridge.

It's time for the annual (traditional?) Death March part of the A's schedule. After they finish a pair of games with Seattle, the A's have 13 straight games against teams fighting for the playoffs. The first seven are on the road at Baltimore and Detroit, followed by home tilts with Tampa Bay and the Rangers. The schedule brings to mind last year, when a tired, injured--and soon-to-be-more injured--A's team set off on a 10-gamer to New York, Detroit and Texas.

That looming test occupied the minds of A's fans for weeks. The Cinderellas in Green and Gold would truly meet their fate. They were three back of Texas in the West and three up on Baltimore in the Wild Card when they set off. And it was a bloodbath. They lost two of three in Detroit, while lead-off hitter and talisman Coco Crisp sat out with an eye infection. Starter Brett Anderson re-injured himself and would be lost for the rest of the regular season. It was the same story in the Bronx, where they dropped the first two in extra innings, the second of which could have buried a team with less fortitude (the A's scored four in the top of the 13th, the Yanks answered with four of their own and won it in the 14th). Bullpen decimated, they pulled out a win in the finale and managed to split four with Texas before limping home.

The 4-6 trip seemed much worse, my psyche was shattered after the Yankee loss, but they had lost only a game each to Texas and Baltimore over that stretch. Of course, they miraculously won the division, sweeping Seattle and Texas the last week. I still can't believe that happened.


So, this year's version likely holds similar meaning. The Rangers are currently gorging themselves on a buffet of crap teams, having skipped through the likes of Anaheim (yes, fucking ANAHEIM), Houston, Seattle and Milwaukee to the tune of 16-4 in their last 20. They have 12 more games of that shit, too, with Minnesota and the White Sox thrown in for variety. So the A's will really be holding on for dear life as they head east on Wednesday. It's difficult to see them only losing one game if they go 4-6 before Texas comes to town, but it's also hard to envision them managing much better than 6-4. The offense remains stagnant and Manager Bob Melvin's insistence on the sacrifice bunt to scratch out runs has had the opposite effect, as well as driving me to the very edge of sanity. The starting pitching is inconsistent, the bullpen thin once you get past the top three guys and the defense has caused me to hurl various household items at various members of my family (please do not try this at home). For the first time since Melvin took over, I have a certain unease that manifests itself in a lack of belief which is only exacerbated by...OHMYGOD STOP BUNTING.

After the next 15 games, the schedule gets easier. The A's will try to make hay against the Weak Sisters of the American League while the Rangers get a tougher task. They key will be to not lose touch over the next two weeks.

Young teams are streaky. When the runs aren't coming, the kids tend to grip the bat a little tighter, press more. Instead of looking for their pitch, they go up there hacking, trying to "make something happen." What the A's need to do is get back to grinding at bats. Too often lately, they have been easy outs, which leads to small pitch counts for opposing pitchers which leads to fewer fun times against bullpens.

Maybe last night's dessert-less walk-off will provide a boost. Maybe it was the deep breath the team needed and will kick in the momentum.Maybe...just maybe...it will mean more pie. And we'd better get it next time.

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