By Jason Wojciechowski on June 30, 2011 at 9:05 PM
Guillermo Moscoso pitched shockingly well, but gave up two homers for the Marlins' three runs. The A's loaded the bases in the first to no avail and then never threatened again, sending three men to the plate in the third through seventh innings, and just four batters in the second, eighth, and ninth. Ricky Nolasco is a solid pitcher (career 3.62 SIERA, although he's managed to underform that in his ERA in every single season, so there may be some anti-skill that SIERA isn't picking up on), but this was his second career shutout, so he's not the new Josh Johnson or anything.
Jemile Weeks had a two-out eighth-inning double on a bloopy liner down the left-field line, perfectly placed to scoot into the corner and allow him to reach second easily, and even to give me dreams of a rare left-field triple. It wasn't to be, of course, and Cliff Pennington promptly stranded the speedy second-sacker.
Pennington was doubly unlucky leading off the sixth, as he ripped a ball to right on a fastball down the middle around his knees. Ray, Glen, and I all thought the ball was gone off the bat, but the classic Oakland air combined with the classic lack of power from Oakland players conspired to keep it in the park. So that's one level of unluck. Where's the second? Mike Stanton somehow made a leaping catch on the ball just short of the wall, robbing Pennington of a double. Stanton struck out a ton in the first two games of this series, but he's also been the bane of the A's existence in right field, diving here, leaping there, and generally not letting Oakland get anything done on balls hit in his vicinity.
The difference between Coco Crisp and Cliff Pennington's lines is that Crisp stole a base after his single. This put runners on second and third with one out in the first ahead of Conor Jackson's walk and Ryan Sweeney's inning-ending flyout.
Crisp also hit a ball hard in the sixth, but it was just a low one-hopper right to Hanley Ramirez.
Speaking of "looked gone off the bat," Hideki Matsui ripped a ball to the warning track in right in the first inning with runners on first and second and nobody out. I thought, after the Marlins had hit a homer in the top half to take a 2-0 lead, that the A's were looking at 3-2 advantage and a soul-crushing reversal. It wasn't to be, though, as Matsui didn't quite get enough of the pitch.
Matsui also had a shattered-bat play in the third, sending both the barrel of the bat and the ball skittering out to Omar Infante at second, who fielded the ball, jumped over the bat, and threw Matsui out. It was a somewhat scary and definitely excellent play.
I've already mentioned Conor Jackson's first-inning walk, which came because Nolasco missed well away with two two-strike sliders, but Jackson also added a two-out single in the ninth to try to keep the A's hopes alive. Those hopes didn't last long, though ...
... since Ryan Sweeney flied out to DeWayne Wise in center to end the game, capping what I'm calling an 0-4 game. He got an official single in the seventh, but Logan Morrison lost Sweeney's easy fly ball to left-center in the lights and let it drop. In any sensible world, that's an error because it's caught 99.9% of the time, but because the standard has evolved to "if he doesn't touch it, it's not an error," so Sweeney gets the single. Well, not on this blog.
On one hand, one of Kurt Suzuki's three outs was a tailor-made double-play grounder to Hanley Ramirez. On the other, another of his outs was a well-hit fly to right-center that Mike Stanton managed to track down on the run before crashing into the wall. I thought it was a sure double. Again.
David DeJesus watched four pitches that weren't even close for his walk in the second, but his two grounders to Omar Infante in his other at-bats. There's nothing as frustrating as a ground-ball to second, is there?
We may as well pin another robbery on Mike Stanton while we're at it, as he made a nice running catch in the eighth against Scott Sizemore, but the play wasn't anywhere near to the same class as the other two hijackings on the night. Many, probably even most, right-fielders would have made the same play.
Look at Guillermo Moscoso with eleven whiffs and eight strikeouts! And only five batters over the minimum in six innings! And ... and two homers. Oops.
Still, the Marlins hit a lot of easy fly balls and pop ups in this game. In fact, I didn't classify a single one of the Marlins' fifteen balls in play as a line drive. (Noting, as usual, that I'm subject to many of the same biases as the stringers who collect the much-maligned data that UZR et al. are based on.) Obviously, the two homers were better than any in-the-park line drives could be, especially the Logan Morrison homer onto the steps in right (that was a shot), but still.
I do wonder why Moscoso wasn't called on to pitch the seventh, though. With just 92 pitches (the broadcast said 96, but I don't understand where I missed four pitches -- maybe I just added wrong?) and having not come close to trouble in the fifth and sixth innings, it's not clear to me that he wasn't the answer in the seventh.
No harm no foul, I guess, as Craig Breslow walked John Buck in the midst of striking out Mike Stanton and DeWayne Wise and getting a shallow fly from Jose Lopez. Three whiffs in seventeen pitches isn't Breslow's usual M.O., but I'll take it.
Michael Wuertz got himself into trouble, first by giving up a double to Emilio Bonifacio, which is pretty much inexcusable for a major-league pitcher, then by walking Omar Infante and Hanley Ramirez. Luckily, Jack McKeon thinks it's 1968, so he had Gaby Sanchez bunt with runners on first and second, nobody out, a struggling reliever on the mound, and a 3-0 lead. That meant that Sanchez wasn't given the chance to do any damage himself and that, with the bases loaded, Wuertz only had to get two outs instead of three.
Logan Morrison was the first of those bases-loaded batters, and he worked the count full before striking out on a slider down and in. Morrison broke his bat in the dugout and slammed his helmet, but I wouldn't blame him -- a slider out of the zone with a three-ball count and the bases loaded is a gutsy motherfucking pitch from Wuertz, and Morrison isn't the first or last major league hitter to swing right through a Wuertz breaking pitch.
After all that drama, Brad Ziegler's inning was incredibly undramatic, getting two two-pitch groundouts and a three-pitch swinging strikeout.
The brief note about whether Moscoso should've been left in to pitch the seventh is the only question I have about Bob Melvin's approach in this game. Still, we're talking about a situation where the A's win-expectancy, per Fangraphs, was less than 10%, so it's a pretty low-stakes decision as these things go.
I dissent again from the decision to play Conor Jackson over Chris Carter.
Mike Stanton at the plate: four trips, six swinging strikes, fourteen pitches seen (12 strikes, 2 balls), four strikeouts. Three times Stanton went down on pitches low out of the zone, and once he swung right through a Guillermo Moscoso fastball at the thigh level in the vicinity of the outside corner. I contend that were I to face Mike Stanton ten times, I would strike him out seven of those ten times.
Of course, he'd hit homers totaling about 1700 feet of distance in the other three at-bats, but that's a minor drawback.