It’s only four games, nothing is decided and we shouldn’t be quick to draw too many conclusions; however even a ‘Desmond’ 2-2 series split would have felt a lot better.
It was a good series from a UK point of view in that three of the four games were 21:05 BST starts so we could get the season off to a flyer by catching the team live at a relatively convenient time.
The only night-game came on Friday and that meant I missed Sean Manaea’s excellent performance. He quickly became one of my favourites soon after his A’s debut in 2016 and whilst his overall numbers in 2017 were good rather than great, that was predominantly due to a rough spell in and around August. Although I don’t see him becoming an ace, he’s got more potential than your average MLB fan would realise and his first start of 2018 bodes well for him having a breakthrough year.
What didn’t bode well was the general sloppiness in the field and also occasionally on the basepads.
Use what fielding metrics you like, none of them made for pleasant reading for A’s fans last year. Matt Chapman proved again in this series that he can make a big difference with that all on his own, yet overall there were too many moments when extra bases, or even extra outs, were handed to the Angels. You can’t afford to do that against good teams and expect to get away with it.
I’m not sure we learnt all that much new about the Angels; they don’t look like world-beaters yet should be a solid enough outfit and in play for the second Wild Card.
Zack Cozart looks a good signing for them especially as he gives them flexibilty to cover for other players if needed, as has happened with Ian Kinsler lasting all of one start before knackering himself. It’s not exactly the same situation, but you can draw some parallels with the A’s putting Khris Davis in left field to cover for Matt Joyce’s ankle soreness as an example of how things can go wrong when shifting players around to cover for injuries.
Shohei Ohtani’s debut got a huge amount of fanfare yesterday and, Chapman’s three-run jack aside, his performance showed why as his pitching arsenal looks formidable. It’s worth remembering that the A’s hitters hadn’t seen him before and that, whilst it was his MLB debut, this isn’t your typical rookie as he is an experienced professional pitcher.
The A’s should face Ohtani again in their three-game series with the Angels over the coming weekend, probably on Saturday, so it will be interesting to see how they get on having faced him once and with the opportunity to review footage of him from his first start.
The A’s welcome the Texas Rangers into Oakland for four games before the next Angels series. The final game on Thursday is a 20:35 BST start, with the others all being in the early hours. Their Game One starter tonight is Bartolo Colon, so that’s got to be a good opportunity to get back to winning ways.
And Another Thing
It was great to watch A’s baseball again with Glen Kuiper and Ray Fosse and first impressions of Dallas Braden being added to the NBC Sports California announcing crew were very positive.
His hiring started off on a bad note with Mark Mulder, who was excellent in his work replacing Fosse for some games last season, being messed around and not brought back (that’s how it looked from the outside at least), but you can understand it more in some ways now as the role Braden is playing is different to that of your usual announcer. He’s down at field level chipping in with thoughts and that worked really well in this opening series.
Braden is a character and adds some humour to procedings, but he knows when to reign it in and adds real insight into the game with his comments. Hopefully the recently-acquired sun shade will save him from getting burned to a crisp and he will continue to add something extra to the coverage over the course of the season.