In for John Hickey one last time this week, completing a 5-1 trip through Texas. Heading out of town, so this’ll be a short one …
It was Grade A Bartolo Colon on this day. Pitching for the first time since turning 40 on Friday, he must have had a good meal or something like that Saturday night. He came out blazing, consistently throwing 94-95 mph with pretty much pinpoint control. I don’t know what’s more phenomenal, the fact that he’s throwing that hard at age 40 or the fact that he’s the most accurate pitcher in baseball right now. He’s walked precisely four guys in 61 1/3 innings. How amazing is that? Matt Cain walked five in the first two innings of the Giants game Sunday, and he’s regarded as a control guy.
Bob Melvin never likes to get drawn into deep conversation about games beyond the one on the schedule that day, but he couldn’t resist Sunday on the eve of this year’s interleague clash with the crossbay San Francisco Giants.
Melvin loves the Bay Bridge Series, to the degree that he’s a bit sad that it’s only four games this year instead of six, and that all four of those games will be played in a row, two in Oakland Monday and Tuesday, and two in San Francisco Wednesday and Thursday.
“I’ve often said for people in the Bay Area, it’s an exciting time of the baseball season for them because everybody’s watching it,” Melvin said. “You can say all you want that it’s just four games against another team, but in the Bay Area, it takes on more importance than that. The stands are packed, whether it’s our place or their place, it’s a raucous crowd for both sides, and there are a lot of people who are fighting and arguing in bars and restaurants for their team. It’s kind of cool.”
A quick turnaround tonight to Sunday’s day affair so this will be very brief.
The cynics, and there are many of them out there, will take one look at the A’s 27-23 record after 50 games and surmise, “Yeah, but take away their 8-0 against the Houston Astros, and they’ve be a sub-.500 team right now.”
That is true. But not everybody is unbeaten against the Astros like the A’s are. The Angels are 3-3 against them. Seattle is 2-4. The Rangers are 5-1. You can’t count the wins until you win them, and the A’s have taken care of business against a clearly inferior team much better than at least two division foes, and slightly better than the division-leading Rangers.
In for John Hickey …
Quiet pregame at Minute Maid Park. Jed Lowrie, slowly but surely, is working his way back to playing again. He was back on the field taking batting practice and infield for the first time because he can finally get a cleat on his right foot, which was plunked by a Yu Darvish pitch on Tuesday. Lowrie said he could possibly pinch-hit in an emergency, and manager Bob Melvin said he could possibly start Sunday.
In for John Hickey …
Hard to say what was more thrilling to watch, Chris Young’s three-run blast that gave the A’s the ninth-inning lead Friday night against Houston or what Bob Melvin had to do to preserve it in the bottom of the ninth with closer Grant Balfour on the mound.
With Jed Lowrie still unable to play with a sore foot and infielders Nate Freiman and Adam Rosales having been lifted for pinch-hitters, manager Bob Melvin had to get ultra-creative with his infield. He wound up playing John Jaso at first base, Josh Donaldson at short and Brandon Moss at third. Only Jaso had major league experience playing his makeshift position, having played first in spring training in 2012 and one other time in the majors for four innings in 2010.
In for John Hickey, who is somewhere moving a piano or a refrigerator right now …
Made it to Houston by car from Arlington and somehow didn’t wind up in some Podunkville jail. For those contemplating that drive on a future Oakland swing through Texas, bring lots of good music. It’s a whole lotta nuttin’ out there on I-45, unless you like to count auto repair shops constructed of sheet metal (thank the lord I didn’t break down).
In for John Hickey, who I envision right now behind the wheel of a giant moving van somewhere around Grants Pass, Ore. …
OK, flush this one. Best part of Wednesday’s 3-1 A’s loss? It only took 2 hours, 22 minutes, the shortest game of the year at Rangers Ballpark. It leaves me the rest of the day to ponder what to eat here in Arlington. Appears I have two choices based on the restaurant fare deep in the heart of Texas — steak or chicken. Salad? I think I have to drive to New Mexico, although I actually spotted a Whole Foods here next to the Whattaburger and Waffle House. Can you believe it?
In for John Hickey, who’s missing all the good stuff …
This will be very brief tonight with a quick turnaround day game Wednesday at Rangers Ballpark. Suffice it we saw a morsel of the future Tuesday night, and its name was Dan Straily. We’ve known for awhile what kind of stuff this 24-year-old righthander has. It was just a matter of putting it all together with composure and command in a big-league setting.
You couldn’t get much more big-league than this game. 46,000 folks in the park. Yu Darvish and his majestic assortment of fastball and sliders pitching for Texas. A first-place Rangers team itching to put Oakland in its place after what may have been perceived as a blip here on Monday night.
In for John Hickey all this week. Somehow managed not to get struck by lightning today …
If you’re a diehard A’s fan that keeps tabs on the organization at all levels, you probably noticed that Japanese infielder Hiro Nakajima played second base Monday night (with Jemile Weeks at shortstop) for the Sacramento RiverCats. And if you’re really on top of things, you’ve noticed Nakajima is playing third base Tuesday night.
With Jed Lowrie so locked in at shortstop with the big club, the A’s are exploring what they can do with Nakajima as a major leaguer at other infield positions. His official rehab assignment is up on Thursday, and he could possibly be with Oakland soon.
In for John Hickey this week …
Pitchers who work quickly and throw strikes have always been manager favorites, but they are also the sportswriters’ favorites. We always liked to see Greg Maddux coming, and Mark Mulder, and Mike Mussina.
And yes, Bartolo Colon, any time, anywhere. Even in Rangers Ballpark. Actually, especially at Rangers Ballpark.