By Jason Wojciechowski on April 15, 2011 at 12:00 PM
It's late, I know, but I did watch the game (over two nights) and I did take notes, so I'm not letting those things go to waste. The short version of this game: John Danks dominated, Brett Anderson was mediocre, the White Sox bullpen sucked, the A's bullpen held it down. The one positive of the way the A's treated Danks is that they did work three walks and get enough deep counts to get his pitch total up to 109 at the end of the eighth. Ozzie surely would have loved to bring Danks back out for the final frame, but if he was looking at a total of 120, 125, or even 130 pitches to close it out, that wasn't going to happen, especially in April.
Of course, the Sox bullpen is better than this -- it's not like the recipe for beating Chicago is "just get past the starters and you can win!" The A's got lucky that not one or two but three different Sox pitchers were off their game, leaving pitches up and walking guys so that even a lineup featuring (by the end of the game) one guy with an infected sweat gland and one guy with a tight lower back could score six runs in two innings.
Still, it's the kind of luck the A's made for themselves, in part via the bullpen not giving up a hit to the sixteen batters it faced. (It still managed to allow a run via the inability to throw a baseball evidenced by Brad Ziegler and Kevin Kouzmanoff, but a walk-steal-bunt-error run is the kind of scratch-it-out thing that doesn't seem to indicate a systemic problem. Unless that problem is "Kevin Kouzmanoff can't even play defense anymore, so what is he for?")
Box & Notes
I'm going to keep saying "Johnny Damon" about David DeJesus until he proves me wrong.
The pitch from Chris Sale to Conor Jackson on 2-2 leading off the ninth inning was actually up and out of the strike zone, as a two-strike pitch might want to be, but it well illustrated the margins in the major leagues, even for a flamethrower like Sale: Jackson's a tall guy, and the pitch wasn't high enough that Jackson's swing would get under the ball too much, resulting in an easy fly out or popup. Instead, Jackson more or less squared up the ball and drove it fairly hard into the right-center alley. Jackson, of course, did a good job not trying to pull that pitch, hitting it exactly where it should be hit. But if Mark Ellis or Kurt Suzuki chase that pitch, they probably do absolutely nothing with it.
Jackson did make one dive for a ball at third base, but it went foul, and nothing came to him while he was the de facto shortstop in the shift with Adam Dunn at the plate. He surely breathed a huge sigh of relief after his two innings on the infield were over.
The shift, though, raises my usual question: wouldn't Jackson, with nobody on base, be better suited to the spot behind second base in the shift? If Dunn hits a squibber to the left side, I'd rather have Pennington trying to charge and make that play than Jackson (or Kouzmanoff, or LaRoche, or anyone else the A's have to play third base).
Josh Willingham's two walks weren't so much of the Daric Barton "spit on a close pitch" variety, as neither, to my recollection, involved much in the way of close pitches. He should be commended, though, for his ninth-inning single scoring Conor Jackson after Sale got him 0-2. The slider Sale threw on that count was way too high even though it was only about at Willingham's knees. On that count, that pitch has to be buried in the dirt, way inside, or pretty much anywhere but where he put it.
I didn't think Hideki Matsui's homer was going to get out off the bat. It looked like a deep fly out, but it really carried.
Coco Crisp knows how to make the most of one at-bat, sore back or not: a go-ahead single, stolen base, and insurance run scored? After scoring the tying run in the ninth as a pinch-runner? That's a pretty productive day for Coco Puff.
Kevin Kouzmanoff. Ugh.
Daric Barton: 12 pitches, walk, two-run single. That's pretty good, too.
Even though other guys had better days by wRAA, I'm giving Cliff Pennington the Offensive Player of the Game trophy for his two-out game-tying single in the ninth.1 It wasn't the most scalded ball of all time, but it was hit hard enough, and he took advantage of a pitch up from Matt Thornton. Per Fangraphs Win Expectancy, the White Sox were 85% to win the game before Pennington's single and 53% after it.
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Brett Anderson was not missing bats, but he also wasn't missing the strike zone all that much, as his strike/pitch column shows above. The sixth inning, when the White Sox did their damage, started when Carlos Quentin fouled off three two-strike pitches and took a fastball up before being hit by a changeup. Alex Rios then ripped a two-strike curve, and Ramon Castro fouled off two two-strike curves.
That's all in the "Anderson couldn't put them away on two strikes and paid for it" column. In the "it shouldn't have been that bad" column, we have Li'l Debbie Anderson getting squeezed on a 1-2 curve to Castro, as well as Kevin Kouzmanoff's horribly ill-advised throw home to try to catch Carlos Quentin at the plate. If he goes to first to get the slow Castro and concedes the run, there are two outs with a man on third, and Ozzie can't call the squeeze play. Maybe Brent Morel gets a hit anyway, but this is Brent Morel we're talking about. Good odds the A's are only down 2-1 instead of 3-1 if Kouzmanoff makes the right play.
From best to worst in the bullpen: Grant Balfour (dominant); Brian Fuentes (one line drive snagged by Pennington); Breslow (two hard-hit balls caught, but by the best hitters on the team); Ziegler (had no idea where his pitches were going, even on a pitchout).
Standings: (3) Barton; (2) Crisp, Ellis, Willingham; (1) Suzuki, Matsui, Pennington ↩