There was a novel thing: a victory! If the A's keep winning the finale of every
series, and no other games, they'll be in terrible shape. On the other hand, if
they can guarantee they win the finale of every series and then win some other
games here and there, they'll be in great shape. Neither of these things will
happen, so I guess let's talk about what actually did occur in this pitcher's
duel of a victory.
This final score is one we should probably expect to see a lot this year -- the
defense and pitching are as good as ever (ignore my comments from the previous
recaps about the shaky defense and the bad bullpen -- they had bad games, but
the talent is the talent) and the offense, Willingham, Matsui, and DeJesus or
not, isn't going to be a Sox-Yankees-like masterwork. J.D. Drew was Boston's
seventh hitter today, and when Jed Lowrie joins the lineup somewhere in the
middle of this year (Marco Scutaro isn't long for this Earth), he'll hit eighth
or ninth. By contrast, tonight's number five hitter for the A's was Kevin
Fortunately, Trevor Cahill was a monster. The big baby-faced assassin threw
nasty curves, good changes, and used his tailing and sinking fastball to great
effect, getting ground balls and strikeouts galore. I wondered about starting
him over Brett Anderson as the "number one" starter -- to the extent these
things matter, Anderson's probably the better pitcher. But Cahill's showing
that who's better may be one of those relative things that doesn't actually
matter, like hamburgers and burritos. Who could rank these things?
Instead of worrying about such trivialities, let's enjoy a day with no defensive
atrocities, no bullpen meltdowns, and only moderate Kouzmanoff Fail. In other
words, a win.
The boxes and notes!
--Ellis (PH, 2B)
Crisp's positive WPA comes, presumably, his steals of second and base in the
eighth inning of a tied ballgame, rather than the "RBI" strikeout he racked up
that tied the game in the first place. Crisp swung over and through a lot of
pitches in this game -- his three strikeouts were no fluke.
Barton was the subject of a nice deke by shortstop John McDonald, one which
might well be so common as to be boring, but which I had seen used in this
circumstance before. Barton ripped a shot past the first baseman and into foul
territory in right. Juan Rivera came up with his cannon blazing, but he misaimed
-- the ball went about a million feet over anyone's head. In an effort to
confuse Barton and/or get him to stay safely at second if the throw rolled
anyway somewhere, McDonald acted as if a throw was there or coming. Barton did
in fact slide. (The ball also didn't get away from the Jays, so maybe the whole
play turned out to be, from this hindsight perspective, unnecessary.)
Either way, a ringing double and a walk, in this kind of run-scoring
environment, is enough for Offensive Player of the Game.1
Conor Jackson had a nice game, overcoming a double-play in the first inning to
hit a couple of balls fairly hard, the first for an out and the second for the
go-ahead single that brought Coco Crisp in from third.
Even better for a guy not known for his defense, he made a tremendous
catch on a sinking liner in the sixth that, had he let it drop (or, even
worse, get past him), would likely have allowed a run to score, and the
inning to continue. Obviously, since the A's only won by one, that run
It's possible, by the way, that a real right-fielder (say, David
DeJesus) would have made the play a lot easier, not having to make an
awkward-looking dive to keep the ball off the ground, but that's a tough
thing to evaluate, especially on TV.
Josh Willingham, the offensive star of the team so far, didn't have a good
game with the bat, swinging and missing seven times by my count. If he wasn't
bailed out by a two-strike hit-by-pitch on a changeup that got away from Jason
Frasor, his day might look even worse. He did do a nice job turning into the
Frasor pitch, for what it's worth -- sometimes the instinct, even on a slow
pitch drifting inward fairly low, is to duck out of the way. Willingham avoided
that and got himself a trip to first for his troubles.
Kevin Kouzmanoff batted fifth. That is all.
Kurt Suzuki earned Worst Swing Of The Night honors for his whiff on a fastball
that missed badly from Ricky Romero in the 7th inning. The pitch came down and
in, nowhere near the strike zone, and Suzuki took a giant hack at it. Even if
he'd made contact, he'd probably have just hit a ground ball, so it's not the
kind of pitch I'd advise him selling out on in the future.
Andy LaRoche made his third straight start at his third different position
because Mark Ellis apparently had some sort of ear issue. Ellis, though,
pinch-hit for LaRoche in the ninth (and got himself a single). I'm not entirely
sure that's the best decision in the world -- I prefer Ellis playing defense
over anyone, of course, but LaRoche has looked rather adequate with the bat, and
Ellis is nothing more than a singles hitter. Why not just bring Ellis to the
field in the bottom of the ninth?
Trevor Cahill is never going to be the kind of strike-throwing pitcher that
Dallas Braden was in Game 5 (64/88), but note Cahill's seven strikeouts in 27
batters vs. Braden's three in 30. Cahill isn't always sure where his curve is
going to go, and the movement on his fastball and change sometimes bring the
ball over the fat part of the plate, which by my notes happened six or seven
times in this game. He only got hurt on it once, though (Arencibia's smashed
double to the warning track in left), and the ball was only hit hard twice (said
double and an Encarnacion fliner in the 7th that luckily went right at Coco
Crisp in center) on those kinds of pitches. The extreme movement on the pitches
makes it at least as hard for the batters to square the ball up as it does for
Cahill to make sure the ball doesn't end up right down the middle.
Brian Fuentes, who the Blue Jays announcers2 said has been dealing
with blister issues, was solid. He worked the inner half on Rajai, Nix, and
Lind, and even Lind's line-drive single was taken the other way, not hit with
the kind of authority that'd make you worry about a game-tying homer. Fuentes's
stuff is always uninspiring to me, but he's been an effective pitcher, so
sometimes you have to put the aesthetics aside.