Blanton was brilliant on Tuesday.
After a 2-4 road-trip, the Oakland A’s returned home to Oakland and got their homestand off to a good start thanks to some stellar work from a trio of rookies. A’s rookie starter Joe Blanton was perfect through 4.2 and lasted into the 8th inning. Rookie closer Huston Street preserved the shutout by inducing a double-play with the bases-loaded to end the 8th and by working a scoreless 9th. In the interim, rookie Nick Swisher made a dazzling play at first, as the young A’s beat the Mets 5-0.
Joe Blanton has had an inconsistent start to his rookie season, to say the least. He started off the year red-hot, posting a 2.67 ERA for the month of April. The month of May was the exact opposite for Blanton, as he had trouble retiring anyone. He was pummeled in five starts, and he went 0-3 with a 13.25 ERA in May. Four of his five starts were less than five innings long and one of those starts was only 0.1 of an inning. There was some talk that Blanton would be removed from the rotation, as his short starts were putting a strain on the A’s bullpen.
However, as the calendar turned from May to June, Blanton appeared to rediscover the form he displayed in April. After Tuesday, in three June starts, Blanton has tossed 20 innings and has allowed only six runs. He has also picked up his first two major league wins.
Tuesday night’s effort was arguably the best of Blanton’s young career. He retired the first 14 batters before allowing a single to Marlon Anderson. He didn’t allow another baserunner until the top of the 8th inning, when catcher Mike Piazza singled to start the inning. Blanton struck out four in the game (including Carlos Beltran, Cliff Floyd and Piazza) and didn’t walk a batter. Blanton was helped on defense in the 7th inning when Nick Swisher made a diving stop of a Carlos Beltran grounder and fed Blanton at first for the out. Swisher has been playing first base against left-handed pitchers and he has shown increasingly good range at first.
The game seemed well in hand for the A’s going into the 8th inning, as they led 4-0. However, Blanton allowed back-to-back singles to start the inning and he gave way to reliever Kiko Calero. Calero struggled to find the strike zone, and he left the game with the bases loaded and only one out. Manager Ken Macha then turned to his rookie closer Huston Street to try to collect the final five outs for the save.
Street has been seemingly up to every task he has been handed this season and Tuesday night was no exception. He immediately defused the 8th inning situation by inducing a double-play off the bat of Victor Diaz to end the inning. He then worked around a two-out double by Beltran to preserve the shutout and earn his fourth save.
Street has converted all four of the save opportunities he has been handed since being named the closer in mid-May. Street is making a case for himself as a candidate for Rookie of the Year. He has a 1.59 ERA and he has held opposing batters to a .183 BAA. He has yet to allow a homerun and has a 1.09 WHIP on the year. Street will have a chance to rack up big save numbers, as he is likely to be the A’s closer for the remainder of the season with closer Octavio Dotel out for the year.
- Third baseman Eric Chavez will be serving as the A’s designated hitter for a few games, as he rests a sore right throwing shoulder. The injury does not affect his swing and shouldn’t result in a trip to the disabled list, but it is something the A’s will have to watch for the rest of the season. Chavez went 0-4 on Tuesday.
- Keith Ginter was recalled from Sacramento and he will be playing at third while Chavez rests his shoulder. Ginter hit .358 with three homers for the River Cats during his two-week stay with the AAA club. He went 1-4 with a two-out, RBI single for the A’s on Tuesday.
- Outfielder Matt Watson was sent down to Sacramento to make room for Ginter and infielder Luke Appert was brought up from Single-A Stockton to give the River Cats some infield depth. Appert was hitting .261 with seven homers for the Ports. He had a .456 slugging percentage and had walked 41 times against 34 strikeouts.
- Seth Etherton’s return to the mound for the River Cats was a successful one on Tuesday. Etherton hadn’t started since he was sent down to AAA on June 3. He worked seven shut-out innings in the River Cats’ 11-0 win over the Las Vegas 51s. He struck out five, walked three and allowed four hits. Etherton has a 2.36 ERA for Sacramento this season.
- Charles Thomas had his third straight multi-hit game, as he continues his quest to regain his hitting stroke. The speedy rightfielder went 3-5 with a double and two RBIs. He is hitting .368 for the River Cats. Adam Morrissey also chipped in with four hits and two runs scored.
- The River Cats were the only A’s affiliate to gain a victory on Tuesday. A day after clinching the first half division championship, Midland fell to Frisco, 7-4. Stockton lost to the San Jose Giants by a score of 5-2 and Kane County lost to Beloit, 11-2.