By Jason Wojciechowski on April 15, 2010 at 10:00 PM
I've just started the game up, and it looks like the issues I was having yesterday have been resolved by Boxxe_Help's suggestion that I used the SD feed rather than HD. I'm not sure why I didn't think of this. Probably because I didn't realize that there was such a thing, even though just the day before, or thereabouts, I'd changed a setting in Boxee saying "always use HD feed", which, in retrospect, was dumb. If I can't use 480p in Hulu, why would I think my computer could handle HD from MLB.tv?
So today I have normal speed video. I also appear to have zero audio, but whatever, I turned off the audio last night, too. It's not essential. (I don't know what the audio problem is, but I suspect that it's on MLB.tv's end, not Boxee's -- when I started the game the first time, the audio was way off, like a full second or maybe even two behind the video. I restarted the feed in an attempt to fix it. When I did that, the audio was out completely. So no Ray Fosse for me tonight, but at least I can see the action at normal speed.)
And what action it was in the first inning! Ben Sheets got hammered after he struck out the leadoff man, giving up a double, a well-struck fliner to left center that Rajai Davis ran down for the second out, and then a scalded line drive down the left field line by Miguel Tejada that Kevin Kouzmanoff snagged with a full-stretch dive. Sheets can thank Billy Beane for prioritizing defense in that inning.
The bottom of the first began with Rajai Davis hitting his trademark weak chopper, toward the left side. He's got the speed to make that work, and indeed it worked here -- Miguel Tejada did a nice job coming in and barehanding it and made a strong throw to first, but Davis's speed was too much.
And that's where the fireworks began. David Hernandez made a quick pickoff move to first and Rajai was late getting back. He made an awkward dive toward the outfield side of the bag and reached his hand around, just grabbing the bag while contorting his body around the first baseman's glove. (Or at least so it appears in my SD replay and without the benefit of Fosse and Papa's analysis.) Dave Trembley was pissed and did a classic "up in his face" argument with the first base umpire, but somehow managed to not say any magic words and get thrown out.
The A's followed that performance up with a Daric Barton double and back-to-back sacrifice flies, making it 2-0 for Sheets.
Wow, Eric Chavez still has some power after all. David Hernandez, in the bottom of the second, gave him a fastball up and away and Chavez more or less just flicked his bat at it, but it managed to sail all the way to the wall in left/left-center. Baltimore's left-fielder (Pie?) made a leap for it but couldn't come down with it, and Chavez had himself a double. Just really remarkable how much physical talent Chavez still has.
Hernandez followed that up by almost taking Adam Rosales's head off with a pitch way up and in, but Rosales got his revenge but throwing his bat at a nice breaking pitch low and away and punching it into center. Chavez didn't get a good read on it and may have been fooled by Adam Jones's decoy (raising his glove like he was going to catch the ball on the fly), so he stopped at third. Still, first and third with no out, already up 2-0, is a nice place to be for an A's team that really struggled with the bats the last two games against FISTER and Jason Vargas.
Travis Buck then leaned the sleeve of his uniform almost into the strike zone to get a free HBP. It worked out for my team this time, and I don't have a rule change I can give you on this (are you going to ask umpires to determine whether a ball only hit the uniform vs. also a piece of the body?), but that's a really annoying hit-by-pitch.
For all of the A's base-running aggressiveness in the first ten games, this inning has been a clinic in how not to read balls off the bat. I've already mentioned Chavez, but then, with the bases loaded and one out, Rajai Davis hit a little bloopy liner over the shortstop's head that Rosales didn't quite read right -- it ended up dropping well into the outfield, but Rosales hesitated quite a bit and would have had no chance to score on Pie's throw to the plate. He held at third.
Hernandez has better stuff than I realized. The picture in my head is of a fringe righty, but he just blew a 94 mph fastball, perfectly low and away, past Daric Barton on a full count with the bases loaded. That's a pressure pitch, and he made Barton look helpless. He hasn't had the best control through his first 12 batters faced, though, as a lot of his pitches have missed the target (and the zone) badly. But putting his control aside, his velocity and movement are far from fringy.
I sort of zoned out for the next few innings. I was watching, and I saw the A's score some more times, get some more hits, and make some more defensive plays (including a nice diving catch by Rajai Davis in center), but I had to do some work for my fantasy league's FAAB deadline tomorrow, which I nearly forgot about, so the game became background ... well, not noise. On the one hand, I'm back now. On the other, I found out that the A's win this game 6-2, so there's not much drama in the question of whether Sheets can hold this lead, but I guess I want to wait around and see how the A's score their last two runs and who gives up the two for the Orioles.
One of those runs came as Eric Chavez absolutely scalded a ball (again -- is it me, or is the ball jumping off his bat lately? Maybe he's really back!) to center, sadly right at Adam Jones. It was a tough enough play, a sinking liner, that Jones only barely made the catch and then lost the ball on the transfer to his hand, allowing Sweeney to score from third easily. The A's aren't getting a ton of big hits tonight, but they're getting the runs home -- I count three sac flies and one RBI groundout en route to five runs. I can't really condone this, but it's a hell of a lot better than strikeouts and popups, isn't it?
Maybe it's just because I read in spring training how he was fitting in with the team, but to me, Ben Sheets projects an aura of being a solid dude that gets along with his teammates. He's not one of these angry guys, all growling and spitting fire on the mound and pounding his glove. But for some reason, I also don't see him as the workman, the aloof craftsman. That's the Greg Maddux image, or the Mike Mussina. This is all aesthetics, of course, but there's something reassuring about watching Ben Sheets, even when things aren't going swimmingly (as they haven't for most of the night, although he keeps escaping). I always feel like he's only a pitch away from getting out of trouble, and I really think that has a lot to do with his demeanor, not just his stuff, his mechanics, or anything else. It's the same reason that watching Trevor Cahill last year didn't really give a sense of how truly mediocre his pitching was. (I have to admit that it helps having supreme confidence in every single one of the A's defenders. There's no Jason Giambi where you're just hoping a ball doesn't get hit to first, or a Jack Cust in right.)
Anyway: A's win! A's win!