A's poised for offensive breakout
Despite early struggles, team confident bats will catch fire
NEW YORK -- Having taken fairly dramatic steps to solve the offensive problems that plagued them during 86-loss seasons in 2007-08, the A's entered the new campaign so confident about their ability to light up the scoreboard that they devoted a television spot to hyping the sluggers in the middle of their projected order.
Jason Giambi. Matt Holliday. Eric Chavez. Jack Cust. All with 30-homer seasons to their credit, all expected to dissuade -- through their run-producing prowess -- the club's promising young pitchers from feeling the need to be perfect.
Thirteen games into the season, however, Oakland's offense was no better than its anemic immediate predecessors. After falling to the Yankees on Tuesday, the A's were bringing up the American League rear in several key categories, and the aforementioned mashers had combined for two home runs, both by Cust.
"We haven't done what we thought we'd be doing," Cust said. "But it's April. We've got a ton of baseball left, and there's too many good hitters here to struggle too long. I'm not just talking about the home run guys, either. We've got good hitters up and down [the lineup]."
Cust's comments echo those of virtually everyone in an A's uniform, and as if to underscore the notion of help coming from all corners, catcher Kurt Suzuki ended the team's six-game homerless drought with a three-run homer in the second inning Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Suzuki went 4-for-4.
"We've got some guys swinging the bat well, we really do," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "Zook is obviously one of them, but I like the way Jason and Matt and a few other guys are swinging the bat, too. It's just a matter of time with hitters as good as some of these guys are."
Opening Night starter Dallas Braden, whose penchant for colorful hyperbole seems ripped from the soul of a 1950s sportswriter, on Sunday referred to the A's lineup as a school of great white sharks. As soon as they smell blood in the water, Braden said, a feeding frenzy is sure to follow.
Never mind that great whites are solitary swimmers. Perhaps a more apt analogy would feature hammerheads. They do, in fact, swim in schools, and the A's were hoping to hammer opponents into submission this season.
"The difference between this team, offensively, and last year's team is night and day," second baseman Mark Ellis said. "I'm sure fans are a little bit frustrated right now because we haven't scored the way we know we can, but everything's magnified at the start of the season, good and bad.
"We know we're better than we've shown."
While watching his club take batting practice before Wednesday's game, Geren was emphatic on the same subject.
"Obviously, it hasn't helped having Eric out [with shoulder pain] here and there, but we're going to be fine," Geren said. "Nobody wants to hear excuses, so I'm not going to make any, but I know we're going to break out here sooner rather than later, and when we do, we're going to be what people thought we were going to be."
And what, exactly, is that?
"We're going to be a team that scares people," Giambi said. "We're going to hit homers and score a lot of runs. It's going to happen. Definitely."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.