The A's are the perfect team for the Yankees to be playing right now. As Ken Arneson wrote earlier today:
Players are dropping like flies, and if you can somehow manage to stand on two feet at all, you're in the lineup. Kendall is tossed out, Eric Chavez has a bacterial infection, Frank Thomas pulled a quad, Justin Duchscherer has a bad elbow, Joe Kennedy has an muscle strain in his arm, and none of those guys are among the three A's players currently on the DL.
There are actually four A's on the DL, though I can understand why Ken might have ignored ex-Yankee Jay Witasick. The other three are Rich Harden--who is quickly earning a reputation as the Mark Prior of the AL, and that ain't a good thing--the similarly injury-prone Milton Bradley, and former Yankee Esteban Loaiza. And Ken didn't even mention the fact that closer Huston Street missed a week and a half in late April with a strained right pectoral muscle and currently sports a 6.30 ERA.
As a result, the A's have Kirk Saarloos and a third ex-Yank, Brad Halsey in their rotation, and--due to Chavez's illness, Thomas's injury and Kendall's suspension--will be limited tonight to a two-man bench of Marco Scutaro and Jeremy Brown and a line-up that looks something like this:
L Mark Kotsay (CF)
S Nick Swisher (LF)
R Bobby Crosby (SS)
L Dan Johnson (1B)
R Jay Payton (RF)
S - Bobby Kielty (DH)
S Adam Melhuse (C)
R Mark Ellis (2B)
R - Antonio Perez (3B)
Kendall will return to action tomorrow, though whether or not the Yankees will see Chavez or Thomas this weekend is unknown.
Nonetheless, it's not hard to figure out why A's are underperforming the expectations that I and many others had for them entering the season, though the fact that they're at .500 and just a half-game out of first despite all of these interruptions in playing time bodes well for their ability to turn on the jets after returning to health.
Indeed, the Yankees are facing the A's at exactly the right time. Not only are the A's a team that's even more beat up than the Yankees are, but they're a team that at full strength could very well be the best in the league. Sometimes timing is everything.