By Jason Wojciechowski on July 30, 2011 at 9:40 AM
Offense! The first inning went off with a bang for both squads, as the Twins started the game with two ground-ball singles (one of which was of the weak chopper variety) and a Jason Kubel double that plated Joe Mauer just ahead of the relay throw from Cliff Pennington. (Kurt Suzuki dropped the throw, but it looked like Mauer had his leg in on the plate before the tag would have come down anyway.) 2-0 Twins.
Coco Crisp got an infield single of his own, pulling a grounder just past Luke Hughes at third that Matt Tolbert corralled on the outfield grass. He made no throw. After a Hideki Matsui out, Josh Willingham drove a 3-0 fastball deep into left for a homer. Tie game.
Two errors in the third, one by Scott Sizemore and one by Gio Gonzalez, put runners on the corners with nobody out in the third. Gonzalez then induced a double-play grounder from Michael Cuddyer, leading to the inning ending a batter later but plating a run. 3-2 Twins.
Ben Revere led off the fifth with a bunt that he accidentally blooped over Gonzalez's head, but it worked out, as he was easily down the line to first by the time Weeks managed a throw. He then stole second as Kurt Suzuki has forgotten how to throw a baseball and a hard grounder up the middle scored Revere without a throw. The Twins got another batter on, but Coco Crisp doubled Plouffe off at second on a short pop fly by Jason Kubel. I have no idea where Plouffe was going on that play. 4-2 Twins after five.
In the sixth, after a line-drive single by Delmon Young and a grounder through a vacated hole by Luke Hughes (Cliff Pennington was moving to cover second on Young's steal attempt), Gonzalez lost the strike zone and walked Drew Butera and Ben Revere, forcing in a run. Yes, Drew Butera and Ben Revere. That's awful. Fautino De Los Santos entered the game and got out of the jam with no more damage, but we still went to the bottom of the sixth with the A's down 5-2.
In the eighth, Michael Wuertz came in and there went the ball game. After a pop up, double, and strikeout, with Trevor Plouffe at the plate, things looked fine. But Plouffe singled, took second on the throw home, Joe Mauer was intentionally walked, and Michael Cuddyer knocked a slider over the left field wall to make it 9-2 Twins.
Wuertz then walked two guys and hit a third, but Brian Fuentes stopped the bleeding by finally getting Matt Tolbert to ground out.
The A's got three back in the bottom half with a walk-single-homer sequence that looked like those lovable late-90's A's. Willingham's second homer was not hit as hard as his first, but a homer is a homer, and a 9-5 game with five outs to go gave me some hope. Alas, it was not to be, as the A's put one more runner on over the next six batters, and that was that.
|Crisp (CF)||4||2||BB, 1B|
|Matsui (DH)||4||3||1Bx2, 2B|
|Willingham (LF)||4||3||BB, HRx2|
Jemile Weeks didn't have his best game, getting just an infield single that Francisco Liriano nearly gloved, but instead had trickle behind him too slowly for the charging Matt Tolbert to get a good play on.
Besides the infield single mentioned above, Crisp worked a walk against Jose Mijares in the eighth. This is on the one hand surprising (Crisp had walked just 28 times in 400 PAs coming into the game) and on the other hand not (Mijares hands out free passes like he's the Smithsonian).
All looks right in the world for Hideki Matsui right now. All three of his hits were liners (though one was pretty soft) to left field, one of which was a hard job down the line into the corner for a double. He stayed right on all three pitches and did productive things with them rather than rolling them over to second, as he'd been doing all season to this point. He's still slugging under .400, but he's got his TAv all the way up to .277, which, if the season ended today, would be only the third-worst of his career (his rookie year in 2003 and his 2008 seasons were worse, though he was still over .270, i.e. league average, in both). His line still looks disappointing (251/325/397), but the power of context, both league and park, rules all.
Speaking of context, etc., Josh Willingham's TAv is now up to .304, which is better known as "the highest mark of his career". He OBP'd over fifty points higher last year with a nearly identical slugging percentage, but the switch to Oakland and the American League cancels that out in Baseball Prospectus's measurement, leaving Willingham on track for a well-above-average season.
Conor Jackson continued to be the king of scalded balls to the outfield caught by outfielders, though this time, it was a robbery, as Delmon Young made a sliding catch going back and to his right to take a double from Jackson.
David DeJesus hit three grounders to second in the game, two of them with a runner on first and one out. The results were predictable and unfortunate.
Scott Sizemore got a leadoff walk in the ninth against Alex Burnett, but three straight strikeouts left him standing there.
Kurt Suzuki struck out three times, but the last one was pretty sketchy: check out strike three, three inches inside:
Now here's Larry Vanover against right-handed batters for the game:
I call shenanigans.
Cliff Pennington's single was of the infield variety as he chopped a ball well into the 5-6 hole that Matt Tolbert tracked down but had no chance to throw Sizemore out on.
Kurt Suzuki seems to have completely and totally lost the ability to throw to second base. In the second inning, Matt Tolbert got a huge jump and likely would have beaten even a good throw, but Suzuki was not able to make a good throw, putting the ball on a hop and well off the bag. In the fifth, Ben Revere could have been nabbed with an adequate toss to the bag, but the peg pulled Jemile Weeks way over to the left side of the base and no tag was applied. Suzuki (who has worn four different numbers with the A's -- did you know that?) has actually caught 28% of runners stealing this year, right around the break-even point and above his 25% and 22% marks the last two seasons.
Jemile Weeks really likes flipping the ball directly from his glove.
Josh Willingham doesn't look like Juan Pierre in left field, turning routine outs into adventures in ballet dancing, but he's still not a fast or agile man. Given the speed at which he was running, the couple of inches by which Willingham missed the ball, and what we've seen of Ryan Sweeney this year in the past, I'm confident saying that Sweeney would have caught Jason Kubel's double in the first inning.
Cliff Pennington made a great play in the sixth with the bases loaded, one out, and Fautino De Los Santos newly on the mound. Trevor Plouffe hit a chopper slowly toward Pennington, who charged and knew he couldn't get a double play. He made a strong, accurate throw to the plate, which is harder than it looks as you're running directly to the point where you have to throw, just getting Matt Tolbert, who has good speed, and allowing Kurt Suzuki to pull his foot out of the way of Tolbert's slide.
|De Los Santos||5/6||2/22/36||1/3||2||1||0|
Gio Gonzalez got a ton of ground-balls, and had just one walk through five innings, but he completely lost the strike zone against Drew Butera and Ben Revere in the sixth and he put too many pitches in the hitting zone early, allowing the Twins to put the ball in play with good results and running up Gonzalez's pitch count in the process. It wasn't the worst game Gonzalez has ever pitched, but you certainly hope for better when the opposing infield has Trevor Plouffe, Matt Tolbert, and Luke Hughes as its starters.
Fautino De Los Santos was very good in his six batters, walking Delmon Young with two out in the seventh but not looking bad even in doing that. Retiring Joe Mauer with the bases loaded, especially once the count runs to three balls, is no easy task, and Mauer battled with a passel of foul balls, but De Los Santos eventually got a medium fly ball to Willingham to retire him.
Michael Wuertz put some sliders much too low to be tempting and left others right at the knee or thigh level to be yanked all over the yard. After the Cuddyer homer put the game to bed, Wuertz through nine balls in ten pitches, including one that smacked Luke Hughes to load the bases and ricocheted down to get a significant piece of Kurt Suzuki. Injury to insult and all that.
Brian Fuentes went to a full count on Matt Tolbert with the sacks juiced, but got a hard grounder right to Scott Sizemore in the end, so all's well.
Trystan Magnuson looked pretty good. I guess? I don't know. Whatever.
I absolutely hated the intentional walk to Joe Mauer. There were two outs in the inning, so Bob Melvin wasn't setting up the double play, and this wasn't a tie game in the bottom of the ninth where the only runner that matters is the lead man. No, Melvin had a four-run deficit in the eighth inning and he decided to play the matchups, not by bringing in Craig Breslow or Brian Fuentes, but by giving the Twins a free base-runner. Luckily for A's fans, Michael Cuddyer made Melvin pay with a homer, so maybe he'll remember this incident the next time he wants to try something this dumb.
Why didn't Brian Fuentes just pitch the ninth? Is it because he's a reliever who you want to have available for tough situations, so you'd rather have your mopup man pitch? Fuentes has had one good year since 2006, and it's not this one. You don't need to worry about saving him.
Nick Blackburn vs. Guillermo Moscoso at 6pm. I won't get to watch this one unless I catch up on Sunday morning, but that's unlikely. I see the Twins -130 at Bodog right now, so put me down for $100.1
I'm bad at remembering how money lines work. This means that if the Twins win, I get $76.92, right? ↩