As a kid and as a teenager and even as a young adult just a few years back, I derived great pleasure from the idea of road games on the west coast and those odd start times that would stretch the usual three-hour affair well beyond midnight and into the first hour or two of the following day, because, you know, "it's cool to stay up late!" and all of that -- and so I was somewhat taken aback the other day when I took notice of the off-kilter start times in Oakland and actually felt a brief pang of dread after realizing that we were still days away from returning to the comfortable normalcy of the 7:00 p.m. hour start time. I suppose we all have to get older someday, though:
● At some point along the line, I mostly lost the stomach for the 'argh this bullpen move is so stupid why would you do this' fight -- in large part because of the back-to-back trips to the World Series, I think, which is the kind of revered accomplishment that tends to reduce one's kvetching about the decisions coming out of the dugout. Even with that knowledge fully in mind, though, it's still helplessly aggravating when you drop a close-and-late game at the very end in which neither your primary setup man nor your closer were called upon to make an appearance, and such was the case yesterday when Michael Kirkman yielded an untimely ninth-inning homer to Brandon Hicks without an in-game cameo from either Mike Adams (only four appearances this month) or Joe Nathan (only three appearances this month).
To be honest, I'm not sure what the underlying thought process there was; Ron Washington basically stated that they had the right personnel in the game at the right time and more or less left it at that, but it still seems incongruous to roll Kirkman out there in a high-leverage, game-knotted spot before you've deployed Adams and Nathan *, and, given the circumstances at the time, it almost seems as though that was a test run for Kirkman, as if the coaching staff wanted to make a clearer determination on whether he could be trusted to chew up late-game innings and/or represent a viable late-game alternative to Adams/Nathan. That's the best guess that I can conjure up, at least.
[It's also worth noting that on Tuesday night, with the Rangers up 5-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning but mired in a bases-loaded, one-out jam with Mike Adams on the bump, that Michael Kirkman and Tanner Scheppers were the ones warming up, and not Joe Nathan; in fact, Joe Nathan didn't get up until the ninth inning, by which time the high-leverage danger had passed, so that was two pretty significant late-inning spots in this two-game set where Nathan was nowhere to be found.]
● On a more positive note (sort of), Colby Lewis hummed along for five innings yesterday in his return from the disabled list before losing some of his command to a recurrence of forearm tightness, which isn't really positive in and of itself; the positive part is that he felt okay after the game, and that, for what it's worth, he's still slated to make his next scheduled start. And Roy Oswalt's 6.1 frames of one-run ball from the night before elicited an unusual series of post-game remarks where Josh Reddick at first proclaimed that he didn't feel like Oswalt "was very good," and then backpedaled with the Twitter-issued clarification that he simply meant that the Athletics missed a lot of appetizing pitches to hit, and that he didn't intend to badmouth Oswalt in any way. Those two statements don't exactly sound dissimilar to me.
Here, for the record, are Oswalt's pitch frequency heat maps from his start, just to give you some idea of what Reddick was talking about:
● Jeff Wilson's morning notes column includes some quotes from Josh Hamilton -- whose late-game homer on Tuesday only momentarily abated his continued offensive free fall, and who is now down to .300/.370/.618 on the season -- concerning what has gone wrong with his performance as of late, and why he expects to improve going forward:
"I know it's gone down the last month or month and a half," he said. "I'm going to end up where I'm supposed to end up. There is going to be a couple more times this season where I get hot, so I'm not really panicking at all."
Hamilton struck out in all three at-bats Tuesday against Bartolo Colon as he struggled with his timing, but started the eighth with a homer off left-hander Jordan Norberto. The key for Hamilton, he said, is for his hands to start going back as soon as the pitcher breaks his hands.
"Every at-bat is a new at-bat," said Hamilton, who has 28 homers. "I feel fine at the plate. You fight yourself sometimes. Sometimes you're up there just to be up there instead of focusing on every pitch."