You can't hold down a prize fighter for too long without a struggle, and you can't hold down a spiritless paraplegic without the occasional lazy swat of the air. This past four-game series was said swat. Feel the triumph.
11/20: 13-3 loss (vs. Twins)
11/21: 4-3 loss (vs. Twins)
11/22: 2-1 win (@ A's)
11/23: 6-2 loss (@ A's)
11/24: 2-1 win (@ A's)
11/25: 9-3 win (@ A's)
Things were looking bad for the M's as they took a 3-12 record and nine-game losing streak into Oakland to face the then-first place A's, but suddenly the team came alive and played some solid baseball for the first time in weeks. Buoyed by strong starting pitching, including an unheard of 165-pitch complete game from Mike Moore, the M's took three of four to build some momentum and pull themselves out of the AL basement.
The game of the week was unquestionably the 11/22 one-run win; Ken Phelps and Dave Henderson hit fourth inning solo shots to give the M's a 2-1 lead, and Moore held on, eventually loading the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth before getting the .344'ing Mike Davis to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play to end it. Who needs relievers? Here in Seattle, we pitch like men. If you start a game, you damn well better plan on finishing it. Unless you're Bill Swift.
Phil Bradley and his .405 OBP has been great, but Phelps has been on another level through the first 19 games. While he only went 3-16 this week, two balls left the park, and he drew seven walks. His 1.072 OPS ranks third in the AL, and he's tied with the pathetic Wally Joyner for the league lead in homers with eight. The rest of the lineup may still be getting things sorted out, but Phelps is in midseason form. On a better team, he's an MVP candidate.
After allowing 18 baserunners and 11 earned runs in 7.1 innings of mop-up work, Lee Guetterman's sorry ass was dropped, and Jim Beattie's sorry ass was picked up. Beattie hasn't yet thrown a pitch, which is exactly the kind of workload you like to see from your mop-up guy. Outside of Guetterman, the bullpen as a whole has been quite decent, and if Mark Langston can get over his irritating homer-proneness, this team could have the makings of a reasonable pitching staff. Nothing great, mind you, but enough to keep things competitive given the contributions from the top of the lineup. If only I didn't have to start Harold Reynolds.
Up next are the Schilling-led Red Sox for three games, followed by the Jays for a weekend set. Only four games into a twelve-game road trip, there's plenty of time for this team to remember who it is and resume losing. I just hope it doesn't happen until we're out of Fenway.