Steward 14, Hickey 1.
That’s the score after the first four games. I told returning beat writer John Hickey before Wednesday night’s that he didn’t do a very good job with the Oakland offense the first two days of the season and that I’d have to rectify the situation. So can I get a pie to go as we send Hick and the A’s off to glorious Houston?
Of course, it helped me to get the back end of the Seattle rotation the past two days. I’m sure it’s happened, but I’ve never covered a game involving Joe Saunders where he’s pitched well. And Brandon Maurer, who showed flashes of why the Mariners like him as their No. 4 starter, didn’t show nearly enough flash in his first major-league start. Josh Reddick’s homer in the first inning was a launched missile, and Yoenis Cespedes’ in the sixth was a line shot laser.
The A’s also pounded out four doubles against Seattle pitching Thursday and the offense that looked hopeless after two games suddenly looks even better now than last year. Coco Crisp could score 110 runs if he stays healthy, because adding Jed Lowrie and Chris Young to the middle of the lineup to go along with Reddick, Cespedes and Brandon Moss makes Oakland look deep and dangerous.
We’ll find out just how deep and dangerous this weekend, when the A’s make their first trip into Houston to meet their new A.L. West counterpart, the lowly Astros. As least for now, all the teams in the division could potentially have a tremendous advantage over teams in other divisions playing this Houston bunch 19 times each. It could have a profound impact on the wild-card race, because there are no teams as bad as the Astros in either of the other two divisions.
It made a difference last year, to be sure: St. Louis, for example, was 11-4 vs. Houston. The Cardinals maybe aren’t a wild-card team without the Astros in the NL Central. Cincinnati was 10-5 against the Astros, the Giants 8-1, the Nationals 7-1, the Diamondbacks 6-0, the Pirates 12-5. A bunch of teams in the National League are going to miss Houston.
The A’s are going to feel like they’re playing one of their farm teams. The Astros lineup has Carlos Pena, Brett Wallace and Chris Carter, and the pitching staff has Brad Peacock (who starts against the A’s Friday night) and now Travis Blackley, whom the Astros acquired for minor league outfielder Jake Goebbert after Thursday’s game. Good to see that Blackley has found a home in the majors. Good guy who just couldn’t get it going in the spring. He could really help Houston if he finds his rhythm.
It’ll also be a homecoming for Jed Lowrie, who hit two more doubles Thursday and is now hitting .462 after his first four games in an Oakland uniform. He said he’s looking forward to the trip and added that his new teammates are going to like hitting in Minute Maid Park.
“I love playing in that park, it’s a good place to play,” Lowrie said. “I was telling some of the other guys, though, just don’t hit it to center. I think I saw one home run to center field last year.”
Should be interesting as a warmup for the first trip into Anaheim to face the Los Angeles Angels. Whatever happens, I think we have Hickey straightened out now.