By Jason Wojciechowski on April 17, 2012 at 9:45 AM
This one was over on the fourth batter of the game, when Kendrys Morales took Brandon McCarthy deep to left-center, just out of the reach of Coco Crisp's leaping attempt at a miraculous catch. (Crisp was playing center for the night.) With Jered Weaver on the mound for the Angels and Oakland's best hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, getting a night off, coming back from a three-run deficit, even with eight innings to work with, didn't strike me as the most likely of outcomes.
And indeed, the offense was as offensive as ever, going eleven straight outs to start the game before Josh Reddick hit a soft single in the fourth inning to break through. The A's did wind up "knocking out" Weaver in the seventh, but it was a weirdly high pitch count that got him, not any series of hard-hit balls that convinced Mike Scioscia that he was out of gas. The immortal trio of Kevin Jepsen, Scott Downs, and LaTroy Hawkins finished the shutout. You heard me.
Jemile Weeks, 2B (5 PA, BB): Weeks seems to be hitting a lot of fly balls this year, leading me, predictably, to worry that his boasts about how his power was going to surprise some people are affecting his swing in negative ways. One might wonder whether hitting two homers in the first ten games1 is the kind of positive feedback Weeks doesn't need to solidify a good plate approach.
I'm speculating. I'll note, though, that I hated the pitch that ended the game, a letters-high fastball that Weeks swung through on 2-2 with the bases loaded. He should have let it go for a ball, and failing that, I'd have liked to see a less healthy cut. Just get it into the outfield and hope something happens rather than thinking about the glory of the grand slam.
Coco Crisp, CF (4 PA, SB): Crisp's steal came after a fielder's choice put him on first. He was robbed of a double in the eighth by Maicer Izturis's diving stop down the third-base line, but in general, Crisp sure does a lot of slamming his bat and getting angry for a player who should have zero expectations of being good at the plate. His first-inning weak fly ball to Vernon Wells, though, deserved a bat slam, because it came on a pitch that surely would have been ball four. This team can't pass up walks.
I mentioned above Crisp's near-theft of Kendrys Morales's drive in the first, but he also completed a leaping catch at the wall later in the game that looked like it didn't quite take away a second homer, but a lesser play could have left Morales with a double. The ball was hit to an eerily similar location as the homer.2
Josh Reddick, RF (4 PA, 1B, 2B): I mentioned in a footnote Reddick's throw to get Morales trying to get a double, but I'll mention it again here: I love Josh Reddick's arm. I think David Wishinsky said it well:
Reddick also hit a soft single, a hard ground double, and served as Jered Weaver's 1000th strikeout victim. For his career, not the game. Hush.
Seth Smith, LF (3 PA, "1B"): Seth Smith got, I assume, credit for a single in the fourth when Jered Weaver received a toss from Albert Pujols on a grounder and couldn't find the bag with his foot. The annoying thing is that Smith was in hitter's counts all night: 2-1 before striking out on a painted-the-corner fastball in the second, hitting his "single" on a 2-0 pitch in the fourth, and going 2-0 again before grounding out weakly to Pujols in the sixth.
Smith did make his defensive debut in left and looked good on the one ball he really had to make a play on, ranging to his right on an Albert Pujols fly/liner in the first to keep the Angel to a single and ensure that Howard Kendrick only got to third. It was for naught, of course, as Morales followed this with a homer, but still.
Jonny Gomes, PH-LF (1 PA): Gomes very nearly got hit by a ball that bounced at something like the 53-foot mark, but it somehow missed him (he didn't really make much of an effort to move, being, as we've seen, perfectly happy to take one in the butt for the team) and he wound up hitting a chopper to short in his only real action.
Kurt Suzuki, C (4 PA, 1B): Suzuki hit two hard grounders, one for a single, but his best play was probably at the plate in the bottom of the eighth. With runners on second and third, Peter Bourjos hit a chopper to Jemile Weeks, who threw home to try for Maicer Izturis. It wasn't a perfect throw, but Suzuki executed one of those half-blocks of the plate where the runner's foot has a hard time getting past the shin guard and touching the plate, allowing Suzuki enough time to apply a tag before the rest of Izturis's body, or his other foot, or anything else at all could touch the plate.
It's not a play I like, note, because I think obstruction rules are applied too liberally (in the sense of permitting too much obstruction), but it's within the bounds of the common law of the game, and, even with stricter obstruction rules, this probably wouldn't have been a foul because Suzuki was in front of the plate, fielding the ball, for the most part. It wasn't like when the third baseman drops his knee in front of the bag or something.
Daric Barton, 1B (4 PA): The best thing Barton did was hit a deep fly to right that caused Torii Hunter to make a little jumping catch at the wall. It wasn't a terribly difficult catch, but with a bad outfielder (say, if the Twins were the opponent and Ryan Doumit were out there), Barton could have wound up on second or third. In a more forgiving park with a more forgiving wind situation, it could have gone off the wall or even over it. All of which is just to point out that Daric Barton doesn't have the most power in the world and needs every little bit of help he can on those deep flies. He didn't get it this time.
Cliff Pennington, SS (4 PA, 1B, ROE): Pennington's hardest-hit ball was on a play that Kendrick should have had, resulting in an error when the ball skipped under his glove into the outfield, prolonging the night inning and keeping me up well past my bedtime.
Kila Ka'aihue, DH (4 PA, 1B, ROE): Ka'aihue benefited twice from errors, once when Vernon Wells kicked his blooper, turning a single into a single-plus-error and giving Ka'aihue second base or free, and once when Erick Aybar flat-out booted his grounder in the ninth. Yes, right after Kendrick screwed up Pennington's ball. Did I tell you I was cranky about not getting to go to bed? I was cranky. Stupid Angels can't even close a game right.
Eric Sogard, 3B (4 PA, BB): ONE MORE TIME -- Sogard walked in the ninth following the two aforementioned errors. delaying bedtime yet again.
By the way, is Sogard-Donaldson basically a job-share? Sogard is the utility man, as the A's showed by having him finish the April 11th game against Kansas City at shortstop, but he's also started four games at third to Josh Donaldson's seven. It's not an L/R platoon and it's not a 50/50 job-share, but one wonders whether continued exposure to Donaldson's exceedingly long swing is turning Bob Melvin off.
Brandon McCarthy (20 outs, 31 batters, 6 whiffs, 71 strikes, 99 pitches, 7 FB, 18 GB, 4 K, 1 HBP): I'm officially worried about the fly-balls. If McCarthy is going to be the pitch-to-contact guy, then I'd really really like for that contact to result in balls in the grass, but that hasn't been the case so far.
McCarthy's rate of strikes was great, his whiffs were fine (nothing special, but he wasn't terribly special in that department last year, either), and the only free pass he handed out was a harmless hit-by-pitch in the second (though I wouldn't advise anyone to make a habit of giving Peter Bourjos first base for free).
I might wonder whether McCarthy should have started the eighth at all, given how elevated the pitches were to Pujols and Morales that got hit hard enough to knock him out of the game. Tiredness can manifest in a lot of ways, as you're unable to control your body with quite the same level of precision as when you're fresh. Some guys lose velocity, some guys lose in-out command, and maybe McCarthy last night lost a bit of his mechanics that normally have him keeping the ball down and/or sinking.
Or maybe he just threw two bad pitches to two really good hitters. I don't know.
Andrew Carignan (3 outs, 6 batters, 1 whiff, 10 strikes, 25 pitches, 2 GB, 1 FB, 3 BB): Awful. Carignan was simply awful. Whatever McCarthy did, leaving the ball up, Carignan apparently overcompensated and put everything in the dirt. He threw ten straight pitches for balls at one point. To the Angels. And then on top of all that, he threw a wild pitch to bring home a run. I just can't even.
"On pace for" is stupid, but in this case, it gives you a sense of scale: if he did that over a full 150-game season, it'd be 30 homers. That's a lot. ↩
Morales, by the way, looks like a beast. He ripped the homer, smoked a ball down the first-base line that would've been a double had Morales not been so slow and/or Josh Reddick not had quite so good an arm in right, hit the ball mentioned in the main text above, and also slammed a double down the right-field line in the eighth on a Brandon McCarthy fastball that, had he not gotten it so far out in front of the plate, might have been a brush-back pitch. He's remarkable. I'd forgotten. ↩