By Jason Wojciechowski on April 19, 2011 at 12:00 PM
best second-best (I forgot about Felix Hernandez) pitcher the
A's have faced all year, the Oakland offense finally stepped it up, stacking up
eight hits and three walks in six innings against Justin Verlander, making him
throw 116 pitches in the process. He managed to keep the runs allowed to four
while he was in the game, but Ryan Sweeney threw in a pair of insurance scores
in the 8th with an RBI triple followed by a Kevin Kouzmanoff sacrifice fly.
The big blow from the game, though, was watching Dallas Braden's velocity drop and pitch location rise in the fifth inning, after which he was lifted and then placed on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. Nobody's saying what the problem is yet, but the word "shoulder" is a frightening one, even for a soft-tosser like Braden. Everyone's in wait-and-see mode, of course, but I should note that I'm not optimistic about the A's new fifth starter situation (with, if you're ranking guys, Brandon McCarthy now becoming the fourth starter): Tyson Ross goes into the rotation, with Bobby Cramer and the newly acquired David Purcey (I assume -- he's started in the not-distant past) behind him. None of those guys inspires a ton of confidence, Ross with his lack of idea where the ball is going, Cramer with his complete absence of stuff, and Purcey with his inability to find the strike zone (4.7 BB/9 for his major league career). If you're patching one spot in the rotation by hoping Brandon McCarthy doesn't get hurt and backing him with that Ross/Cramer + whoever's available by trade (Purcey), that's fine. If you're doing that for two spots while still hoping against hope that Gio Gonzalez is for real, your chances of contention don't look so hot.
Box & Notes
Coco Crisp hit two balls hard, though only one got down for a hit. He used his legs to turn that one hit into a double -- the ball was a line drive into right center that Brennan Boesch kept from rolling to the gap, but Crisp was motoring and got into second anyway.
Daric Barton made a silly play in the second trying to get Miguel Cabrera at the plate on a ground ball that he was forced to come in on. He was no more than a few feet from the first base bag, but he declined the easy out and made a bad throw that skipped in the dirt past Suzuki. Cabrera is rotund and slow, but the infield was playing back for a reason: the A's were conceding the early run in order to get a sure out.
David DeJesus had a similar ball in the fourth inning, line a ball sharply in the left-center gap that Austin Jackson, who was playing quite shallow, sprinted over to stop from rolling to the wall. DeJesus was running hard the entire way, though, thinking double (or even triple of the ball did get past Jackson), and he just beat Jackson's good throw to the bag. Combine this double with an earlier soft single and a five-pitch walk off Verlander after that weird balk thing, and DeJesus is, for the first time this year, the Offensive Player of the Game.1
Granted that Josh Willingham's prone to whiffing in general and is leading the American League in strikeouts so far this year, Justin Verlander worked him in the fifth. My notes from the at-bat:
fb out corner knee 01; fb in corner waist foul 02; fb up 12; fb up and in swing strikeout
Verlander worked in and out, up and down, with his usual velocity. Poor CompliantHam had no chance.
Andy LaRoche didn't have his best game ever, grounding to the left side twice and popping up in the second, when I noted, "awful pitch to swing at by LaRoche". He did make an excellent turn for a double play in the second, rifling a good throw to first to beat Brandon Inge while Brennan Boesch was bearing down on him.
If I'm going to note that Kevin Kouzmanoff struck out on one pitch in the dirt, I should also note that he ripped a double to straightaway center on a hanging curve in the sixth, leading to the A's fourth run. The Tigers announcers mentioned in one at-bat (I don't remember which) that Kouzmanoff had taken "an awkward swing" at the ball. Clearly, they just don't know our Kouz, because I hadn't noticed anything the least bit unusual about that particular swing.
Dallas Braden benefited two different times from the lack of Tiger speed in their star players. In the second inning, Miguel Cabrera could only bobble his way to third on a double by Victor Martinez (though it should be noted that Josh Willingham played the carom off the wall quite well and got the ball back in quickly) and in the fourth, Magglio Ordonez stopped at third on Cabrera's double into the left-center gap. Cabrera scored anyway in the second, but Braden got a chopper to third, a strikeout, and a popup in the fourth to keep the Tigers off the board in the fourth.
Grant Balfour and Victor Martinez engaged in what must've been a seven-minute at-bat in the eighth inning, though only seven pitches were thrown. Multiple step-offs, step-outs, and mound conferences were held before Martinez finally grounded out to Daric Barton, stranding runners at first and second.
Standings: (3) Barton; (2) Crisp, Suzuki, Willingham; (1) DeJesus, Jackson, Matsui, Pennington ↩