Oakland Athletics Swept by Mariners; Bullpen Falters
By Mark Sigmon
The Oakland Athletics knocked Felix Hernandez out of the game early, but the bullpen did not come through for the Green and Gold.
It was painful for the faithful fans to watch the Oakland Athletics get swept by the Seattle Mariners. May has not been kind to the A’s so far.
It’s hard to judge how good this A’s team really is. Sometimes the defense is not very good. However, when the defense is working, the starting pitching gets shelled. Then, when the starting pitching is good, the A’s cannot seem to hit. In Wednesday’s game, the A’s bats came alive, but the bullpen failed.
Good teams find a way to win. At this point in the season, the Oakland Athletics seem to be finding ways to lose.
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There was not much to cheer about for A’s fans after the fifth inning, but the fifth inning itself was magnificent. The best part of that inning was knocking Felix Hernandez out of the game. Hernandez was trying to break the record for most wins by a Mariners’ pitcher. He will surely break that record, but it will not happen in Oakland.
In 2013, the Mariners signed Hernandez to a seven-year contract worth $175 million dollars. I wonder how that contract is going to look two years from now. In Wednesday’s game, rookie Sean Manaea had a better pitching line despite earning about two percent of what King Felix is paid. Both starters gave up four earned runs, but Manaea got six strikeouts while King Felix got only one.
The Oakland Athletics’ practically-infallible bullpen faltered, and Sean Doolittle gave up two runs. It is an understatement to say that a lot of A’s fans have doubts about Doolittle. The biggest critique is that he throws only fastballs. I do not agree with that critique. Doolittle has a slider, and occasionally throws a changeup. The problem is that the fastball is the only pitch he can throw for a strike, so hitters can safely ignore his offspeed offerings.
Doolittle could be a lot more effective if he could improve on his slider. But here is the $64,000 dollar question: when is he supposed to work on his offspeed stuff? Starters have four days off between starts. If they want to work on something, they can do it during their off-day side session. A reliever can never count on an off-day. Do the A’s really want Doolittle to throw thirty or forty sliders during the day if he might have to pitch that night? I think not.
I am not ready to give up on Doolittle. His 95 mph fastball is a tremendous asset to the club. However, Doolittle needs to develop his secondary pitches. If there is another game in which the starter gets knocked out early and the A’s fall way behind, maybe the team should put Doolittle in to throw a couple of innings. Even if he walks six guys and gives up a bunch of runs, it would be a perfect opportunity to work on his slider or his changeup. Or maybe the A’s should let him work with Curt Young to develop his secondary pitches in a few bullpen side sessions and avoid giving up walks and runs in a real game. In that scenario, the A’s would have to give him a couple of days off.
At this point in the season, I think I speak for many Oakland Athletics fans when I say I would not really mind Doolittle missing a few games.
So the A’s went to Seattle and swept the Mariners in their opening weekend at Safeco. Seattle came to Oakland and returned the favor.
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The announcers for the M’s managed to say “First Place Mariners” about a dozen times. Maybe they are trying to get used to the notion that the Mariners might be good this year. Or maybe the Mariner’s announcers know that Seattle will fade down the stretch like they do every year, and they are enjoying saying “first place” because they know it won’t last.
Just a quick hint for the team that has never been to the World Series: it doesn’t matter what place you’re in during the month of May.