By Jason Wojciechowski on July 8, 2011 at 6:15 PM
First, I'm not going to get into the fan who died from a fall at this game. I simply don't have any basis to judge the stadium's safety, the norms of tossing baseballs into the stand, the wisdom of leaning for those baseballs, or anything else related to the actual accident itself. Second, I'm not getting into Ray 'n' Glen laughing about the tumble before they realized that the guy might have been hurt. I don't really see any point.
On the field, the A's were soundly beaten. Derek Holland pitched well, and whatever mistakes he made were not taken advantage of by the A's. They threatened only in the ninth, loading the bases with two out. Obviously, since you read the title of this post, you know they didn't do anything with that situation.
On the other side, Rich Harden couldn't get the Rangers to go after his changeup. Texas pounced on each mistake, scoring in this fashion:
First inning: double, bunt, ground out
Third inning: single, wild pitch, single
Fourth inning: double, single, out, single, mental error, sacrifice fly
Fifth inning: homer
That fourth inning needs some elaboration. With runners on the corners and one out, Elvis Andrus could not fully check his swing on a first-pitch changeup down in the zone, resulting in a little roller out the mound. If it were a bunt, it would have been a mediocre bunt, but still good enough to move the runner to second. Rich Harden, unfortunately, disagreed and tried to make a perfect throw to second to get the lead runner (Ian Kinsler). The throw was not perfect, and I'm not certain whether he'd have gotten the out even if it had been. The result was the bases loaded and one out instead of second-and-third with two out. To employ a fallacy, then, Josh Hamilton's subsequent fly-ball scored a run rather than ending the inning.
I would like to blame the A's defense for some of Rich Harden's troubles, because Chris Carter let the fourth-inning double get past his dive on a play I thought he should have made and Josh Willingham let Elvis Andrus's third-inning liner drop for a single -- it wasn't an error by any means, but it was a play on which Ryan Sweeney, with his superior instincts and speed, might have made the catch. I can't let the blame rest with Carter and Willingham entirely, though, because Coco Crisp made a couple of very nice catches on hard drives into right-center, one of them over his head going back toward the track, and the other a leaping grab, bouncing into the wall, to take a double away from Nelson Cruz, and not just any double, but a two-out double with two runners on that might have have given the Rangers a 4-0 lead in the third inning.
The Rangers also added a tally in the sixth against Fautino De Los Santos via a single, stolen base, unjustified walk, and two fly balls. The Mormon's biggest fault was not holding Endy Chavez very well, allowing him to get a huge jump and steal second without a play. (Kurt Suzuki threw down to second, but Jemile Weeks saw that there was no chance and cut the ball off early.)
Jemile Weeks hit a ninth-inning single and ended the game on third base, but struck out his first two times up. He did hit a line-drive in the sixth, but it was right to Ian Kinsler at second.
Coco Crisp walked in the first and had a bit of a base-running adventure. He seemed to be completely unable to pick up what Derek Holland (a lefty) was doing, leading to him breaking for second on the first pitch to Josh Willingham, but stopping and turning back, coming in ahead of the throw to first from Mike Napoli. I've seen fakes, and this did not look like a fake. It looked like he felt that he had a terrible jump. I'm bad at judging jumps, but the Rangers' announcers did not think that he was destined to be out at second. There were as flummoxed as I.
Hideki Matsui struck looking on a pitch that was clearly outside in the first, hit a grounder right where Elvis Andrus was positioned (just left of second, not over in the hole) in the fourth, and hit a grounder into "the hole" (i.e. where Andrus would have been positioned were he not shifted over by second base) in the sixth, causing Andrus to rush over, backhand, and make a long throw across. Fortunately for Andrus and the Rangers, Hideki Matsui is a glacier.
Willingham hit, to my eyes, three balls hard in the game, but one was a liner right at Josh Hamilton in left (a Conor Jackson special), one was a grounder right at Adrian Beltre at third, and only the last, a ninth-inning single, found its way into the 5-6 hole into left.
Adam Rosales pinch-ran. Adam Rosales appearance!
Scott Sizemore had a ninth-inning walk. I won't tarnish his name by telling you the outcome of his other three appearances.
Conor Jackson saw twelve pitches in his four trips to the plate.
Chris Carter hit the ball decently in the third, but the result was a one-hopper to Ian Kinsler. He popped up in the fifth and whiffed in the eighth. I'd love to be able to tell you about that strikeout, the Fox Sports Southwest declined to show me anything but the last pitch of the at-bat, instead running Dick Williams clips. You know how I feel about this.
You also know how I feel about Chris Carter's struggles in his first 26 plate appearances this year (four singles, one walk): I think they will end, but I am extremely anxious about the possibility that they won't. Conor Jackson is not the answer at first base, and if the A's don't think Daric Barton is either, then I don't know what other ideas they have if Carter can't make contact (11 strikeouts) in the major leagues.
Kurt Suzuki had two singles, and one of them even managed to get onto the outfield grass.
Cliff Pennington is not a good hitter.
|de los Santos||3/5||0/16/29||1/4||0||1||0|
That's an interesting stat-line for Rich Harden because, while his whiff count is not as high as it was in his first start (10/76), a 9% swinging strike rate is still fine, 50% ground balls sure looks nicer than the 33% he swung last time, and his overall strike rate comes out nearly identical (low-60%). This time, though, he faced eleven batters over the minimum (three last time) and walked two (zero).
I don't think the different corner-outfield lineup compared to his last start made a difference.? Of my list of hard-hit balls by the Diamondbacks, two went for outs, one of which was a Coco Crisp home-run robbery, and the other of which was a high fly that any outfielder could catch -- it was notable not because DeJesus made a great play but because it was inches from being a homer or hitting off the top of the wall. DeJesus had ample time to get under the ball on the warning track, and it was not a play that Conor Jackson would not have been expected to make as well. Further, in this game, I only identified one hit to the weaker corner outfielders (the line-drive single to Josh Willingham described above) that might have gone for an out with Ryan Sweeney in the lineup.
What I think this start amounted to was hard-hit balls. Those four that I listed in the post linked above were really the only ones Harden gave up to 21 Diamondbacks, but I counted eight or nine to 26 batters in this game. Combine that with a fourth inning that featured Chris Carter's inability to glove a hard grounder down the line, two balls hit too softly to be double plays, one of which led to Harden's mental error described above, and an Ian Kinsler blooper and you've got trouble.
I would like to think that Fautino de los Santos could miss bats more effectively than this given the apparent impressiveness of his stuff.
The odds of Michael Wuertz getting a three-ground-ball inning, assuming his 44.3% career ground ball rate represents his true talent and not accounting for any other effects (especially batter tendencies), are about 17%. That's not extreme or anything, but there's really nothing else to say about his inning, and I'm dedicated to giving every player a bullet point.
Give Brian Fuentes a six-run deficit and he'll shut the other team down.
I don't love the Carter-Jackson-Willingham defensive alignment, but with Sweeney and DeJesus being the other two options in the outfield and Derek Holland a left-handed starter, it's not unjustifiable. With the A's doing nothing of note, Melvin did nothing else of note either.
Today's Game 90 has started, so I'm off to watch it. Gio Gonzalez pitches against C.J. Wilson, so you know what that means: it's Lawyer Ball time!