By Jason Wojciechowski on April 7, 2006 at 6:15 PM
It's a little bit distressing that Seattle beat Oakland last night. However, I'll think of good thoughts: the guy I'm sure will be the A's worst starter this year (Esteban Loaiza) was on the mound, a reliever who won't even be in the majors in a few more days (Brad Halsey) followed him, and maybe the A's will just decide to lose the first game of every series from here on out. That's fine with me as long as they usually win the next two.
Here's the negative stuff, and there's plenty. That's what happens when you lose, I guess.
- Gil Meche struck out six A's in 5 1/3 innings. For his major-league career, Meche strikes out six batters per nine innings. Striking out more than once per inning against him isn't good.
- The A's pitchers managed just three strikeouts, and Loaiza got just one in his 4 2/3 innings. Moreover, the outs were fly balls galore: Loaiza had a 7-6 FB-GB ratio, Halsey was 2-1, Kiko Calero was 2-0, and Jay Witasick was 1-0.
- Just five hits? Two of those were by Eric Chavez and two of them by Adam Melhuse, who hit fourth and ninth respectively, so there was no bunching of baserunners for the A's, a necessary condition of scoring unless you're going to hit a lot of homers, which this team isn't.
- Marco Scutaro batting leadoff? Ken Macha, are you kidding me? Yes, he did well, getting on base three times out of five, but why on earth would it be a good idea to have Scutaro first, especially when that means you're going to have Mark Ellis hitting third? The A's number three hitter last night was a guy with a .411 career SLG. 'Nuff said.
The bright spots were essentially Chavez with a double, homer, and two walks, and Scutaro.
USS Mariner has some notes about the game, including some good stuff on the crowd and Kenji Johjima.
Athletics Nation presents some small sample-size stats. Perspective, remember.
Only Baseball Matters agrees with me about Scutaro leading off, and notes that Esteban Loaiza had no velocity and no break on his off-speed stuff. I really don't want to be right about Loaiza, because obviously the A's are in better shape if he's not terrible, but I'm feeling very anxious about him.
Catfish Stew joins the Loaiza refrain.
Susan Slusser has some gems in her game recap. Esteban Loaiza said, "My cutter wasn't working, my changeup wasn't there and my sinker was so-so." Adam Melhuse chimed in, "It's kind of a no-brainer. When you don't hit your spots, you're going to get hit.'' On the decision to have Jay Payton DH and put Nick Swisher in left, despite the likely hit the defense would take with that configuration, "Macha said he put Payton there and Nick Swisher in left because the DH spot in easier for a veteran to handle -- and he thought it wiser that Swisher expend his energy in the field rather than in the dugout." That amuses me to no end. What's Swisher doing in there? Lighting hotfoots? Jumping on a trampoline? Are the A's young players routinely treated like seven-year olds by Macha? "Go play in the yard, you're gonna break something in here." Finally, Jason Kendall never likes not playing. "Trying to find something to do during Thursday's game, he shaved off his beard in stages, at one point sporting a mustache."
Joe Roderick's game notes include the fact that "Every hit -- including Carl Everett's home run -- was struck with ferocity." Also, "Before Jay Payton walked into the main clubhouse, he checked the lineup card in the hallway and noticed he was the designated hitter. 'I'm the Little Hurt today,' Payton said proudly."
You can't be really optimistic about tonight's game, either, not when Felix Hernandez is going for the Mariners. I'm hoping Frank Thomas will give him a little taste of what the big league life is really like and that Joe Blanton will decide to be the pitcher he was in the minor leagues (eight strikeouts per nine, under two walks) rather than the pitcher he was last year (five strikeouts and three walks per nine). If he continues to be the pitcher he was last year, he's not long for this league.
Susan Slusser has some notes about tonight's game, including some awed talking going on in the A's clubhouse about Hernandez. There's also a note that Bobby Crosby's finger hasn't gotten infected (good), and that Mac Suzuki was released by the A's.
Seattle's clocking in around -135 for this game, with the A's at around 105. I'll stick with the favorite, given the pitching matchup, and call Mariners on this one.
Yesterday was a shorter day, with only eight other teams in action.
- Tampa Bay won its first game of the year as Mark Hendrickson spun a very nice shutout of the Orioles. He used only 106 pitches to complete the game, which is clearly key: the manager is unlikely to let you stick around this early in the season if you're going to need 120 pitches to finish things off. Kris Benson's peripherals were mediocre, but he allowed only two runs in seven innings, so he's off to a (basically) successful start in Baltimore. Mike's Baseball Rants gives some interesting information on tall pitchers (Hendrickson is 6'9").
- Toronto took the rubber game from Minnesota, winning 6-3 behind a decent performance from Gustavo Chacin (allowed all three runs in 6 2/3 innings) and the bullpen (Justin Speier and BJ Ryan threw the eighth and ninth without much trouble). In other news, Lyle Overbay hit a triple.
- Detroit destroyed Texas, though the final score was just 10-6. The Tigers hit six home runs against RA Dickey, but those six homers resulted in just seven runs. The Tigers did have six other hits in the game as well as four walks, so they weren't hurting for baserunners. It looks like they just got a little unlucky with the placement of their homers. Most notable among the bombers were Chris Shelton, who hit numbers three and four of the season, and Magglio Ordonez, who hit his first two of the year. Both of Shelton's homers came in the fourth inning. (Yet, despite a two-homer inning by one player, the Tigers only pushed five runs across in the fourth. How does that happen?)
- The Cardinals simultaneously finished a sweep of the Phillies and ended Jimmy Rollins's hit streak. I don't think I realized Cory Lidle was still hanging around, but he started for Philadelphia. If he's their third-best starter, they could be in trouble.
- San Francisco beat Atlanta despite Noah Lowry leaving early (after just 1 2/3 innings) with a back injury, despite being out-hit 9-7, despite being out-extra-based (two doubles for the Giants, a double and three homers for the Braves), and despite 5 2/3 shutout innings from the Brave bullpen. One of the Atlanta homers, by the way, was hit by starting pitcher Jorge Sosa, who started his career as a (weak-hitting) position player.
- New York won Pedro Martinez's first start with offense. Pedro gave up five runs (four earned) on four hits, five walks, and three hit batsmen. I think Pedro's not quite on his game yet. I actually turned on the TV last night just in time to catch a replay of Jose Guillen getting a little pissy with Pedro after his second beaning (a little nick job on his elbow). Guillen ought to stop whining, because it's pretty clear that (a) Pedro didn't have his command last night and (b) if Pedro wants to get you, he's not going to get you on the elbow.
- Cincinnati dropped Pittsburgh to 0-4, keeping the hopes alive of an 0-162 season. Ian Snell allowed 13 baserunners in just five innings, but the game was still a good one late. Rick White blew the Reds' two-run lead, but vultured a win when the team scored one for him in the bottom half of the eighth. Adam Dunn hit his second homer of the year and Tony Womack was the leadoff hitter for the Reds. Red Reporter points out that there's too much bunting going on. It's not easy to tell from the box score that this is true, because Cincinnati laid down two sacrifices last night, one of them by a pitcher. A sign that it was excessive, though, is that Felipe Lopez laid down the other. Lopez is a very good hitter, especially for a shortstop, and actually went 3-3 with a double and a walk last night. Asking him to bunt is likely a waste of an at-bat. Though I'll note that I'm purposely keeping myself ignorant of the actual game situation at the time. This wouldn't be a box-score reading exercise otherwise.
- Arizona topped Colorado 12-5. That's the kind of score you expect when these two teams play. Miguel Batista struck out eleven Rockies in seven innings, and Juan Cruz shoved his trade in Billy Beane's face, striking out the side in the ninth to finish things off. The trade of Cruz for Halsey will come back to haunt the A's.