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Street Problems In Oakland and Everyday Trouble in Cincy

Just as the Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds began working toward solidifying their playoff spots — the AL West title for Oakland and the NL Wildcard for Cincinnati — they were both dealt a major blow.  During the early part of the season, Oakland and Cincinnati both had bullpen issues. 

For Oakland, the issue was that the middle-relief was overworked and pitchers were getting hurt at a rate of almost one every game.  That caused many leads to close, and left the job to closer Huston Street, who struggled at times, also due to overwork.  Early on, Ken Macha said, “we’re going to need some complete games from our pitchers, and plenty of runs from our hitters to be strong right now.  We’ll just have to wait it out.” 

For Cincinnati, the issue was that there was no consistency at the closer position, partly due to the fact that the Reds were going with a “closer-by-committee”, depending on who was pitching well at the time.  Most of the time the duty went to Todd Coffey, who did well usually, but had trouble working consecutive days.  That’s why GM Wayne Krivsky acquired “Everyday” Eddie Guardado from Seattle.  Guardado, formerly one of the top closers in the league, was a huge help.  The Reds’ bullpen issues appeared to be over. 

Now, both teams’ bullpen problems have come back quickly.  A’s closer Huston Street was placed on the 15-day-DL (retroactive to Friday 8/18) because of a strained right groin suffered during Friday’s 2nd game against Kansas City, in which Street blew the save opportunity and was tagged with the loss.  In Cincinnati, “Everyday” Eddie will be out for at least 15 days with tendinitis in his left elbow.  Tendinitis is a fickle thing however, and Guardado might not be 100% until well after he comes back. 

Unfortunately for both teams, if they start to fall back in the standings right now, it may be too late to get back to the top.  If Oakland’s relievers start to struggle again because of Street’s absence, the 4.5 game gap between the Angels and the A’s may suddenly seem to be easy to bridge.  And, going back to Ken Macha’s comment –“We’ll just have to wait it out” — there will be no time to wait.  If Cincinnati starts to have the same trouble with closing out games (the Reds have signed or traded for SEVEN relievers since early-July!), the Reds might not have a 1.5 game lead for much longer.  The Red-hot Phillies will soon take over the Reds, if their bullpen goes on Red-alert. 

In the absence of their closers, both teams’ bullpens will need to step up.  For the A’s, the middle-relief needs to stay consistent, and preferably stay healthy.  The closer will most likely be Justin Duchscherer, although Manager Ken Macha might choose to go with a “closer-by-committee” system and rotate Duchscherer, Kiko Calero, and Chad Gaudin.  For Cincinnati, the rest of the bullpen has been very good at staying healthy, so there’s no cause for concern of other relievers going down.  In Guardado’s absence, Todd Coffey needs to be at his best as the closer. 

To make the playoffs, both Oakland and Cincinnati will need to over come their injury woes.  In fact, that’s something any contender needs to do; a good team that can’t survive injuries is a pretender, a good team that can is a contender. 

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