As far as pitching is concerned, I think we’ve held pretty close to what I expected. Felix is the man, Vargas is a very-effective left-handed innings-eater, and Fister is Fister.
Today, Fister went 5.2 innings and gave up 3 runs, 2 earned. He gave up 8 hits, 0 walks, and only struck out 2. That’s about what you can expect out of him. Against stronger lineups, Fister will struggle; against weaker ones, he’ll do okay. Oakland is a pretty weak lineup.
The bullpen, as anticipated, is scary. League looked good, and we’ll need him to continue to look good if we want to be even remotely respectable. Ray looked bad, Lueke looked abysmal, and Wright faced one batter (so the book is still out on him). We’re going to have to ride these guys – especially on days when Felix isn’t starting – so somebody better step up and take hold of the 7th and 8th innings. I’m willing to chock today up to being Lueke’s first Major League appearance, but he’s going to have to settle down in a hurry if he’s going to stay with the big club.
As far as hitting is concerned, we’re marginally better so far. At least there’s reason for SOME optimism.
We scored 12 runs in this series. Not too shabby considering Oakland has a pretty competitive pitching staff. 25 hits in this series is an improvement as well, though only 6 of ’em were for extra bases. As expected, getting the big hits will be a struggle for this team.
We were 5 for 26 hitting with runners in scoring position. That’s the bad news. The good news is, we actually HAD runners in scoring position. Every starter but Adam Moore yesterday got on base at least once this series. Ichiro and Smoak have looked particularly good so far; Smoak already has 2 doubles in his hot start. Olivo and Wilson have been pretty effective, and Cust looks like he’s an on-base machine with his eye for pitches.
We’ve been extremely patient so far in 2011; there’s a lot to like about that. A lot of full counts in individual at bats. Making other pitchers work out there to get us out; it’s a complete turnaround from last year when we’d just hack away and give up easy 1-2-3 innings. We’ve got 14 walks in 3 games! That’s HUGE. Yes, we’re still swinging at some bad pitches (26 strike outs, ye gods!), but we’re not swinging at AS MANY bad pitches.
With all this patience, we will need to do better against opposing teams’ starters. Yes, we knocked out Cahill in the fifth inning, but he still only gave up a single run. In fact, every A’s starter only gave up a run apiece in these three games; meaning we’ve done the bulk of our damage against their bullpen. That’s an ominous trend from 2010 that seems to have followed us into this season. Since we’re not going to be getting the big extra base hits this year, we MUST at least get the run scoring singles when the opportunities arise. All of this getting on base via any means necessary MUST be used to our advantage.
Today’s game was crappy, there’s no getting around that. This 7-1 defeat was reminiscent of so many similar defeats last year, it’s really quite discouraging. I’d like to say there’s no WAY we’re going to continue to be this bad hitting with runners in scoring position all year, but I’m afraid I can’t make that declaration until I see it in action. After all, we were only batting .226 with runners in scoring position in 2010. Granted, that’s about 34 points better than we were in this series. But, even if we return to last year’s norm, what is that really saying about us? I mean, we’re not going to face defenses as bad as the one we played this weekend all season long.
We’re 2-1, so you have to deem this initial series a success. Now is certainly NOT the time I want us going into Texas. A 3-3 road trip would be better than I could have possibly dreamed, but that entails going 1-3 to close it out. If you said before the season started that we’d be .500 before our first home game, I would’ve been ecstatic; if you tell me now we’ll be .500, I couldn’t help but be disappointed.
Truth be told, we will actually be VERY fortunate to leave Texas with a win. They’re good, OH how they’re good!
On the plus side, we have our three most exciting pitchers going. If Bedard could give us what Vargas gave us, I’d be thrilled. Pineda will be making his Major League debut. In Texas. So, that’s frightening. And we close with Felix – odds-on our best chance to get that third victory. Let’s see how we do.