By Jason Wojciechowski on September 30, 2010 at 11:11 PM
I've resigned myself to the fact that Bob Geren isn't ever going to put together a batting order that I think makes sense. He's going to bat Rajai Davis first. He's going to go with the "hot hand" to hit third, even when that means elevating Kurt Suzuki or Mark Ellis over Jack Cust. He's going to, like too many A's fans, refuse to recognize that Jack Cust is the A's best hitter. And he's not going to let Chris Carter get more than four at-bats in a game even though now is the perfect time to hit him 5th rather than 8th.
Of course, I say I'm resigned to it and then I tweet about it with every single Susan Slusser lineup announcement and I blog about it and I generally never ever stop bitching about it even though the worst possible lineup Geren could conceivably construct isn't going to cost them more than a run every ten games.
Speaking of Cust and A's fans who hate him, let me mention that in the top of the first, with runners on the corners and one out, he hit a hot grounder toward the left side rather than striking out. This resulted in a pretty pickup by Matt Mangini (who?) and a pretty easy inning-ending double play. This is a beautiful illustration of why Cust's strikeouts never have bothered me and never will bother me.
I haven't seen Chris Carter have to really run down a ball yet, but let me say again that for such a big man with so little experience in the outfield, he doesn't seem afraid of caroms off the wall and he doesn't seem hurried -- on Justin Smoak's liner into left in the second, he knew it was a double, so he got over to the ball, played it off the wall sans fumbles and bumbles, and made a timely but not frantic throw back. This is all unremarkable, of course, for real outfielders. (Though it always seemed that Matt Holliday picking up a ball from the ground was going to be an adventure.) But for first basemen playing the outfield? I'm satisfied.
Do I have a favorite thing about Todd Steverson, Oakland first-base coach? I'm glad you asked. It's that he looks genuinely delighted everytime someone gets to first base and gives him dap after a hit. He's so happy for the player that he hit the baseball successfully. Given how little use the first-base coach really is (qua first base coach, anyway -- as an infield coach or whatever else they are, they may have a lot more effect), all you can really ask for is a guy who gives the hitters some love.
Ok, fine, maybe Chris Carter is exactly as slow as he looks. Ichiro threw him out by about 25 feet on a play at the plate in the third inning. Granted, Ichiro got on the ball quickly, but there were two outs, so Carter was running on contact, and the ball shorthopped the gloveman, so he had to make an awkward recovery to put himself in a position to throw. (Also granted, Ichiro still has a remarkable arm.) All those caveats in both directions aside: Carter was out by a mile. I wonder if he'd have tried to bowl the catcher over if the season were young and/or the game mattered.
By the way, in the top of the fourth, Jack Cust hit another line drive, this one getting over the head of the second baseman into right field for a single. Just noting.
A CSN flashback to an April Doug Fister start against the A's in the fifth inning featured two strikeouts by Eric Chavez. Sigh.
A really weird balk in the top of the fifth gave us the game's first run. Fister picked up his left foot and then ... just sorta put it down. He tried to continue his motion and throw the ball, but the umpires were having none of it, calling a balk that allowed Jeremy Hermida to score from third. It's the kind of thing that when you see it in September in a game between eliminated teams, you go "only in September." It's probably not true, but it's fun to say anyway.
The fifth inning in general was a clusterfuck. Besides the balk, the A's got a couple of bleeder infield singles, one of which preceded the balk and the other of which was Mark Ellis's RBI single to make it 2-0. Then Ellis fell asleep on the old "fake to third throw to first" play, but Daric Barton snuck down the third base line far enough to draw a throw home from Justin Smoak. Unfortunately for Smoak, it was a deke by Barton, who retreated to third while Ellis scampered on down to second. Jack Cust followed with, what else, a wee bloop into a Bermuda Triangle in left field, scoring two runs.
In the top of the sixth, though, Chris Carter made sure not all the A's runs were cheap. He just missed a 3-1 fastball in his previous at-bat, taking a bit cut at a fastball down the middle, but earning just a routine flyout to left. This time, he got basically the same pitch from Fister and destroyed it, lacing it on a line to left, leaving the yard easily. That's the Chris Carter A's fans are hoping to see next season.
Later in the inning, though, the Mariners got even more reason to be disgruntled. A walk to Cliff Pennington was followed by a Rajai Davis single that just scooted under the glove of Jack Wilson. Davis stole second, and the throw went into center field, not getting anywhere particularly close to second base, scoring Pennington and allowing Davis to move up an extra base. Just ugly baseball from the Mariners combined with a ridiculous amount of poor luck on balls in play.
But that just brings us back to the beginning: Gio's flyball rate actually stayed static: 35.8% in both seasons. Extra ground balls he got came entire out of his line drives. If he gives those back next year, then he'll go back from pretty awesome to "ok, I'm glad he's on the team and not making all that much money". I'm intrigued to see what the projection systems do with him.