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September 2, 2014 at 12:14 pm ET
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“Pow! Bam! Boof!” Slump-Fighting Duo Might Save A’s
Wham!

Wham!

Could it be that a retiring slugger and a catcher struggling to stay off the disabled list are the key to curing what ails the Oakland Athletics? As the dark knight’s faithful sidekick, Robin might say, “Holy hypothesis, Batman!”

It has been a maddening month for Oakland Athletics fans. “Ouch!” On July 31st, General Manager Billy Beane gambled the team was far enough ahead in the American League West and the Wild Card race that he could sacrifice hitting for pitching. He traded left-fielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for post-season-world-beater Jon Lester. It’s pitching Beane’s counting on to get the A’s out of whichever first-round playoff series they find themselves in. And he might be right. He is apparently finally tired of good regular-season teams turning into the Atlanta Braves when the post season arrives. “Whiff!”

Boom!

Boom!

There was one humongous, gigantic problem with his plan, though: the team still had two months worth of games to play. The Lester part of the plan has been great. He starts every fifth day and his earned-run-average for the month is 2.66. The strikeouts-to-walks and base runners-allowed numbers are solid. He won three games. But, Lester alone wasn’t enough to save the A’s from their August slump. He was a victim of it twice -losing two games he should have won. Pitchers Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir didn’t help matters by going into slumps of their own. “Smash!”

Meanwhile, in Boston, Cespedes played every day. Without him, the A’s were without one guy in the middle of the lineup pitchers had to pitch around, especially after the All-Star game when many of the Athletics bats went quiet -Derek Norris and Coco Crisp being among the most silent. The results were startling. While Cespedes hit .276 with 4 homers and 23 runs-batted-in for the Red Sox, the A’s for the month of August hit .223 with 95 RBI’s and a .345 slugging percentage. Those numbers put the team 29th, 25th, and 24th -out of 30 teams- for the month. “Oof!”

The numbers showed in the standings. The A’s were up three games over the Angels when the trade was made. Now, they’re 4.5 games back after getting swept -by the Angels. “Groan!”

So, after a month of fans griping and complaining, the A’s have made two more moves… trading for two guys to take one spot in the lineup, at least offensively. And, say what you will about Adam Dunn and his .220 batting average, I think it’s going to work. “Huh?”

Dunn’s a left-handed hitter who has never hit for average, but has always hit for power and put up a respectable strikeout-to-walk ratio, especially against right-handed pitching. So, even though his average his .220 overall, it’s .245 against righties with a .514 slugging and a very respectable .891 slugging plus on-base percentage or OPS. And he can still hit the ball out of the ballpark -20 homers this year with the Chicago White Sox, 21 after his first game as an Athletic. Also, the A’s get him for about as cheap as you can get a guy making $13 million this year. He’s retiring at the end of the year and was acquired for a decent AA pitcher, Nolan Sanburn. “Hmmm.”

Now, couple Dunn with Geovany Soto, the Texas Rangers’ former catcher, and you might just have Batman and Robin.

Before you say, “Holy glue-sniffing writer!” Hear me out. Soto has power -23 homers per 162 games. It is true he doesn’t hit righties well, but he does hit lefties. How does a .285 clip with 29 home runs and 95 RBIs in 611 at-bats against lefties over the course of his career sound? “Holy blue and green tights, Batman!” All he has to do is stay healthy. And, granted, that could be a problem. He hasn’t played a lot of games -165 in the last three years combined. He had recovered from knee and ankle surgeries when he pulled a groin earlier this year. “You sure about this Robin thing, eh?”

Reasonably so, yes. Everybody gets hurt. He looks like he’s back and the team doesn’t need him every day. They do have five catchers now. They just need him to hit and there’s this thing called the “designated hitter” that allows him to do only that. And It sure doesn’t hurt to have a guy with 461 home runs in your lineup hitting the rest of the time in that spot.

And, so far, so good. Soto’s hitting .333 with a couple of walks. Dunn homered in his first at-bat and went 2-3 in his first game with the new club. It’s Dunn’s last year, he says. Not that anyone questioned his resolve before, but he has one last chance to play in the post-season…which would be the first time he’s ever played in the post-season.
If Soto can stay healthy, hit .280 with a couple of doubles and a homer every now and again and if the A’s get .250 and a homer every three or four games from Dunn, I think you can say the pop is back in the lineup. “Pop!”

Then all the A’s need is for everyone else to start hitting -infielders Josh Donaldson and Eric Sogard have tried to carry the load the last month- have the wayward starters regain their form and enter the post-season with some semblance of consistency. Then we’ll see if Beane is right and if pitching and Lester really will carry the A’s further than they’ve gone in a long, long time.

“Hope!”

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