Daniel Mengden’s MLB debut was even better than expected
Whether you were a fan of the Cincinnati Reds or the Oakland Athletics watching Saturday’s game, you may have felt as though you’d somehow time-traveled back to the year 1972. The year the Athletics defeated the Reds in the World Series – a series often referred to as “the Hairs vs. the Squares.” The A’s were known then for their facial hair, bright unconventional green and gold color scheme, white cleats and lively personalities.
Of course that wasn’t the case but you’d hardly have known it as rookie Daniel Mengden took the mound in his MLB debut in the bottom of the first inning. With his green and gold high socks and handlebar mustache he resembled the 70’s “Swingin’ A’s” team that won three straight World Series from 1972-1974. Most of all he looked like the MVP of the ‘74 series, Rollie Fingers, who sports his handlebar mustache to this very day.
Mengden further brought back memories of a different era with his, what is now seen as an, “unconventional” delivery. John Shea of The San Francisco Chronicle described Mengden’s windup so well that if you’ve ever even watched old baseball footage you should be able to picture it in your mind.
“Mengden planted his feet wide apart on the mound and covered his face with his glove. He extended his arms skyward and hesitated, sometimes rocking his hands twice behind his head or pausing on his leg kick, anything to disrupt the hitter.”
Besides stirring up memories of days gone by for older fans of both teams, Mengden’s debut was impressive. That is especially true if you take into account how quickly he sped through the A’s minor league system. He wasn’t even considered for this season’s rotation due to the fact that after he was traded to the A’s from the Houston Astros at last year’s trade deadline, he spent the remainder of the season at High Class-A Stockton.
After beginning this season at Double-A Midland, he was promoted to Triple-A Nashville after just four starts. Once in Nashville his numbers were so good that he probably should have been called up a month ago. Mengden made just seven starts in Nashville going 3-1 with a 1.39 ERA while holding hitters to a .175 batting average, prior to his outing Saturday.
Mengden’s repertoire consists of a fastball that averages 92 MPH but can hit the mid-90’s, a cutter that sits at about the same speed as his fastball, a mid-80’s slider and a low-80’s changeup.
On Saturday Mengden lost his first big league start but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t impressive. It was more that the Athletics’ offense once again failed to show up the way they had been prior to this recent road trip.
At Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark this weekend, Mengden’s childhood dream came true. He pitched into the sixth inning, getting out of jams with runners in scoring position in the first, second, fourth and fifth innings.
Mengden’s one mistake came in the third inning when Jay Bruce took him deep with Joey Votto already on-base due to one of Mengden’s four walks of the day. A walk can come back to bite you sometimes, however, as previously mentioned, it would have been nice for the A’s offense to show up at the ballpark too.
He finished the day having pitched 5.2 innings, allowing just six hits and two earned runs, while walking four and striking out five batters. In fact, his first big league strikeout came when he faced his first batter, the Reds’ lead-off man Zach Cozart.
The A’s need to give the 23-year-old another big league start which could go either way with the way they’ve been making roster moves of late. Yet, Mengden’s outing was a breath of fresh air for the struggling Oakland ball club. He pitched deeper into the game than the A’s more regular starters such as Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn and Eric Surkamp (just to name a few) have in their multiple starts this season.
If Mengden can show the A’s that he can repeat his performance in a second start, he may just end up being in the top three of the rotation after Sonny Gray and Rich Hill. That’s really how impressive his start on Saturday looked. One walk and a misplaced pitch in the third cost him what should have been his first big league win but that was ok with Mengden. He was just happy to have pitched well at the big league level, his childhood dream had become a reality.
The A’s must give this kid another chance to show them what he’s got. They liked what they saw Saturday and going forward he may be a key to the A’s rotation for sometime to come. He reminded everyone not just of the A’s of old but also offered them a small glimpse into what could be a bright future for the Oakland ball club.
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