Anaheim 4, Oakland 3 (WPA graph from Fangraphs)
A's current record: 4-2
Yesterday I said that the A's could do a lot to assuage my concerns about their offense by scoring a bunch of runs off of Jered Weaver. I had been concerned that the A's run of success at the plate would stop once they faced a good pitcher and that their lack of power would haunt them. Well, after Weaver and three relievers held the A's to three runs on six hits, I'm just as worried as ever that the A's offense simply isn't good enough.
That's not to say there weren't good signs in tonight's game. Eric Chavez had another double, this time a hard hit opposite field double off of Kevin Jepsen. Jered Weaver hung a breaking ball up in the zone to Kouzmanoff, who swatted it into the seats. And the A's as a team had their fair share of quality at bats, driving Weaver from the game after making him throw 111 pitches in 6 innings.
The problem, though, is that these promising signs and small feats aren't enough to make a bad offense (like the one the A's potentially have) into a good one (like the one I wish they had). Yes, good offensive teams work the count and get starters out of the game after 5 or 6 innings. But they also don't get completely dominated by good (but not great) pitchers and take full advantage of the soft part of their opponents' bullpens. Other than Kouz' homer, the A's managed to only get one runner past first base in Weaver's six innings. And although they scored two runs off of the Angels' bullpen, had Mike Scioscia better used his bullpen, the A's may never have tied it.
Going to Jepsen in the 7th was fine, but bringing in Shields in the 8th seemed crazy to me - especially when I reminded myself of his numbers from last year. He was hurt for most of the year, but the innings he did pitch were poor. His FIP was over 5 and his ERA was over 6. He walked more guys than he struck out. Perhaps Scioscia wants to keep Shields as the primary setup man, but wasn't that the role they paid Fernando Rodney $11 million over the next two for? Granted, Scioscia did end up using in a tie ballgame in the night...but the game may not have been tied had Rodney pitched the eighth. And with the Angels being the home team, there was no need to save their closer, Brian Fuentes, for a save situation only.
The A's were lucky even to have been in such a close game. Ben Sheets' second start of the season was quite shaky. In 6 innings he allowed 10 hits and 3 walks, while only striking out one. Anaheim left ten runners on base in the first six innings and left the bases loaded in the fifth. A lot of the hits that Sheets allowed were hard hit balls; only a few of the 10 hits he gave up were cheap. I guess we can credit him with pitching well under pressure and turning in a quality start despite not having his best stuff. Well, I hope that wasn't his best stuff. His fastball wasn't getting out of the low-90's, and his curve, while sharp at times has certainly been better in the past. It's tough to judge anything from two starts, but it certainly seems as if Sheets is still trying to find the stuff that made him an ace for the Brewers. Let's hope he finds it, or learns how to deal without it.
The rubber match of the series is tomorrow, featuring a matchup between lefties Dallas Braden and Joe Saunders. It'll be interesting to see how Braden fares coming off of his amazing 10 K performance last time out. Will he stick with the change-up that brought him many of those whiffs or will the Angels be expecting it? We'll see how much a fluke that start was as the Angels offense will present a much tougher challenge than what Braden saw against the Mariners.