This is not the way Tommy Milone envisioned his season winding down.
Just two months ago he was a key member of one of the best young pitching staffs in the Major Leagues, and at 26 he was a left-hander with positive playoff experience and plenty of promise.
The season started out well enough with Milone earning the No. 3 spot in the rotation and winning his first three starts. But then luck started to get rough. Over the course of his next five starts he brought his ERA down from 3.86 to 3.71 but went 0-5. He couldn’t catch a break.
There was a stretch in May and June when it seemed like the A’s offense was first-class.
The A’s got away from that some in July and early August, but in the last few weeks the A’s seem to be back with bats blazing.
Oakland scored seven runs in a 7-2 win over the Astros Sunday, a total that isn’t amazing on its own. But when you consider that all seven runs came home after there were two out in the third inning the picture changes.
Brett Anderson kept jumping up in the bullpen every time the telephone rang.
Anderson, a starter for virtually all of his career, isn’t used to the rhythms of the bullpen.
“Every call, first to last, I figured I’m in the game,’’ Anderson said. But as the game went along and the A’s lead went from 3-1 to 7-1 to 10-1, he began to calm down.
“I thought they might save me to see how Bartolo does,’’ Anderson said.
No one knows better than Tommy Milone that his spot in the Oakland rotation comes with no guarantees.
Pitch well in the season’s final six weeks and he can figure he’ll keep getting the ball every five days.
Pitch poorly and the A’s have options. Brett Anderson, the A’s opening day starter, is on an injury rehabilitation assignment and is being groomed to return as a starter after a stretch in which the A’s thought the club might be best served with Anderson joining the bullpen.
Twice in the last four games the Oakland starting pitcher hasn’t made it to the fifth inning.
The last time Wednesday’s A’s starter, Bartolo Colon, pitched in Cincinnati, he gave up four home runs.
But there is no kidding that Wednesday’s start for Colon is a big one. He has thrown at least six innings and given up three or fewer runs in each of his last 15 starts. With the A’s offense on the rails, it figures that Colon is going to have to pitch to that standard for the A’s to come out of this series with a split.
When Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey steps on the mound for the Blue Jays Wednesday, he says it will be special.
That’s because he’ll be pitching against the A’s Bartolo Colon.
Dickey, the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner while pitching for the New York Mets, has been pitching in the Major Leagues off and on since 2001, most of that in the American League.
Colon, who has pitched in the big leagues since 1997, also has spent the bulk of his time in the American League.
But for all of that, this will be just the second time they’ve pitched in the same game.
The A’s would like to add a starting pitcher before the trade deadline comes around Wednesday, and the A’s have a preference for that pitcher to be Jake Peavy.
Wishing doesn’t make it so, of course, but the club is very much in the hunt for the Chicago White Sox’s right-hander, who cleaned out his locker Sunday morning with all indications a trade is just a day or so, if not an hour or so, away.
The Braves, the Dodgers, the Cardinals and the Red Sox came into Sunday as fellow contenders in the race to get Peavy as the White Sox try to shed salary and add good young prospects.
The axe fell in Milwaukee Monday when Ryan Braun reversed course on his previous claims of innocence concerning drug use and accepted a 65-day suspension that will see him play no more for the Brewers this year.
Braun’s name was one of those caught up in Major League Baseball’s pursuit of performance-enhancing drug users centered round the Biogenesis lab in Florida. Another of those named in the original papers was A’s starter Bartolo Colon, but it seems that the 50-day suspension Colon served at the end of the 2012 season and through the first five games of this year is all the time Colon will have to serve.
Sunday will be the final day before the All-Star break, the traditional end of the first half of the season.
And with the A’s playing the Red Sox, it will wind up having been an excellent first half for Oakland, win or lose.
Consider that a week ago the A’s were facing the toughest run-up to the break for anybody in the Major Leagues. Oakland had the fourth-best win total at the time, 52, and had to play two of the three teams with more wins, Pittsburgh (53) on the road and Boston (54) at home.
Grant Balfour now has the Oakland club record for consecutive saves with 41 after pitching a 1-2-3 ninth to hold off the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 Monday.
He took the record from Dennis Eckersley, who compiled his in 1991 (the last four saves) and 1992 (the first 36 saves).
Eckersley, now a Hall of Famer, was an All-Star in both of those seasons. Balfour wasn’t an All-Star last year and he isn’t an All-Star now.
He’s not happy about that. But he does hold out hope that the situation may change.
“It is what it is,’’ Balfour said after closing out Bartolo Colon’s 12th win. “It would be good to be an All-Star. You accept it and you see what happens.’’
Does that mean Balfour is holding out hope that he may get a call to join the All-Star ranks for the American League in the next week?
“There is a little hope, of course,’’ Balfour said.