"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Showdown in Oak Town

The A’s and Yankees enter this weekend’s series with identical 75-58 records, tied for third best in the American League, the lead in the Wild Card race, and in the case of the A’s, with the Angels for lead in the AL West. It’s a rather stunning accomplishment considering how badly both teams stumbled out of the gate.

For the A’s, their lowest point came after an eight-game losing streak in late May. After losing to the Indians on May 29, the A’s were 17-32 (.347). Since then they are 58-26 (.690).* I’m not entirely sure that it’s a coincidence that May 30 was the day that the A’s activated their 25-year-old shortstop and number-three hitter, Bobby Crosby, from the disabled list.

Crosby started the A’s opening day loss to the Orioles in Baltimore, but was removed mid-game and placed on the DL due to a stress fracture of his ribs that had resulted from being hit by a pitch in spring training. The A’s had lost their last eight games prior to Crosby being activated at the end of may, but with him in the line-up, Oakland ran off four straight wins, with Crosby getting a hit in each. Crosby proceeded to hit .337/.394/.568 (.319 GPA) through the end of June as the A’s finished the month with an eight-game wining streak, the last seven games of which also saw Crosby hit safely.

Bobby fell off some from that point hitting (.260/.333/.431 – .258) in July and August, but his presence in the line-up and Gold Glove-worthy defense at shortstop (112 Rate) remained a key part of the A’s success, as they started the second half with seven straight series wins (20-4, .833). Well, last Saturday, Baltimore struck again as Crosby suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left ankle when he slid into Sal Fasano at home plate. Crosby is now back on the disabled list and the A’s are unsure if he will return before the end of the regular season.

Thus far the A’s have done well in his absence. With Crosby still at short, the A’s followed their remarkable start to the second half of the season by dropping series to the Twins, Orioles and Royals and losing the opening game of a series in Detroit, a 2-8 stretch, only to recover and with their next four games, the last of which was the game in which Crosby broke his ankle.

With Crosby on the shelf, the A’s completed a four-game sweep of the O’s and then dropped a hard-fought and well-pitched three-game set to the rival Angels, in which aggregate score of the entire series was 6-3 Angels, with A’s winning the first game in eleven innings and the Angels taking the last two. Thus it’s difficult to say whether or not the Yankees, who are 5-1 against the A’s this season having played all six games against them during Crosby’s absence in May, are returning to Oakland at an advantageous time or not. In a sense, this series will be a greater test for Oakland than it will be for the Yankees. In addition to Crosby, the A’s are likely to be without center fielder and number-two hitter Mark Kotsay for at least the first two games due to back spasms. Kotsay last played on Sunday in Baltimore and received an epidural injection on Wednesday. The A’s are also playing without their young ace Rich Harden, who has missed his last two starts due to a strained right lat and is likely to miss at least one more. With harden out a month due to a strained left oblique suffered in a start against the Yankees in Oakland on May 14, the A’s went 17-19 (including losing that game against the Yankees). They later won Harden’s first three starts (and seven of his first eight) after being activated.

These injuries to Crosby, Kotsay and Harden, along with the just completed series loss to the Angels which erased the A’s lead in the West, could put the young A’s into a psychological funk. As Barry Zito told MLB.com, “Potentially it could bring us down, but we’ve faced adversity before and come through it. Granted we sucked the last time we had a bunch of guys on the DL, but now we have some momentum. We’ve been picking each other up for the past two months.”

As it turns out, Marco Scutaro has been almost as solid as Crosby in the field (108 Rate at shortstop), and the Yankees would have missed Harden’s turn in the rotation this weekend even if he had been healthy. The Yankees will also miss Joe Blanton, who along with Harden has formed a new trio of aces with Sunday’s starter, Barry Zito.

Hot on the heels of those three aces, however, is tonight’s starter, Dan Haren. Haren will oppose Al Leiter, who is coming off six ugly two-hit innings against the Royals, proceeded by a relatively efficient seven innings against the Blue Jays. The way the pitching rotations fell this weekend may not be ideal for either team, but no matter what happens this weekend there should be a playoff atmosphere in Oakland as the odds are the team that wins the series will emerge with the lead in the Wild Card race (though a poor performance by the Angels against the Mariners this weekend could put the A’s in the AL West lead and thus Yankees in the Wild Card lead regardless of the series outcome, but we’ll ignore that for now).

Oakland A’s

2005 Record: 75-58 (.564)
2005 Pythagorean Record: 79-54 (.595)

Manager: Ken Macha
General Manager: Billy Beane

Ballpark (2004 park factors): McAfee Coliseum (101/101)

Who has replaced whom?

Jay Payton replaced Eric Byrnes (Orioles)
Dan Johnson replaced Erubiel Durazo (DL)
Nick Swisher (DL) replaced Charles Thomas (minors)
Freddie Bynum replaced Jermaine Clark (minors)
Joe Kennedy replaced Octavio Dotel (DL)
Jay Witasick replaced Juan Cruz (call-up)

September Call-ups:

L – Matt Watson (OF)
R – Alberto Castillo (C)
R – Juan Cruz

Current Roster:

1B – Dan Johnson
2B – Mark Ellis
SS – Marco Scutaro
3B – Eric Chavez
C – Jason Kendall
RF – Nick Swisher
CF – Mark Kotsay
LF – Jay Payton
DH – Bobby Kielty


L – Scott Hatteberg (1B)
R – Keith Ginter (IF)
S – Adam Melhuse (C)
L – Freddie Bynum (IF)
L – Matt Watson (OF)
R – Alberto Castillo (C)


L – Barry Zito
R – Joe Blanton
L – Joe Kennedy
R – Dan Haren
R – Kirk Saarloos

R – Rich Harden (injured)


R – Huston Street
R – Justin Duchscherer
L – Ricardo Rincon
R – Kiko Calero
R – Keiichi Yabu
R – Jay Witasick
R – Juan Cruz


R – Bobby Crosby (SS)
R – Octavio Dotel
L – Erubiel Durazo (DH) (60-day)

Typical Line-up:

R – Jason Kendall (C)
L – Mark Kotsay (CF)
L – Eric Chavez (3B)
L – Dan Johnson (1B)
R – Jay Payton (LF)
S – Bobby Kielty (DH)
S – Nick Swisher (RF)
R – Mark Ellis (2B)
R – Marco Scutaro (SS)

Typical Line-up without Kotsay:

R – Jason Kendall (C)
R – Mark Ellis (2B)
L – Eric Chavez (3B)
L – Dan Johnson (1B)
R – Jay Payton (CF)
L – Scott Hatteberg (DH)
S – Bobby Kielty (LF)
S – Nick Swisher (RF)
R – Marco Scutaro (SS)

* By comparison, the Yankees, who never reached such a nadir, are 36-19 (.655) since they last had a .500 record on July 1.

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1 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Sep 2, 2005 5:18 pm

1.  I should add, though it's been covered in previous comment threads, that Tino Martinez is out for 3-4 days with a "minor rib cage strain" (intracostal or high oblique). Andy Phillips has been added to the Yankees September call-ups (Mendoza, Franklin, Nieves) to back up Giambi at first.

2 marc   ~  Sep 2, 2005 5:57 pm

2.  well Balt leading Boston 4-3 after 6. I guess that means Baltimore has about a 1 in 40 chance of winning.

3 Marcus   ~  Sep 2, 2005 6:13 pm

3.  This is going to be a tough series, and I think the offense is going to have to step up to win it. I hope Matsui is ready for another offensive surge.

Whoa, Keith Foulke is back in action for the Red Sox. I didn't realize he was back. Orioles up 6-3 in the 7th.

4 randym77   ~  Sep 2, 2005 6:45 pm

4.  I don't know why, but our offense has a tough time on the road. Jeter and A-Rod hit much better at home than on the road. I know that's normal (unless you're Robinson Cano ;-) but they seem to carry it to an extreme.

5 Marcus   ~  Sep 2, 2005 6:57 pm

5.  It's especially strange considering Yankee Stadium is supposedly tough on right handed hitters. Jeter's probably an exception given how much he goes opposite field, but A-Rod has proceeded to break the record for home runs by a right handed hitter in Yankee Stadium, all while hitting ~.320.

6 jayd   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:07 pm

6.  does anyone know where I can find the team to team won loss records. all kinds of day night grass turf home and away crap; can't find the basics anymore. RS have won 19 of 20 of their last home games. how long can THAT last. Methinks the o's are about to stick it to them this weekend. here's to a monster giambi weekend. God bless our splendid empire...ooooh 7-3

7 rbj   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:08 pm

7.  It's not so bad waiting for the early game to end if it's a Red Sox loss.

8 Paul in Boston   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:20 pm

8.  News flash #1: the Red Sox scored fewer than 7 runs tonight.

News flash #2: Leiter looks horrible in the 1st.

9 watziznehm2   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:20 pm

9.  Jeez....not a good start!!!!!!!!!

10 mikeplugh   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:20 pm

10.  Following the game on Gameday. It's one of the more painful experiences to follow a Leiter game in this format. Too much waiting for little green circles all over the strike zone.

It's bad enough actually watching his 5 hour walk-a-thons, to have to do it from a computer screen. Ugh.

Nice. Triple for Mark Ellis. One to nothing. Long day ahead of me.

11 watziznehm2   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:22 pm

11.  I hear you mike :-)

12 watziznehm2   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:22 pm

12.  I hear you mike :-)

13 mikeplugh   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:22 pm

13.  Lucky there are no firearms in Japan or I'd have killed my computer and all my neighbors by now. Leiter brings out the worst in me.

(Just joking office of Homeland Security).

14 watziznehm2   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:25 pm

14.  Damn!!!!! could he be any worse....

15 randym77   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:25 pm

15.  Hopefully Leiter can pull it together.

16 marc   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:26 pm

16.  is double batting practice a local rule there?

17 mikeplugh   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:27 pm

17.  I was in favor of Leiter up until today. Things are not as desperate as they were some weeks ago. The staff isn't collapsing the way it was then and we are in the midst of a fight for survival for the last month of the season. No room for guys who can't throw strikes. Give Aaron Small all of Leiter's remaining starts...at least until Wang gets back.

18 mikeplugh   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:30 pm

18.  Nice though randy, but Leiter is beyond pulling it together. He and Kevin Brown are finished. Brown is finished on the 60 day DL and forever, and Leiter should be sent to the pen to shine Mariano's shoes for the rest of the season and then retire.

19 randym77   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:31 pm

19.  What a disaster.

20 watziznehm2   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:32 pm

20.  Get him out already!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

21 rbj   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:33 pm

21.  Well, I'm going to get to bed at a decent hour.

22 marc   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:33 pm

22.  enough already. Ah, Torre

23 watziznehm2   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:33 pm

23.  At least I don't have to stay up late..

24 mikeplugh   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:34 pm

24.  Nice chatting 1st inning baseball with you guys. I'm leaving. I can't deal with this shit on my off day. (It's Saturday morning in Japan). I hope we can stage a furious comeback, but I won't watch it.

Good luck.

25 Zack   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:34 pm

25.  Maybe it will rain in Oakland tonight? I think I threw up somewhere during that last sequence...

26 randym77   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:35 pm

26.  Why is that every time I start to feel confident about the pitching, the rug gets pulled out from under me with something like this?

At least they have eight innings to make up those runs. :-P

27 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:37 pm

27.  Hey, am I the only one who thought Kendall was out stealing second and Ellis was out stretching his triple? I also thought Hatteberg was out at home, but the replay correected me on that.

Anyway, great time for my lap top charger not to be working. I can't even bitch without running up to my desktop. Grrrrrr.

28 marc   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:38 pm

28.  I'm sticking around for a while. It's still early. Maybe the Yanks will win 15-9

29 Rich   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:38 pm

29.  Yeah, Kendall and Ellis were out, but Torre left in Leiter so ridiculously long that it probably didn't matter.

30 marc   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:45 pm

30.  I'd like to come out of this with at least 1 this inning

31 randym77   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:53 pm

31.  Crap. This doesn't look good.

32 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:55 pm

32.  Wow. This is NG, man. (Not good.)

33 singledd   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:55 pm

33.  Goodnight Alex. Goodnight Cliff. Goodnight Japan.

34 randym77   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:55 pm

34.  Shoot me now.

35 marc   ~  Sep 2, 2005 7:57 pm

35.  Instead of stopping the bleeding we just exsanguanated.

36 randym77   ~  Sep 2, 2005 8:09 pm

36.  C'mon, Giambi! Make it a game again.

37 carl   ~  Sep 2, 2005 8:15 pm

37.  Sat down with some bar b que and figured I spend the evening watching the Yankees take down Oakland. Little did I know this game would be over before I finished my corn on the cob.

38 marc   ~  Sep 2, 2005 8:15 pm

38.  damn, they won't even throw us a friggen crumb

39 Zack   ~  Sep 2, 2005 8:33 pm

39.  Obviously, this is a game we just throw away and start over, final score being 19-3 or so. The problem, of course, being that tomorrow or the next day don't look so great either.

The A's are one of those teams that I really want to hate but simply can't, at least players-wise. I love Chavez and I love Kieltt's big red fro, and I love their attitude, they just always seem to have fun. Against us, it really shows. Its one of those, look at how a team can have fun, be young, play fundamentally sound baseball, and still win a lot. Whereas the Yankees just rarely if ever seem to have fun, at least nost since 1998. Yet I still love them...

My case in point, we just strand runners on 2nd and 3rd and less than two outs, not that it matters, but still...

40 randym77   ~  Sep 2, 2005 8:47 pm

40.  Seems like we strand an awful lot of runners this season.

I'm just hoping we don't get blanked now.

I don't think either team is playing seriously any more. They're just going through the motions.

41 marc   ~  Sep 2, 2005 9:17 pm

41.  This is a dismal night for Yank's wild card chancces. Cleveland won, Oakland and LAAofA heading for wins and we lose. Not good since I think the wild card is far more likely than beating Boston.

42 singledd   ~  Sep 2, 2005 9:17 pm

42.  Shameful. Embarrassing.

43 randym77   ~  Sep 2, 2005 9:20 pm

43.  The only bright spot is that it's the first night of a long weekend. Maybe by Tuesday, my boss, the rabid Red Sox fan, will forget to taunt me about this...

44 Zack   ~  Sep 2, 2005 9:27 pm

44.  Holy crap, my Yahoo gamechannel just told me this at the start of the inning:
- M. Bellhorn at shortstop
- M. Lawton in left field
- B. Crosby in right field
- A. Phillips at third
- J. Flaherty at first
- T. Womack in center field
- W. Nieves catching

Wowza, thats a lot of moves!

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver