Ok, now really: the D'backs jumped out to a 1-0 lead early on a Wily Mo Pena
homer (what else?), a laser shot to left that looked initially like it was still
rising when it hit the seats. (A later replay of the hand motions in the Arizona
dugout showed that they saw the same thing. Unfortunately, that same replay
showed that the ball actually was on a slight downward trajectory when it
landed. Oh well.)
The A's tied the game in the fourth on a Ryan Sweeney bloop with two outs,
bringing home Hideki Matsui after the latter stole second (!) against Josh
Collmenter. Poor Miguel Montero had no chance -- Matsui, it appeared from the
replay, actually took off before Collmenter lifted his foot to start his
pitching motion. Combine that with the D'backs declining to hold Matsui on at
first, and he was in easily ahead of the throw.
Then, in the fifth, again with two out, the A's rallied for four runs, the
first, third, and fourth scoring on line drives off the bats of Cliff Pennington
and Hideki Matsui. The third, though, which would later become key given what
the Diamondbacks did to poor Brian Fuentes, came on a Coco Crisp soft liner that
just found the gap between Juan Miranda at first and Kelly Johnson at second.
He couldn't have placed it there more perfectly had he thrown it. (That's not a
joke about Crisp's throwing arm, I promise.)
The A's put some runners on against the D'back bullpen (former A's prospect Sam
Demel, Albert Castillo, Micah Owings, and Aaron Heilman), but didn't break
through for any runs. Arizona, meanwhile, was chipping away at the lead, scoring
one in the sixth off of Rich Harden with a Kelly Johnson double followed by a
Stephen Drew single (with a wild pitch moving Johnson to third sandwiched in
The real damage, the runs that scared me, came against Brian Fuentes in the
eighth, as Kelly Johnson launched a homer over the right-field scoreboard with
Gerardo Parra on first base (after a walk to Juan Miranda and a fielder's
choice). This made it a one-run game, but Bob Melvin went to Joey Devine to
finish the inning and then Andrew Bailey to close things out, so the A's pulled
out the victory anyway.
Jemile Weeks managed just a single in five trips, and showed some frustration
in the seventh, flinging his bat aside as he managed just a high fly to shallow
left on a slider from Alberto Castillo.
In sharp contrast to Weeks's alert play at second base in Thursday's
game, resulting in Emilio Bonifacio being cut down at the plate, the
young second-sacker made a mental error in the sixth here, the kind of
mistake that, as Ken Arneson wrote, it seems like Mark Ellis never
made. With Stephen Drew on first and Chris Young at the
plate, Drew broke for second on Rich Harden's 1-0 pitch. Suzuki threw
down to second and Drew would've been out by ten feet had he not stopped
halfway. Instead of heading back for first posthaste, Drew took a few
steps back and froze. Weeks, instead of running him much of the way back
to first, as we're all taught, and failing to recognize that Drew was
actually leaning toward second in his freeze, threw to Chris Carter. On
seeing the throw, Drew broke for second. Carter, fortunately, made an
accurate throw to Cliff Pennington, rushing over to cover the bag, and
the tag was applied in rolling fashion just before Drew's hand hit
second base. You never thought you'd see Chris Carter bail out Jemile
Weeks on a defensive play, did you?
Cliff Pennington hit two balls hard for a single and a double, which was great
to see. He's been taking a lot of 0-4's and 1-4's lately.
Pennington only made two defensive plays all game, but both were well
done. The first was described above in the Jemile Weeks note, and the
second was a line drive by Sean Burroughs in the seventh that Pennington
timed and snagged on a leap.
Speaking of 1-4, Coco Crisp had a run-scoring single that just found the
outfield, as mentioned above. He also hit a fairly hard liner in the fourth
inning, but it was just a step or two for Stephen Drew to reach out and snag it
for the out.
You can forgive that kind of offense when Crisp is running around
robbing homers, though, as he may have done in the sixth inning on a
drive off the bat of Gerardo Parra. It's unclear to me after the replay,
and it was similarly unclear to Ray 'n' Glen, whether the ball would
have left the yard or merely hit the top of the wall, but what the
hell, let's give Coco the benefit of the doubt and say that the catch
straight-up took away a run from the Diamondbacks. In a one-run game,
that's pretty important!
Hideki Matsui dominated this game -- two walks, a double, and a stolen base,
with the steal leading to a run, as he was able to score from second on Ryan
Sweeney's bloop single in the fourth. Matsui's first at-bat resulted in a
bouncer to second, my favorite kind of out, so I was sure he was destined to go
0-4 on the day. Golf claps for proving me wrong.
I don't know if Bob Melvin's been checking this blog out or what, but Chris
Carter started his second straight game, this time at first. He didn't really
call much attention to his plight on the bench, though, striking out twice in
three trips. He did, however, launch a slider to the warning track in left, but
that's unfortunately as far as it went, and it was hit high enough that Gerardo
Parra was able to settle under it easily for the out.
Conor Jackson came in for Carter on defense in the top of the seventh and hit
a hard line drive to center right at Chris Young in his only trip to the plate.
That relatively early defensive replacement (relative, that is, to when we
usually see managers go with their all-defense lineups) shows that perhaps the
sticking point on Chris Carter really is the butchery the A's perceive him
engaging in with the leather, even if he handled two grounders in this game
without incident and made the play described above, saving Jemile Weeks's
Ryan Sweeney managed the first 0 wRAA I believe I've seen this season with his
two singles and one caught stealing in four trips. The out at second on the
steal attempt was pure execution and reactions: his jump was pretty poor. Miguel
Montero's throw was on target but far from perfect, but it was plenty to get
For what it's worth, neither of Sweeney's hits was the most impressive
thing the world's ever seen, the first a bloop into the right-center
triangle of right-fielder, center-fielder, and second-baseman, and the
second a high chopper over the mound that second baseman Kelly Johnson
fielded but made no throw on.
Kurt Suzuki did hit a liner in the eighth that unfortunately went right to
Sean Burroughs at third, but his previous at-bats were a strikeout, a foul pop,
and a chopper to third that started a double play. Unimpressive day for the A's
David DeJesus tallied two walks, a single, and a double, both walks coming on
full counts, the single a liner through the 3-4 hole, and the double a fly down
the left-field line, deep, bouncing on the track once before it hit the wall.
DeJesus packs a surprising amount of power into his small frame, not 30-homer
power, but "can take a fastball on the outer half and hit the ball hard down the
line the other way" power, the kind of power that is the difference between
being a speedy guy with occasional singles and David DeJesus himself.
The bloom seems to have come off Scott Sizemore's rose a little, although
nobody can take away his two singles in this game, even if one was a blooper and
the other was a medium grounder that Kelly Johnson kept on the infield. In his
first few games with the A's, it seemed as if every time up, he hit a ball with
authority, and that hasn't been true in a little while.
Not that this matters very much. Sizemore is still a good enough hitter
to be a major-leaguer, and expecting him to keep up his early pace would
have been foolish.
Above, I celebrated the fact that Rich Harden took the mound and then left
under his own power. Now we can celebrate his quality start, six innings of
two-run baseball, with six strikeouts, no walks, and ten swinging strikes in
just 76 pitches.
The only quibble I have is that Harden gave up a number of fly balls,
including the homer to Wily Mo Pena, the deep drive to Gerardo Parra
that might have left the yard were it not for Coco Crisp's catch above
the wall, a Justin Upton shot that was caught by David DeJesus with his
back brushing the fence in right field, and well-struck double by Kelly
Johnson. Harden had some good fortune in the game, from Upton's ball
missing a homer by millimeters to Crisp's catch to the Stephen Drew
rundown play that's already been described a few times.
That said, let's not minimize a strikeout per inning, a whiff every
seven pitches, and just three three-ball counts from a guy on whom the
knock in recent years has been a fairly extreme inefficiency with his
pitches. Further, even the Wily Mo Pena homer came after Chris Carter
let a foul ball get into the seats that Daric Barton might have caught.
It looked to me like an inexperience issue more than an athleticism one
-- Carter seemed unsure of where he was in relation to the seats, took
his eye of the ball, and appeared to never really pick it up again as it
fell into the first row, surely within range of the big man's wingspan.
We'll wait and see what happens to Harden in his between-starts bullpen
and his recovery period, but for now, it's pretty exciting to have a
reasonable facisimle of the hard-throwing Canadian A's fans were so
jazzed about back in 2003 back and pitching for the good guys.
Brad Ziegler also played a little good-luck/bad-luck, as he had a grounder
from Miguel Montero go off his shin into left field, narrowly missing caroming
right to Scott Sizemore, who might have had a play on the not-so-swift D'backs
catcher. Cliff Pennington made up for this by snagging, as described above, Sean
Burroughs's two-out liner to end the inning. Around all this action, Ziegler
struck out Chris Young and Wily Mo Pena. Granted, those are two of the
whiffin'est hitters around, but still.
I was watching the game this morning, and my wife walked into the room just as
Brian Fuentes took the hill. "Look at those numbers," I told her. "Why don't
they send him to the minors?" she asked. She had already left by the time Kelly
Johnson took Fuentes yard.
Three whiffs in eight pitches is why Joey Devine is in the A's bullpen.
And five whiffs in twelve pitches is why Andrew Bailey is one of the best
relievers in the league. (Miguel Montero did hit a momentarily frightening fly
ball to center, though, the kind of knock that causes the pitcher to not want to
turn around and watch until he absolutely has to. The replay, showing Bailey
steeling himself before eventually looking back to see what would happen, was
excellent. (What did happen, of course, was that the ball settled into Coco
Crisp's glove short of the warning track. This is still Oakland.))
Bob Melvin basically had three decisions tonight: when to take Chris Carter out
for defense; when to take Rich Harden out; and when to take Brian Fuentes out.
The Carter decision is impossible to evaluate. Large-sample defense is a really
difficult question for us on the outside to judge, so asking about the tradeoffs
of two innings of Conor Jackson at first versus three? No way. I defer.
I thought Melvin made exactly the right call on Harden. After a long bottom of
the fifth for the A's that saw four runs score and a pitching change happen,
Harden promptly gave up four hard-hit balls. Two of those went for outs (the
Parra near-homer and a Justin Upton fly to right that wasn't as big as his
first-inning out, but was still not a softie), and then Stephen Drew erased
himself on the bases. Even with Harden having faced just 21 batters in six
innings, having thrown only 76 pitches, having looked mostly dominant for the
first five innings, not letting him pitch the seventh was exactly the call I
was making at home in my underpants, because he seemed to have lost a little bit
on his pitches, and the game, while not close-close, was still just a three-run
As for Fuentes, perhaps it was an obvious call to get him out following the
Johnson homer, but we've all seen managers tempted to leave a lefty in when the
next guy up after the home run is another lefty (Stephen Drew in this case).
Melvin knows what Fuentes did to poor Bob Geren, though, so he handed the ball
to Joey Devine right then and there. I applaud this move.