I do want to make one comment before the usual recap starts: A's fans on
Twitter, unless I follow a particularly negative bunch, seem to really focus
on how bad the A's are when they lose. Is this normal for most teams and their
fans? Is it an expectations thing? Is it a Twitter thing? Last night, Oakland
scored two runs in a night game started by Felix Hernandez at the O.co Coliseum.
This was to be expected. When some random-ass fifth starter pitches for New
York at Nu Yankee Stadium and the A's only score three runs? That's the time to
get pissy. Felix Hernandez has been shutting teams down, good and bad, for years
now. It is what happens. Let's all take a breath.
I got my first look at Dustin Ackley, and he single-handedly beat the A's through
the first seven innings, singling, stealing second, moving to third on an error,
and scoring on a medium-short fly ball to left in the second, and homering to
straight-away center field in the seventh. Those were Seattle's only two runs in
Kurt Suzuki hit a homer over the left field wall, just out of the reach of
Carlos Peguero, in the eighth, cutting the lead to 2-1 and giving the A's a
fighting chance going to the ninth, where they'd have the good fortune
(relatively) to see Brandon League rather than Felix Hernandez due mostly to the
latter's pitch count. (Aside from the fastball that he left up to Suzuki, it did
not appear that King Felix was throwing any worse in the eighth than he was in
the first. But fourth time through the order, 120 pitches, and all that, so it's
hard to criticize Eric Wedge for this.) League promptly gave up a leadoff double
to Jemile Weeks, who moved to third on a bunt (more on this later) and scored on
a bloop single by Coco Crisp.
Hideki Matsui then walked, which means winning run in scoring position with one
out for Conor Jackson, right? Nope: Crisp had got himself caught stealing on the
first pitch of the Matsui at-bat. (To practice what I preach, though, it was a
perfect throw by Miguel Olivo, a strike right on the bag with plenty of
The tenth was a disaster, as I described yesterday, with Ichiro
arguably interfering his way into a Cliff Pennington throwaway,1
allowing Franklin Gutierrez, who'd fouled off four straight 0-2 pitches from
Andrew Bailey before singling, to score the go-ahead run. Adam Kennedy brought
home an insurance run with a double, and that was all she wrote.
Jemile Weeks's ninth-inning double that led to the game-tying run was a
slicing liner down the left-field line that bounded into a security guard who
made a herculean effort to avoid being hit, but in the end showed the difference
between himself and a major-league ballplayer, athleticism-wise. The
interference made no difference on the play, most likely, as Carlos Peguero was
in position to pick the ball up off the wall and get it in on time to keep Weeks
to a double.
As we saw with Coco Crisp earlier in the year, and as we've been
concerned about with Weeks, the speedy second-baseman was "caught
stealing" on an attempt in the first because he over-slid the bag. His
late headfirst slide got him into second in plenty of time, but he
carried all the way over the sack and wasn't able to keep his left toe
attached. Dustin Ackley kept the tag on and, to my eye, didn't actually
engage in much pushing at all, unlike one of the times this happened to
Crisp. Weeks did it all on his own.
Apparently he's been told to start his slide earlier to prevent this
from happening, but it's a little weird that he played 221 games in the
minor leagues with the A's and they never taught him a better slide
technique. One worries about taking a player out of his natural rhythms,
perhaps, but if the minor leagues are for anything, they're for helping
players create new rhythms before they're thrust into a truly
competitive environment where the wins actually manage to a team's
Weeks did tie the major-league record (presumably) with three assists in
the eighth inning, getting three ground balls from Brad Ziegler. Only
Brendan Ryan's high chopper short and to Weeks's right was moderately
Also, when Kurt Suzuki threw the ball into center field on Dustin
Ackley's second-inning steal attempt, Weeks was covering. The throw was
very high, so Weeks made a leap for it, and the replay showed that the
A's new second baseman has serious hops. Do not be surprised if he robs
someone of a line drive single that no other second-sacker in the
Since I skipped Games 84-86, this was my first experience with Scott Sizemore
in the #2 spot, Cliff Pennington having been shifted back to the nine hole,
where he likely belongs -- he doesn't hit enough to bat higher and when he does
reach base, he can do "second leadoff man" things ahead of the boppers. Uh, the
Anyway, Sizemore didn't have much of a day at the plate, and
unfortunately for him, I count his sacrifice bunt in the ninth against
him even though it was surely called from the dugout. An out is an out,
In fact, the theme of the day offensively was "[A's player] didn't have much
of a day at the plate", so I'll just dispense with that from here on out. Assume
Coco Crisp compounded the poor offensive showing with a caught stealing
in the ninth, as discussed above. Like I said there, it was a perfect
throw by Miguel Olivo, but still: Crisp made a key out in a key
Also, the single Crisp reached on was a super bloop, a popup into
shallow left that Carlos Peguero made a sliding attempt on. It kicked
off the heel of his glove, though, not only giving Crisp first base, but
bouncing enough away that he couldn't hop to his feet and make an
attempt on Jemile Weeks at the plate. Peguero was playing in because of
the runner on third, so in a normal outfield alignment, perhaps he never
even has a chance at the ball, but it was a bloopy bloop nonetheless.
Hideki Matsui got a five-pitch walk in the ninth against Brandon League, but
two of his other three trips resulted in grounders to Dustin Ackley. It's
getting very near time to start calling him Hideki "4-3" Matsui.
Conor Jackson's fifth-inning at-bat illustrated the difficulty of facing Felix
Hernandez. Jackson got a 2-0 count on a couple of pitches low and away before
taking a strike on the outside corner, swinging at a changeup down, and then
grounding a knee-high fastball to Adam Kennedy at third. The 2-0 pitch looks
like the key to me -- Hernandez's ability to throw a 2-0 fastball for a strike
without it being a fat pitch nearly negates the ahead-in-the-count advantage.
The whole point is that the hitter knows a fastball is coming and that the
pitcher has to throw a strike with it, and will thus be likely hitting more
central parts of the plate. Not Hernandez. It doesn't help that the 2-1 change
was, like most Hernandez changes, terrific.
Jackson did scald a liner in the ninth, but it was right at Carlos
Peguero in left. If anyone on this team has hit more hard shot line
drives right at outfielders, I don't know who it is. It seems like he
does it every other game.
David DeJesus only reached base on a hit-by-pitch, a 2-2 fastball that got him
on or around his left knee. He managed to steal second on the next at-bat,
though, which is always a nice sign.
DeJesus made a hilarious (to him, too -- he was animatedly talking about
it in the dugout after the inning) catch at the wall in the seventh on a
high fly by Carlos Peguero. The key was the height -- when I say "high",
I mean "high". DeJesus looked like an infielder waiting for a popup,
except he was standing underneath the scoreboard in right field.
Kurt Suzuki's numbers are dragged down by a rare caught-stealing that I'll
talk about in the manager section below. It was a frustrating and silly play, in
my opinion, a needless out that Suzuki bears almost no blame for. But you can't
take away the homer! (Even though Peguero surely tried, and were he a home-town
player more familiar with the outfield and less unsure about how far he was from
the wall, he might well have done it.)
Ichiro Suzuki's interference on Cliff Pennington gets all the press
around here (and probably in the real papers, too), but Miguel Olivo did
a classic "fall across the plate after a swing" move to possibly
interfere with Kurt Suzuki's throw on the Dustin Ackley steal attempt in
the second that set up the Mariners' first run. Were I in charge of
baseball, that play would be interference -- Olivo was not chasing an
outside pitch, causing his body to lean out across the plate in his
natural swing motion. The replay clearly showed him swing, miss, and
then jump across. It's hard to fault the umpire, because it's a play
that's never called unless it's egregious and the catcher makes
contact with the hitter, but I think we can come up with a wording of
the rule that makes it clear to the umpires that batters have to knock
this off. If it hurts run-scoring in some tiny degree due to more
caught-stealings, I don't care.
Ryan Sweeney struck out three times, which isn't terribly usual, with the
worst being in the third inning with Kurt Suzuki running on the pitch. Suzuki
was out by ten feet at second base, of course, but it's hard to blame Sweeney
for striking out against Felix Hernandez. Even Tony Gwynn would probably have
been 0-4 with two whiffs in this game.
I thought Sweeney had Dustin Ackley dead to rights on his throw home in
the second inning, because the ball was not hit very deep and Sweeney
had time to get under and line up his toss. The throw was up the line
toward first, unfortunately, and Suzuki had no chance to dive back for a
tag. In my judgment, the same speed throw with more accuracy would have
recorded an out, though that doesn't account for the vagaries of
collisions, slides around tags, the ball being dropped, and so forth.
Cliff Pennington did nothing on offense, so instead I'll write about his
third-inning play on Greg Halman's grounder into the hole. It wasn't actually an
exceptional play, but it might be my favorite defensive play in baseball -- a
high hopper toward the hole for the shortstop who gets to the spot where the
ball will be, shifts his weight onto his back foot as the ball arrives, and
rocks forward with a strong throw across, no crow hop, for the out. It's simple
but beautiful when you've got a shortstop with a strong arm like Pennington
Of course, Pennington made the game's key error, but I've already talked
about this twice, so I see no need to bring it up one more times.
Excellent game for Trevor Cahill, who faced five batters in an inning just
once, and did not actually allow a run in that frame: Ichiro hit a one-out
single, stole second, held there on a Brendan Ryan grounder back to Cahill,
stayed put while Cahill issued a five-pitch walk to Adam Kennedy, and was
stranded when Justin Smoak struck out swinging.
A ten percent whiff rate, 60% strike rate, and just one walk are all
positive signs for Cahill, as he occasionally loses any idea of where
the strike zone is. He did actually get to four different 3-0 counts,
but he managed ground-outs on three of those.
Brad Ziegler's awesome three-grounders-to-second inning was mentioned in the
Jemile Weeks note above, but it's always fun when a guy does exactly what you're
hoping you're paying him to do, so I'm mentioning it again here.
Craig Breslow was pulled after giving up a ground-ball single to Justin Smoak,
despite on-deck man Dustin Ackley being a lefty and Breslow having struck out
lefty Adam Kennedy to start the frame.
Joey Devine, of course, promptly walked Ackley. He struck out Olivo and
Peguero on twelve pitches, though, five of them being of the swinging-strike
variety, working out of the jam. I know Olivo and Peguero are pretty whiffin'
hitters, but still, five swing-and-misses in seventeen pitches is pretty fun to
look at, both on the TV and in the box score.
Andrew Bailey shouldn't have given up the Adam Kennedy insurance-run double,
but he did his part to get the A's to the bottom of the tenth unscathed,
striking out Greg Halman and getting a double-play ball from Brendan Ryan. It's
a "loss" for Bailey, and a completely unjustified one. Fantasy owners, please
burn Ichiro in effigy, not Cliff Pennington.
Bob Melvin might have left Trevor Cahill in the game to start the eighth, as the
righty had 101 pitches and likely could have gotten through another frame with
his pitch-count intact, but, as usual, pitch-counts aren't anything. The seventh
saw Cahill leave a fastball up for Dustin Ackley to rip to center, and the
changeup that Carlos Peguero hit about six miles in the air could have gotten
down a bit more than it did, too. Peguero wasn't far from making it a 3-0 game
with the Mariners' second homer of the inning. I'm with the decision to go to
Ziegler for the eighth inning.
I am not necessarily with going to Joey Devine to face the lefty Dustin Ackley
after Craig Breslow gave up a hit to the switch-hitting Justin Smoak. If I'm
Melvin, I see Breslow coming into the game as a three-batter situation, come
rain or shine, and he's not coming out until after Ackley unless he gets hurt.
It seemed like a reactionary move after a ground-ball single that could just as
easily have been a ground-ball out. It's not like Smoak hit the ball 110 mph.
Finally, the Scott Sizemore sacrifice bunt in the ninth. The A's were down one
run and had Jemile Weeks at second with nobody out. They played for one run, and
one run is exactly what they got, but in that situation, I think I go for the
win by letting my hitters swing away. The odds are still pretty solid that
someone's going to get a hit, and Weeks would score on almost any single. This
all seems particularly true against Brandon League, a heavy ground-ball pitcher
(61.5% career) -- moving Weeks to third base might result in a sacrifice fly,
but it might just as well result in a grounder by Crisp right to a drawn-in
Last word on this bunting issue: immediately after the play, and before the
Crisp at-bat, I wrote this in my notes:
you play for one, you get one, yuck
One final complaint about Melvin: with a 3-2 count and nobody out, Ryan Sweeney
at the plate and Felix Hernandez on the mound, you can send Kurt Suzuki on the
pitch once. You might even send him twice. But if you send him three times,
you're just asking for the strike 'me out, throw 'em out double play. Suzuki
is gassed by this point, and Hernandez is going to strike you out if you give
him enough chances to do so. Miguel Olivo isn't the type to let a catcher get a
cheap steal, either. So I strongly disliked that play. The motivation is
presumably somewhere along the lines of "you can't score much against Felix, so
you have to get things moving where you can." I hope I don't have to tell you
how silly I find this. Outs are precious, Brother Melvin, even in a low-run
environment like a Trevor Cahill-started game in Oakland. They're precious and
you're just throwing them away.
The game's already over, but the A's have the Mariners for one more before
heading out to Texas, with Guillermo Moscoso and Jason Vargas taking the hill
for each side.
It should be noted, in fairness to the umpires, that Pennington claimed
after the game that he had a poor grip on the ball and actually tried to
hold up his throw, but the ball came out anyway. It doesn't mean it
wasn't interference, but, as with all life, there was no single cause on
the play. ↩
Eat it dudes who think stat nerds don't appreciate the beauty of