Dan Haren has a blog now, and his most recent entry is titled 'Lost' on the Road. Suggestion for Mr. Haren: if you're going to write titles that are prescient, try calling your next blog entry, "A's Win Again", or "Pitching with Perfect Control", "I Threw a No-Hitter". Haren and the A's indeed "lost on the road" tonight, 7-6 in Minnesota.
In Haren's first two starts this year, he has suffered from the same problem that plagued him at the beginning of 2005: the big inning. Early last year, he would get into jams, and then find himself unable to stop the bleeding. An inning where he should allow one or two runs suddenly became five, six, or seven-run innings. If he gave up five runs in a start, all or nearly all of those runs allowed would come in one inning. Otherwise, he'd shut the opposition down.
In his first start, he hung a breaking pitch to Gary Sheffield for a three-run homer. Tonight, the big inning struck Haren again. Five straight hits, an out, and then a fat, hit-me fastball to Tony Batista (why throw Batista anything anywhere close to the strike zone?) and a 4-0 lead turned into a 6-4 deficit that the A's never overcame.
I guess the good news is that somewhere around the middle of June, Haren stopped letting these rallies get out of hand, and he was excellent the rest of the season. Whatever the problem is, we know Haren can get over it. Hopefully, this time it won't take him two months to make the correction.
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On the offensive side, Eric Chavez is on fire in April for the first time in his life. Chavez hit two home runs tonight, giving him five for the year. Maybe it's practicing his leg kick in Arizona (which he never did before for some unfathomable reason, waiting until the regular season to start using it). Or maybe the comfort of having Frank Thomas hitting behind him has kept Chavez from trying to "do too much", as the old saying goes. Whatever the reason, it's a good sign.
If Ken Macha is true to his word that the "players write the lineup", however, Chavez may not have Frank Thomas batting behind him much longer. Thomas isn't hitting a lick. He's getting hittable pitches, and either swinging through them, or popping them up. I don't think Thomas is done as a player, but I do think he wasn't quite as ready for the regular season as the A's were hoping. His timing looks all off.
The alternative, though, is Dan Johnson, and he hasn't hit anything, either. Johnson is 0-for-2006. So I guess it's a race. First one to start hitting anything gets to keep his job.