By Jason Wojciechowski on April 6, 2006 at 4:50 PM
Given all the series that started with a win for each team, there were a lot of rubber games yesterday. The A's took the most important one (for this blog, at least), beating the Yankees 9-4 on the strength of a five-run eighth inning capped by Frank Thomas's loooong double off the left field wall that scored all three men on base. The hit capped a long at-bat against Kyle Farnsworth, and I think everyone who first saw the ball come off the bat thought it was going out for a grand slam. Farnsworth certainly thought it was out and I jumped off the couch in anticipation. Alas, it fell short, but Hideki Matsui just missed making a great play that would have kept the game close.
Farnsworth vs. Thomas may be one of the more interesting pitcher-hitter matchups we'll see all year, purely in terms of physical size. Thomas is legendarily huge, a hulking presence in the batters box with that ever-so-slightly menacing bat waggle. Farnsworth leverages every bit of his 6'4", 240 pound frame to dial up the upper-90's heat. The fear factor is only increased by his "million dollar arm, ten cent head" reputation because you've got to figure that he's not much afraid of what you'll do to him if he buzzes you with a heater high and tight. Thomas is the one guy I can think of in the majors that Farnsworth might not want to meet in a dark alley.
In more baseball related matters, there are a lot of good things hanging around the box score for last night's game:
- The A's made Chien-Ming Wang work, knocking him out after 4 2/3 innings having already thrown 81 pitches. Wang allowed three walks, and the A's drew five overall.
- Relatedly Oakland pitchers issued no walks but got ten strikeouts. Anytime your K-BB ratio is infinity, you're doing a good job.
- The offense was spread all up and down the lineup, as everybody got on base at least once. Only Mark Ellis and Dan Johnson went hitless, and they drew three walks between them.
- Joe Kennedy and Justin Duchscherer three three scoreless innings. If the bullpen can be this good all year, the A's might never lose again.
- Danny Haren, though he gave up two homers and four runs overall, struck out eight in just six innings, and got six more of his 18 outs on ground balls.
Oakland takes its 2-1 record to Seattle, where the Mariners are also 2-1 (more on that later). Esteban Loaiza goes against Gil Meche, a pitching matchup I like not so much because of Loaiza but because Meche's ERA the last two years, despite Safeco as his home park, has had 5+ ERAs.
The rest of the league, on MLB Day 4, went a little like this:
- Cleveland took the White Sox down in eleven innings. I was half-watching this game yesterday afternoon, but it struck me as a singularly unthrilling extra inning game. Maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention. Regardless, the Indians took the series 2-1 from Chicago, a result I'm completely happy with. Pablo Ozuna started at third for Joe Crede, who had the flu, and Jermaine Dye had to leave the game before he even got to hit. Rob Mackowiak went 1-5 with a walk in his place.
- The Tigers blew out the Royals again, winning 14-3 and taking a 2-0 series lead. That lead looks insurmountable in the face of the fact that it was only a two-game series. Chris Shelton had three more hits, Pudge Rodriguez had a single, three doubles, and a homer, the top of the Detroit order went 6-10, and Jeremy Bonderman struck out eight in 6 2/3 innings. Perhaps even more importantly for Bonderman, he got 10 ground ball outs to just two in the air. On the bright side for the Royals, Andy Sisco struck out the side in the ninth on eleven pitches.
- Jarrod Washburn made a nice debut for the Mariners, beating his old team by allowing just two runs in seven innings while striking out seven. Kenji Johjima, fast adding himself to my "watch" list, added a single and a walk. Tim Salmon's zombie somehow popped his second homer of the year for the Angels.
- Baltimore crushed Tampa Bay 16-6, taking a 2-0 lead in the series. Jay Gibbons led the attack with two doubles, a homer, and a walk. Ramon Hernandez is still batting 1.000 after going 2-2 with two walks. The Devil Rays actually knocked out 13 hits and scored in six different innings, but they never managed more than one run per inning (duh - if they scored six times and scored in six innings, then, kind of by reverse pigeon-hole principle, they couldn't have scored more than once per inning). Also notable was Nick Markakis's homer and three walks. Jesus Colome faced just two batters in relief of Seth McClung, then came out of the game with shoulder tightness. He got charged with a run for his efforts. Nick Green started at short for Julio Lugo, who's out with an oblique strain. That's a significant dropoff in offensive ability for the Devil Rays, who'd rather not see Lugo have to go on the DL.
- The Twins took down the Blue Jays 13-4, setting up tonight's rubber game. Torii Hunter had two singles, a double, and a homer, leading to six RBI, four of which came on the homer. Hunter also threw Bengie Molina out at first base.
- The Red Sox took the series with the Rangers 2-1 by winning a 2-1 game. Low-scoring games are a rarity in Arlington, especially when an offense like Boston's (even one weakened by JT Snow starting at first and Mike Lowell at third) comes to town. Josh Beckett gave up the only Texas run, and Jon Papelbon picked up the save. I'm not sure why Keith Foulke wasn't pitching. The game recap does not mention his name.
- The Reds won a game. Don't be surprised if this is the last time the team is at or above .500 the rest of the year. Bronson Arroyo homered for Cincinnati and John Mabry popped one for the Cubs. I'm buying a ticket to Ohio tonight. Ryan Freel stole three bases in the game, which is neat. I think he just guaranteed himself that he'll outsteal the whole A's team this year.
- St. Louis scored one in the top of the ninth against Tom Gordon to beat the Phillies 4-3. Jimmy Rolling continued his hit streak with two doubles and Albert Pujols hit his third homer of the year. At a ratio of three homers to two games, he's on pace for 243 homers this year. At which point he will be accused of juicing. Skip Schumaker, who I could have sworn was a race-car driver, also hit a homer for the Cardinals. Schumaker is a Santa Barbara alumnus picked in the 5th round of the 2001 draft by the Cardinals. He's hit for zero power in his career, posting a sub-.100 ISO-SLG in the minors. Even in college, his .512 SLG was driven entirely by his .400 batting average. Schumaker played in Santa Barbara with precisely no one I've heard of. I guess there's a reason the school is known more for its surfing.
- The Nats evened their series with the Mets at 1-1 with a five-run outburst in the tenth inning. Jorge Julio was responsible for the damage, but Billy Wagner gave up the game-tying homer to Ryan Zimmerman in the previous inning. Chad Bradford got to throw a pitch. Alfonso Soriano was pulled from the game for not running out a popup. Do you think he's trying to get himself traded? Meanwhile, Dwight Gooden is going to prison for a year. Some blog (sorry, no link, since I can't remember who said it) noted that Gooden is still just 41 and figured he might still be pitching were it not for his legal/drug troubles. I don't know about that. The man threw almost 750 major league innings from the ages of 19-21. Maybe his arm wouldn't have held up anyway.
- The Brewers swept the Pirates, winning 3-2. None other than Prince Fielder broke the tie in the eighth inning with a single scoring Geoff Jenkins. Fielder also managed to avoid striking out, and even walked once. Even better, Derrick Turnbow continued his march toward 162 saves by closing out his third consecutive game.
- Houston scored six runs in the first two innings against Scuffy Moehler, then withstand a chip-away attack by the Marlins to hold on for a 6-5 victory. Josh Willingham started behind the plate as Joe Girardi kept his promise to keep his bat in the lineup. Lance Berkman hit his first homer, and Morgan Ensberg made his second and third errors of the year.
- Arizona beat Colorado 4-2. Yawn. Todd Helton hit doubles number two and three of the year and was also intentionally walked twice. Someone finally realized that Eli Marrero used to be a catcher: he pinch-hit for Danny Ardoin in the 8th and stayed in the game behind the plate. The Colorado version of Luis Gonzalez left the game with a wrist owie. Or maybe he was just embarassed that he got caught stealing.
- The Giants beat San Diego 3-1. Termell Sledge was the Padres' #3 hitter. I will refrain from commenting.
- Atlanta beat Los Angeles 9-8 in another wild one. What ever happened to the pitching mastery of the Braves? Not to mention Dodger Stadium being a pitchers' park. Wilson Betemit hit his first homer of the year, starting in Chipper Jones's place, who was sitting out with an abdominal owie. Horacio Ramirez managed just three innings, but he gave up five runs, so I figured he was removed because he sucked. Turns out he also strained his hamstring. I'm not sure who the Braves will throw out there in his place. Jeff Kent and Olmedo Saenz each had to leave the game early, having come to bat once apiece. Ramon Martinez went 1-3 in Kent's place and James Loney managed no hits in three trips for Saenz. The dropoff from Kent to Martinez is clearly worse for the Dodgers than the one from Saenz to Loney if either player is out for any length of time.
There really isn't a pitching matchup of the day. I'll go with Ramon Ortiz for Washington against Pedro Martinez for the Mets. Ortiz is the cautionary tale that not all skinny Dominican righties turn out like Pedro.