The Oakland Athletics responded to losing veteran starting pitcher Bartolo Colon pretty well last month: they proceeded to win ten of their next 11 games before the Los Angeles Angels came to town this week.
Now, with veteran starter Brandon McCarthy out for the rest of the season as a result of a head injury suffered in Wednesday’s 7-1 loss to the Angels, the A’s face even more adversity as they look down the stretch toward a possible postseason berth.
McCarthy took a live drive off the side of his head Wednesday, and he underwent surgery Wednesday night at a Bay Area hospital. McCarthy, 29, was alert, awake and resting comfortably, and has shown signs of improvement, according to a statement the A’s released Thursday.
“Our first concern is Brandon’s health, and we are heartened to learn he has shown progress in his recovery after surgery,” said Billy Beane, the A’s vice president and general manager, in the statement. “We are glad to report he is stable, awake and alert. As we travel to Seattle [Thursday], Brandon remains in everyone’s thoughts as we wish him a speedy recovery.”
After leaving the field under his own power Wednesday, McCarthy was taken to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, where a CT Scan revealed an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture. Later that evening, he was transferred to a nearby hospital, where a neurosurgeon performed a second CT scan and clinical examination, and surgery was recommended to relieve pressure from McCarthy’s head.
On the baseball side, the A’s must replace McCarthy’s arm, leadership and fortitude in the rotation, and unlike when Colon was lost, there is not necessarily another Brett Anderson waiting in the wings.
Oakland is still in the second wild-card slot, even after its three losses against the Angels this week at the Coliseum. And they are 1.5 games ahead of Tampa Bay for that second spot, 2.5 games ahead of Los Angeles and three games ahead of Detroit.
With three games in Seattle (67-71) this weekend, the A’s (76-60) have a chance to regain some momentum. Oakland hasn’t lost four games straight games since late May.
But they’ll have to get through Felix Hernandez tonight to win: The King (13-6, 2.51 ERA) is always hard to beat, although Oakland’s A.J. Griffin (4-0, 2.26 ERA) has obviously pitched well in his brief MLB career.
According to the Associated Press, he’s the first pitcher in Oakland history to begin 4-0 as a starter. The A’s rookie also is the only big-league pitcher since 1918 to allow three runs or fewer — and walk two batters or fewer — in each of his first nine career starts.
Oakland will need Griffin and its two other rookies in the rotation — Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone — to perform at really high levels for the next month if they want to overcome McCarthy’s injury and make the postseason.
The offense could help out by scoring runs, of course, and after notching only five runs in three games against the Angels this week, the A’s hitters need to step up for their pitching staff.