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The Further Adventures of Danny The Rabbit
2005-06-21 07:51
by Ken Arneson

Brown is not my color, but I'm sure I'll find some excuse to wear the Barry Zito necktie I got at the A's-Phils game on Father's Day. For a brown tie, it looks pretty good.

* * *

To get the tie, I had to arrive pretty early, so I got a chance to watch the Phillies take batting practice. It kinda threw me to look out on the field and see the Phillies wearing blue uniforms. Thankfully, they changed to gray for the game.

If I had judged by batting practice, I would have thought that Jason Michaels was the Phillies best hitter. (Although I arrived too late to see Abreu and Thome.) Michaels was hitting line drives all over the yard. That continued into the game, as Michaels hit a bases loaded, 3-2 get-me-over fastball for a line drive 2-RBI double in the first inning. After that, the A's pitchers started feeding Michaels off-speed slop instead of batting-practice fastballs, and they held him in check.

The game played out like a vintage 2000-04 A's victory: the A's pitcher (Joe Blanton) kept the game close; the A's made the opposing starter (Jon Lieber) tire early (a sixth-inning rally) by making him throw a lot of pitches, got a big hit (by Adam Melhuse) against the middle relief (Ryan Madson), and then finished it off with a solid bullpen performance (Justin Duchscherer, filling in for the injured Huston Street).

* * *

After the game, the A's let dads run the bases with their kids, so I took a home run trot around the bases, just to see what it was like. For some reason, the Coliseum looks an awful a lot smaller from second base than it does from the second deck.

* * *

In Swedish, the word "haren" means "the rabbit". With a name like that, Dan Haren should be a speedy leadoff type instead of a pitcher. But I like the sound of "Danny The Rabbit". Makes him sound like a gangster.

* * *

Haren avoided the big inning blues again last night, and won his fourth straight start.

Haren pitched aggressively all game, and didn't start to nibble when he got into jams. I was most impressed with his ability to jam Richie Sexson with inside fastballs. He got Sexson to pop out three times with the same pitch. Heck, if the plan works, stick with it.

* * *

Haren had a little help from Nick Swisher, who robbed Jeremy Reed of a home run with a leaping catch above the yellow line. Swisher also had a couple of big hits, thanks to some stubbornness by Aaron Sele.

Swisher hasn't shown yet that he can hit major league breaking pitches. Sele's game plan against Swisher was apparently to get ahead in the count with off-speed stuff, and get him out with a well-placed fastball. Sele had three opportunities to strike out Swisher with his curveball, but gave him something straight each time, and Swisher took advantage twice.

In Swisher's first AB, Sele had Swisher looking foolish with two consecutive curveballs, but Sele inexplicably followed that up with something straight and out over the plate, which Swisher hit for an RBI double to left-center. Then in his next AB, Sele tried to sneak a fastball past Swisher on a 3-2 pitch, and Swisher took him deep.

Heck, if the plan doesn't work, stick with it anyway.

In Swisher's third AB, with two outs and two runners on base, Sele again got two strikes on Swisher with curveballs, and again followed it up with a fastball. This time, Sele got his way, though, and Swisher grounded out to second.

* * *

Mark Kotsay hit a three-run homer in the eighth to ice the game. Not quite sure why Mike Hargrove left Jeff Nelson in to face Kotsay with lefty Matt Thornton ready in the bullpen, but I'll take it, thank you very much.

Kotsay has been battling some back troubles recently, putting him into an 0-for-16 slump, dropping his average and OBP about 30 points. So the homer was a nice way to bust out.

I was a bit surprised by the reaction by some Yankee fans to the Peter Gammons Kotsay-to-the-Yanks trade rumor. The commenters who looked at his current numbers and decided they didn't want him are quite mistaken. Kotsay is exactly what the Yankees need right now, and if they got him without breaking up their current roster, I think they'd win the division. His defense would fill their biggest hole, and his approach at the plate is very much in the style of the 1996-2000 champions. He's a perfect fit. But if I'm Billy Beane, I'm doing everything I can to keep him from exercising his right to become a free agent at the end of the year, and to keep him around as long as possible. I love the guy. I'm only giving up Kotsay if it kills me.

* * *

Rich Harden returns to the mound tonight, meaning Ryan Glynn probably goes back to Sacramento. It also means the A's are finally starting to look like the team we were hoping for at the beginning of the year. The A's are 13-7 since Bobby Crosby came off the DL.

Now, get Harden and Street back on the mound, and let's have some fun!

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