Oakland Athletics: Inside Pitch

The A's struggled into the break, going 1-5 on their most recent roadtrip to Boston and Cleveland. However, the A's are in a solid position going into the second half, as they sit two games back of the first place Texas Rangers.


New closer Octavio Dotel took his defeat very hard Friday (July 9) in Cleveland, sitting with his head in his hands 45 minutes after the game as his teammates dressed and left, using an expletive when asked to describe his performance with the A's so far.

"Compared to the good ones, with the bad ones I don't do what I'm supposed to do," Dotel said. "I don't feel comfortable. I don't feel good. I think I can do better than that."

Dotel went into the break 2-for-4 in save chances, winning one of the games he blew and losing the other. He closed out three other non-save chances, but had a 7.94 ERA and opponents were hitting .378 off him.

The next day, A's manager Ken Macha gave Dotel a quick pep talk before the game.

"I don't want him to be down on himself," Macha said. "He pitched two great innings (July 8) in Boston. He's done a lot since he got here.

He wants to help us win. It's all right to be a little down. But get over it and be ready for the next day."

Closers handle defeat in different ways.

Soon-to-be Hall of Fame inductee Dennis Eckersley's postgame interviews after a loss were like therapy sessions. Billy Koch was known for walking up to the starting pitcher, looking him dead in the eye and apologizing. Some are in denial and make excuses.

Macha doesn't want his closer so distraught and honest about his performance that it affects him the next day, but he appreciates a closer taking responsibility.

"Koch was great with that," Macha said. "(Keith) Foulke was great with that. It's like that guy at end of the game and you have five seconds left. You take the shot. He might not always make it. But he always wants the ball."


--LHP Mark Mulder won his 10th straight decision July 10, the second longest streak in A's history. Jim Hunter won 13 straight from June 2-Sept. 5, 1973. Mulder is just the sixth pitcher in franchise history to win 10 consecutive games.

--DH Erubiel Durazo hit a pinch-hit grand slam July 10, the first time an A's player had done that since Matt Stairs on June 24, 1998 at San Francisco.

--The seven-run sixth inning by the A's on July 11 was their biggest inning of the season.

--The A's extended their contract July 8 with Lewis Wolff, hired last November as the vice president of venue development, or better known as the guy identifying baseball-only ballpark sites throughout the Bay Area. Wolff was also given a one-year option to purchase a controlling interest in the A's development on venue location.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7.6 -- Average number of runs the A's have scored when Mark Mulder starts this year.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I told him, `Dude, the streak is over.' He said, `Just wait.' I guess I kept my streak going. I hope it lasts all year." -- Outfielder Jermaine Dye to pitcher Mark Mulder, after the pitcher reminded Dye he always does something good when Mulder starts. Dye hit a go-ahead, two-out, two-run single in his next at-bat.


2B Mark Ellis hasn't been ruled out from returning in September, but trainer Larry Davis said the A's aren't talking about it or counting on it.

PITCHING TRENDS: For nearly three weeks, A's manager Ken Macha went into every game with his hands tied because of a short-handed bullpen. Injuries were the main culprit and the A's were slow to put certain pitchers on the disabled list. The other problem was how ineffective they were, making his decisions tough for late-inning jams. After his starters were knocked out of games early July 6 and 7, it taxed the bullpen even more. Pitchers are getting healthy soon and Macha might finally have a full bullpen within 1-2 weeks after the break.


--RHP Kirk Saarloos opened some eyes in the A's organization and all over baseball with two solid starts in Tim Hudson's place. Saarloos pitched five scoreless innings the first time, then allowed one unearned run in 6.2 innings his second start. His performance could help him stick when all the injured A's return from the DL.

--LHP Ricardo Rincon was a human gas can most of the first half, but put together a solid two weeks before the break and that renewed the A's trust in the lefty. Rincon is still mostly a situational lefty, but also retired some righties in mopup time.

--LHP Mark Mulder has won 10 straight games and is chasing Catfish Hunter's team record of 13 straight wins. Whenever he pitches, the A's seem to score tons of runs -- which is making his fellow starters get all over him. Mulder was Sports Illustrated's selection for the Cy Young winner at the break.

LINEUP LOWDOWN: The midseason break came at a good time for many A's hitters. Outfielder Jermaine Dye was admittedly tired physically and mentally, as was first baseman Scott Hatteberg. Outfielder Bobby Kielty had been unable to swing left-handed for nearly two weeks because of an oblique muscle strain. Damian Miller was sick for two days. Rookie shortstop Bobby Crosby started 78 of the 86 games. Infielder Mark McLemore was battling knee, hamstring and foot injuries.


--3B Eric Chavez is known as a second-half hitter. His career average is 45 points higher after the break, with a much better RBI ratio and better homer ratio. He showed no rust in his first three games back after missing nearly six weeks because of a broken hand.

--DH Erubiel Durazo was the co-player of the week before interleague games in the National League limited his playing time. A return to regular at-bats brought a return to Durazo's hot bat, including his first home run in nearly a month.

--C Damian Miller continues to give the A's a pleasant surprise with his offense. Miller went into the break with the third-best average among AL catchers and fourth-most RBIs. Miller went into the break with 26 RBIs in his last 24 games.

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