By Jason Wojciechowski on April 7, 2011 at 1:30 AM
One swing of the bat. Oakland had a 2-1 lead until Dallas Braden left a changeup out over the plate that Travis Snider absolutely murdered for a line-drive three-run homer, giving the Blue Jays the 4-2 lead that Jesse Litsch, Marc Rzepczynski, and Jon Rauch would make stand up.
Of course, nothing's ever that simple. A three-run homer requires a series of events leading to that homer. In that case, that series included a five-pitch walk to Juan Rivera, generally a free swinger, and a grounder by Edwin Encarnacion that Cliff Pennington dove and nearly came up with. If Pennington makes that play and starts a double play, obviously it's a whole new ballgame. Even if he only gets the lead runner, then a homer (assuming the predetermined outcome, which ...) only ties the game. Who knows how things play out from there.
Such is the way of things when you trot out an offense like the A's, though. Your defense is inches from getting you out of the inning, you make one mistake pitch, and now you're in a hole you can't climb out of, even against a decent-but-not-great pitcher like Jesse Litsch.
On to the box scores and notes.
|LaRoche (3B, SS)||3||1||-.056||-.007|
|Kouzmanoff (PH, 3B)||1||0||-.256||-.038|
Crisp nearly had a double in the third inning that Encarnacion speared nicely. The triple in the 5th hung up for Rajai Davis, but the ball just squeezed out the end of his glove as he tried to make the running catch in the right-center field gap. It's not what I understand to typically be an error, so I have no quibbles with the call, but Davis very easily could have "robbed" Crisp of the triple (and thus the A's their third run).
This near-out triple and near-double out make Coco the Offensive Player of the Game for the second time this year.1
Crisp also narrowly missed keeping Adam Lind's line drive in the first inning in front of him. Given the way his momentum was carrying him and his generally weak arm, it's possible that Yunel Escobar would have scored from first anyway. Even if not, the Jays would have had runners on second and third with one out. It likely was not that crucial a play.
Barton saw five pitches in the third inning, but Cliff Pennington was caught stealing to end the inning on the fifth, so he got a clean slate to start the fourth, and he worked an eight-pitch walk. Thirteen pitches in basically one plate appearance is pretty good!
DeJesus scalded a line drive into the right field corner for a fourth-inning double, then scored on Matsui's double. I don't think the A's right fielder hit a single ball hard against the Mariners, so it's nice to see him have ripped line drives in these Blue Jays games, even if they're coming to naught as far as wins go.
DeJesus may well have beat out a deflected infield single off a ground ball toward Adam Lind at first in the fifth inning, but the umpire called him out. Ray and Papa spent some time wondering about the call, but neither was particularly vociferous, which tells us what we need to know -- neither is ever quiet in their pursuit of the correction of injustice.
Unfortunately, DeJesus also made a horrifying defensive play, completely losing a line drive more or less right at him, letting it get past him unmolested. The play was scored a triple, but in a sensible world, it's an error. The fact that DeJesus didn't manage to get even a skosh of leather on the ball is an indictment of his defense, not a reason to give the batter a hit where he doesn't deserve one.
Willingham did nothing at the plate, but he did his damnedest to make up for it on defense, throwing a perfect strike to second after a drive off the wall in left to cut down J.P. Arencibia by about ten feet. He also made a solid tumbling catch on a sinking liner in the sixth.
Matsui struck out three times, but hit a two-run double (and earned it -- he roped a liner into right) and also made a nice baserunning play, recognizing that Rajai Davis was catching Kurt Suzuki's liner moving away from the infield and therefore would have no chance to throw him out, tagging up, because he couldn't get set and make the peg in time.
Ellis didn't have the best at-bats I've ever seen tonight, looking bad on a changeup in the second and a slider out of the zone in the fourth, as well as squandering a 3-0 (then 3-1) count by only managing a shallow pop fly into right.
He also nearly made the defensive play of the night on John McDonald, who hit a grounder up the middle. Ellis got to it behind the bag and made a jump throw, but was unable to get enough on it as McDonald beat the ball to the bag by maybe 18 inches. (McDonald eventually came in to score an insurance run, so this was a fairly important play.)
LaRoche made a pair of poor plays at third base, providing evidence that the entire position is cursed for the A's, not just Kevin Kouzmanoff. On the first play, after going to a knee to stop a Yunel Escobar grounder from making its way down the left field line, he stood and made a strong throw to first ... which badly missed Daric Barton. I believe the play was ruled a hit, but a good throw surely could have gunned down Escobar.
Second, the easiest Aaron Hill grounder in the world came right to LaRoche just two batters later, but he Kouz'd it, bobbling it not once but twice. He still managed to pick the ball up and throw Hill out by about four inches, though.
Which reminds me: LaRoche seems to have a very strong arm. We're not talking a Caminiti Cannon or anything, but he gets about the same mustard on his tosses that Cliff Pennington usually does.
Pennington had a bloop single, but was thrown out trying to steal, and it wasn't even close -- the throw from J.P. Arencibia was toward first base and a little high, but Escobar still had plenty of time to gather the ball in and apply a tag to Pennington as he went diving into the bag.
Braden did not look sharp for much of the night, though his mistakes weren't egregious -- as you can see, his strike rate was quite good, and it's not like he was getting knocked all over the yard. He got his usual assortment of popups (five, by my count), and with a little bit of infield defense help, maybe some of the five runs he allowed don't score.
Brad Ziegler had a tough situation in the eighth, coming in with nobody out and runners on second and third. He did give up a fairly well-hit single to score a run, but then started throwing strikes to Juan Rivera and Edwin Encarnacion, resulting in a whiff on a frisbee slider about 12 feet outside and a GIDP to end the inning.
The Offensive Player of the Game rankings now stand at: (2) Coco Crisp; (2) Josh Willingham; (1) Daric Barton; ↩