Cut fastballs and caught stealings

By Jason Wojciechowski on May 21, 2004 at 2:32 PM

The A's did indeed finish out the Tigers series with a win, taking advantage of two Detroit errors in the bottom of the eighth to scratch out the tie-breaking run in a 3-2 win. Arthur Rhodes then came on and threw an easy one-two-three ninth with a strikeout for the save.

The inning started with Erubiel Durazo reaching on an error by normally slick-fielding first baseman Carlos Pena. He went to second on a sacrifice by Damian Miller (which, incidentally, was probably, for once, a good move: Miller is not a very good hitter; Durazo and Miller are both slow runners, so the chance of a double play was relatively high; and the A's only needed one run to hand a lead over to their closer), to third on a groundout by Mark McLemore, and scored as Eric Munson made a throwing error on pinch-hitter (for Bobby Crosby) Billy McMillon's ball, which, to be fair, is reported in the game recap at to have been a "smash" toward left field that Munson had to dive to stop.

Scoring three runs against the Tigers means I'm not going to have many fun notes about the offense. Jermaine Dye did hit his tenth double of the year, which is already four more than he hit last year for Oakland.

Tim Hudson, though, held the Tigers to just two runs over eight innings, though he gave up ten hits and struck out just two batters. Fortunately, seven of those hits were singles, and he had some defensive help, as Mark Kotsay and Bobby Crosby teamed up on a relay play to throw Alex Sanchez out at home in the seventh. That run would have given the Tigers the lead; instead, the game remained tied, allowing the A's to just score one to win later on.

Sanchez just had a bad day on the bases, as he was caught stealing second earlier in the game. It was the eighth time Sanchez has been caught this year, which tells you that he's not using his speed wisely, especially since he's only stolen nine bases to go with those eight times caught. He stole 52 bases last year for his two teams, but at just a 68% success rate, which hurts. He was better for the Tigers than for the Brewers, but not so great that he was doing all that much except expending energy. These ugly numbers were portended by his minor league rates. Even when he stole 92 bases in A-ball in 1997, he was also caught 40 times. On the other hand, you have to be amused by that number of attempts (132) from a guy whose hits+walks equaled 192 that year. And he certainly wasn't in a position to steal every one of those 192 times, because he surely had men on base in front of him at least a few times. In other words, Sanchez was stealing every opportunity he got, which I guess is what you do when you're in A-ball and you've got a fast guy on your squad whose sole attribute is his speed. You let him run and hope he learns to become a base stealer so he can contribute to your big league club some day. Of course, Sanchez ended up making it to the bigs without ever learning how to steal bases, so that didn't work out so well in the end, did it?

The game recap claims that Arthur Rhodes threw a number of cutters in his inning, which is unusual, because he's never thrown that pitch before this year. Curt Young apparently taught it to him, and he's testing it out. I guess Young's a big proponent of the cutter, since Barry Zito is reportedly struggling with one as well. In Zito's case, given his 5+ ERA, perhaps he'd be better off just going back to his potent fastball-nasty-ass-curve combination. That's what wins him awards.

The Royals come to town tonight, with Brian Anderson battling Mark Mulder. I guess that means we'll see Zito on Saturday afternoon and Harden on Sunday. The A's remain a game back of Texas and 3.5 back of Anaheim, who are matching up with the Yankees and Orioles, respectively. The Yankee-Texas series means that this weekend is a good time for the A's to jump to second place.