Oakland's new Young Guns

Updated: June 8, 2009, 7:24 PM ET
By Buster Olney

They've done this kind of work together before -- in Midland, Texas, to be precise. Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Vin Mazzaro and Josh Outman all pitched together in Double-A, and back then they'd shut down the RoughRiders and Missions and Hooks and Travelers and Drillers.

That was last summer.

Now they shut down the Angels and Orioles and Rangers and White Sox and Rays (since May 24, Oakland's starters are 9-3 with a 3.09 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP), and during the games, you can see Cahill and the others huddled together in the Oakland Athletics' dugout, like chicks gathered under a heat lamp, chatting cheerily and sharing their experiences. And right now, it's all good for Oakland's Young Guns rotation. On Sunday, it was Mazzaro's turn to dominate, Susan Slusser writes, and over the past six games, Oakland's starters -- including the grizzly 25-year-old Dallas Braden -- have a 1.12 ERA.

A natural competition has developed among them, Cahill acknowledged before Mazzaro's start -- there is a feeling of wanting to make sure that you're not the guy who drops the baton. "We're helping each other, but it's not so much pitching-wise," said Cahill. "It's more with trying to get comfortable around [the big leagues]. I guess all we try to do is remind each other that it's the same game."

They are so young that earlier this year, Cahill and Anderson couldn't find a place to rent in Walnut Creek, a suburb of Oakland, because no landlords wanted to hand keys over to a couple of 21-year-olds. Cahill figures that the renters envisioned a bunch of parties. So, in the end, Cahill wound up getting a place in San Francisco, right across from AT&T Park. "When we play the Giants, I'll be able to just walk across the street," he said. Cahill will probably run, considering how well the Athletics are playing and pitching these days.

The success of Oakland's Young Guns is increasing the likelihood that Matt Holliday will remain with the Athletics, writes Scott Ostler.

Tommy Hanson got pelted for three homers, but the Braves overcame his six-inning, seven-run performance, Carroll Rogers writes. You half-expected to see Hanson delivered to the mound by helicopter, writes Jeff Schultz.

Watched all of Hanson's innings and came away thinking this: It was the best six-inning, seven-run outing I've ever seen, and he will have an immediate impact once he sorts out a couple of things (and he will, quickly). Hanson retired the first nine batters he faced, doing everything he needed to do despite any jitters he might have been feeling (and it was hard to tell whether he was feeling any at all). He threw hard, for sure, with a riding fastball that consistently hit 95-96 mph and touched 97 mph, but he also threw his curveball and his slider for strikes with ease. With a no-ball, one-strike count on Mat Gamel in the second inning, he spun a curveball over the plate for Strike 2, and you could almost see in Gamel's body language a feeling of OK, that really wasn't fair. He finished Gamel off with another breaking ball.

But in his second time through the batting order, one thing happened, for sure, and something else might've happened. No. 1: A runner reached base for the first time against Hanson, when J.J. Hardy reached on an error, and when Hanson aimed a fastball at the outside corner against Ryan Braun, the ball drifted over the inner half and Braun took a vicious swing and mashed a two-run homer. By game's end, the Brewers were 4-for-5 with a double and three homers when they batted with runners on base; Hanson had difficulty commanding his fastball precisely when he was working from the stretch.

No. 2 (and I may well be wrong in this): In working with Eduardo Perez and Eric Young on "Baseball Tonight," I've come to understand how prevalent it is for hitters to pick up some tendency or trait in a pitcher that betrays the identity of the next pitch. It might be how the pitcher raises his hands, it might be how he takes a deep breath before throwing every fastball but not his breaking ball, it might be the way he angles his glove. But after the Brewers looked absolutely helpless in the first three innings, they hacked with incredible confidence against his fastball from the fourth inning onward, while mostly ignoring his breaking stuff, and it made me wonder if Hanson might've been tipping his pitches. No matter the problem, the Braves and Hanson will figure it out, and he will be a force in weeks to come.

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