Oakland 10, Anaheim 4 (WPA graph from Fangraphs)
A's current record: 4-1
Last night's beatdown of the Angels was a complete team effort, though Daric Barton, Rajai Davis, and Gio Gonzalez did the heaviest lifting. Gio looked impressive in his first start of the year, giving up 2 runs in 6 innings on 6 hits and a walk. He also struck 6 out. Gonzalez' two biggest bugaboos, his command and his efficiency, took the night off as he walked only one and threw 95 pitches in his 6 innings. He looked especially good early in the game. His pitch count through 4 innings was about 50 and he had faced only two over the minimum. His only real mistake to that point was the homer to Matsui. A rough-ish fifth, in which he gave up a walk and two singles while throwing 24 pitches, prevented him from pitching deeper into the game.
Not only were the Angels threatening to put up more runs in the fifth, but the A's survived another scare in that frame. With Jeff Mathis on first and Howie Kendrick on second, Maicer Izturis singled up the middle. On Davis' throw home, Mathis took a wide turn around the bag at second and Barton cut off the throw. In his attempt to throw Mathis out, he dropped the ball. He then rushed to pick it up, but fell awkwardly and seemed to collapse in pain. From the replays I couldn't tell what he'd injured, not because it didn't look like he had hurt himself, but because the way he fell made it look like he could have hurt any number of parts of his lower body. Thankfully, he was able to remain in the game and appears to be fine.
That I was so concerned when Barton went down I guess is a good sign. He reached base 9 times in 18 PAs against the Mariners and had already doubled twice in the game. I know it's early and I know that Barton has shown brief flashes of offensive potential before, but the A's are relying on him for offensive production and his fast start is a good sign.
The rest of the A's offense continued the hit parade it started on Wednesday against Seattle. Their 13-hit game now gives them three games in a row with double digit hits. Every A's starter got a hit, except for Davis and Barton, who got three hits each. Eric Chavez' hit was especially promising. He hit a hard line drive into the gap in right center for a double. As much as I question his usefulness as the A's everyday DH, I sure as heck hope he does well. He had been whiffing on some pretty hittable pitches in the first few games, so hopefully this is a sign that he's not as bad as he's looked so far.
I know this game recap sounds super-optimistic. It's hard not to be after winning 4 of the first 5 games of the season. I do want to mention a few things, though, that temper my expectations. Even though the A's are on pace for 129 wins, a couple of things are preventing me from making postseason plans right now. Aside from the obvious sample size issues, there are two main things keeping my optimism in check. First, of the five starters the A's have seen so far, they've only seen one good one, in Felix Hernandez. Ian Snell and Rowland-Smith are average-y, but Doug Fister and Matt Palmer don't really belong in big league rotations for teams that are theoretically contending,
The second issue is their lack of power. Yes they've been getting a ton of hits, but they haven't necessarily been hitting the ball hard. They only have three homers and although they do have 13 doubles, more than a few of those were fluky. The doubles total includes Cliff Pennington's bunt that Mariners catcher Adam Moore fielded with his mask. At some point the bloops are going to stop falling and the A's will need to display some power if they want to be able to survive once that stops happening.
The A's get to address my first concern today against Jered Weaver. Hopefully the A's will pound a bunch of extra base hits off of him and alleviate my worries. For now, though, my hopes for the A's will remained (somewhat) tethered to the ground.