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DOWN THE LINE

A's pitchers get good grades again

Oakland's young arms lead the majors in ERA. Now if the A's could only hit.

May 21, 2011|By Kevin Baxter
  • A's starting pitcher Trevor Cahill leads the American League with six wins and a 1.79 earned-run average.
A's starting pitcher Trevor Cahill leads the American League with… (Eric Risberg / Associated…)

A's are armed and dangerous

Under shrewd General Manager Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletics have regularly built dynamic young pitching staffs. But this season's group, if it stays healthy, could be the best of the bunch.

The A's staff earned-run average of 2.84 is the lowest in the majors and more than a half-run better than any other team in the American League. And Brandon McCarthy, who went on the disabled list Friday because of a shoulder issue, is the only starter with an ERA above 3.30.

The last time the A's led the majors in ERA was 1990, the year after Beane retired as a player. The last time they had a staff ERA under 3.00 was their World Series championship year of 1974, before any member of the current pitching staff was born.

"Our division has some arms that are terrific, both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said, pointing mainly to the A's.

Said Texas Rangers Manager Ron Washington: "I agree with that. Every team in this division has good pitching."

The A's staff probably would even be better if it were at full strength. Closer Andrew Bailey, a two-time All-Star, is on the disabled list and left-hander Dallas Braden, who won 11 games and pitched a perfect game in 2010, is out for the year after shoulder surgery. Then Friday, McCarthy and fifth starter Tyson Ross went down.

In addition to being young and good, the Oakland staff meets another criterion of its small-market owners: It's cheap. The five starters are paid just? $3.34 million combined — or about what the Angels pay Scott Kazmir every two months.

Right-hander Trevor Cahill, who is tied for the league lead with six wins and is second with a 1.79 ERA, and left-hander Gio Gonzalez (5-2 2.31) are making $920,000 combined — and neither can become a free agent until 2016.

With even a slight improvement offensively — Oakland ranks above only Seattle and punchless Minnesota in every significant hitting category — the A's young pitching could make the team a legitimate playoff contender for years.

League of their own

The novelty of interleague play may have run its course elsewhere but not in Boston, where this weekend's visit by the Chicago Cubs has ticket brokers asking $1,750 for seats atop the Green Monster for Sunday's finale.

Chalk that up to pent-up demand. The last time the Cubs visited Fenway Park, the games had to be rescheduled because of a war — World War I.

"This is a great series for the fans," Red Sox Manager Terry Francona told reporters.

"Everybody I know on the face of the earth is going to be there," added Cubs Manager Mike Quade.

Stat watch? (SoCal edition)

• With 49 strikeouts and two home runs in 45 games, Angels outfielder Peter Bourjos is on pace to finish the season with 173 strikeouts and just seven homers. No player has ever struck out that many times while hitting so few homers.

Matt Harrison of the Rangers is the only pitcher who has gotten more ground-ball double plays than Angels rookie Tyler Chatwood, who has 10.

• Attendance is down for 20 of 30 big league teams, but none more than the Dodgers, who are off more than 7,100 a game compared to this time last year.

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