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Pitching offsetting A's early injuries

Pitching offsetting A's early injuries

OAKLAND -- A year after tying a club record by using the disabled list 22 times, the A's already have used the DL 15 times in 2008.

This year's injuries haven't been nearly as crippling, however, and closer Huston Street has a theory as to why.

"I think everybody would agree that our strong point has been pitching," Street said Friday before the opener of a three-game series against the rival Angels at McAfee Coliseum. "Starting pitching, especially, and all of our starters are healthy right now."

Halos skipper Mike Scioscia, whose club led the second-place A's by 3 1/2 games in the American League West through Thursday, agreed.

"There's nothing surprising with what they're doing," Scioscia said. "They have the ability to win games much the way we are -- they're pitching great baseball."

A's starters Rich Harden and Justin Duchscherer were sent to the DL early in the season, but their stays on the shelf were relatively short, and Oakland's starters entered the series with the third-lowest ERA (3.61) in the Majors.

Last season, the A's were essentially without Harden all year, they got very little from projected No. 3 starter Esteban Loaiza and Chad Gaudin struggled mightily while pitching through foot and hip injuries in the second half.

Duchscherer, then a reliever, missed most of the season, too, but he's now a rotation mainstay along with Joe Blanton, Harden and two of the hurlers acquired in the big offseason trade that sent ace Dan Haren deal to Arizona. Gaudin was moved to the bullpen when Harden came off the DL and went 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in his first eight appearances.

Street spent quite a bit of time on the DL last season, too, and he's been the rock of a bullpen that entered the Angels series with a 3.21 ERA. He was 12-for-14 in save situations and righties were batting .145 against him (lefties were batting .227).

"You've seen Harden healthy, Blanton, a couple of young pitchers have pitched very well," Scioscia said. "Street back as closer is big. They can pitch. Those guys are good."

The offense, while not exactly a juggernaut, hasn't been all that bad, either. Many predicted that the A's would fade when Frank Thomas, Mike Sweeney and Ryan Sweeney were all placed on the DL on May 28, but the club activated third baseman Eric Chavez and promoted highly touted prospect Carlos Gonzalez and Opening Day right fielder Travis Buck on the same day.

"Whenever someone's gone down from the offense, there's always someone really good to step in," Street said. "And like I said, it's not like we've been carried by the offense. The injuries might put a little more pressure on the pitching, but we feel like if we can hold the other team to four or five runs, we're going to get enough [runs from the offense] to win the game that day. And most of the time, we have.

"I'd say the best thing we have going right now is confidence. It's a really healthy existence. We expect to win."

They should, suggested Scioscia, who liked what he saw of the A's as early as March.

"We've seen that from Spring Training [on], so for us, it's not surprising," Scioscia said. "They have a lot more talent on that team than some people in the media and fans saw. But we saw it in the spring and when we've played them."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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