By Jason Wojciechowski on August 2, 2011 at 1:30 PM
That's what I get for calling Seattle's hitters a "lolfense" is what happened. They ran roughshod over Trevor Cahill, with a little help from Ryan Sweeney, in the second inning, scoring five runs, basically putting the game away before it even started. The sequence:
pop out, hard ground single, bloop single, line double, Sizemore*, line single, Sweeney*, ground out, ground out
Obviously, those with asterisks need explanation. The Sizemore play, which was weirdly reminiscent of a Chone Figgins play a half inning earlier, involved a grounder to third with Figgins at third and Franklin Gutierrez at second. Sizemore saw Figgins stray a little bit off the bag and had half a mind to try to get him out there, but instead turned and threw to first. Unfortunately, the batter was Ichiro, so the throw was late (and seemed to pull Conor Jackson off the bag anyway), and instead of an out at first or an out at third, Sizemore got no outs at all.
The Sweeney play was a classic outfielder being too aggressive, as he went into a slide to try to catch or stop Dustin Ackley's sinking liner, but did neither, letting it bounce over him all the way to the wall, giving the Mariner second baseman third base. The play came with the bases loaded, so the score went from 2-0 to 5-0 just like that.
The A's got one back in the third on a Coco Crisp-initiated walk, steal, error, sac fly sequence, but Seattle struck right back in the fourth after a Dustin Ackley crazy-double (a weird chopper down the 3B line that just eluded Sizemore) and two singles. They pushed another across in the fifth against Jordan Norberto, making it 7-1.
Then some more scoring happened, obviously, but none of it really mattered.
|Crisp (CF)||5||3||BB, 1B x 2, SB|
|Suzuki (C)||4||3||BB, 2B, HR|
Jemile Weeks was the man on third when Chone Figgins did a similar thing as described in re: Scott Sizemore above, except that Figgins actually dove to try to tag Weeks out, but Weeks got back just ahead of the play.
Weeks had reached base in the first place by hitting a hard grounder off of Blake Beavan's foot, causing the first of what seemed like many interminable moments in the game, as the manager and pitching coach and trainer all came out to watch Beavan throw, see if he was ok, etc. etc. etc. This game, I'm saying, took way too long to finish.
It wasn't robbery, but Brendan Ryan made a really nice play on Weeks in the ninth, snagging a chopper up the middle behind second base and throwing him out at first. Weeks is quite fast and was running from the left-hand batter's box on the play, so this was not routine.
Coco Crisp is just on a tear. His two singles were both hit hard, one a liner to left-center and the other a grounder through the 5-6 hole. The official scorer awarded him a hit in the ninth, but I'm not having it. The ball was hit very sharply, but it bounced square off of Justin Smoak's glove -- Smoak was not diving or otherwise making a special effort to make the play. I saw no reason why a major league first baseman should not have made the play. It goes down as E-3 on this blog.
Hideki Matsui was flat-out robbed in the third inning as he hit a slicing liner toward left-center that Franklin Gutierrez somehow caught up with. I'm still not sure how he did it. Hell, I'm not even sure that he did it. I think he snookered the umpire somehow. Off the bat, I wasn't sure if Gutierrez would get there, but as the hit developed, I saw the significant slice and figured it would get down as Gutierrez realized he couldn't catch up and pulled off to keep it from getting to the wall. No such luck. Instead, Death to Flying Things made a full-extension layout and turned a double into a sacrifice fly.
Matsui was also awarded a dubious hit in the first inning -- he was the batter on the Chone Figgins play described above, in the Jemile Weeks bullet. Figgins's arm being what it is and Matsui's speed being what it is, I think Figgins had a clear out at first that he chose not to take, even as he made the catch going to a knee behind the third-base bag.
What's notable about this is the graphic the A's broadcast flashed once the play was ruled a hit: it counts as the 60,000th hit in Oakland history. That's pretty cool. On this blog, though, Josh Willingham's 3rd inning double is number 60,000, and will forever be so. (Actually, probably not, because I'm sure I've disagreed with the official scorer before on the blog, so who knows where my count stands.)
Gutierrez also made a running, stretch catch on the warning track in left-center to take away what I initially thought was a homer and then figured was a sure double from Josh Willingham in the sixth.
Ryan Sweeney is just being trolled by the umpires at this point, as he was struck out in the first inning on a fastball that looked in on TV and from his view in the batter's box as well. He later hit two balls hard, one for a fliner out to Gutierrez (not a tough play -- it was right at him) and one for a double to the right-center alley.
Conor Jackson did nonsense.
Cliff Pennington came out of the game with Bell's palsy, an apparently temporary paralysis of the face. That's weird and highly unfortunate, but my sense is that it's not actually threatening so much as just inconvenient. Eric Sogard came in at short and hit a double down the right-field line, just fair, in the seventh.
I can't remember the last time I saw Kurt Suzuki do so many good things. The walk was a four-pitch gift, and the double was a poked liner down the right-field line that just had enough, but the homer to left was legit, especially against Brandon League, who's not exactly an elite closer, but who is pretty good, and who had given up just one bomb in 40+ innings prior on the season.
Franklin Gutierrez may have also taken a hit away from Scott Sizemore on a fly to right-center in the second. I noted it as "not outright robbery, but nice job on a well hit ball," so perhaps an average center-fielder still would have gotten there. Who knows. These things are impossible to tell.
I've already mentioned Ryan Sweeney and Scott Sizemore bollixing things up for Trevor Cahill. Outside of a bloop to Josh Willingham in the same inning that a good left-fielder might have caught, I don't think the A's defense looked too terrible this time out.
There was a weird play deserving of its own bullet in the fourth inning. With Mike Carp on second and two out, Casper Wells hit a sharp grounder to Scott Sizemore. The third-baseman booted it, but the ball skipped high into the air and was caught by Cliff Pennington in short left-field. Mike Carp rounded third, but went a little too far, and Pennington immediately noticed. Fortunately, Sizemore was not hanging his head but moving into position to cover third base immediately after his error, so Pennington made a swift throw to the bag, Sizemore turned and laid a tag, Carp did not dive back in, but was too close to escape Sizemore's pursuit just a few feet away. In the end, the A's got what they should have had in the first place -- the end of the inning -- but it took a little creativity to get there.
Ugly came for Trevor Cahill, whose location was not sharp. He left a lot of pitches up, and that swing-and-miss rate is just pathetic. The walk rate is not actually bad, on a per-hitter basis, but that shows the folly of using walks as your only measure of command. You have to be sharp within the strike zone to be successful in the majors, even against the Mariners, and Cahill was not that. The defense let him down, sure, but Ryan Sweeney played a single into a triple, not an out into a triple -- the inning was going to continue, and given the quality of Cahill's pitches to that point and after that, I'm not confident in saying the same number of runs wouldn't have scored.
I'd like to tell you something positive, but I've got nothing.
Jordan Norberto, about whom more later today when I finish up the transaction writeup, didn't have a great debut, allowing his inherited runner to score, missing the strike zone a lot, and throwing away a pickoff attempt.
His fastball had good velocity, though.
Jerry Blevins, by my count, threw exactly nine strikes and four balls in each of his two innings. He got three swinging in the sixth, though, all on Casper Wells, and none in the seventh.
Blevins got away with a near-HBP in the sixth, hitting Adam Kennedy on the handle of the bat before striking him out with a breaking pitch. No such luck in the seventh as Ichiro hit an Ichiro Special (TM) bloop single down the left-field line to bring in Justin Smoak (who had doubled) from third. It was the most nonsense of hits, but hey, Ichiro's been doing it all his life.
Brian Fuentes hit Casper Wells on the thigh, clear revenge for Wells ... um ... being named after a ghost, I guess.
Bob Melvin didn't have a lot to work with here. Getting Norberto into a game in his first contest with the team was nice, but it was also inevitable once the Mariners went up big. Norberto's not here to be a setup guy.
I'll be curious to see what happens with Cliff Pennington and his face in regard to the very short bench the A's have. Is it Melvin who's insisting on the eight-man bullpen? Is he OK with his backup shortstop being ... uh, whoa, who? This is fun. Suppose Eric Sogard breaks his glasses. (I'm not being funny, that's the worst thing I can imagine happening to the guy. I wear glasses myself.) I guess you do: Weeks at short, Sizemore at second, Jackson at third, Powell at first? LOLfense indeed.
There's a family visit tonight, so it's unclear whether I'll be watching the game after that happens or whether it'll be too late. I know you're worried about this.