2-1 games are 2-1 games the world over, and this one was no different -- there
weren't line drives being hit all over the ballpark, there weren't deep counts
and walks. There were lots of weak ground balls, a wide strike zone that both
pitchers took advantage of (though it seems that the low-and-outside pitch that
the home plate umpire was very generous with is more suited to Carl Pavano's
mediocre-stuff style than to Brett Anderson's), and a vast middle part of the
game, between the A's run in the first and the Twins' two runs in the eight,
where both pitchers were going three-up-three-down with regularity.
Brett Anderson wasn't quite as sharp in the eighth inning as he had been in
the first seven, but by my recollection, the balls he gave up hits on, while
sharply hit, did not come on pitches where he badly missed his spots. Danny
Valencia's one-out single was a ball that Kevin Kouzmanoff might have played,
Jason Kubel's single was a fastball at the knees on the inner half that Daric
Barton probably would have had if he hadn't been holding Valencia on at first,
and Denard Span hit basically the same pitch, but this time to the other side of
a diving Barton, again in a difficult position because of the runner on first.
Joe Mauer's go-ahead single was hit on a hanging change up and Kouzmanoff never
had a prayer of catching it. Perhaps Anderson missed his spots to Valencia,
Kubel, and Span by an inch or two, but he wasn't exactly grooving pitches.
When your offense only puts up one run against Carl Pavano, though, margins of
error for the pitcher are reduced to those one inch or two.
Daric Barton scored a pseudo-Rickey Run in the first, taking six pitches for a
walk, going to second on a wild pitch, taking third when Carl Pavano hit him
with a pickoff throw, and scoring on a David DeJesus line drive to center, which
was not the deepest-hit of sac flies ever.
Barton also worked Joe Nathan for eight pitches, fouling off two
full-count fastballs before hitting a ball sharply, but unfortunately on
the ground and right at Luke Hughes at second. Both the groundout and
the first full count foul ball were fastballs that I thought caught too
much plate for Nathan's liking, but Barton wasn't able to do anything
with them. Again: 2-1 baseball game.
David DeJesus also hit a ball sharply off Nathan, but his actually went into
center past a full-out diving Hughes. The rest of his at-bats, though, were
unimpressive, as he went after too many pitches that I thought he should have
let go, waiting for a better one. He has contact abilities, but that gets him
into trouble as much as it helps if he's going to swing at pitches below his
knees or off the plate outside.
Not reflected in Willingham's wRAA above is his steal of second in the first
inning, putting himself into scoring position for Hideki Matsui with two outs in
the first. As impressive as it might seem to steal off Joe Mauer, though, this
bag was swiped from Pavano -- Mauer didn't even have a throw on the play.
Willingham also took two huge rips at Nathan fastballs in the ninth. One
was at his knees in, I think, the middle part of the plate, and the
other was up a little more but on the outer half. He whiffed on both
before watching a slider for strike three.
Willingham's at-bat expresses the frustration of the ninth inning for
me: Nathan was getting altogether too much of the plate with his
fastball, but the A's were simply unable to make anything happen. Even
DeJesus's single came on a slider. Perhaps Nathan's fastball has some
movement that I wasn't able to pick up on TV that makes it harder to hit
than it appears?
I'm starting to think Matsui hasn't and won't hit a ball hard all season.
Mark Ellis, the Offensive Player of the Game,2 hit two balls hard,
one of which resulted in a leadoff double in the fifth on a line drive past
third, but the other was merely a lineout, as the ball was hit right at Justin
Morneau. Still, for managing more total bases than anyone else on the team, and
for hitting the ball hard more times than anyone else on the team, Ellis gets
this game's big golden plaque.
Ellis also earned a Gold Glove in this game. Or at least he would have
were the voters paying any damn attention. If Ron Gardenhire doesn't
vote for Ellis at the end of the year on the strength of the ridiculous
double play he turned in the seventh, then Ron Gardenhire is fired.
Here's what happened: Delmon Young, on first with a full count and one
out, runs on the pitch, which is grounded sharply up the middle. Ellis,
moving toward second to receive the throw from the catcher, makes the
play a few feet to the left of second base, steps back onto the bag,
leaps high over a slide-rolling Delmon Young (not the smallest man in
the game) and fires a throw, mid-air, to first with enough mustard on it
to get Michael Cuddyer.
Remember two things. First, Ellis didn't have the running start from the
shortstop side that leaping GIDP turners usually have. He basically took
a step and jumped, and still had enough strength and accuracy on the
throw to complete the play. Second, Mark Ellis has never once won a
Cliff Pennington did steal a base, but his single was a jam shot into no-man's
land between first and second that Justin Morneau thought about making a play on
before leaving it for Luke Hughes. The problem was that Morneau had already
taken a few steps toward the ball, so he couldn't recover to the bag in time to
beat the speedy Pennington. I'm not sure why it took Carl Pavano so long to get
over, especially as a righty who should fall off the mound to the first base
A general Carl Pavano note: I was generally completely unable to tell what
pitches he was throwing. Nothing he tosses has a ton of movement, and his
fastball velocity is so low that there's not much separation between those
pitches and the slower ones. When he throws a pitch 84 mph with minimal
movement, I have no idea what he was intending.
On the one hand, this lack of velocity, movement, and separation makes
it pretty embarrassing that the A's only managed one run in eight
innings against him. On the other hand, he hit his spots, especially
his low-and-outside spot, all game. An 88 mph fastball isn't deadly,
but it can do a lot of damage in that location.
Brett Anderson was ridiculous, getting ground ball after ground ball. The only
fly balls or line drives I have in my notes are a golf-swing single by Delmon
Young in the first, a high fly into left by Thome in the second, an easy fly
into left center by Valencia in the fifth, a popup by Hughes into shallow
center, also in the fifth, a well-struck ball by Luke Hughes to the warning
track in the eighth, and Morneau's sharp line drive into left in that same
inning that Josh Willingham made a full-out dive to grab. That's six balls in
the air from thirty batters. In a game that Anderson "lost".
Anderson's fielding was also good, as he made three identical plays to
the same spot between the mound and third base, charging calmly,
spinning under control, and firing a strike to Barton at first for the
out. He's, as I've noted before, not the most agile-looking of hurlers,
but he's no slug.
I should note that Fangraphs now has an awesome expanded box
score page for each game (here's the box for this game, for
instance), so I could pull wRAA from there, but their display
rounds to one decimal point. I know it's false precision to claim that
we're calculating these things down to thousandths of a run, but I've
come this far, so I'm sticking with it for now. ↩