By Jason Wojciechowski on June 29, 2011 at 7:00 PM
Just in time for the start of tonight's Game 81 (i.e. an hour late by the time I finish actually writing this post), here's the full Game 80 recap. As I wrote yesterday, there's not much macro commentary to be made about a 1-0 game, even from someone with a known propensity for wordiness. The only real comment for posterity that I'd like to leave is that this game featured some serious #puddleball.
The Marlins led things off with a hard ground ball single past a diving Jemile Weeks, had that runner wiped out on a double play, and proceeded to have no other hits the rest of the game. The A's scored in the second inning with a double, error, groundout, sacrifice fly sequence, the error coming on a throw by Hanley Ramirez that was simply awful. It wasn't a routine play, but it also wasn't a hard play, and visually, while I'm not one to cast aspersions based on what I see on TV, you can see why people might form certain opinions about Hanley's attitude toward the game.
I'm giving Jemile Weeks a single for his eighth inning hard grounder up the middle that Omar Infante backhanded but then dropped. From where I was sitting, Infante would have had a hell of a time throwing out the speedy Weeks at first on the play even if he had gotten the throw off. Weeks also launched a ball in the third to right-center, but DeWayne Wise caught it on the warning track on the run. We could play the "in other parks, in other weather" game, but if I start delving into that too much on this, an Oakland A's blog, I'll drive myself nuts.
Cliff Pennington's best result on offense was a fly ball hit fairly well to left-center in the first inning. It wasn't as much of a shot as Weeks's ball in the third, described above, but it did push Wise to just shy of the track, and he didn't get to settle under it, making the catch on the jog instead.
Pennington did see 23 pitches, by my count, in his four trips, which is a nice rate, pumped up by his sixth-inning at-bat when he fouled off five 2-2 pitches before taking ball three and then flying out.
Coco Crisp had the best night offensively, as even his flyout in the first inning required Wise to make a catch in deep center on the run. His next two times up, Crisp hit liners, one to right and one to left, for solid singles. In the eighth, he took three pitches low before being given an intentional ball, knocking Burke Badenhop out of the game and putting two runners on for Hideki Matsui ...
... who promptly struck out against Randy Choate. But I'm not going to hold it against him because his second-inning leadoff double deep down the left-field line, landing just fair amidst a 10,000 Lakes-style assortment of puddles, led to the game's only run.
Conor Jackson got a lot of love from the Marlins' infield last night, reaching on errors twice, the first the Hanley Ramirez botch job described in the opening section above, and the second a hilarious Gaby Sanchez play that finished with Sanchez making a sort of slipping dive back on the ball to try to corral it. Fruitless, of course. Ah, #puddleball.
Ryan Sweeney's best result was a second-inning ground out that moved Matsui and Jackson up a base apiece, setting up Kurt Suzuki's sacrifice fly.
We should give Suzuki credit for his RBI flyout because the ball was really a sinking liner to right that was very nearly a single, and also somewhat nearly a misplayed triple, had Mike Stanton's dive, rather than resulting in a fantastic out, let the ball slip past him and roll for some unspecified period of time. High praise for a flyout, I know, but given the quality of Suzuki's contact in his other two at-bats, a routine fly to right and a pop to shallow center, I'm trying to make him feel good about himself. (Surely he reads the blog.)
It's getting harder and harder for me to be incensed about DeJesus getting irregular playing time in favor of such luminaries as Conor Jackson and Ryan Sweeney and Hideki Matsui. The best thing DeJesus did at the plate last night was hit a decent fly ball to right. Ugly.
To be fair to the man, he made two excellent defensive plays, one a sliding grab down the line on a bloopy pop by Jose Lopez and the other a jumping catch at the wall on John Buck's deep drive. (The jump wasn't a full-out leap or anything, as he positioned himself under the ball at the wall and had to make a little hop to reach up just far enough to snag the fly, but still -- just like bloops are line-drives in the box score, I think we can just write down "jumping catch at the wall" and leave the rest to our false memories.)
After an eight-pitch third-inning at-bat that ended with Scott Sizemore grounding out to Omar Infante at second base, Sizemore saw just seven pitches over his next two trips, both resulting in strikeouts. It's not really a badge of honor to be struck out by Javier Vazquez on three pitches at this point in Vazquez's career.
Oh, FYI, Scott Sizemore? Number nine hitter? He has a nearly identical PECOTA (rest-of-season) projection as Coco Crisp, number three hitter (317/361 OBP/SLG for Crisp and 317/362 for Sizemore).
I don't have to tell you how awesome Gio Gonzalez was last night. You know by having watched, you know by reading a traditional box score, or you know by looking at the line posted above. Fifteen whiffs in 105 pitches leading to nine strikeouts along with a grounder rate over 50%? That'll win some games.
Two of Gonzalez's three walks were four-pitch jobs, one to Jose Lopez (career walk rate: 3.7%) and one to Omar Infante (6.0%), which were, in the parlance of the internet these days, pretty much LOLGio moments.
From each walk to the end of the inning in which it was issued, however, here's what Gonzalez did: six batters faced, six outs, five swinging strikeouts. (The one non-whiff was a John Buck fly to deep right caught easily to DeJesus. Buck "owned" Gonzalez in this game, if by "owned" you mean he hit the hardest outs.)
The seventh inning deserves its own paragraph: after the walk to Infante, Gonzalez threw nine pitches, nine strikes, six of them swinging, for three strikeouts. Six of those nine were the curve down or in the dirt that occasionally derails Gonzalez as he starts missing well into the right-hand batter's box. Not on this night, though. Gonzalez made Mike Stanton look especially silly, throwing three straight curves, the first in the dirt and the other two not quite that low, and Stanton offered at each, coming up empty every time.
The one black mark on the inning is that the Gaby Sanchez strikeout, also on a curve, was entirely illegitimate. Sanchez checked his swing, and the replay showed it clearly, as least by the standards of check swings that I've seen over the years. The home plate umpire, though, not even bothering to appeal, called Sanchez out. (Sanchez was subsequently removed from the game by the man in blue after he fired his bat toward the dugout in frustration over the horrendous call.) I have no doubts that Gio Gonzalez would have struck Sanchez out legitimately on the very next pitch, though.
All Andrew Bailey did was strike out the side of the Marlins after Scott Sizemore's throwing error (coupled with Conor Jackson's refusal to come off the first base bag) put Emilio Bonifacio on second base instead of back in the dugout where he belonged. Five whiffs on twenty pitches? Whew!
Speaking of "whew", though, the Marlins came awfully close to taking a 2-1 lead in their last at-bat, as Bailey missed Kurt Suzuki's target horribly with a fastball, leaving the pitch on the inner half and right at thigh level. For much of the Marlins' lineup, this wouldn't be an issue. DeWayne Wise, I'm sorry, but you're not going to jack an Andrew Bailey fastball anywhere at night in Oakland. But this was Hanley Ramirez at the plate. When he took a huge cut and somehow whiffed entirely on it, I breathed the biggest sigh of relief I have all season. Two pitches later, the game was over.
The only real decision Bob Melvin had to make tonight was whether to bring Gio Gonzalez back out for the ninth inning. One hundred five pitches is hardly excessive, and the way he was rolling, you might well expect him to finish the game right around 120. But with the Marlins coming up on their fourth time through the order and the prospect of facing the right-handed Hanley Ramirez with a baserunner or two on were things to go south, I think Melvin made the right call for Bailey, especially given the closer's recent workload.
At the risk of becoming Justice Brennan on the death penalty about this issue, the continuing folly of playing Conor Jackson ahead of Chris Carter is a black mark on this management team. I don't understand it. If the A's want to find out whether he has a future in the outfield, then he should be playing in left while Ryan Sweeney and David DeJesus and Coco Crisp platoon the other two spots. If the A's think Daric Barton might never make it back, then Carter should be getting reps at first base, because Conor Jackson has no future.
This isn't even a win-now vs. build-for-the-future proposition. Chris Carter is exceedingly likely to be a better hitter than Conor Jackson. It is unlikely that the gap is made up on defense or the basepaths. While Daric Barton is figuring out how to be Daric Barton again (which probably means just hanging around and waiting for the team to come to its BABIP-addled senses), Chris Carter really should be starting every day at first base. I am completely baffled about what the hold-up is.
Green uniforms at home are a travesty. White is the home color. Gold is a cool alternate color. Green is for the road and I would appreciate it if anybody reading this blog who happens to have the power to make it happen would immediately issue a policy memorandum to the players, coaches, and entire front office stating that never more are dark uniforms to be worn at home. It is unacceptable. Thank you.