By Jason Wojciechowski on April 24, 2010 at 9:20 AM
I'm watching Friday night's game on Saturday morning because we were out last night seeing The Secret in Their Eyes (which was excellent, and I highly recommend, although I probably won't be writing about it at The Woj.
The first inning of this one was bad for Justin Duchscherer's WHIP, but his ERA did not suffer: two hits and a walk for the Indians, but no runs. The only fireworks were on a clear strike three call that the home plate umpire missed, on an inside two-seam fastball to Travis Hafner. This would have ended the inning, and Duchscherer was rightfully upset that the umpire missed the call -- but the umpire's reaction to this upset, coming out from behind the plate and taking his mask off, was truly uncalled for. Baseball umpires are better about this than basketball referees, but there are still too many umpires who are willing to dare you to confront them, which just isn't their role. Hafner ended up walking, but Duchscherer got the next guy to fly out (on a hard-hit ball that Gabe Gross caught, jumping at the wall) to escape unscathed. After the inning, he had some calm words for the umpire. The highlight of the whole event was, as usual, Ray Fosse, who proclaimed, "When you miss a call, you're not supposed to take it out on the pitcher."
The top of the second resulted in the second ground-ball double-play induced by Duchscherer in the game (on pace for a record!), although this one was a little tougher than the first (a standard 4-6-3). A lined grounder caught Kouzmanoff on the short hop, and he backhanded the ball and went to his knees. Getting up, he fired a strike (that strong arm comes in handy) to second, where Rosales turned it around to first. Rosales's style at second is to stand in and take the potential hit rather than come across the bag and end up having to throw across his body. When he's already the backup with Mark Ellis hurt, this obviously gives me reason to worry, especially since he's not a small, Ellis-type second sacker -- he's listed at 6'2" and about 185 pounds, so he provides a fair target out there for runners. He did get out of the way of the baserunner this time, and I haven't seen him barreled into yet, but I'm still just waiting for it to happen.
I was listening to the A's win over the Yankees on Thursday on the radio, and after hearing Daric Barton start a 3-6-1 double play, I asked if there was anyone better in baseball at starting that play. And lo and behold, he started another one in the third inning here. (Although it was actually 3-6-3, but close enough.) It was a well-struck ball and it short-hopped right into his basket. He turned and fired a strike to Cliff Pennington, who made the easy throw to first. The play was not close at either base. Maybe it's years of watching Jason Giambi air-mail throws into left field that make me extra-appreciative of Barton's smoothness, but it really is lovely watching him make the play with such confidence and verve.
The top of the fourth saw Justin Duchscherer load up the bases with walks and hits, but another double play, this one 4-6-3 again (we're running out of different ways to start double plays here), got him out of it. This has been downright remarkable.
Daric Barton has developed not only a tremendous eye for the strike zone, but Jeterian acting skills. In the bottom of the fourth, he helped induce a ball call on an inside (but not that far inside) fastball from Jake Westbrook by doing the "jump back with your legs and stick your ass out" thing that Jeter has been doing for years. Maybe the umpire would have called it a ball anyway (his strike zone has seemed rather inconsistent), but why not throw your full efforts at it.
CSN just showed a clip of the first pitch Kevin Kouzmanoff ever saw in the major leagues (which he hit for a grand slam against Texas). He did this while playing for the Indians. I had no idea he played for the Indians. I thought he came up in the Padres' system, but obviously not. B-Ref tells me that he went to San Diego, along with Andrew Brown, for Josh Barfield. Anyway, maybe they should show that clip more often, because Kouzmanoff just hit an RBI single, giving the A's a 1-0 lead. The ball wasn't hit any better than the various double play balls, and it was hit on the ground up the middle, but it just eluded Asdrubal Cabrera's dive. Against a sinkerballer like Westbrook, that's how you have to score your runs.
The bottom of the sixth saw the A's bust a game that was close wide open. A Daric Barton double, well struck into right center, was followed by Ryan Sweeney's single to right, scoring Barton despite Shin-Soo Choo's strong arm, and was itself followed by Kurt Suzuki's high home run to left field, making the game 4-0 and knocking Jake Westbrook out of the box. When a sinkerballer gives up two deep fly balls and a line drive in three batters, he's probably done.
The rough stuff continued for the Indians after Aaron Laffey came in, as Eric Chavez hit a medium grounder to Russ Branyan at first. Branyan fielded it cleanly and threw a perfect underhanded toss to Laffey covering first ... who just dropped the ball. E-1.
Ryan Sweeney has just been a line-drive machine tonight, capping things with his lined single in the bottom of the eighth, giving the A's a 10-0 lead. That's been his style all along, of course, but it has worked with varying degrees of success, and of course it'll only let him be so valuable over the course of his career, since it's hard to hit home runs on line drives. If he walked enough to turn a .290-.300 batting average into a .400 OBP, that'd be fine -- he'd be a valuable top-of-the-order hitter. But he doesn't. So he'll remain in that limbo of being an above-average player by virtue of his defense, but never more than an average hitter. This is, of course, a perfectly fine player to have on your team, and a player that can help you win championships, but he certainly cannot be your best hitter (as he arguably is on the A's).
I'm getting my first look at Brad Kilby now, and boy does he have some funk in his delivery. He hides the ball a lot (effectively? Who knows), and is very herky-jerky and upright on top of that. He takes the ball out of the glove and actually pulls it back by his butt before swinging his arm around for the pitch. It's very odd.
All told, this was a nice win by the A's. The 10-0 score doesn't really show how close it was, since it was 4-0 entering the bottom of the eighth, 1-0 until the sixth, and scoreless until the fifth. Justin Duchscherer has pitched better, as he had to rely on a lot of double plays to get himself out of jams. He is a groundball pitcher, so these weren't incredibly lucky or anything, but he missed the strike zone a lot (as inconsistent as that zone was, he didn't get squeezed on more than a couple pitches) and allowed guys to walk and get hitter's counts. Still, when you can say that about your starting pitcher's night in a 10-0 win, you've got to feel pretty good about things.