One of one hundred sixty-two
Ness: Never stop! Never stop fighting 'til the fight is done.Capone: What'd you say? What're you saying?Ness: I said, never stop fighting 'til the fight is done.
-- The Untouchables
The fight's not done.
Toute le Halosphere seems to have exhaled en masse after last night's 4-3 victory, but a five game lead with six to play is not safe. Consider the momentum the A's would have if they managed to win the next three games; consider the Angels would need to take two out of three in Texas at that point to guarantee themselves a playoff spot. That goal is in front of the Angels now, right there in front of them, and it's never been more important for them to bear down. When the Angels slipped into second a month ago, it was time to loosen up. When Frankie flubbed that return throw and let the winning run score, it was time to lighten up. Now, however, is the time to focus on landing the next punch.
The target of tonight's haymaker is left-hander Joe Kennedy. Though his overall numbers are unimpressive, Kennedy spent the first half of the year pitching for Colorado, which isn't actually Hell but an amazing facsimile. Here are his splits after coming to Oakland:
vLHB - .220/.286/.320, 1.07 G/F, 1 HR, 56 PA, 3.38 BB/9, 7.43 K/9, 7.43 H/9
vRHB - .279/.350/.463, 1.12 G/F, 5 HR, 163 PA, 3.68 BB/9, 6.63 K/9, 10.06 H/9
Despite Steve Finley's new "Jack Frosty" persona, I think those numbers are enough to justify benching him today in favor of Robb Quinlan. Doing so also gives the Angels another left-handed bat off the bench in addition to Kochman, which could be important in the late innings, since lefties hit Kiko Calero and Keiichi Yabu at .310/.383/.493 and .294/.380/.412, respectively. My suggested lineup:
Figgins - CF
Cabrera - SS
Anderson - DH
Guerrero - RF
Rivera - LF
Erstad - 1B
Molina - C
Quinlan - 3B
Kennedy - 2B
No easing up, no victory laps - just solid, focused baseball to get win number 91.