By Jason Wojciechowski on September 3, 2004 at 5:07 PM
I finally got to see an A's win on TV last night. It seems like every time they're on national television, I'm unavailable. And when I can watch, they lose. Like in the playoffs. Yesterday afternoon, though, Mark Redman had only one tough inning, compounded by a missed cutoff man on an Eric Byrnes throw, but he kept the damage from getting out of control, allowing two runs after having runners on second and third with no outs, as each runner scored on a sac fly.
Since the A's had scored three in the top half of the inning, powered by a two-run homer by Billy McMillon, the A's still held the lead after Chicago's outburst. Redman gave up nothing the rest of the way.
Redman is a funny pitcher to watch work because, as David Justice kept pointing out, when you face him, you're going to get balls out over the plate that you'll be able to hit. How on earth does it happen that Redman has an ERA less than six (4.50, to be exact) while throwing 82 mph pitches out over the plate all day? I can't explain how he did it with the Twins, Tigers, and Marlins, but with the A's, he relies on that excellent defense that Billy Beane has put together. I think everyone but Mark Kotsay and Eric Byrnes made a really nice play at some point or another.
Billy McMillon had a running catch on a ball above his head in left field. I can't remember what Bobby Crosby did, but I'm sure he did something. Marco Scutaro went deep up the middle, lept into the air, spinning as he went, and uncorked a throw to first to just miss getting the runner. Scott Hatteberg had at least two nice scoops and also a diving stop in the 43 hole.
Eric Chavez had the play of the day, though. He dived to stop a ball hit to his left, rolled over while transferring the ball from his glove to his throwing hand, and then, unable to get to his feet or even knees in time, threw the ball across the diamond accurately and strongly enough to get the out while sitting on his bum.
I figure he was about fifteen feet from third base, but pretty squarely in the 2nd-3rd baseline, so, using the Pythagorean Theorem, that's a (90^2 + 75^2)^(1/2) foot throw. My calculator tells me that's 117 feet. Now, you go sit on your bum with a baseball and make a strong, accurate, 117 foot throw. That's why Eric Chavez will probably win the Gold Glove every year until he doesn't want it anymore.
I'm not sure that Alex Rodriguez isn't already a better all around third baseman than Chavez is, but I don't know if I can give a "best third baseman" award to a guy who seems to have trouble with every foul pop up hit his direction. Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon? It seems that every time I watch a Yankee game (and that's fairly often, since I live in the city and get YES), there's a foul pop on the third base side that Rodriguez circles under, bobbing and weaving like Ali, before finally making some kind of lunging catch just as the ball gets to him. It's a disaster waiting to happen.
Anyway, the A's other run in the third inning came with Marco Scutaro on second and Eric Byrnes on first and Eric Chavez at the plate. Contreras threw a splitter that caught a lot more dirt than it did plate. Davis went down to block it, but it took a funny hop and skittered past him, though he did get a piece of it. Having touched it, he first thought the ball was in front of him, but couldn't find it. Only after frantically looking around did he realize that he had to sprint to the backstop, to retrieve the ball. By this time, Marco Scutaro had passed third and was motoring for the plate. He came home with a textbook "wild pitch slide" (body facing the infield, arms up to protect the face from a possible throw), but Davis had no play on him.
The A's had another good day with regard to their Western competition. The Angels scored all the runs I predicted them for (three), while the Red Sox only halved their predicted total (four in real life, eight predicted), but it was good enough to win. The last run in the game was scored in the bottom of the third, but Bartolo Colon couldn't get out of the fifth. He had another Colon-like line, giving up four runs on ten hits in 4.2 innings. The bullpen nearly saved his bacon, throwing the next 3.1 innings without giving up a run, but it was already too late, as Derek Lowe was on his game, striking out six and getting eleven ground ball outs. Boston, then, remains half a game ahead of the A's, while the Angels find themselves four games back of Oakland. That four game mark is dangerous territory, as I've already mentioned for Texas.
The Rangers, meanwhile, were supposed to avoid a sweep in Minnesota, but, while Kenny Rogers did pitch well, Brad Radke had a phenomenal game: eight innings, five hits (just one for extra bases), one walk, nine strikeouts, and no runs. Thus have the Rangers fallen five and a half games behind the A's.
And guess where Texas has to go next? That's right, to Boston. John Wasdin (former Athletic!) faces off against Pedro Martinez. You can guess who I'm calling in this game. Red Sox win, 8-4.
Anaheim moves on to Cleveland, who, while they've fallen out of the playoff hunt, had a surprising run earlier in the year, reminding me a lot of the A's in 1999, the year before they were supposed to be ready to make a run, but made a run anyway that, while it eventually fell short, did impress a lot of people. I'm not saying Cleveland is necessarily going to make the playoffs four years running starting next year, but, especially in that division, it's certainly possible. At the very least, the Twins and Indians will have some battles like the A's and Mariners did over the past few years, with the White Sox hanging on like the Angels, maybe having one miracle year, but generally just playing adequate baseball.
Anyway, Kelvim Escobar goes against reclamation project Scott Elarton, who has pretty successfully been reclaimed by the Indians. He's got a 4.70 ERA and is striking out seven guys per nine innings, which is pretty much all you can ask from a guy who has used the phrase "revive [my] career" at some point. He's even coming off a shutout of the White Sox in his last start, so he's riding a bit of a high. Kelvim Escobar, though, has been an actually good pitcher, not a guy who's mediocre performance can be called good in light of other circumstances. The two pitchers look evenly matched, though, because the Cleveland offensive edge overcomes Escobar's pitching edge. On the other hand, are the Angels bad enough to lose four in a row? I don't think I can predict that for them. Anaheim wins 7-5, beating Cleveland's bullpen after Scott Elarton has a six-inning, four-run performance.
Finally, Oakland goes to Toronto. This really should have been a tough matchup, but Toronto simply never got on track. That said, they've got the promising kids (Gabe Gross and Alex Rios, in particular) starting and Ted Lilly on the mound in this game, so this is no giveaway. Tim Hudson, though, can throw the kind of game that can make rookies look silly, while Lilly's last five outings have included a rough one, two mediocre ones, and two good ones, while Hudson seems to be returning to his ace form after his injury, so I'll take the A's, as usual, 4-2, with a strong upset warning.