By Jason Wojciechowski on July 20, 2008 at 6:23 PM
Can someone tell me what Huston Street's deal is? The A's tie the game against Jose Veras and manage to score a run on Mariano Rivera, which is still nearly impossible to do, only to see Street blow the lead. We're now a Brett Gardner base hit away from losing this game. And this could be worse if not for the fact that the Yankee pinch-runner got caught stealing. Maybe the game would already be over if that hadn't happened.
Thankfully, Street gets the last out on a popup, lowering his ERA back "down" to 4.19. But we're still going into extras because he can't hold a lead these days. He's pitching about as well as his good buddy Joe Blanton. In the story about the Blanton trade on the official website, Street sounded pretty forlorn. He can't really blame his performance on that, though, because he's been pitching like this basically all year. The A's aren't likely to make a push for the postseason, not with this offense, but what Street's really doing is hurting his trade value. Don't the Dodgers need a closer? Could we get a third baseman from them? And maybe Andre Ethier back? Or Matt Kemp?
Ok, we're in extras. (I'm "liveblogging" this in the sense that I'm watching it on MLB Gamecast as I type.)
Edwar "No D" Ramirez is in for the Yankees. I think the A's are probably going with Andrew Brown next inning. Jose Molina is also in for New York, which should cut down on their running game a bit (Rajai Davis and Ryan Sweeney both stole second against Mariano/Posada in the 9th). Crosby flies out. Ellis is terrible at the plate, so I'm betting on Donnie Murphy with nobody on and two out. If this were Marco Scutaro, that might be a great situation for the A's, but Murphy doesn't seem to have Scoot's clutchitude.
But hey! Ellis gets on base by accident as Ramirez hits him with a changeup. Way to take a soft one for the team, Mark! The pitch didn't look very far inside on Gamecast, so he may have done a sort of turn-the-elbow-in-toward-it kind of move. So now Murphy with one out and Ellis on first (twelve steals this year, caught just twice) and Wes Bankston, Oakland's third-best hitter, up next. Murphy's batting .186, which is bad, even for the A's. Ramirez's changeup, which Murphy just fouled off, looks, in Gamecast at least, like it has some ridiculous break on it. How did people even know about baseball before the internet? Now the count is full. I think I send Ellis here, and damn the consequences. Ramirez will probably come back with his fastball after throwing three straight changes, the last two in the dirt. And he does come back with the fastball, but it's low and Murphy is on first with a walk. I don't know if Ellis was running on the pitch or not.
So Wes Bankston, with two singles and two whiffs on the game. His second single set up the A's 7th inning run against Veras. Wow, Ramirez gets a called strike on the first pitch that from here looks to be about six inches off the plate. The immortal Rajai Davis is on deck. It's 0-2 after two foul balls. Bankston's in trouble. And down he goes, swinging at the changeup that ends up low and in.
It's too bad speed only helps after you hit the ball. Davis is hitting .207 for the year. Oakland pretty much just has Emil Brown left on the bench, and Davis is a good defensive outfielder, so I guess I understand not pinch-hitting. You can't really say "damn the defense, we're going for the win" on the road, because you've always got to play the bottom half. Plus, Emil's not that great anyway. And Davis is down on strikes, also chasing a changeup down in the zone. Well, no, down out of the zone, almost in the dirt, it seems. So that's the A's half, and we go to the bottom of the tenth, sudden-death style.
The Yankees have Richie Sexson on the bench, but I guess we won't see him unless the A's end up using Jerry Blevins, a lefty. Ah, but look, there is Jerry Blevins after all. It's Jeter, Abreu, and A-Rod coming up, so Sexson won't hit for any of them. But if it gets the cleanup spot, where Justin Christian pinch-ran for Jason Giambi, you can bet he'll hit there. Christian hits righty, but he's got 18 major league at-bats. But look, we probably won't even get to that spot since Jeter just knocked the first pitch up the middle for a single. Winning run on first for Bobby Abreu.
I know Andrew Brown pitched yesterday, but with two righties and then the Justin Christian spot coming up, don't you want to use your right-hander out of the bullpen here? Especially since he's probably the better pitcher of the two anyway? Not my favorite decision by Bob Geren, although who knows what he knows about availability.
Abreu hits a grounder to Murphy at third who gets the force at second. This is where actually watching the game can't be beat. I have no idea how that play went down. Soft roller and it was a good play just to get the out at second? Throw down to first that Abreu barely beat? Bobbled transfer by Mark Ellis? Who knows! Anyway, here's A-Rod with Abreu on first and one out. Alex is 0-5 with three whiffs, so he's either due or he's not seeing it well, depending on your hopes and wishes.
2-2 count after five pitches, then a curve too low for ball three. Abreu steals second on the pitch. Which sucks. So they give A-Rod the intentional pass, bringing up the DH spot with the winning run on second, one out, and a large, lumbering slugger coming to the plate in Richie Sexson. The last thing Sexson does well is hit lefties, so I'm worried here. Blevins gets ahead with a low-and-away curve, strike one. Ground ball, Jerry, ground ball. A fastball right down the middle, but Sexson swings and misses, 1-2. Curve in the dirt fills the count. Strikes, Jerry, strikes. He struck him out! Got him swinging at the heat, pretty high from the looks of it, on the outer part of the plate.
So here comes Jose Molina, who I think is #2 of the Flying Molinas? Bengie's #1, right? Or is Jose #1? Anyway, another first pitch curve, hit foul for strike one. Jose's a hacker, so first-pitch off-speed ain't a bad idea. Another curve, even lower, and Jose grounds out to Crosby at short, ending the inning. Whew. Each side works out of a jam, and we're on to eleven.
The Yankees' remaining pitchers are Dan Giese (?), LaTroy Hawkins, and David Robertson (?). I wouldn't be surprised with a second inning of Ramirez despite that depth, though. For the A's, with just Andrew Brown left, I think it'll depend on if they score in this inning. And yes, it's Edwar Ramirez coming out for another inning of work. Top of the order for Oakland: Sweeney, Suzuki, Cust. Sweeney quickly is down 0-2 after swinging at a couple of those changeups. He gets another change on 1-2 and puts the bat on it, but it's a grounder to Betemit at first.
Suzuki to the plate, working on a 2-5 day. Just like Sweeney, he's down 0-2 as Ramirez doubles up on what Gamecast thinks are sliders. I'm suspicious, because I don't think he threw any sliders last inning. And just like that, there's a changeup and Suzuki strikes out swinging on three pitches. Ugh.
Well, here's the one guy who can put the A's up with one swing of the bat, Jack Cust. He does swing the bat, but through another changeup, so he's down 0-1. Ramirez could get out of this inning in about 10 pitches. That's another slider, and it really does look like a different pitch than the change, so maybe he really does have it. 2-1 count now after a slider misses well low and in and a fastball is up and off the plate away. Cust has three whiffs in the game and two walks, and it's now 3-1, so he's working on his third walk. Ugh, changeup called strike two, but it looks outside from here. And yet another changeup, down, Cust swings and misses, and he's got four whiffs in the game.
Bottom of the 11th. Ah! I missed someone in the bullpen! Lenny DiNardo is in to pitch for Oakland with Cano, Betemit, and Cabrera coming up. The Yanks only have Chad Moeller on the bench, so I'm guessing that what we see is what we've got for them. And with Emil Brown not likely to pinch-hit for any of the A's, and the same for Rob Bowen, it looks like we're hunkering down and going to war with these lineups.
DiNardo did pitch an inning yesterday, so I don't know how much he's good for today, but he's normally a long man, so if we remain scoreless, we might be seeing plenty of him. On the other hand, his ERA is over nine, so our odds of remaining scoreless in extras are low.
Another leadoff man reaches for the Yankees as Cano gets his fourth hit of the game, a single to center. Wilson Betemit to the plate with the winning run on first. Again. Betemit sacrifices Cano to second. Do you walk Cabrera to face Brett Gardner? Melky's hitting under .250 this year, so it looks like Geren says no to that option as DiNardo gives him an 83 mph "fastball" on the first pitch, fouled off. He fouls off a would-be ball one for strike two. DiNardo hasn't thrown a ball yet. Now, with Melky down 0-2, would be a good time. He gives him a fastball in a little further from the first two, and Melky takes it. A changeup misses badly on the other side and suddenly we're at 2-2. The fastball was a good idea. The changeup was just a bad pitch. A couple of foul balls, one on a curve. And now we're full. Come on Lenny, I know your stuff is marginal, but strikes! Well, that last changeup might not be a strike, but Melky hit it anyway, and he's out on a flyball to Carlos Gonzalez in right.
Two outs for Brett Gardner, who hit a double in his first at-bat. It was his first double. Ever. (Well, at least ever in the majors.) He's hitting .178 on the year, and he's left-handed. Let's go, Lenny. First pitch fouled off, 0-1. Gamecast is calling these 82 and 81 mph pitches changeups, but I think they might be fastballs. A marginal curve, looks a little high and a little outside, called for strike two, so we've got a 1-2 count. And DiNardo gets him on a fastball down the heart of the plate, getting Gardner to fly to right. Lenny's ERA is down all the way to 8.49 after that inning, a reduction of about a run and a half. Nice work, Lenny. See you in the bottom of the twelfth. (Although I'd rather see Andrew Brown and damn the consequences because it's back to the top of the order next inning for the Yankees. Granted, they're 1-13 on the day, but they've got five walks between them and they're still good, dangerous hitters.)
So in comes David Robertson, who doesn't even have a proper headshot in Gamecast -- his picture is a super-cropped action shot, so basically what I can tell is that he's white. He hasn't pitched much this year, only 34 PA's against, but he's done well so far. He'll face Carlos Gonzalez to start. Gonzalez is listed as having gotten an intentional walk back in the 7th, but it came on a 3-1 pitch with the bases loaded. Now, it's possible that Girardi walked him to avoid giving him a meatball, but that's kind of absurd, isn't it? He's not Barry Bonds. I think Gamecast just hasn't figured out that it was simply a bad pitch, waaay outside by Veras.
Anyway, Gonzalez flies out to Gardner in left. Gamecast alerts me that there's video of Gonzalez making a sliding catch last inning, so perhaps he's the reason we're still playing this game.
Bobby Crosby, 0-5, but, surprisingly enough, no strikeouts, is up now. Robertson's given him four straight curves, but on a 2-2 fastball, Crosby knocks a hit, a line single to right. Nice job, Bobby. Way to wait for your pitch.
Ellis whiffs on a first-pitch fastball up high, so he's down in the count early. He's still 0-4 after taking that HBP in the 10th. He swings at another high fastball on 1-1, hitting it foul. He gets the count full, though, by taking two more high pitches from Robertson. Not one of these five pitches has gone below the waist of the graphical batter here in Gamecast. And Robertson ends up paying for it as he throws another high way that Ellis takes for ball four. First and second, one out for Donnie Murphy. Murphy walked his last time, and Thunder Matt Murton has sucked so far, but he had two hits today, and I'd rather see him in this spot than Murphy. But that's what happens when your closer blows games -- unfortunate late-game lineups. Murphy, by the way, strikes out on three pitches. Nice one, Murph. The last was a fastball that might be a little low and a little away, but it was 0-2, so you can't take that pitch.
Ok, I don't get this one at all. Emil Brown is in to hit for Wes Bankston. Bankston, who's probably the third-best hitter in this lineup, is being hit for by a guy hitting an empty .255. (Video alert tells me that Gardner made a nice catch on Gonzalez's inning-leading-off flyball. So I guess the favor has been returned.) And predictably, two pitches later, Emil Brown grounds out. So now what do you do defensively? I guess Emil plays first? That sounds like a recipe for disaster. He hasn't played a single inning there in the big leagues. But that's precisely what's happening. Emil Brown makes his first-base debut. Congratulations, Emil.
Jeter will lead off against DiNardo. He's reached via walk and single today. (I just realized that Gamecast actually adjusts the height of these batters to fit the player who's hitting. Mark Ellis's avatar was significantly smaller than Jeter's is. Nice!)
And yet again, a leadoff hit for the Yankees. Jesus. Another single up the middle for Jeter, and the winning run is on one more time. Abreu, who's walked three times so far, is up. A-Rod and Sexson will follow.
The count is 1-2 on Abreu. DiNardo seems to have one pitch, but Gamecast has him throwing this sequence to Abreu: change, fastball, slider, fastball. Odd. Abreu puts a fastball very low and very away in play. Unfortunately, it's apparently so softly hit that DiNardo has no play at second and can only get Abreu at first, so it's a de facto sacrifice bunt by the right fielder. Up comes A-Rod, who's got seven LOB already today, and three whiffs. Will they ... yes, they will intentionally walk him. How many guys go 0-5 with three strikeouts and get intentionally walked twice? That's amazing.
So, Sexson with two on and one out. GIDP, Lenny! First pitch ... ooh, low? I don't know. I guess. Ball one, though. Richie's knees are higher than most players', I guess. Next pitch a smidge higher, but also a ball. Third pitch is high enough, but just off the plate (I guess -- it might be catching a corner). God, what a time to get squeezed. Hey, strike one! But false hope abounds. Ball four, and the winning run is at third base for Jose Molina. If there's ever been a time for a 1-2-3 double play, it's now. If there's ever been a time when I've been more sure the A's were going to lose on a walk-off walk, though, I don't know when it was.
First pitch is way inside. Maybe almost lost the game on a walkoff HBP. Ball one. In the strike zone! Amazing. Fouled off, 1-1. Basically the same pitch, same result, 1-2. Holy god, what did I say. Walk-off HBP. Unbelievable. It's in the same place the first one way, but this one got him. In-freaking-credible. Lenny DiNardo, your A's twelfth inning man. Why? Why does this happen to me? Gallagher's final line looks bad (four walks and seven hits in five innings) but still only gave up two runs, the setup guys (Embree, Casilla, Zielger) threw scoreless innings, the A's eeked out some runs to take a lead, and Street blew it all to hell. Jerry Blevins was shaky, but got through his inning. DiNardo ... well, there's a reason he was in Sacramento five days ago.
Ah ha. Here's the story on the intentional walk, which I glean from video on MLB.com: Veras threw a wild pitch on 2-1 that allowed Bankston to score the tying run and allowed the other runners to move up. Thus, with a 3-1 count, a tie game, and runners on second and third, the Yankees elected to throw an intentional ball four to Gonzalez. Ok, so that clears that up.
As for the Gonzalez diving catch -- my god, that was a hell of a catch. Full extension, diving as the ball sliced away toward the right-field line. If he misses, the game is over. If he lets the ball drop in, Cano might score from second (although with just one out and Gonzalez perhaps catching the ball, Cano might not have gotten a great jump and thus might have held up at third). Regardless of its implications, though, just a great catch.
Gardner's catch on Gonzalez wasn't quite as nice. The Yankee announcers referred to it as "robbing Gonzalez of an extra-base hit", but what made it difficult wasn't so much the hit itself as Gardner's misread of the ball which forced him to have to reach back to his right to make the play. If he'd gotten a better jump and/or positioned himself properly, it would've been a catch not worthy of a highlight. I will note that it's easy to misjudge Gonzalez's balls, though, because the baseball really jumps off his bat. I haven't seen him hit as often as I wish I could, but the few times I have, he's really put a charge into the ball without seeming like he's swinging from his heels like Jack Cust or Jason Giambi. Just smooth, easy power.