By Jason Wojciechowski on April 10, 2011 at 12:30 PM
I apologize, A's fans. It was not my intent when I wrote "This final score is one we should probably expect to see a lot this year" to be quite this prescient, predicting the very next game's result, but with a poor outcome for the A's.
2-1 games are 2-1 games the world over, and this one was no different -- there weren't line drives being hit all over the ballpark, there weren't deep counts and walks. There were lots of weak ground balls, a wide strike zone that both pitchers took advantage of (though it seems that the low-and-outside pitch that the home plate umpire was very generous with is more suited to Carl Pavano's mediocre-stuff style than to Brett Anderson's), and a vast middle part of the game, between the A's run in the first and the Twins' two runs in the eight, where both pitchers were going three-up-three-down with regularity.
Brett Anderson wasn't quite as sharp in the eighth inning as he had been in the first seven, but by my recollection, the balls he gave up hits on, while sharply hit, did not come on pitches where he badly missed his spots. Danny Valencia's one-out single was a ball that Kevin Kouzmanoff might have played, Jason Kubel's single was a fastball at the knees on the inner half that Daric Barton probably would have had if he hadn't been holding Valencia on at first, and Denard Span hit basically the same pitch, but this time to the other side of a diving Barton, again in a difficult position because of the runner on first. Joe Mauer's go-ahead single was hit on a hanging change up and Kouzmanoff never had a prayer of catching it. Perhaps Anderson missed his spots to Valencia, Kubel, and Span by an inch or two, but he wasn't exactly grooving pitches.
When your offense only puts up one run against Carl Pavano, though, margins of error for the pitcher are reduced to those one inch or two.
On to the box scores and notes.
Daric Barton scored a pseudo-Rickey Run in the first, taking six pitches for a walk, going to second on a wild pitch, taking third when Carl Pavano hit him with a pickoff throw, and scoring on a David DeJesus line drive to center, which was not the deepest-hit of sac flies ever.
Barton also worked Joe Nathan for eight pitches, fouling off two full-count fastballs before hitting a ball sharply, but unfortunately on the ground and right at Luke Hughes at second. Both the groundout and the first full count foul ball were fastballs that I thought caught too much plate for Nathan's liking, but Barton wasn't able to do anything with them. Again: 2-1 baseball game.
David DeJesus also hit a ball sharply off Nathan, but his actually went into center past a full-out diving Hughes. The rest of his at-bats, though, were unimpressive, as he went after too many pitches that I thought he should have let go, waiting for a better one. He has contact abilities, but that gets him into trouble as much as it helps if he's going to swing at pitches below his knees or off the plate outside.
Not reflected in Willingham's wRAA above is his steal of second in the first inning, putting himself into scoring position for Hideki Matsui with two outs in the first. As impressive as it might seem to steal off Joe Mauer, though, this bag was swiped from Pavano -- Mauer didn't even have a throw on the play.
Willingham also took two huge rips at Nathan fastballs in the ninth. One was at his knees in, I think, the middle part of the plate, and the other was up a little more but on the outer half. He whiffed on both before watching a slider for strike three.
Willingham's at-bat expresses the frustration of the ninth inning for me: Nathan was getting altogether too much of the plate with his fastball, but the A's were simply unable to make anything happen. Even DeJesus's single came on a slider. Perhaps Nathan's fastball has some movement that I wasn't able to pick up on TV that makes it harder to hit than it appears?
I'm starting to think Matsui hasn't and won't hit a ball hard all season.
Mark Ellis, the Offensive Player of the Game,2 hit two balls hard, one of which resulted in a leadoff double in the fifth on a line drive past third, but the other was merely a lineout, as the ball was hit right at Justin Morneau. Still, for managing more total bases than anyone else on the team, and for hitting the ball hard more times than anyone else on the team, Ellis gets this game's big golden plaque.
Ellis also earned a Gold Glove in this game. Or at least he would have were the voters paying any damn attention. If Ron Gardenhire doesn't vote for Ellis at the end of the year on the strength of the ridiculous double play he turned in the seventh, then Ron Gardenhire is fired. Here's what happened: Delmon Young, on first with a full count and one out, runs on the pitch, which is grounded sharply up the middle. Ellis, moving toward second to receive the throw from the catcher, makes the play a few feet to the left of second base, steps back onto the bag, leaps high over a slide-rolling Delmon Young (not the smallest man in the game) and fires a throw, mid-air, to first with enough mustard on it to get Michael Cuddyer.
Remember two things. First, Ellis didn't have the running start from the shortstop side that leaping GIDP turners usually have. He basically took a step and jumped, and still had enough strength and accuracy on the throw to complete the play. Second, Mark Ellis has never once won a Gold Glove.
Cliff Pennington did steal a base, but his single was a jam shot into no-man's land between first and second that Justin Morneau thought about making a play on before leaving it for Luke Hughes. The problem was that Morneau had already taken a few steps toward the ball, so he couldn't recover to the bag in time to beat the speedy Pennington. I'm not sure why it took Carl Pavano so long to get over, especially as a righty who should fall off the mound to the first base side.
A general Carl Pavano note: I was generally completely unable to tell what pitches he was throwing. Nothing he tosses has a ton of movement, and his fastball velocity is so low that there's not much separation between those pitches and the slower ones. When he throws a pitch 84 mph with minimal movement, I have no idea what he was intending.
On the one hand, this lack of velocity, movement, and separation makes it pretty embarrassing that the A's only managed one run in eight innings against him. On the other hand, he hit his spots, especially his low-and-outside spot, all game. An 88 mph fastball isn't deadly, but it can do a lot of damage in that location.
Pitcher | Outs/TBF | Str/Pit | K | UBB | HR - |||||_ Anderson | 24/30 | 75/109 | 5 | 0 | 0
Brett Anderson was ridiculous, getting ground ball after ground ball. The only fly balls or line drives I have in my notes are a golf-swing single by Delmon Young in the first, a high fly into left by Thome in the second, an easy fly into left center by Valencia in the fifth, a popup by Hughes into shallow center, also in the fifth, a well-struck ball by Luke Hughes to the warning track in the eighth, and Morneau's sharp line drive into left in that same inning that Josh Willingham made a full-out dive to grab. That's six balls in the air from thirty batters. In a game that Anderson "lost".
Anderson's fielding was also good, as he made three identical plays to the same spot between the mound and third base, charging calmly, spinning under control, and firing a strike to Barton at first for the out. He's, as I've noted before, not the most agile-looking of hurlers, but he's no slug.
I should note that Fangraphs now has an awesome expanded box score page for each game (here's the box for this game, for instance), so I could pull wRAA from there, but their display rounds to one decimal point. I know it's false precision to claim that we're calculating these things down to thousandths of a run, but I've come this far, so I'm sticking with it for now. ↩
Standings: (2) Barton; (2) Crisp; (2) Willingham; (1) Ellis ↩