By Jason Wojciechowski on July 1, 2011 at 4:20 PM
The Marlins jumped on our man Trevor Cahill, knocking him out before the end of the fifth inning as they took a 5-0 lead, four of those five runs coming in the fateful fifth frame. The nonsense really got rolling with a weak two-out tapper down the third-base line that just refused to roll foul, but then Trevor Cahill made his own luck after that, giving up a line-drive single to Logan Morrison, a chop single up the middle by Mike Stanton, and a smash double to left-center by John Buck before giving way to Trystan Magnuson.
Magnuson and Brian Fuentes kept the Marlins off the board for the next 4.1 innings, allowing the A's to mount a comeback. Oakland scored one in the seventh on an Adam Rosales single after Jose Lopez booted a Kurt Suzuki grounder to keep the inning alive, one in the eighth on a Coco Crisp homer, and two in the ninth on a Suzuki homer. With two outs to go and suddenly facing just a one-run lead, however, Leo Nunez bore down and whiffed Rosales and Jemile Weeks to end the game.
Jemile Weeks hit a bloop double down the left-field line, reaching second on a headfirst slide ahead of Logan Morrison's throw, a play that perhaps just two other A's could have made. I'm thinking of Coco Crisp and Cliff Pennington, but really, I'm not even sure if they can match Weeks's speed, all of which was needed on this play.
Weeks later added a hard low line-drive single to right before being wiped out on a Cliff Pennington double-play grounder.
Weeks made a heads-up play on a boneheaded baserunning move from Emilio Bonifacio in the third inning. With Omar Infante on first and Gaby Sanchez at the plate, Bonifacio stood at third. One man out. On ball four, Infante broke for second. Suzuki threw through, and for some reason, on seeing that throw, Bonifacio decided to head for home. Weeks, either because he saw that Sanchez had walked or because he saw Bonifacio running for home, cut the throw off short and made a good peg back to the plate to nail Bonifacio easily. (Suzuki, notably, blocked the plate with his left in a way that can't have made Billy Beane very happy, and Bonifacio, to my eyes, would have been out either way.) I don't go in for this "sometimes rookies panic" stuff, but I think sometimes ballplayers do get flustered and rush their throws, turning an easy out on a broken play into a run for the other team. Weeks should be given a golf clap for staying within the play and making the easy throw for the out.
Cliff Pennington came rather near garnering a double (or, hope against hope, a triple) in the eighth inning against Edward Mujica, but Gaby Sanchez made a nice falling catch down the line to take the hit away. It actually didn't look like a terrifically tough play on replay, but Pennington did scald the ball pretty well.
Coco Crisp, number three hitter, had a walk and a homer in the game. Doesn't matter that he's about 5'9" and more the fast-center-fielder type. This was a middle-of-the-order game! Right down, unfortunately, to his first-inning double-play grounder.
To be fair to Crisp, it was a really nice play by the Marlins defense to get the twin killing, as you don't often see double plays when the runner on first takes off on the pitch, especially when said runner is as fleet as Cliff Pennington. The hard one-hopper came right to Chris Volstad, however, and he threw to second with no hesitation, giving the pivot man (I can't remember if it was Emilio Bonifacio, the shortstop, or Omar Infante, the second baseman) time to get off a decent throw to first despite Pennington bearing down on him with a slide.
Hideki Matsui grounded out three times to the right side, never very hard, and once to shortstop. Welcome to the twilight of your career, sir.
Chris Carter! He started! And got a hit! Granted, that hit was a bloop single just over Omar Infante's head into right field, but he did hit balls fairly hard his next two times up, including a low liner toward the middle part of the diamond that Bonifacio happened to be in good position to grab. A strikeout his last time up was not unexpected, but I consider this a not-terrible 2011 debut. Bob Melvin probably thinks it was an utter failure.
Conor Jackson hit two balls hard, but one was a liner right at Omar Infante, who was positioned really far up the middle for a nobody-on situation, and one was a liner to left right at Logan Morrison. Unlucky showing for Jackson.
David DeJesus's second single, in the ninth inning against Leo Nunez, coming ahead of Kurt Suzuki's homer, was a weak tapper down the third-base line. What delicious justice it would have been had that tapper contributed to a victory after the Marlins basically owed their fifth-inning four-run rally to a similarly placed ball.
I'm ruling Jose Lopez's backhand in the seventh inning an error, not a single for Suzuki, but it should be noted that the A's catcher hit the ball very hard, so it would have been a tough-luck out had Lopez made the play. Not tough-luck enough to award him a hit, though.
I joked yesterday that Suzuki's homer was the shortest one ever hit at the Coliseum -- it was a low liner that barely cleared the wall in left field, although, like the Lopez error, that shouldn't take away from how hard Suzuki hit the ball. He just happened to not hit it on a trajectory that one typically associates with homers. In Boston, I think Suzuki would've had a single.
Hit Tracker Online says that Suzuki's line shot was not actually the shortest bomb of the day, but was rather third, the two behind him coming in at 345 (Dustin Pedroia) and 346 (Jason Varitek) feet, compared to Suzuki's 358. True to the line-drive form, Suzuki's homer registered a speed-off-the-bat of 103.4, far ahead of most of the comparably-distanced homers, closest, on the day, to Mark Teixeira's 103.1 mph shot that traveled 409 feet.
Adam Rosales's day at the plate was unremarkable, as he hit the ball on the ground three times, once for a single. Pretty dull.
Rosales did uncork a wild throw in the fourth inning that allowed Jose Lopez to reach first, but Conor Jackson's leaping grab kept the play from being more than a one-base error, and Trevor Cahill struck out DeWayne Wise to end the inning, so no harm done.
Rosales was also part of a no-communication missed popup when he and Kurt Suzuki converged on a ball near the A's dugout, stopped, and let the ball drop between them. Again no harm done, though, as Trystan Magnuson got a high flyout to Hideki Matsui two piches later.
Trevor Cahill was overly generous with the pitches out of the zone and consequently the free passes, plus he gave up a number of hard-hit balls, so he made his own luck, luckily placed squibs and choppers aside. Cahill's style of pitching lends itself to ill fortune, but squibbers that somehow turn into hits shouldn't mask the fact that the Marlins knocked Cahill around pretty well.
Trystan Magnuson's reward for 47 good pitches, holding the Marlins to their five-run line and giving the A's a chance to come back? Getting optioned out for Fautino "The Mormon" de los Santos today.
Seven fly balls in nine batters is a lot, but one was a Jose Lopez foul pop, two were lazy flies to Hideki Matsui, one was a weird bloopy soft liner caught in the air on the grass by Cliff Pennington, and two were routine flies to David DeJesus. That leaves a line drive by Omar Infante as the only really hard-hit ball that Magnuson gave up (although we should acknowledge the vicissitudes of fly-ball pitching and note that the difference between Hanley Ramirez's medium fly ball to DeJesus and a ringing double over his head is, what, half an inch in terms of bat location?).
Brian Fuentes's locker caught fire before the game. No, really.
Here's what I don't get about the Chris Carter thing. He's not good enough to start every day while he's up, displacing Hideki Matsui at DH or Conor Jackson at first or even David DeJesus (with whatever defensive switching you need to keep Carter out of the pasture), but when he does start, he bats ahead of both Jackson and DeJesus? He's good enough to hit fifth, but he's not good enough to play every day?
This isn't a righty-lefty thing, either, because Jackson, a right-handed batter, was placed directly behind Carter in the order. To the extent that Bob Melvin uses a batting lineup the way most managers do, this was a direct signal that he believes Carter is a better hitter than Jackson.
To calm down my rhetoric, though, perhaps what this really signals is that the A's truly hate Carter's defense, even at first base, and do not see him as even passable at the position. This is also indicated by the fact that they'd rather have Hideki Matsui, knees and all, in left field for a game than put Carter at first (and push Jackson out to left).
It's also conceivable that Bob Melvin doesn't believe in the supersub concept and thus does not want Conor Jackson to be an everyday player who roves around the four corners. I'm unaware of any research on the question of whether there's any hitting penalty associated with being a multi-position player, for what it's worth.
The first explanation would make a good excuse for not playing Carter right now, assuming the A's believe they are still in the playoff race. Is Carter's bat less Jackson's bat greater than the spread between their defense? Alternatively, is Carter's bat less Sweeney/DeJesus's bat greater than the spread between the defense of Sweeney/DeJesus and Matsui? (I'm assuming that Matsui is an everyday player.)
If the A's think those glove differences are pretty substantial, too substantial to justify everyday use, then I can hardly disagree, because it's not like I have access to the data that Oakland is surely relying on to make these judgments.
One other note: I don't know if Bob Melvin knows about the pinch-hitter penalty or what, but he had Ryan Sweeney on the bench in the ninth inning when both Conor Jackson and Adam Rosales made outs. Sure, hitting for Jackson with Sweeney would have complicated the defensive structure a bit, as the A's only other real first baseman was starting at DH, but if it comes to it, Adam Rosales can slide over or you can give up the DH. You don't worry about 10th inning defense in the 9th inning when you're down.
Weirder was that Sweeney didn't even hit for Adam Rosales when it was a one-run game after Kurt Suzuki's homer. The defense is no trouble there: you just plug Scott Sizemore in at third. Perhaps Sweeney was unavailable?
Florida's announcers, whom I had to suffer through because there was no A's broadcast of the game, talk way too much.