A's and Padres really worth watching this time of year

Updated: September 20, 2009

Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

Trevor Cahill is one of the reasons Oakland is still worth watching this late in the year.

At this point in the baseball season, a piece about the A's and Padres usually comes to bury those teams not to praise them, but since nothing written here should ever be confused with Shakespeare, we'll flip the script.

This weekend the leads in both the AL Central and NL wild card dipped below three games (though the Tigers were able to push the lead back to three with a win against the Twins on Sunday and the Rockies extended their advantage by to four over the Giants by weekend's end).

Every Zack Greinke or Chris Carpenter start means a Cy Young discussion while we make our daily check of Joe Mauer's batting average (for the record, it's .374). Even Nationals fans can at least enjoy Ryan Zimmerman's Web Gem points lead.

With all that going on, I'm guessing you haven't checked an A's box score lately or looked for a Padres highlight, but let's give credit where it's due: with almost nothing to play for and few people showing interest, the A's and Padres have managed to extract some meaningful baseball from otherwise meaningless games. It's these kinds of efforts that put integrity into the full 162-game schedule, especially when you consider it comes from two teams which began the 2009 season among the five lowest payrolls in the majors.

Let's start with the A's. Last week they faced two teams fighting for postseason survival and won both series, taking two of three at Minnesota before going to Texas where they swept the Rangers, outscoring Texas 19-1. (That series turned out to be a continuation of last week's disastrous offensive slide for the Rangers, during which Texas scored exactly one run in five games and was shut out four times.)

Trevor Cahill completed Oakland's sweep of the Rangers this past Wednesday with seven innings of one-hit ball, retiring 16 straight batters at one point. As he heads into this week, Cahill is 3-0 over his previous six starts with a 2.57 ERA. Cahill is getting big outs: In his past four starts, opponents are 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position against him.

Two nights later, Brett Anderson used his slider and curveball to strike out a career-high 10 batters in six innings against the Indians. Anderson, who like Cahill is just 21 years old, has 139 strikeouts this season and is now only three more strikeouts from breaking Rick Langford's A's rookie record set in 1977. Take a moment to go back and look at the past dozen or so games the A's have played; they're rolling. As Tim Kurkjian said this weekend about Oakland, "they've developed some young players despite all the losing. It's not a wasted year for the A's."

The Padres' season looked like a lost cause almost immediately. It got so bad even Jake Peavy finally agreed to grab a parachute and jump out over Chicago. However, the Padres have made their September mean something, and they deserve all the credit in the world for it. Starting on Aug. 25, San Diego won two of three in Atlanta and then two of three in Florida (both road series wins against NL wild-card contenders), then closed the month by sweeping Washington.

Following that, the Padres played three more series against teams fighting for NL postseason spots; the Dodgers, Giants and Rockies. San Diego won two of three in Los Angeles, won two of three in San Francisco and then went back home to Petco Park and stopped the Rockies' eight-game winning streak cold by taking two of three from Colorado. Who would have thought for even a moment back in mid-August that the team that would inflict the most damage on NL postseason contenders over the next four weeks would be the San Diego Padres?

Since July 28, the Fighting Sons of Nate Colbert have played at a pace that's about 10 games over .500. Last season, San Diego finished a miserable 63-99. This year, if the Padres can just play .500 ball from here on in, they can better their 2008 win total by about 10 games.

The A's and Padres just show you what is so great about baseball. Even with two seemingly lost seasons there are always reasons to watch, always players in whom to take an interest or get excited about and one lesson that applies to pretty much everything in life: If you play the full 162 like they all mean something, good things will happen.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Sept. 17 | Sept. 16 | Sept. 15 | Sept. 14 | Sept. 13

WEB GEMS SCOREBOARD

Touch 'Em AllThis season, "Baseball Tonight" will be tracking Web Gems. We'll publish a leaderboard on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page each Monday. In addition to listing the leaders in appearances (both players and teams) on "Baseball Tonight," we'll offer up the leaders in Web Gem points.

Web Gem points will be calculated by awarding five points for the night's top defensive play, four points for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth. Scoring will be based on the Web Gems from the last "Baseball Tonight" show to air on a given night.

Web Gem points leaderboard
Ryan Zimmerman 54
Mark Reynolds 43
Jack Wilson 37
Brandon Inge 36
Carlos Gomez 27
Jacoby Ellsbury 27
David Wright 26
Three tied 25

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (players)
Ryan Zimmerman Washington Third base 17
Brandon Inge Detroit Third base 12
Mark Reynolds Arizona Third base 11
David Wright New York Mets Third base 10
Jack Wilson Pittsburgh-Seattle Shortstop 9
Chone Figgins L.A. Angels Third base 8

Web Gem appearances leaderboard (teams)
Pittsburgh 40
Washington 37
Cincinnati 33
Philadelphia 29
Minnesota 29
L.A. Angels 29
Texas 29

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPSITUATION
Prince Fielder, MIL40PaulinoBot 1: 3-2, 1 Out. None on.
Jason Bay, BOS35WatersTop 4: 3-1, 1 Out. None on.
Andre Ethier, LAD31LincecumBot 3: 3-2, 2 Outs. 1 on.
Luke Scott, BAL24MatsuzakaBot 4: 3-1, 1 Out. 1 on.
Juan Rivera, LAA23HollandTop 4: 2-2, 1 Out. None on.
Joey Votto, CIN22WoodBot 7: 2-0, 0 Outs. 1 on.
Ken Griffey Jr., SEA16ChamberlainBot 2: 1-2, 2 Outs. 2 on.
Carl Crawford, TB14HalladayBot 1: 0-0, 0 Outs. 1 on.
Ryan Raburn, DET13LirianoTop 8: 1-0, 0 Outs. None on.
Jason Giambi, COL13HarenTop 8: 2-2, 2 Outs. 1 on.
The complete list of Sunday's homers


Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

BBTN ON THE AIR: MONDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
12 a.m. ET
ESPN2
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Peter Gammons, Dave Winfield

BBTN MINUTE: TIGERS RECOVER VS. TWINS

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at the difference in the Tigers on days when Placido Polanco produces, which was the case in his 2-for-4, three-RBI day in Detroit's win Sunday against the Twins:

Placido Polanco (2009)
When Tigers win When Tigers lose
BA .326 .229
HR 9 1
RBI 58 10
Games 75 65

WEB GEMS

SUNDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Howie KendrickHowie Kendrick had four RBIs all month heading into the Angels' series finale with the Texas. Then he dropped five on the Rangers. Kendrick went 3-for-5 with a homer and five RBIs in a 10-5 Angels win that pushed Los Angeles' lead in the AL West to 7½ games and reduced their magic number to win the division to seven.
WORST
Tim LincecumTim Lincecum was hit hard and struggled with his control in a short outing against the Dodgers. Lincecum gave up four hits and five runs in four innings of San Francisco's 6-2 loss. He also issued four walks in those four innings, which contributed to him running his pitch count to 87 in the brief appearance.

ON DECK: MONDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Cardinals at Astros, 8:05 p.m., 8:05 p.m. ET

A pair of under-the-radar pitchers who are having solid seasons, even if their records aren't overwhelming. Houston's Wandy Rodriguez (13-10, 2.77 ERA) has a 2.25 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals this season, but just a 1-2 record. Joel Pineiro (14-11, 3.31 ERA) is 2-0 with a 2.46 ERA against the Astros this year.

Twins at White Sox, 8:11 p.m. ET

The Twins couldn't finish off a sweep of the Tigers on Sunday and still stand three back of Detroit in the AL Central. The White Sox are a bit farther back with time running out; they trail the Tigers by 6½. D.J. Carrasco is set to make his second start for the White Sox. Nick Blackburn has had good success against the White Sox this season, going 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA in four starts.

Yankees at Angels, 10:05 p.m. ET

After skipping a start to rest a tired shoulder, Andy Pettitte returns to the mound. Pettitte has won his past five decisions, going 5-0 in eight starts since July 30. Joe Saunders is on a similar run. He is 4-0 in his past five starts.

For the rest of Monday's schedule, click here.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Victor Martinez Victor Martinez takes a 19-game hit streak into Monday's game against the Royals. The big key to Martinez's recent success has been his ability to connect on off-speed pitches, especially changeups.

He has feasted on pitches on the outside part of the plate during the hot streak. And with the confidence Martinez has in his swing, he's been jumping on pitches early in the count.

Victor Martinez (2009)
During hit streak Before hit streak
vs. off-speed .389 .161
vs. changeup .571 .155
Pitches away .424 .275
Pitches/innings 16.9 18.8
On first pitch .667 .333

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF MONDAY'S GAMES

Fantasy Adam Madison examines the 10 games on Monday's slate.

Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Monday. Daily Notes

HUNT FOR OCTOBER

Here's the latest in the wild-card races:

NL WILD CARD
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Rockies 85-65 -- 90.9%
Giants 80-69 4.5 5.2%
Marlins 80-70 5.0 1.3%
NL WEST
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Dodgers 90-60 -- 99.9%
Rockies 85-65 5.0 90.9%
Giants 80-69 9.5 5.2%
AL CENTRAL
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Tigers 79-70 -- 77.5%
Twins 76-73 3.0 21.4%
White Sox 73-77 6.5 1.1%

For more on all the playoff races, see the Hunt for October