I went to the game yesterday, and I still find myself unable to process what happened. I can't find any sort of pattern to make sense of. Witness:
Vladimir Guerrero walks around like he's sixty years old and needs hip replacement surgery. Every step looks like it hurts. It's hard to reconcile that image with the the guy who held Nick Swisher to a double with a rocket throw to the infield, who stole a base late in the game, and who, just seconds after the phrase "The A's can't expect to get through this whole series without being hurt by Vlad at least once" passed through my brain, hit a two-run homer.
Kirk Saarloos was not pitching particularly effectively, but his pitch count was strangely low. He was only at about 55 pitches through the first five innings. I'm not sure what to make of that.
After the repeated failures of last year's bullpen, seeing Rincon serve up a homer to Garret Anderson seemed quite familiar. But what followed with Street and Dotel didn't quite register. I'm still kinda thinking, "That's my team doing that?"
Usually, when the Angels get a late lead on you, they throw their bullpen at you and stomp on you until you expire. This time, though, Scioscia didn't pull the right strings, left Lackey in there too long, and didn't go to his pen until it was too late.
Chavez and Durazo were the A's best hitters last year, but have been their worst hitters this year. Durazo's pitch selection seems to be messed up; he's swinging at breaking pitches in the dirt, and taking fastballs over the plate. With Chavez, it's not so much that he's swinging at bad pitches (although he's done that, too), but that he's simply not hitting the ball when he does get a pitch to hit.
Despite the struggles of their star hitters, the A's got several clutch hits, including a home run from Marco Scutaro. This fact is still rattling around in my brain, looking for a compartment where that fact seems to fit. Clutch hits? It does not fit any known pattern from recent memory.
The A's won two completely different kinds of ballgames on consecutive days; one a 1-0 pitcher's duel, and the other a 7-6 slugfest. And for the second consecutive day, the game ended on a bad play by the Angels. This time Juan Rivera, the tying run, got doubled off second base on a soft line drive, just a horrendous baserunning mistake.
What to make of this? Should I be optimistic, because the A's played good, mistake-free baseball? Or should I be pessimistic, because the A's played quite well, and still couldn't beat the Angels without the Angels beating themselves?
I still have no idea what kind of team we have with these 2005 Oakland Athletics. Now, it's on to Texas and then Seattle. I have a feeling that this week will be quite revealing, and we're about to learn a lot about the true nature of the 2005 AL West race.