Series Preview in Blog: Oakland Athletics (Round 2)

This post is also published at Stick and Ball Guy’s site. Stop by and check out what SBG Nation has to say.

Minnesota Twins (45-43) vs. Oakland Athletics (44-44)

Both of these teams are right around .500, and in that spirit the Twins have been alternating winning and losing nicely, going 12-12 in their last 24, and 5-6 in their last 11. In the week before the All-Star break, Oakland stumbled a bit, falling back to .500 with a 2-5 record in series losses to Toronto and Seattle at home. Going back a bit further, the A’s went 5-12 going into the break. The A’s are currently in third place in the AL West, 9 games back of the Angels. They bring a 21-21 road record into this series. The Twins were 22-20 at home in the first half with some tough opponents coming up on this 10-game homestand. The A’s will be followed by the Tigers and the Angels at the Metrodome.

Despite the A’s well-documented tendency to start slow and come on strong in the second half, there are still reasons to think that this team isn’t equipped to make a similar surge this year. For gnasing of teeth in list form, here’s ten things that are bothering Oakland fans.

On the other side of the spectrum, one of everyone’s fondest memories of baseball probably involve going to games as a youngster. If you’re really lucky you can have your first ever game (and first bench-clearing brawl) immortalized in photo essay form just in case you don’t remember it very well.

The A’s haven’t announced their starting pitchers for this series anywhere that I looked, so all I can tell you is that Chad Gaudin will start against Scott Baker tonight. Gaudin has posted a very respectable 2.88 ERA thus far this season, but has been walking a lot of batters (5.0 BB/9 over his last 8 starts). That was the theme in his previous start against the Twins as well, when he walked 5 batters in 5 innings, but only allowed 2 runs to pick up the win. The walks are certainly a worrying trend, but perhaps we should be more worried about the power of Ryan at Catfish Stew to influence the performance of A’s pitchers through his posts. If that trend continues, expect Gaudin to have pinpoint control and a career high in strikeouts tonight.

The probable starters for this series are still in flux due to the number of injuries affecting the A’s pitching staff. Rich Harden made his first start since April in the week before the break, going 2.2 IP while allowing 4 runs. His ability to give the A’s consistent innings will go a long way toward clearing up the starting rotation for the second half. Closer Huston Street has also been on the DL since May, but he is expected to replace the glass of Syrah with a baseball sometime in the second half. (More on Street’s interest in wine here)

Finally, your first ballgame is great, but can it compare to a dancing mascot?

Series Preview in Blog: Oakland Athletics

This post is also published at Stick and Ball Guy’s site. Stop by and check out what SBG Nation has to say.

Minnesota Twins (27-25) @ Oakland Athletics (26-26)

The Twins wrapped up a very successful 5-1 homestand by sweeping the White Sox in three games. Since being swept by the Indians in Cleveland, the Twins have won 4 straight series. Oakland also had a day off yesterday after winning two of three from the visiting Texas Rangers. Before that series Oakland scuffled a bit on a road trip through Chicago and Baltimore, losing two of three to both the Sox and the O’s. Oakland is at .500 right now, and they’ve been consistent thus far, finishing April with a 12-13 record, and a 14-13 record in May. In an effort to show they are a .500 team in every way, the A’s are 13-13 at home on the season. Minnesota enters this series with a 12-11 record on the road. The Twins moved past the White Sox into third place, yet remain 5.5 game behind Cleveland. The A’s are likewise in third place in the West, 5.5 games behind the Twins next opponent, the Angels.

Previously, I linked to the single season home run leaders from each state. Here are the career leaders. Additionally, here are the career leaders in strikeouts for each state (and some countries), which also includes active leaders for each state. Anyone from N. Dakota just needs to suit up for a day and they can claim the active lead. Most interesting is the heated battle for the lead in Venezuelan born hurlers. Current standings are 1. Wilson Alvarez (1330), 2. Freddy Garcia (1246), 3. Johan Santana (1233).

Santana will get a chance to gain some ground on Sunday when he faces Chad Gaudin, who just finished a 4-0 May (2.15 ERA, 0 HR) and hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last two starts (14 IP). Other matchups for the weekend include Kevin Slowey’s major league debut against Joe Kennedy, who’s coming off a terrible start against Baltimore (4.2 IP, 7 R, 8 H, 5 BB) and Carlos Silva versus Joe Blanton, who suffered a similar fate against the O’s (6.0 IP, 8 R, 10 H, 3 HR).

The A’s have suffered a fair amount of injuries so far this year, and it’s the hot topic for all their blogs it seems. 12 Oakland players have been on the DL, even Bob Geren’s cliches are starting to show signs of wear and tear. The injuries have been so consistent that the writers at Athletics Nation are starting to reuse their headlines. Theories abound on why the A’s are seemingly always injured. Could it be a conspiracy? Actually, Catfish Stew isn’t all that surprised, it stands to reason that this particular group of players is spending significant time on the DL. This Hardball Times article about how the “new inefficiency” is players who are injury risks raises the possibility that this method of mixing and matching could be part of the design.

Athletics Nation is unique (or at least in rare company) in the access it has to the clubhouse and front office of the team. As evidence, here is a Q & A with manager Bob Geren which is populated with questions from readers of the blog itself. One of the questions concerns a new ballpark and what the increased revenue for the A’s could mean. Perhaps as a foreshadowing of things to come, the A’s broke character a little bit and signed Nick Swisher to a 5 year deal worth over $25 million. Other questions concern Jason Kendall, whose continued struggles (.189/.233/.201) have begun to influence a groundswell of support for Adam Melhuse.

On a completely random note, rookie Travis Buck has been playing well, and may in the running for some hardware by the end of the year.

Finally, Ryan Langerhans didn’t spend much time on the A’s roster, but, in that time he contributed mightily to the all-important “hotness quotient”. And since I’m always aiming to please as many readers as possible, I feel duty-bound to point out that the A’s wives aren’t all that bad looking either. For something that’s more baseball related, keep scrolling down to see Oakland players wearing socks the way they were meant to be worn (with stirrups!).