By Jason Wojciechowski on April 7, 2012 at 1:15 AM
Bandwidth issues and dinner conspired to delay the end of the game for me until three hours after it was actually over, and also kept me from being able to enjoy the contest (ok, "enjoy") on Twitter with all of you dear friends. Still, recap action commences now.
Brandon McCarthy was off all night, but his four-run third inning might have been prevented had Josh Donaldson not thrown the ball directly into Chone Figgins's back on the Mariner left fielder's bunt attempt. McCarthy would probably be the first person to tell you that it's his job to get the extra outs anyway, but the next few batters actually didn't go terribly for him: he did walk Ichiro, but Dustin Ackley's single ahead of that walk was a grounder through the hole on the right side that, in my judgment, Jemile Weeks would have played easily had he not been in double-play position. Two fly outs later, McCarthy had arguably gotten four out-able balls in the inning, but it was still going, allowing Kyle Seager to knock the most destructive blow, a solid (though still grounded) single up the middle, pushing the Mariner lead from 2-0 to 4-0 and, given the A's offense, more or less putting things out of reach.
Jordan Norberto then gave up two runs in his sole inning, taking a 5-2 game to 7-2 and extinguishing whatever hopes the A's may have had after Yoenis Cespedes's massive homer in the bottom of the fourth. Norberto can also blame his defense a little, as Kila Ka'aihue misplayed a ball from Michael Saunders, allowing the hitter to reach when it should've been a routine ground-out, and then not throwing to first on a later bunt by the aforementioned Figgins, possibly costing the A's an out. Norberto's struggles to throw strikes and his grooving of the strikes he did throw were just as much culprits as Ka'aihue's glove-work, though, so nobody's going to owe anyone any dinners for the unfortunate outcome.
The A's threatened in the sixth and even scored one run in the eighth with a series of hits and some Seattle defensive issues (a liner that Chone Figgins lost in the lights and a grounder thrown into center field by Jason Vargas), but they were unable to mount the big inning that would be required to claw back into things.
Jemile Weeks, 2B (2-5) -- Weeks had a weird play in the third inning, chopping a ball into his batter's box on a Jason Vargas breaking pitch. It was the kind of ball that typically hits a player's foot, and Weeks, stumbling out of the box a bit, seemed to half turn around to look at the home-plate umpire, as if he were expecting the ball to be called foul. When he realized that no such call was forthcoming, he took off for first. Because it was a weak ball down the third-base line, Kyle Seager came charging in, but made a poor throw that got past Justin Smoak. This being the Coliseum and Weeks being Weeks, he motored around to third base easily. Except that when he got there, everyone realized that the first base umpire was signaling a foul ball. That's right: the guy who was 100+ feet from the play called the ball foul, while the guy who was thirty inches away was content to let things go on. Replays were inconclusive, and Bob Melvin's argument was clearly procedurally oriented (he was definitely complaining about the fact that the call was made from so far away), but the call was the call, and Weeks whiffed on the next pitch. (The umpire then proceeded to be a dick and make some sort of motion toward Weeks after the play, which is why everyone hates umpires.)
The play was a good example of why replay won't fix everything -- close plays in baseball involve a small baseball moving at high velocity, not, as in football, a large man's foot coming down or not in a particular location. And it's probably not fair of me to say that the call should be made at home -- the field umpires probably had a better view of the play than the home-plate man because there was no catcher in front of them. Still, I can't shake the idea that the first-base judge called the play dead because of a perception that for the ball to go into the area it did, it had to have hit Weeks's foot. On the other hand, Weeks's reaction indicated to me that perhaps he felt the ball brush him a bit. I doubt anyone will address the issue forthrightly in the post-game comments, but I haven't read them yet, and won't until tomorrow at the earliest.
Meanwhile, I'm still worried that Weeks is going to come up in a day or two with an injured left arm after he had to reach into the baseline to try to get Josh Donaldson's errant throw on the Chone Figgins bunt in the third. Replay from the outfield showed that Weeks basically had his arm run into, not appearing to cause any awkward bending of his wrist as so often happens, but you never know what we might have missed on the TV.
Coco Crisp, LF (2-4, GIDP) -- Crisp's second single was a liner to left that Chone Figgins lost in the lights, so it wasn't much of a single at all. With a bit more luck, Figgins wouldn't even have picked the ball up coming out of the glare and it would have skipped by him to the wall, leaving Crisp on third (at least) and Jemile Weeks, who was already on first, crossing the plate. Luck did not shine on Oakland tonight, however.
The best defensive play involving Coco Crisp was a high fly to left center that he got under before Yoenis Cespedes called him off because Chone Figgins was on third with nobody out and Crisp has a noodle arm. Figgins ended up not running, and I'm sure he would have made a different decision had Crisp been the one to stay with the catch.
Josh Reddick, RF (1-4, ROE) -- Reddick hit the ball hard all night, as it seems he's done in all three of the A's games so far, which I'm sure is endearing him to Oakland fans. Two of his shots were caught tonight, one a smash up the middle that Jason Vargas gloved adeptly before throwing into center-field as he attempted to start a double-play, the other a drive a bit right of center that looked great off the bat, sounded even better ... and proceeded to die well short of the warning track and settle into Michael Saunders's glove. It was a bit of a harsh welcome to Oakland, but not an unexpected one. It'll happen to everyone on the team at some point.
Amusingly enough, Reddick's one hit was a blooper to left when he got jammed with a full-count fastball by Vargas.
Reddick had a chance in the eighth to double Chone Figgins off first on a Dustin Ackley line-drive, but he air-mailed his throw about five feet over Kila Ka'aihue's head. Fortunately, the ball went straight to Kurt Suzuki, so no runners advanced. It was actually a great throw to the plate, and would have nailed anyone trying to tag up to score, but the Mariners didn't have a man on third.
Jonny Gomes, DH (0-2, BB) -- Gomes never got the ball into fair territory, whiffing once, walking once, and hitting a Coliseum foul-out, a pop-up by the Mariner dugout that Justin Smoak settled under. I'm not sure what other parks would have kept that ball in play. The whiff, by the way, was pretty terrible, as Vargas went in-in-out-way-out, with Gomes chasing the last pitch well out of the strike zone. 0-2 is a rough count, of course, but you'd like to see your lefty-mashing designated hitter behave a little better on those balls.
Seth Smith, PH (1-1) -- Smith got down 1-2 to Tom Wilhelmsen with runners on second and third and one out after pinch-hitting for Jonny Gomes, but fouled off a fastball and a curve before getting a knee-high fastball that he ripped to right for a solid single. He looked exactly, on that swing, like the line-drive hitter he describes himself as, and it was quite nice to see him succeed as a pinch-hitter, which is a difficult role, but one that is particularly important for a platoon player.
Yoenis Cespedes, CF (1-4, HR) -- The Cespedes homer, 460+ feet to left-of-center, above the luxury boxes, was a thing of beauty, such a thing of beauty, in fact, that the man who smote it stood in the box a bit to admire it. Jason Vargas appeared to take mild exception, and the A's booth had a few amusing words to say to the effect that Vargas should have turned around and admired the shot himself. (This was mightily homerish, obviously, though both men seemed to recognize the fact a few seconds later, as they joked about what they'd do if someone hit a bomb like that against them.) It'll be interesting to see what happens around the league if Cespedes starts to get a reputation as a bomb-admiring kind of player. Sadly, Vargas was pulled from the game before Cespedes's next at-bat (literally just before), so we didn't get to see what kind of message Vargas might want to send.
Cespedes also struck out twice, chasing a hard Steve Delabar fastball way out of the zone in the sixth and being frozen by a gorgeous Tom Wilhelmsen fastball on the inside corner at the knees after working him with a curve away, fastball more in, and fastball on the outer half. Of note, now that I'm talking sequence, is that Cespedes saw just one first-pitch fastball in his four trips. (The home-run came on a 2-1 fastball.)
"Pop Tarts" looked good getting a ball back in quickly on a Brendan Ryan double in the third (a near facsimile of the ball he hit in Japan to set up the go-ahead run), and very nearly made a leaping catch in the fourth on a Michael Saunders liner. It was a tough play, a ball hit directly over his head, and he did get a glove on it, but not very much of one. I don't have a very good sense of whether Coco Crisp or someone else would have made the play. I do think a bad center-fielder would not have gotten as close to it as Cespedes did.
Cespedes also had a throw on a sacrifice fly in the sixth, nearly getting Brendan Ryan at the plate, but the throw was a bit toward the third base side, forcing Suzuki to have to lunge back to the plate, and Ryan made a tremendous inside slide, sweeping his foot over the dish to score the run. The throw was a laser, but it tailed a bit, as throws tend to do.
Kurt Suzuki, C (0-4) -- Suzuki also hit a Coliseum foul-out to Smoak, and he didn't hit the ball impressively in any of his four trips. Wilhelmsen whiffed him in the eighth with runners on second and third and two out on a fastball that was not particularly close to the strike zone. We've seen this before. It was too bad, because Suzuki had, like Smith, fouled off a couple of two strike pitches, putting him in a position where he could have taken that strikeout pitch for a full-count and perhaps gotten a better pitch to hit.
Josh Donaldson, 3B (0-4) -- Alan Torres described Donaldson's swing as a little long on the latest Tarp Talk podcast, and it really looked like that's so in his third at-bat, leading off the 7th against Steve Delabar. The righty throws a hard ball, but that's just the point, isn't it? That Donaldson can't catch up to big-league fastballs if that's his swing?
Donaldson made all the routine plays, but the one tough ball he had was one I've already mentioned a few times, the Chone Figgins bunt that he had to charge hard on and try to make an in-motion throw for the out. He did hit Figgins square between the numbers, so if this were Old Hoss ball, he'd have recorded the out. Sadly, pegging was eliminated before any actual living people were born, so it didn't matter.
Kila Ka'aihue, 1B (2-4) -- Ka'aihue's two singles were both well struck balls, one a liner to right in the fifth on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, when he got a fastball out over the plate that Vargas left more elevated than he meant to, the other a grounder against Brandon League that shot through the hole into right on a pitch more on the inside that Ka'aihue got his hands in on so that he could make solid contact. Three ground-balls in four at-bats isn't very first-baseman-like, though.
Ka'aihue got three balls at first and didn't look good on any of them. On the first, he went out of his range, couldn't track the grounder down, and had to scramble back to first to receive Jemile Weeks's toss for the out. (I will give him credit for getting back to the base, though.) On the second, he ranged to his right again, this time getting the ball, but with the lefty Jordan Norberto on the mound (who falls off toward third on his pitches), nobody could be at home for the throw. Had Ka'aihue stayed put, Weeks would have made the play quite easily. On the third, two batters after the second, Ka'aihue fielded a bunt, turned toward first, and ate the ball. The booth guys surmised that because Weeks was not waiting at the bag, he wasn't comfortable making the toss. If this is the case, that's bad, because you have to be willing to lead your receiver on a play like that. I think it's possible, however, that Ka'aihue's reason was instead that he didn't have a play because Figgins was very nearly at the bag. Post-game quotes could also clarify this.
Cliff Pennington, SS (0-4) -- The best thing Pennington did was rip a Delabar fastball to the corner in right, but it was just a bit foul. It was an easy double otherwise, and looked like it had a shot of going out. The rest of his day was undistinguished.
|Fautino De Los Santos||3/4||1/8/9||1/3||1||0||0||0||0|
Brandon McCarthy was, as I said above, not sharp. He usually pounds the strike zone and gets ground balls, but, as you can see above, the ground-balls in particular were not in evidence. The overall strike rate is not terrible, but he went stretches where the ball was not going where he wanted it to go, and he had as much difficulty throwing quality strikes as he did just putting things in the zone. As I also said above, the defense didn't help him at all, but that only goes so far. Key ground-balls with the bases loaded in the third inning could have reduced the impact of the defensive miscues, but, for example, he instead left the ball elevated enough for Jesus Montero to hit a sacrifice fly.
In short, it was not McCarthy's finest hour. It happens.
Jordan Norberto also could not throw strikes, and when he did, they were hittable strikes, but that's more what Jordan Norberto does than a particular issue with this game. I'm completely fine with him pitching the middle innings of a game that the A's trail by three or more, though.
Andrew Carignan's final line looks better than I thought it would, given that he started each of his first two batters with 3-0 counts. He nearly walked both, but Jesus Montero was called out on a full-count check swing after he'd gotten all the way down to first base. It was certainly unusual, and I'm not entirely sure Montero did swing, but I guess the first-base ump, whose name does not appear in the ESPN box score right now, really likes being on TV.
Three of Carignan's swing-and-misses came against Miguel Olivo, so discount that as you will.
Fautino De Los Santos looked quite good, as you'd expect when you see only one ball in his line. His fastball seemed to have more movement than I remember it having, but I haven't checked the data on that, and it's probably more my faulty memory than anything else.
The batting order is getting a bit saner, even if the reasoning behind it (Josh Reddick's consistency) is silly. That's really the only thing Melvin did in this game. McCarthy was getting hit, and while Norberto allowed two runs that other pitchers might have avoided, Oakland was already down three. It didn't change their win expectancy that much. Besides, Norberto's on the roster. You've got to use him sometimes.