Oakland 6, Baltimore 2 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
A's Current Record: 7-4
I haven't ever heard anyone call David Hernandez, "The DH," but he certainly helped boost the A's offensive output last night. He didn't pitch particularly poorly as he gave up seven hits while walking one and striking out six in five innings. But he did allow the A's to actually hit the ball with authority; they hit nine line drives in the game, six off of Hernandez, after combining for only five in the previous two games.
Normally, I'd say that the A's success against Hernandez could be attributed to the type of pitcher he is. Unlike Doug Fister and Jason Vargas, guys with fringy stuff who pumped strikes into the zone, Hernandez usually has quality stuff, but can't locate it. But last night, Hernandez actually displayed pretty good control as he walked only one. That the A's hit the ball hard, resulting in four doubles in the first five innings, can't even be attributed to Hernandez falling behind hitters. Barton's double in the first came on a 2-2 count, Chavez' double in the second came on an 0-1 count, and Sweeney's double in the fifth came on a full count. Only Rosales' double in the 4th came on a clear hitter's count (2-0) and even then he turned in a nice piece of hitting, taking a pitch on the outer half off the plate for a scorching line drive into deep right.
The A's may lack home run power, but they are tied with the Red Sox for second in the AL in doubles. The A's will have to maintain their ability to hit two-baggers if they want to prevent pitchers from using the Fister/Vargas strategy of letting the A's get themselves out.
Ben Sheets' overall line looks pretty good, 6 IP, 0 runs, 5 hits, 4 Ks, 3 BBs, but with each start I get increasingly anxious about two things. The first is that he seems to tire as he approaches the 100 pitch mark, or even earlier. I don't know if this will be a permanent issue or if it will take a while to build up his stamina after missing all of last season. It's entirely possible that in a few more starts he'll regain the ability to pitch deep into games, but it's also possible that those days are over. The second thing is a bit more troubling; his stuff, even early in the games isn't that good. His fastball has not been the dominating pitch it was during his prime in Milwaukee and he's given up a lot of hard hit balls in all three of his starts. Last night the Orioles got four doubles off of him, all of which were hard hit balls. If his stuff doesn't come back, he may have to reinvent himself in the way that Pedro Martinez did late in his career. There's definitely still time for him to regain his strength and the sharpness of his pitches, but despite his ERA, he's not the same pitcher he was with the Brewers yet.
The A's will face three pitchers in Millwood, Guthrie, and Matusz, who have the ability to throttle the A's offense (though, you could say that about a lot of pitchers in the league). I'm particularly looking forward to Sunday's Brett Anderson-Brian Matusz matchup, which features two of the top young lefties in baseball. The Orioles aren't that bad of a team, their horrific start not withstanding, so I wouldn't be counting on a series win just yet. Hopefully, though, the A's can rack up some W's against the O's before the Yankees come to town Monday.