The (losing) streak is dead, long live the (winning) streak! By the time I'm
finished with this post about Friday night's game, Saturday's game will likely
be over, but having not watched it yet, I am ignorant of the state of the A's
winning streak. For now, it stands at one game, which is a longer streak than
they've had in a week and a half. We take our victories where we can, A's fans.
On a more meta tip, I'm a little worried about what's going to happen when I
read the A's bloggerati on this game. Will the magic of Bob Geren no longer
being at the top have inspired the team to never give up? I've not hidden how I
feel about that kind of nonsense, so I hope that wasn't what you were coming
here hoping to read.
An actual, non-snarky managerial note is warranted, though: in the fifth, with
the White Sox up 3-2, runners on second and third, and Michael Wuertz freshly in
the ballgame, Bob Melvin elected to play his infield back. It was an interesting
play for a manager of an offensively challenged team, but it did, as it happens,
work out -- Alex Rios hit a grounder up the middle that, in my view, would have
sneaked past a drawn-in Cliff Pennington for a single, scoring two runs. With
Pennington back, he had an easy play at first and just the one run scored. (Adam
Dunn then came through with a single to plate the other runner, but that's a
different issue.) Obviously, you can't use the vagaries of actual balls in play
to evaluate manager moves, but it might be worth watching, as we finish this
year with Bob Melvin, whether he's more loathe to bring his infield in than Bob
Geren (or other managers) might be.
I'll also note that the situation, with a struggling starter, an open base, and
Adam Dunn coming up after Rios, was the kind where Bob Geren might have ordered
Rios intentionally walked and brought in Craig Breslow to pitch to Dunn. I'm not
exactly Joe Posnanski in my feelings about the intentional walk (I don't think
it's a moral failing or unsporting, and I'm 100% against a rule change -- most
of the time, it's a bad managerial play, and bad managers should be punished for
thinking it's the right move. Lowering the incentives to issue the walk just
protects managers from themselves), but Geren did order more of them than I had
a taste for. It's possible that, this situation having occurred in the fifth
inning, Geren wouldn't have ordered the walk either, but, like the infield
placement question, the intentional walk situation will be one to watch as the
season goes on.
On to the
Box & Notes
The nicest thing I can say about Coco Crisp's offensive day is that he batted
six times. Of course, that's more about the team's hitting behind him than about
his own performance, as he managed to make five of the 27 outs a squad is
That's a lie, actually, because I can go one nicer: in the seventh,
having singled and then reached third on Cliff Pennington's double, he
read Conor Jackson's looper very well, realizing that it was going to
drop in front of Gordon Beckham, so that he was able to score on the
I'm pretty sure there's no evidence that your spot in the batting order
affects your hitting (beyond the additional walks that National League eighth
place hitters get), but Cliff Pennington has reached base on five of nine PAs
out of the two hole, including two doubles in this game. Each of Pennington's
three hits led to a run: he scored himself after his first-inning two-bagger,
his jam-shot infield single in the third scored Jemile Weeks from third, and his
seventh-inning double moved Crisp to third, allowing him to score on the play
mentioned in the previous bullet.
Ryan Sweeney's role as the number three hitter in this game was hitting ground
balls that moved Cliff Pennington to third. He did this twice and he did it
marvelously. Golf claps all around.
Conor Jackson was 0-2, but he got an RBI! We know how important that is.
Josh Willingham hit a boatload of ground balls, but one of them, at least, was
a hard shot through the 5-6 hole into left field to score the A's first run.
Better, though, was his key two-out walk in the ninth against Sergio Santos. The
A's were down to their last strike with the 0-2 count on Willingham, but he laid
off the next four pitches, including a filthy slider on 1-2 that we've seen him
chase all year. He picked quite a time to not go whiffing, starting the rally
that eventually won the game.
To be entirely fair, the other three pitches that Willingham took in the
at-bat weren't all that close, especially the 2-2 slider that Santos
lost over Willingham's head. Still and all, we've seen Willingham whiff
on both good pitches and bad this season, so I'm sure we'll take the
walk whether it came via bad pitching or great hitting.
Hideki Matsui, freed from the shackles of Bob Geren's cruel management (...),
hit a key single in the ninth after Willingham's walk (and subsequent move to
second on defensive indifference), putting some slice on it, which probably
helped ensure that Alex Rios wasn't able to come on and make a sliding catch
coming straight in.
Matsui's walk in the fourth inning, by the way, came on a 3-2 slider
that looked for all the world like a strike to me. Here's the strike
zone plot from Brooks Baseball:
It's a strike, no?
Daric Barton flashed his speed (ahem) in this game, beating the relay from
second on a check-swing grounder to third to avoid a double play and later
stealing second without a throw.
He also did Daric Barton Things in the ninth, taking some mighty close
pitches en route to a five-pitch walk, putting the tying run (David
DeJesus, pinch-running for Hideki Matsui) on second.
Kurt Suzuki's hit-by-pitch loaded the bases in the ninth, of course, but the
only thing you can say about that for Suzuki is that he managed to not make an
out before that, giving Santos the opportunity to plunk him. More awesome was in
the fourth inning, when he smashed a liner that looked for all the world like a
double into the left field corner before Brent Morel jumped and snared it for an
out. Suzuki, with the bat still in his hands, did a little spread-legs leap,
coming down with a mighty smash on the poor grass.
Bob Geren wants to know where Scott Sizemore was when he was still managing.
He walked once and hit the ball hard the other four times, once for a lineout to
Rios in center, and once resulting in a chopper up the middle that Gordon
Beckham misplayed (he should've made the flip to second to get the slow-running
Matsui, who was nowhere near the bag when he fielded the ball, but instead tried
to make an across-the-body throw to first that wasn't even close), but the other
two times resulting in completely legitimate hits, including, of course, the
massive game-winning (basically) double to center that one-hopped the wall and
cleared the bases.
Through this all, I didn't see Sizemore smile a single time, only
cracking the barest of grins during the handshake line. You went 4-5,
dude! You won the game! Give us some love.
Jemile Weeks is officially awesome. Sure, his triple only happened because
Alex Rios completely misplayed the ball, coming in on it when he should have
been going back from the start, but Weeks did hit the ball quite hard (this
wasn't Juan Pierre dropping the ball or anything) and then ran like the damn
wind. Dude is fast. That speed also earned him an infield single in the
fourth, when Brent Morel's dive to his left snared the ball, but when Morel
hesitated just a tad, thinking about going to second to try to get Scott
Sizemore, that gave Weeks the extra few inches he needed to beat Morel's throw
Amusing moment in the eighth -- Brian Bruney1 was knocked out
by Scott Sizemore's walk, leading Ozzie Guillen to call on the lefty
Matt Thornton. Weeks, forgetting that this was the major leagues and
that he was thus wearing a single-ear-flap helmet, got almost to the
plate before realizing that he had to go back to the dugout to switch
out his headgear. Oops. (Of course, he popped up the first pitch, so he
took longer getting himself set to hit than he did hitting. Oh well.)
Ray Fosse did call out Weeks for turning his head too much while he was
running, saying that there was, for instance, no need to be looking back
to center field while running to third on his triple or looking over at
third base during the infield single. I'm not convinced this actually
slows Weeks down enough to matter, but I wonder if there are any running
experts out there who might weigh in on this. Ray can be grumpy
On defense, by the way, while Weeks is unlikely to be Mark Ellis (who
is?), his athleticism is going to be fun to watch. He made an awesome
play in the second to get Carlos Quentin, who hit a ball up the middle
that Graham Godfrey deflected, slowing it down so that Weeks had to
barehand it on the grass and throw in one motion. Granted that Quentin
doesn't run in any meaningful sense of that word, the play seemed to
highlight the positive attributes that Weeks could bring in the field.
I can't say that Graham Godfrey, making his major league debut, was all that
impressive. On the other hand, I can't say that I expected him to be impressive.
He's 26 and has never been a top prospect. His fastball has some life, but it
looked pretty straight (and Paul Konerko, who connected for a bomb in the first
inning, probably agrees). His arm drops down sometimes, which seems to result in
him getting under his fastball a little bit, which is likely not a recipe for
success for him. I don't think Godfrey threw anything but a fastball and a
slider, and you've got to be way better than Godfrey to survive as a two-pitch
starter. He could have a career in the bullpen, especially if the switch to
relief pushes his fastball up to the high 90s, but I don't think we should
expect much out of the newest A's fifth starter otherwise.
By the way, six of Godfrey's seven swinging strikes came against Gordon
Beckham (who he struck out on three whiffs in the first) and Adam Dunn.
I don't know if that matters (i.e. I have no idea if most pitchers bunch
up their whiffs), but it might be worth noting.
Oh, before I even saw him pitch, I wrote this about Godfrey:
Before I see him pitch, Godfrey kinda reminds me of Vin Mazzaro.
That's not great.
Michael Wuertz allowed two inherited runners to score, unfortunately for
Godfrey's stat line, but he didn't pitch terribly badly, giving up only a single
to Adam Dunn that just evaded the shift (which was a really extreme shift --
Weeks was basically playing shallow right, deeper than I've ever seen a second
baseman play, even against other tremendously slow sluggers like David Ortiz).
Joey Devine actually gave up two hits, but he got Paul Konerko to hit into a
5-4-3 double play to erase Carlos Quentin's single, rendering A.J. Pierzynski's
subsequent double harmless.
By the way, look at the three White Sox names in that paragraph. That
team is slow through the middle of the order. This actually came into
play in the third inning (with Godfrey on the mound, so this doesn't
belong in this bullet, but whatever) -- with Konerko on first,
Pierzynski hit a jam-shot one-hopper to Pennington, who started a 6-4-3
double play despite a high relay throw from Weeks to Barton. First,
Konerko didn't even manage to get close enough to second to lay a
takeout slide on Weeks, and second, Pierzynski's pace down the line was
so glacial that Barton was able to put a tag on him after the throw from
Weeks forced him to leap for the catch.
Grant Balfour curses at himself more than any pitcher I've seen. Maybe Ted
Lilly matches him. Balfour earned his "FUCK!"s in this game, though, as he got
lucky that both Adam Dunn and Gordon Beckham were unable to do anything with
hittable fastballs right down the middle, both players hitting mere popups to
infielders. Baseball isn't basketball, so we rarely get to hear players curse,
at themselves or others, but the cameras happened to be isolating Balfour right
after Beckham's out, resulting in a nice clear shot of his expletive.
Andrew Bailey got to 2-1 on each of the three hitters he faced, and two of the
batters actually hit the ball pretty hard, but Juan Pierre just managed a
chopper right at Daric Barton and Alexei Ramirez, whose fly/liner looked good
off the bat, just saw the ball die in the outfield, staying up for what ended up
being a pretty shallow fly to left-center for Josh Willingham. The consensus in
the broadcast booth was that the fog knocked it down. I don't have any better
Yeah, that Brian Bruney. No, I didn't know he was in the majors