By Jason Wojciechowski on June 25, 2011 at 1:10 PM
The A's sent five batters to the plate once (first inning) and four five times. They did not score. They did not come particularly close to scoring.
On the other hand, the Phillies, before the ninth, did the same, sending five batters once (eighth inning) and four batters five times. The difference between the teams, then? The ninth inning, when Brian Fuentes does his best work, coming on in tied games and performing his function as a double agent for the Angels with admirable directness.
Jemile Weeks walked his first time up, seeing seven pitches and swinging at just one, a 3-2 fastball at the knees that he fouled off, but was unable to follow up with any additional good works later in the game. He did come close to a single in the fifth, but Ryan Howard made a lying-down catch to his right of a grounder and then flipped to Vance Worley covering. Worley had to make a nice play, as the flip wasn't very much on-target, but make it he did.
The closest Cliff Pennington came to reaching base was on an eighth-inning line drive that was hit well but right at Ryan Howard.
Ryan Sweeney walked twice and hit a hard fly that hung up in left-center for an out. The second walk, in the eighth inning against David Herndon, was kind of mysterious. He took a 3-0 fastball that looked right down the middle and stayed at the plate before eventually realizing that the umpire had not called a strike. Everyone around, myself included, thought the pitch was a strike. It's pretty rare that you don't see batters trying to sell the umpire on a borderline pitch, and I'm pretty sure the reason Sweeney didn't is because this wasn't a borderline pitch. Here's the Brooks Baseball strike zone plot:
That's actually not as egregious as I thought it was, but do note that Sweeney is rather tall and has a very upright batting stance, so the top of his strike zone is likely a little higher than the Brooks Baseball rectangle indicates.
Anyway, on a happier note, Ryan Sweeney is really freaking fun to watch on defense. He didn't blow a bubble while making the catch like he did in Baltimore the other night, but his diving grab of Jimmy Rollins's liner toward right-center in the third inning was a thing to behold. I think the thing I like best about watching Sweeney go into slides and dives for the ball is the way he protects himself / his glove from slamming into the ground in a way that could jar the ball lose. He always seems under control so that he's able to get maximum extension as the ball nears the ground but not lose an out he might have because he's flailing around and the turf causes a fumble. It's a jean-selling analysis, sure, but he looks born to play baseball when he's at his best.
Of course, he's also got a career slugging percentage of .382 (.397 on the road, so this is no Oakland mirage).
Hideki Matsui walked and doubled, and the double was very nearly a triple, and might have been such for a faster player. He hit a sinking liner left of center that Shane Victorino sold out for but couldn't reach, and the ball bounced back behind him. It looked like Victorino may have deflected the ball just a tiny bit, slowing it down enough that Raul Ibanez was able to grab it before it got all the way to the wall, but I'm not sure that Matsui's knees were going to carry him much farther than second base in any case.
Ray Fosse speculated on the play, which was the A's first hit, that in a non-no-hitter situation, Victorino would have just let the ball drop and played it for a single rather than risk letting the A's get a man in scoring position in a 0-0 game. Assuming this is right, the folly of individual accomplishments, especially silly ones like no-hitters, is shown again. To reiterate: it was a 0-0 game.
Chris Carter says, "I could do what Conor Jackson just did, couldn't I? Oh for four? How hard is that?"
Jackson did hit a couple of balls hard, but one was a grounder right at Jimmy Rollins and the other was a liner right at Raul Ibanez. The latter is obviously more impressive than the former, since with a little more luck, the ball would have reached a gap and given the A's a double. (And, in the sequence, scored Hideki Matsui from second.) 'twas not to be.
David DeJesus did not exactly seize the day, but it was his second straight start, so perhaps he's back in the regular outfield rotation now?
Kurt Suzuki was robbed of a weak infield single when Placido Polanco made an excellent barehand grab and throw of a chopper down the third base line. It's not trivial to barehand a ball that's still moving at the speed that ball was moving. Golf claps.
Scott Sizemore walked once and hit a ball pretty well to right-center that Shane Victorino ran down. It wasn't a spectacular play that'll show up as a Web Gem or really even count as a robbery, but there was some hope in my living room that the ball was a hit off the bat.
I find myself saying "That's a [fill in pitcher] line" a lot with the A's. Their starters always seem to live up to their billing as high-contact fly-ball guys, wild strikeout pitchers, whatever. And yeah, that's a Moscoso line, with fourteen fly balls, just two strikeouts, and yet only 26 batters faced in 21 innings.
The Phillies did hit some hard balls, including Shane Victorino and Brian Schneider with deep flies in the second, Jimmy Rollins's line drive in the third described above in Ryan Sweeney's note, and Chase Utley's deep fly down the left-field line in the sixth, but they couldn't get much to drop in. Just one of those days against a pitcher like Guillermo Moscoso.
Moscoso did have a hilarious defensive moment in the seventh when Raul Ibanez hit a fairly sharp bouncer up the middle. Moscoso tried to make a spinning backhand grab on it, missed it, and had his glove fly off his hand all the way to the third-base line. (Cliff Pennington ended up making the catch behind second base and getting the out.) I don't think I've ever seen a defensive player lose his glove before, except the occasional outfielder dropping it over the fence on an attempt to rob a homer.
Joey Devine very nearly blew things for the A's in the eighth, walking Placido Polanco and Chase Utley ahead of Ryan Howard, but he got Howard to hit a sharp grounder right to Conor Jackson, so he escaped. The two outs that Devine got before the walks were not impressive, either, as Ross Gload hit a low liner up the middle and Jimmy Rollins hit a fairly deep fly to center. Fortunately for Devine, Cliff Pennington made a diving catch on Gload's ball, and Ryan Sweeney settled under Rollins's.
All of this, of course, just meant that it was Brian Fuentes Time. The man is incredibly good at finding ways to lose tie games. I'm not going to rant here about how Andrew Bailey or Grant Balfour or really anyone in the A's bullpen should have been pitching in that spot instead of Fuentes, and there is some justification for using Fuentes there, because the hitters due up were Victorino (S), Ibanez (L), Domonic Brown (L), Brian Schneider (L), and then the pitcher's spot. Between Fuentes and Craig Breslow, I guess I still take Fuentes, but in the bottom of the ninth of a tied game, I think Andrew Bailey's general ability differential compared to Fuentes might overwhelm the platoon split.
Anyway, the whole thing might've gone differently had Cowboy Joe Goddamn West not done what you see here:
That's a strike, Joe West. That's not a walk.