For most teams, the loss of their Opening Day starting pitcher – their ace – would spell doom and inevitable drop in production from the pitching staff.
For the A’s, it simply is an opportunity for someone like Jesse Chavez to step up. Chavez, a journeyman who had only made two starts in his career prior to this season, was suddenly thrust into a spot in the A’s rotation. That in and of itself was enough to make me cringe, let alone the fact that his career ERA was above 5.00.
So of course, Chavez is pitching lights-out, as evidenced by his eight-inning plus five-hitter in a 5-4 win over the White Sox Monday night. Chavez struck out seven, walked two, and his only two blemishes were allowing solo homers to Dayan Viciedo and Jose Abreu in the second and ninth innings, respectively. Of course, Chavez’s sub-2.50 ERA is good enough for seventh in the A.L, with teammates Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir ahead of him. Of course, the A’s are 7-1 whenever he starts. Of course, the A’s have the second lowest team ERA in baseball, even after losing two of their top starters in Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin to Tommy John surgery, and being without key reliever Ryan Cook thus far.
The A’s just keep marching on. Never mind the crappy attendance – 10,120 came out on Monday night to watch the defending AL West champions (and you would have to really be a die-hard A’s fan to come out to the dilapidated O.co when the Giants are playing at gorgeous AT&T the same night). They don’t have the big names, fancy stadium, or really anything that would draw much attention.
Well, except the fact that they win ballgames, and tonight was a perfect example. Josh Reddick banging a triple to dead center in the second to score the tying run. Josh Donaldson ripping one to left to give the A’s a 3-1 lead in the fifth. Jed Lowrie driving one between the outfielders to score two more and give the A’s some much-needed insurance. Sean Doolittle striking out the game’s final two batters with the tying run on second base.
Jesse Chavez, Josh Reddick, Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie, and Sean Doolittle. None of them are household names anywhere outside of Northern California. But these are four crucial players on the team with the most wins in the American League.
And together, they put together just enough to get the victory.
— The A’s were one step from an absolute catastrophe in the ninth. Bob Melvin had to make three pitching changes until Doolittle closed things out. Melvin, in my opinion, overreacted by pulling Chavez after Abreu led off the inning with a home run. Chavez, at that point, had only thrown 93 pitches and still had a 5-2 lead to work with.
— At what point do we proclaim that Billy Beane whiffed on the Jim Johnson-for-Grant Balfour swap, or are we not allowed to criticize him? Johnson entered the game in a save situation, but promptly allowed back-to-back hits, including an RBI single, and put the tying run on base with nobody out. Fortunately, Doolittle saved the entire bullpen’s backs.
— Speaking of Doolittle, he may have earned the closer’s role temporarily with his performance.
— At 24-15, the A’s have matched their best record after 39 games over the last 24 years (h/t Jane Lee).
— I’m glad I’m not a White Sox fan, because listening to Hawk Harrelson for nine innings would make me smash my head against a wall continuously. He sounds like an old man scolding his grandkids whenever he yells, “Stretch! Get on out of here!” Sorry Hawk, the “bad guys” won tonight.