Road Trip Of Doom Recap
The M’s just completed the hardest stretch of their season schedule. Before they took off for LA, we noted that anything over .500 would be a pretty big accomplishment. They went 9-7.
Now, here’s the amazing part. How well would you have thought the offense was going to do if Russell Branyan was going to hit .200/.315/.467 during the last 16 games? Seriously, we’d have been expecting a long series of shutouts. Instead, Franklin Gutierrez and Rob Johnson (four extra base hits and three walks in his last seven games… amazing) picked up the slack, and the offense was respectable enough, especially considering the competition.
And, when the offense is respectable, this team wins games, because the run prevention is among the best in the league. Even with some bullpen problems, the defense and the rotation carried the day, and the M’s were able to keep enough runs off the board to be in most every game. With the subtraction of Betancourt and the additions of Langerhans and Hannahan, the M’s probably have the best defense in baseball, and this is what you can do when nearly everyone on the field is turning balls in play into outs. Over the last two weeks, the M’s opponents have posted a .234 batting average on balls in play. .234! Yea, a decent chunk of that is good luck, but these guys can really play defense, and they’ve got some quality arms in the rotation to boot.
16 games against quality opponents, with Beltre missing the last 13 of them, and the team went 9-7. Be impressed. The M’s just played a bunch of games against playoff quality teams and held their own. There are still some pretty obvious weaknesses on this roster, and the Angels catching fire means that we’re still 4 games out of first place in the AL West, but if this roster was going to roll over and die, this was when they were going to do it. Instead, they went toe to toe with the best in the league and won.
What a great way to finish the most encouraging first half of baseball we’ve seen since 2001. Over the next three weeks, we’ll find out just what Jack and his crew can do to make the team better. If Beltre can come back, and the team adds a shortstop and shores up the bullpen… watch out. This could be a fun, fun ride.