The A's 11-2 drubbing of Minnesota wasn't filled with much drama, but it was a Big News kind of day nonetheless. The game was not televised, and many people missed the excitement because of work obligations, but do not fear. Catfish Stew has the goods on What It Was Like To Be There. Here's the Big News you want to hear about:
Francisco Liriano Was Godawful Terrible.
Remember when the Twins had two Johan Santanas, Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano? Well, now they have zero Johan Santanas. Johan Santana was traded to the Mets, and Francisco Liriano is recovering from Tommy John surgery. The guy who pitched for the Twins on Thursday bore a slight resemblence to Francisco Liriano--he was left-handed and threw 97mph fastballs--but this guy had absolutely no command whatsoever.
The old Francisco Liriano was electrifying, in a Rich Harden sort of way, but the electricity was injured yesterday, in a Rich Harden sort of way. Liriano couldn't get out of the first inning. He only recorded two outs, and one of them was on a baserunning mistake. Knowing the wide gap between What Could Be and What Actually Is made Liriano's outing rather sad and painful to watch, in a Rich Harden sort of way.
They say that with Tommy John surgery, the arm strength returns before the command does. You gotta think after this performance that the Twins will have to send Liriano down to the minors for awhile, until he can find that command again. A lot of fantasy owners will probably hate to hear that.
Whaddaya mean, that's not the Big News you want to hear about? Ok, how's this:
Mike Sweeney Is Not So Good At Fielding.
The A's threw out an all-righthanded lineup against Liriano, which put Mike Sweeney at first base. I don't think Sweeney will take the All-Time A's Player Most Obviously Too Old To Chase Down Coliseum Foul Popups Anymore trophy away from Eric Karros, but he definitely did not look comfortable out there. You know you're a bad fielder when you get replaced for defense by Daric Barton, who isn't exactly known as a slick fielder himself. In the first at-bat of the game, Sweeney missed this popup off the bat of Carlos Gomez:
It was a long run, so Sweeney didn't get an error, but a better first baseman would have caught it. It cost the A's a run, as two pitches later, Gomez got a fat off-speed pitch over the middle of the plate, and took Greg Smith deep:
What? That wasn't what you wanted to know about, either? Hmmm, well, there was this:
Greg Smith Has a Secret Magic Pitch or Something.
Greg Smith is supposed to be a fringe major leaguer, a guy with middling stuff who is a fifth starter at best. He's supposed to be lucky if he can hang around for a few years in the major leagues before his crappy stuff catches up to him.
Oh, yeah, supposed-to-tellers? Well, look at this: after four games, Greg Smith has a 2.88 ERA. How do you explain that?
Check out the grip he has in the above picture. I don't know what the heck that is. But given the fact that we are lacking in explanations for Smith's amazing success so far, I have chosen to believe that Greg Smith is in possession of a Secret Magic Pitch. How's that for news?
Oh, but you say it doesn't explain anything about the A's new power hitter? Well, ok:
Donnie Murphy Has Some Pop. Thursday's game was the first time since the season opener in Tokyo that the A's hit more than one home run in a game. Both homers yesterday were struck by Donnie Murphy, who is platooning, it appears, with Jack Hannahan at third base. The two homers ties Murphy for the team lead. Probably the most unusual thing about Murphy's homers is that they had very little effect on the outcome. Murphy's single in the first inning contributed more to the A's Probability of winning (+.079) than his two later homers did combined (+.053 and .011).
What? Oh, you wanted to hear about the Big Debut? Sure.
Rajai Davis can fly.
Thursday was our first look at Rajai Davis in an Oakland uniform. All I can say is, hmm, well, this is different. He's so, um...what's the word I'm looking for...not "unathletic"...let's just say he's "un-A's-like". The first pitch he saw, he tried to bunt for a hit. Later he hit a triple, and flew around the bases faster than, well, I dunno, who was the last A's player who could run that fast? I think he's faster than Rickey was. Herb Washington, maybe? It was quite a revelation. I had almost completely forgotten how entertaining speed is.
What now? Did you say Hurt?
Emil Brown, hit by pitch.
Oh, Big Hurt! Well, why didn't you say so to begin with?
Frank Thomas Returns.
The crowd gave Thomas a nice semi-standing ovation before his first at-bat. Thomas didn't really acknowledge the applause. There weren't that many people there, so maybe it wasn't loud enough for him to notice. Thomas seemed very focused and pensive.
Thomas didn't make any sort highlight-reel impact with his bat. But he drew a couple of walks, so he certainly contributed. Jayson Stark reported on ESPN that many scouts thought that Thomas' bat had slowed down considerably since last year. The Twins certainly seemed to think so, as they repeatedly pounded him with fastballs inside. Thomas never got in front of any of those pitches, and got jammed more than once.
Perhaps that's why the A's are still keeping Mike Sweeney around. Thomas has gotten off to slow starts each of the preceding two seasons, and eventually turned it around. Can he turn it around again, or will this be the end? That's a news story for another day...