By Jason Wojciechowski on April 23, 2011 at 4:05 PM
Catchup post #1! Brett Anderson was the obvious story in this game, though the A's offense came rather close to being the story, as it has been all year and as it continues to be. The A's got a Coco Run in the first (single, steal, groundout, groundout), but then spent the next six innings putting up blanks against John Lackey and Dan Wheeler before breaking through for four against Wheeler (one batter in the eighth), Hideki Okajima, and Alfredo Aceves. Brian Fuentes and Craig Breslow finished the shutout, but obviously that was not a predetermined outcome: if the Red Sox enter the ninth down just one instead of five, who knows how they approach their at-bats.
The play of the night, which I didn't fully understand until Ray Fosse and Glen Kuiper explained it on the next night's telecast, was in the eighth inning. David Ortiz hit one of those line drives to right that somehow finds a way through the shift, and DeMarlo Hale (managing after Terry Francona was tossed earlier in the game arguing that Brett Anderson had balked) promptly sent Jacoby Ellsbury to run. On 3-2 to Mike Cameron, Brett Anderson threw a curve down in the zone. Cameron checked his swing and took a step across the plate toward first. Jacoby Ellsbury, however, was running on the play, so Cameron stepped right in front of Kurt Suzuki as he was throwing. No contact was made, and Ellsbury seemed to get in ahead of the throw, with the tag being slapped on the back of his thigh. Both Red Sox were called out, however, so Ray & Glen assumed, not unreasonably, that Cameron had been called out on strikes for not checking his swing and that Ellsbury was out because Cameron interfered with Suzuki.
What actually happened, though, is that the home plate umpire ruled that Cameron, despite crossing directly in front of Suzuki, had not interfered with the throw. So how was Ellsbury out at second? Because upon seeing the home plate umpire's signal that there was no interference, the second-base umpire ruled that Ellsbury had been tagged out on the steal. I count at least two, and possibly three, bad calls on just this one play. First, Ellsbury was clearly safe. It wasn't even close. He was popping up from his slide before the tag even got there (hence the leather only getting the back of his leg). Second, Cameron pretty clearly interfered with Suzuki. As I said, there was no contact on the play, but that's not required. Cameron stepped directly in front of the plate before Suzuki made his throw. If that's not interference, I'm not sure what is. Third, it's not clear from the replay whether Cameron actually did swing. The home-plate umpire apparently ruled that he went around, without even an appeal to first, but, while I acknowledge that checked swing calls are more art than science, the swing looked more like those that are typically called no-swings than like a strike.
Given the three different yes-no decisions to be made, there are eight possible outcomes on these three questionable calls (though one branch, the one where Cameron is ruled to have interfered with Suzuki, negates the question of whether Ellsbury was safe). Since the three possibly bad calls were of different levels of egregiousness, it's hard to say how badly the Red Sox got screwed, if at all.
One also has to wonder whether the second-base umpire essentially made a makeup call at second base, thinking that the home-plate umpire blew the interference decision.
Box & Notes
That box score is hilariously uniform, and it's pretty awesome that the team managed five runs while compiling a below-average runs-created total. It helps that Pennington, Barton, Willingham, Matsui, and Suzuki all saved up their sole time on base for the long sequence of the eighth inning.
Obvious Offensive Player of the Game is Mark Ellis1 for managing to earn his way on base twice as often as anyone else, even as his times on happened to not coincide with good offensive work by his compatriots. His double in the second was a shot over Carl Crawford's head (not an easy thing to achieve with Crawford's speed) and his fifth-inning walk was of the ten-pitch variety.
The Red Sox noticeably worked Daric Barton inside, an unusual tactic against a lefty, though perhaps not so unusual given Barton's power and his willingness to line balls the other way for singles and doubles. Barton did well to hit an inside curve from the lefty Okajima for an RBI single in the eighth, though.
David DeJesus, likely for the same reasons, was also worked inside all game, and his sole hit came on a fastball from John Lackey on the inner half, though DeJesus just fought it off for a cheap blooper to left.
DeJesus made a great play on a ripped Adrian Gonzalez ball in the first, as the line drive went off the wall in right-center. DeJesus picked the ball up quickly, wheeled, and fired a strike back to the infield to keep Gonzalez to about the loudest single you'll ever see.
Check out the location of the curveball that Hideki Okajima threw to Hideki Matsui in the 8th inning. If you leave a pitch fat in the middle of the plate and up like that to Matsui, he's going to rip it off the out-of-town scoreboard in right field.
Meanwhile, here is the curve that Kevin Kouzmanoff struck out on. That's our Kouz!
Cliff Pennington's eighth-inning double that got the whole rally started missed a homer by I don't even know how much: a foot? It went off the Big Wall in right-center, up at the very top of it, so it was close.
- Brett Anderson had, as I said above, a ridiculously good game: seven strikeouts swinging, one looking, twelve balls on the ground, six balls in the air, and that one walk. He picked off Dustin Pedroia on a play that might've been a balk, got a double-play ball from Kevin Youkilis to erase Adrian Gonzalez, who reached on Anderson's own error, and had Jacoby Ellsbury erased on the play I mentioned above. I count just three or four hard-hit balls in my notes, and even those, outside of Adrian Gonzalez's long single were kept low enough to the ground that the damage they could do was limited.
Standings: (4) Ellis; (3) Barton; (2) Crisp, Suzuki, Willingham; (1) DeJesus, Jackson, Matsui, Pennington ↩