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Homeward bound

OK, straw poll time. How many of you, on the day that Nick Swisher was traded to the Chicago White Sox, would’ve guessed the A’s would return from their first domestic road trip of the season tied with the Angels and Boston Red Sox for the best record in the American League?

Not I, said the national baseball writer. But I have said all along that the A’s would be better than people think. And while I agree it’s impossible to gauge an entire season on the first two weeks, I think the A’s have shown that they are better than imagined.

No. 1, it appears they will hit more consistently than we’ve seen in years. Not that they’re an offensive force necessarily, but 38 runs on an eight-game trip against some of the better pitching in the AL isn’t shabby. A huge concern is the lack of power, but even with that, there’s reason for optimism.

 It appears that in Kurt Suzuki, they have a catcher who will hit as much as Ramon Hernandez did in his early years and perhaps be better defensively. Travis Buck appears to be a doubles machine. I’m cautiously optimistic about Bobby Crosby. Daric Barton gets on base, even when he’s not hitting. Even Emil Brown and Mike Sweeney appear to be better than advertised.

The pitching has held up remarkably well considering the usual injury to Rich Harden and a frustrating start for Justin Duchscherer. I mean, Dana Eveland already has shown more in three starts as an Athletic than he ever showed in either Colorado or Arizona, and I say that despite his loss in Chicago on Tuesday. Greg Smith, like Eveland an acquisition in the Dan Haren trade, looks like a vintage Curt Young, and if you don’t remember Young, there was a time in 1987 before he sustained an arm injury, that he may well have been the best left-hander in the AL.

As for the rest, Joe Blanton is Joe Blanton, and Duchscherer will be fine if he stays healthy (I’m assuming Harden will continue to be Harden, and you know what that means). The bullpen is shaky. Santiago Casilla throws his slider with a lot of torque, so I worry about his elbow, and Huston Street is not a dominant closer at the moment.

Where it all takes the A’s is, obviously, hard to say. But bringing a 9-6 mark into the second homestand is a nice development for them, and might be indication that this summer won’t be as drab as most of you thought back in January.

Tell me what you think. Excerpts will appear in Sunday’s Times.

rhurd