Thanks to Texas' three-game sweep of Tampa Bay, the A's will get their first MLB Heavyweight Championship bout of 2006 on Monday. (See sidebar section for more detail.) I like the A's chances of holding onto the title for awhile; they have Rich Harden going in the series finale on Wednesday, and then they head to Kansas City for the weekend to face the AL's worst team.
Of course, the A's haven't exactly been one of the AL's best teams this season themselves. They're currently 8-11, and the reason is pretty clear: the A's five starters, who last year had a combined ERA of 3.58, currenly have an ERA over two runs higher: 5.74. The games they won last year 4-3 and 3-2, they are now losing 5-4 and 4-3--the exact scores by which the Angels took the last two games of the most recent series.
There are other problems, too. The injury bug has affected Bobby Crosby again, as well as Huston Street, Esteban Loaiza, and Jay Witasick. Street and Justin Duchscherer each melted down and blew 2-run ninth-inning leads. The offense, which on paper should be the most balanced offense in baseball, is just the opposite. There are three players hitting at or above expectations: Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez, and Milton Bradley. There is one player hitting almost as expected: Mark Kotsay. Everyone else has been simply awful, with a batting averages around the Mendoza line, or worse.
All of which adds up to yet another disappointing April. But you gotta figure that the A's starters won't allow six runs a game all year, and that half the A's lineup won't hit below .200. It's gonna turn around--those players are gonna start hitting and pitching as projected, and when they do, watch out. This team isn't clicking yet, but at some point, they will. There's a nice, long winning streak right around the corner, I can just feel it. Let's hope they don't wait until June this time to find where that corner is.