Purgatory Online

Monday, May 24, 2004

With Oakland's win over Kansas City yesterday, and Texas's loss to New York, the A's are now tied with the Rangers for second place, 3 1/2 games behind the Angels. Texas's efforts thus far have been gallant, and they're certainly nothing to sneeze at, but I think we'll probably see them start to fade fairly soon. With Gerald Laird, Kevin Mench, and Brian Jordan all landing on the DL recently (yeah, I know: cry me a river), R.A. Dickey struggling, and Chan Ho Park continuing to be Chan Ho Park, I just don't think the Rangers are going to have the depth to keep themselves in a three-way race.

The A's, meanwhile, are back into the thick of things, riding their usual excellent starting pitching. They're headed into a series with Boston, however, the one team in the American League that's given up fewer runs than Oakland. And Boston's offense is much, much better than Oakland's. While the A's will miss both Pedro Martinez and Tim Wakefield on this trip, they'll have some hard-fought games on their hands, methinks.

The Angels, on the other hand, get the comparatively easier task of taking on the Blue Jays in an odd, three-games-in-four-days series. The Angels haven't seen the Jays yet this year, but so far the term that comes to mind to describe Toronto's season thus far is "disappointing." They're 10 games under .500, hitting poorly, have bad relief pitching and mediocre starting pitching, and their best hitter, Frank Catalanotto, is day-to-day with a groin pull.

Tonight, however, the Blue Jays will feature starting pitcher Justin "Death or Glory" Miller, who's been a model of consistency for them and has the words "love" and "hate" tattooed on the knuckles of his hands (along with a great deal of other stuff tattooed elsewhere, which will surely be a topic of conversation in the broadcast booth). He's had four straight quality starts, against Kansas City, Chicago, Boston, and Minnesota. He's striking out 7.2 hitters per 9 innings pitched, and has given up only one home run in 30 innings pitched. Miller's got a sinking two-seam fastball that gets hit on the ground a lot, so I'd expect to see Jose Molina get the start over Bengie, Chone Figgins at third or center, and Jeff DaVanon in center or right (depending on whether Scioscia wants to DH Guerrero again to save his knees on the artificial turf).

Since the Angels should win any battle of the bullpens with Toronto, the key to tonight's game should be for John Lackey to hold the Jays for the first few innings. Toronto's most effective reliever this year, Jason Frasor, threw an inning yesterday (albeit on just 10 pitches) and may not be Carlos Tosca's first option out of the pen. Beyond Fraser, Toronto's relief options range from mediocre to grim. If Lackey can pitch effecively - and there's no reason to think he can't, given the Jays' struggles at the plate - the Angels will have a good shot at winning this one. Lackey's coming off a pair of subpar outings against the Yankees, one marked by 10 hits surrendered in 6.2 innings pitched, the other by six walks in 5.1 innings pitched, but hopefully we'll see a John Lackey closer to the one that pitched a three-hit shutout against Tampa Bay.