Oakland 4, Seattle 0 (WPA graph from Fangraphs)
A's current record: 6-2
The past few game recaps have focused on trying to figure out how good the A's offense is. But after today's game I may have found the answer...who cares? If the A's keep pitching like they did yesterday, they could have the worst offense in the history of baseball and still win all their games.
Justin Duchscherer gave the A's their best start of the season so far and showed why the A's decided to bring him back this year. Duchscherer went 7.1 innings and gave up only two hits and two walks. He also struck out four. He finished the game throwing only 96 pitches, 60 of which were strikes. He did give up 11 flyballs, compared to 8 ground balls, but the Mariners were generally unable to make good contact; Gutierrez's double was the only threatening flyball that Duke gave up.
Jerry Blevins and Andrew Bailey retired the five batters they faced, continuing the strong work of the bullpen. So far the pen has exceeded the high expectations I had for them. The bullpen's ERA is 1.93 in 23.1 innings. The starters have been no slouches either; their ERA is 2.94. Combined, the A's team ERA is 2.61, good for first in the majors.
It's hard to separate how much of the pitching staff's success can be attributed to their strength, or the Mariners' weak bats. After all, the A's have played 5 of their 8 games against Seattle. That the M's scored only 8 runs in their three games at Texas indicates that the A's are taking advantage of a poor offense to make their pitching staff look so good. The A's next six games are against the M's and the O's, neither of which have started the year strong. The first good offense the A's will face comes next week in the form of the Yankees. If the A's can shut them down, their spot atop the team ERA leaderboard will be justified.
I can't completely ignore the offense, which manages to simultaneously frustrate me and give me hope. The best news is that it looks like Cliff Pennington may have more power potential than people think. Most projections have him hitting five or fewer home runs, but I think he may reach double digits. If he gets a ball he can pull he can yank it into the seats from either side of the plate. Pitchers will likely start throwing him more soft stuff away, so we'll see how he adjusts.
As for the frustrations, you'd like to see the A's score more than four runs when they get handed 7 walks, including three in one inning. Four runs in Safeco isn't the worst offensive output in the world, but they were millimeters away from not getting their last two runs. Had Rob Johnson been able to hold onto Gabe Gross's foul tip with two on, two strikes, and two outs in the top of the 7th, his 2 RBI single never would have happened.
I like the A's chances for the rest of this series. The pitching matchups look favorable for the A's and although Mark Ellis may rest his sore hamstring for the rest of the series, Adam Rosales looks to be a suitable replacement. If the A's manage to win the next two games, they'll have put the Mariners into a pretty big hole in the AL West race.