In his first two starts at the Major League level Dan Straily had looked like anything but the breakout prospect of the Athletics organization in 2012. His supposed pinpoint control was missing, his pitches were hittable, and he was fortunate to escape his outings with just a 5.60 ERA as he entered his 3rd start. Thursday night in Kansas City was something altogether different. Over 6.1 innings Straily bent, but never broke as he shut out the Kansas City Royals en route to a 3-0 A’s victory. The A’s used their trusty solo home run strategy to score just enough as Coco Crisp hit his 6th of the year and Yoenis Cespedes found that power stroke for his 15th. The A’s did the rest of tonights work from the mound.
TURNING POINT: The bottom of the 2nd inning began to take shape in an eerily similar fashion as it did last week against the Angels. After retiring the side in order in the 1st, and getting the first out in the 2nd inning the wheels on the Dan Straily Express began to wobble. A single to Salvador Perez, a walk to Mike Moustakas, and after a Jeff Francoeur pop up, another walk to Eric Hosmer. There were 2 outs, but the bases were full of Royals and Wednesday night’s hero (What Chris Wantz) Chris Getz (Heard that from Rick Tittle). But this time Chris didn’t get anything but a weak grounder to Chris Carter to strand all 3 baserunners. After that Straily began to mow down the Royals, only allowing 2 to reach base from that point on.
ON THE HILL: We still haven’t seen the dominant strikeout machine that lead all of professional baseball in K’s from the minors, but this Dan Straily certainly inspired more confidence than the last one did. He only struck out 2 in his 6.1 innings of work, but he only gave up 3 hits and the 2 walks in the 2nd inning to nail down his first Major League win. Sean Doolittle got himself into a bit of trouble after relieving Straily, allowing 2 hits and retiring 1, and Jerry Blevins was needed to bail him out. Jerry did exactly that, and retired the first batter of the next inning for good measure. Ryan Cook worked the final 2/3 of the 8th, allowing a hit but nothing else. Grant Balfour tallied his 9th save of the season with a perfect 9th inning.
AT THE PLATE: This was another rather uninspiring offensive performance by the A’s, they only had 5 hits and not one A’s player had a multi hit game. But Coco Crisp homered after an umpire review, and Yoenis Cespedes left little doubt in parking a ball in the left center field bleachers. Jemile Weeks added the other run on a single up the middle that drove in Derek Norris after he walked and stole his 5th base of the season (!). Josh Reddick singled on a bunt to put the A’s in the hit column in the 4th, and Brandon Moss added a single of his own. The offense is in a cold spell much like the rest of the team has been in August, but like all hot streaks, the cold streaks have to come to an end as well so they’ll get back to hitting like they have.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Psychologically this was a massively huge win for the A’s, they needed to end this failure of a roadtrip on a positive note at the very least, and they accomplished that. The Texas Rangers won so they don’t gain any ground on them, but the Angels lost so they are once again a game ahead of them. But with the Rays being the ones who defeated the Angels, and the Orioles losing to Boston the A’s now sit 1.5 games behind the Rays and Orioles who are tied atop the wild card with Detroit 1 game behind them. They are still right in the thick of this thing, but they need to run off a few wins in a row to really feel like they’re moving in the right direction again. Tommy Milone (9-9, 3.91 ERA) will hope to regain the comforts of home as he takes on young Zach McAllister (5-4, 3.46 ERA) and the Cleveland Indians tomorrow in Oakland. A strong outing from Milone will do wonders for his confidence, and get this homestand off on the right foot. The A’s will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the 20 game win streak of 2002, so it would be nice for the 2012 A’s to put together a streak of their own.