By Jason Wojciechowski on April 18, 2009 at 3:26 AM
I finally find myself with motive and opportunity to do a running diary of an A's game.
Oakland takes on Toronto in Canada tonight, kicking off a series. I'm watching on MLB.tv, so I just hope that I don't have too many freezes or skips that make me miss action. I worked for about four hours last night to get fullscreen on my homebrew DVR working (it should have taken 30 minutes -- it was a matter of installing an alpha version of Adobe's Flash Player 10, alpha because they don't have an actual release for 64-bit architecture yet), but I have it now and we're ready to go.
The A's will roll with Josh Outman against David Purcey for the Blue Jays. Outman didn't pitch well his first time, um, out, giving up three runs in just 4 1/3 innings. Oakland, with Eric Chavez still out and Nomar Garciaparra working his way back, will have the batting order of Sweeney in center, Cabrera at short, Giambi at first, Holliday in left, Nomar at DH, Cust in right, Suzuki behind the plate, Ellis at second, and Crosby at third. You can't really argue with the lineup, although I do question Cust all the way down in the six hole. He's been the best hitter on the year so far for the A's. Holliday and Nomar are back-to-back righties, so there doesn't appear to be a left-right reason for the order. I'd move Cust up a spot. I'd also have Suzuki hitting leadoff rather than Sweeney, but that's not crucial. As long as Crosby's batting ninth, you've done your basic job of distributing fewer at-bats to the worse hitters.
Toronto's got old friend Marco Scutaro leading off at short, followed by Aaron Hill at second, Alex Rios in right, the ever-overrated Vernon Wells in center, the young Adam Lind DHing, Scott Rolen, anchor of my fantasy team at third, Kevin Millar, still chugging along at first base, Michael Barrett, my fantasy catcher until Joe Mauer returns, and Jose Bautista in left. When your left-fielder hits ninth, something weird is happening, but it looks like it's just a night off for Travis Snider.
The roof will be closed, and Ted Barrett, the man responsible for Bobby Cox's record-breaking ejection, will be behind the plate.
The Blue Jays are in powder blue uniforms with the two-tone hats tonight. I have a fondness for the hats, but I can't say the uniforms are my favorite. With the Blue Jays the home team, the announcers will be Toronto guys. The big thing I've learned from mlb.tv is how "homerish" all local announcers really are. Some guys are worse than others, openly rooting, referring to the team as "us", etc. But even if you put that aside, there's at least a subtle pull for the home squad, a willingness to view the team in a better light, and so forth. It's not so much a complaint as something I noticed because I've spent the last few years watching almost entirely national broadcasts: all there are in football are the national broadcasts, and I don't really watch much local baseball and basketball.
And we're off, with Ryan Sweeney leading off. Purcey's first pitch is an 89 mph fastball just up, taken for a ball. Sweeney shows bunt, which would be a new look, but the ball is a fastball way high. The announcers just noted that the A's have as many homers as Marco Scutaro. Ouch.
Apparently Brian Tallet will be on a pitch count of 70-75 pitches tomorrow, so the A's may have a chance to get into the Toronto bullpen in this series, or to hit a tiring Purcey tonight as Gaston may extend him further than he might otherwise.
Sweeney fouls off two 3-2 fastballs from Purcey, one low and away, one high and in. The latter was probably a ball. Sweeney takes a very close slider for ball four, apparently up. If I were a Toronto fan, I'd be questioning that call. So Sweeney sees eight pitches and works a walk to start the game. That's a nice way to lead off the game.
Cabrera takes the first three pitches and he's up 2-1 to start the at-bat before the obligatory 2-1 throw-over to first. Cabrera then hits a nice slicing liner into right center for a single and Sweeney, who read the ball well, cruises into third easily. He never hesitated.
Giambi goes up 1-0 with runners on the corners. A real chance for the A's to get ahead here. The play-by-play man calls him the "Giambino" as he pops a fastball foul in that inimitable Giambi way. Purcey is going to have to do a better job of throwing strikes against the A's, as he's behind again now, 3-1. Giambi got a fastball down the middle and hit a towering pop up in foul ground that Scott Rolen made a very difficult basket catch on near the stands. Toronto and Oakland might be the only stadia in which that ball stays in play, and it took a really nice play after a long run to get the out too. Bad luck for Giambi, and Purcey is now a hard ground ball away from ending the inning.
But Purcey starts off behind again, throwing the first pitch low to Matt Holliday. The 1-1 pitch was very close, but was apparently ruled inside, so it's again 2-1. It looks like Barrett's going to have a tight strike zone tonight, which likely favors the Blue Jays. Holliday swings at a ball in the dirt -- yuck. Purcey's already at 22 pitches, though, and #23 takes the count full. Cabrera may be able to take off with the pitch. He has been picked off once already, though, so he'd better be careful with the left Purcey. Holliday hits a soft grounder to third, scoring the run. With Cabrera going on the pitch, there's no chance at second, so the A's score one by staying out of the double play. It'd have been a tough double play anyway, but at least they'd have had Holliday at first rather than Cabrera at second.
Nomar comes to the plate and take a curve, the first one we've seen, I think, for a strike. Two more breaking balls strikes out Garciaparra swinging, but the A's do get one run on two hits and make Purcey throw 28 pitches, so it's a fairly successful first.
Outman has a right-heavy lineup to face, with just one lefty going for the Blue Jays. Outman wears the stirrups, which is neat. He's got plenty of yellow sanitary sock showing.
On the second pitch from Outman, Scutaro takes the lead in homers: Scutaro 4, A's 3. The game is tied, and I'm already disappointed.
Outman's third pitch is smacked hard on the ground through the 56 hole for a single. This could be a long night, but just as I type that, he jams Rios up for a groundball right at Orlando Cabrera for an easy 643 double play. So five pitches into the game, he's given up two hits and one run and gotten a GIDP.
Jumping on Outman early might be a good idea. He throws strike one to Wells as well, before following that up with his first ball. Outman actually throws pretty hard, hitting 94 with two fastballs, but both are ruled balls (the 3-1 pitch was close, but again, Barrett's strike zone is small) and Wells is on first.
Kurt Suzuki is a pretty athletic catcher. He moves around well behind the plate, and while he's not a big guy, such that balls might bounce off him, he does a good job of getting his glove on the ball like a hockey goalie. It's a whole different experience from Ramon Hernandez.
Outman's at 2-2 on Lind after a nice curveball that Lind shies away from but which drops in. And Outman is made a victim of the Barrettzone on the 2-2 fastball. Suzuki and Outman both thought it was a strike, but Barrett called it maybe a little outside or a little high. That's frustrating, because Lind ropes the next pitch into right for a single. Wells moves to third easily as he was running with the pitch.
The announcers have mentioned the stirrups three times already. They're in love with them. I mean, I am too, but I'm not going to keep talking about it if they don't.
Oh wow. A 2-1 fastball was ripped by Rolen that I thought was gone for a three-run bomb, and so did the play-by-play man. Rolen must have not squared it up, though, because it ends up just being a harmless fly ball to Holliday, and Outman escapes having just given up the one run. That was one loud out.
Jack Cust steps to the plate. Someone must have clued Purcey in to the fact that the A's take a lot of pitches, because he threw a fastball in the zone to Cust. But someone must have told Cust that someone was cluing in Purcey, because he took a cut at it, fouling it off. Cust swings through a big breaking curve for strike two, and it's not looking good at 0-2. The next two pitches aren't close, though, and we're at 2-2. Just before Cust flies out, Toronto ran a graphic labeled "Strikeouts per plate appearance" and put Cust at second with just over three. That's right, folks, Cust strikes over more than three times every time he comes up. Clearly someone in Toronto needs a lesson in ratios.
Ricky Romero and Kurt Suzuki are apparently former college teammates at Fullerton, and they'll get a chance to face each other on Sunday. That should be fun. Suzuki pops out to Rios, although he does at least run the count to 2-2 first.
The announcers just discussed the best way to induce contact. The answer? Throw strikes. My gosh, it's groundbreaking stuff here.
Purcey can't follow that advice, though, as he's behind 3-0 to South Dakota's finest, Mark Ellis, and then walks him on the next pitch. Four pitches is a pretty short at-bat by Purcey's standards, though!
Crosby takes a git-r-over strike, a 78 mph pitch that didn't seem to break at all, before fouling off a curve to get behind 0-2. Crosby fouls off the next two, the second one on a checked swing, so this at-bat will also be at least five pitches. Crosby hits into an easy force-out by Scutaro on that fifth pitch. Still, as easy innings go, you have to look at the bright side for the A's and notice that Purcey had to throw 19 pitches, bringing his total to 47 already. At this rate, he'll be gone after five no matter how effective he is. This, all you youngsters out there, is why you throw srikes. "Effectively wild" works if you're a freak of nature like Randy Johnson, but for most people with normal endurance levels, it's not a recipe for success.
Outman matched Purcey's one-run inning, so we'll have to hope he can match his shutout inning as well. Millar leads off and takes a strike before fouling off a curve for strike two. Outman's in the zone so far, although he'll have to miss the bats a little more if he wants to be effective. That's a way! A nice changeup has Millar way out in front for Outman's first strikeout of the night.
Outman again starts off 0-1 as he throws a fastball strike to Barrett, and the follows that up with another fastball called strike. Outman almost got Barrett with a 1-2 curve, but Barrett managed to put a defensive swing on, fouling the pitch straight down and back. The next pitch winds up a hard live drive, but luckily, it's in that 25% that don't fall in, going for an out as it's right at Ryan Sweeney.
Unlike everyone else, the PBP guy insists on calling Bautista ("Bah-tees-ta") "Bow-tees-ta". I guess that's how you say it, but still, no one else ever says it that way. Outman fell behind 3-0, but then got two strikes, one on a foul ball. Outman then jams him with a fastball, although Bautista is strong enough to hit it out to center, where Sweeney settles under it comfortably to end the 1-2-3 inning, a pretty nice one for Outman, although the line drive by Barrett was a little scary.
Speaking of Sweeney, here he is to lead off, taking a strike to start the inning. He then takes another pitch, this one right off his right shoulder for a HBP.
Cabrera then hits the first pitch he sees for a fly ball that pushes Wells back about 20 feet to make the out. Cabrera doesn't have the power for a lot of hits with that trajectory to fall in.
Sweeney proves the HBP didn't take away his speed, stealing second on a curveball on the first pitch to Giambi (taken for a strike). Sweeney was in easily, as Barrett had zero chance to throw him out between Sweeney's jump and the slowness of the pitch. Giambi then strikes out on a 1-2 slider up. Giambi has to be angry at himself for missing that one, and I'd like to dare him to put one in that location again next time. Giambi won't miss those that often.
Holliday then pops to right on the first pitch by Purcey, as the A's appear to have abandoned their "take a strike" approach for this inning. Purcey has to throw just eight pitches in the inning, leaving him at 55 and with a decent chance to now get through six.
Scutaro is back, and Outman misses a little low with his first fastball before missing badly with his second pitch. The count winds up at 3-2 before Scutaro takes just a little high for ball four and the dreaded leadoff walk.
Outman gets to 1-1 on Hill before giving up another homer to a middle infielder, a fastball in, but not in enough and/or not fast enough. The Blue Jays lead 3-1 and this isn't looking good.
Alex Rios is really a big tall man, isn't he? He bends significantly at the knees at the plate, but his strike zone is still enormous. Outman can't find it, though, and gets Rios at 3-1 before he hits a sharp grounder right at Mark Ellis, one of the very best defenders in the league ... who lets it get right through him into right field.
A first pitch ball that for most other umps is a strike to Wells, and this zone has to be getting frustrating for both pitchers. I'll note that it's pretty amusing to hear the PBP guy pronounce "Outman" is a rather Canadian fashion. Outman, despite all those first-pitch strikes, has only thrown 28 of his 53 pitches for strikes overall. Again, the zone isn't huge, but he's thrown a lot of pitches with one and two strikes that try to get the Blue Jays to chase, which they haven't. His slider in the dirt in particular has not been an effective pitch, as much as it makes Suzuki work. Wells fouls off two 3-2 pitches before walking on the next one, leading Curt Young to come visit Outman. Outman will be lucky to get through five innings in this game, and he seems rather likely to wind up short of that mark for the second straight game.
Outman finally gets a swing-and-miss on a pitch out of the zone, as Lind chases a 1-1 breaker down and away from him. No surprise that Lind is the lone lefty in the lineup, and he's the one who actually swings at that pitch. Outman, however misses badly with the next two, running Lind to 3-2, but he got Lind to chase a breaker way out of the zone on that pitch. That's a gutsy 3-2 pitch with no outs and two on. Lind tried to hold his swing but couldn't, and the home plate umpire made the call without an appeal.
Outman's breaker is working a little better after the visit from Curt Young, as Rolen chases an 0-1 pitch in the dirt to go down 0-2. Rolen tried to hold his swing as well, but was well through the zone. Another breaker on 0-2, and Rolen gets a tiny piece as it breaks down and in, but Suzuki makes a very nice play to hold on with the glove facing upward, helping record Outman's third whiff of the game.
Outman has stepped off three times toward Rios at second base, which is pretty unusual. I don't know if he's actually that concerned or if he's just slowing things down for himself. The count gets to 2-2 before Millar lines a double into the 78 gap for two more Toronto runs. Millar read the changeup well, and the lead is now doubled for the Blue Jays.
Michael Barrett pops the second pitch he sees into short right for Cust, and the ugly inning is over for Outman. The Blue Jays have put themselves in an excellent position to win this game, and may have even worked themselves into the Oakland bullpen.
Garciaparra leads off the inning, and takes a 1-2 pitch very nearly for a HBP. He tried to turn into it, but it just missed him. He's fouling a lot of pitches high into the air, which means he's not really getting on them for line drives. He winds up jammed and hits a ground ball to Millar at first, who flips to Purcey for the first out.
Cust hits the second pitch for a single, managing to squeak it through the shift somehow. The ball was hit hard and it skidded on the turf, but Alex Rios hustled over and slid to keep it from getting past him, holding Cust to first base.
The announcers have finally mentioned Ted Barrett's very small but very consistent strike zone. Purcey then misses that zone by about two feet, getting to 3-2 on Suzuki. I wouldn't send Cust on this. Suzuki makes good contact, but Cust is an automatic out if Suzuki does strike out. On the first 3-2, Suzuki fouled it off with Cust not running. On the second, Cust did run. Oddly, Scutaro was covering the bag, leaving a whole that Suzuki used to knock a base hit, putting runners on first and second with one out for Mark Ellis.
Ellis gets up 1-0 and then 2-1 as Purcey has just been unable to get ahead of the hitters tonight. A few times he's missed Barrett's zone, but most of the time, he's missed every zone. Purcey and Outman have basically thrown the same game, strikes-and-balls wise, aside from the first pitch. Ellis winds up walking on the 3-1 fastball in, loading the bases for the last man A's want to see up in this situation, Bobby Crosby. Every Oakland fan in the world is thinking the same thing right now: GIDP.
Maybe starting a new paragraph will make me stay positive. Nope, still expecting the GIDP. Sigh. Bobby, you had so much promise. Crosby does take the first two pitches low for a 2-0 count, the first a changeup that he almost pulled the trigger on. Jesse Carlson is working in the Toronto bullpen and the Toronto pitching coach comes to visit. Crosby could get a good strike to hit here. He does and he rocks it for a line drive into the 78 gap. The ball doesn't bounce off the wall, instead getting stuck against the foot, forcing Wells to go all the way to the wall to retrieve it and allowing Crosby to get all the way to third for a three-RBI triple. Just like that, the A's are only down one, and Bobby Crosby is my favorite player.
Then, on the first pitch to Ryan Sweeney, he smacks a hard grounder up the middle which Marco Scutaro makes a very nice play on. He grabs the ball, holds the runner at third, and throws out Sweeney at first. That was disappointing. Scutaro must have been shading up the middle, because that was a sharply hit two-hopper that Scutaro was right on top of.
The 2-1 fastball to Cabrera then gets away for a wild pitch, allowing Crosby to come charging home for the tying run. Michael Barrett appears to be hurt as he slid to the ground and fell right on top of some of the equipment in the A's on-deck circle. This is bad news for the Blue Jays and potentially bad news for my fantasy team. He's definitely in pain as he he's helped off the field by the trainer and Cito Gaston. Rod Barajas comes in to catch for Toronto, and it's a 3-1 count for Purcey on Cabrera. Wait, strike that. Cito Gaston is coming out to remove Purcey from the game mid-hitter after that wild pitch. Jesse Carlson will come in with a 3-1 count on Orlando Cabrera, and Purcey will get to go apologize to Michael Barrett for separating his shoulder (a guess) in person.
Carlson's first pitch is low and Cabrera walks, which I think goes on Purcey's record.
Jason Giambi comes up hoping to extend a good inning for the A's. Carlson's one of those lefties who leans way out to the left and throws pretty sidearm, which could make him hard to pick up by the A's lefty hitters. Giambi gets jammed and grounds one to Scutaro, who throws him out. The A's, though, have a very good inning thanks mostly to Bobby Crosby, who got the opportunity to do something and made the most of it with his three-run triple. Purcey's wildness is what let it happen, as the full count on Suzuki set Cust in motion, which allowed Kurt's ground ball to get through for a hit; the walk to Ellis loaded the bases; and the wild pitch capped things by allowing Crosby to come home to tie it.
Outman comes in to see if he can do what Purcey couldn't: throw a shut-down inning. He does what he always does, throwing a first pitch strike, then the next two for balls. He goes to 2-2, then Bautista fouls a ball straight down off his angle, letting out an audible "eeaugh" and running halfway down to first to try to shake it off. He's working his way back in slowly, but here we go, 2-2 again. A high chopped ground ball to Crosby results in the first out of the inning. You've got to feel for Bautista having to run one out to first the very next pitch after that ball smacked his leg.
Scutaro comes up and takes a rare ball one from Outman. Outman appears to be pitching around Scutaro. I mean, he's got four homers and one today, but come on. He's Marco Scutaro. You pitched around him last time and look what happened: you walked him and Hill hit the homer. Go get him, Josh. Outman works back to 2-2 with a couple of foul balls and then gets a fastball on the inside half for strike three called, his fourth K of the game.
Outman gets a first-pitch strike on Hill but then follows with three balls. Again. Like clockwork, this guy. But it's not a very nice clock. Outman ends up walking Hill on the very next pitch and brings up Alex Rios with a runner on.
I think a fan may have run onto the field, because we just endured an inexplicably long shot of Cito Gaston and Adam Lind in the dugout before Alex Rios finally stepped to the plate. The announcers likely would have mentioned if there were a mound conference or something, so I'm guessing that this was one of those "don't give h[im|er] any attention" situations. Anyway, we're at 1-2 on Rios after a nice changeup taken. After a ball and two fouls, Outman gets a nice strikeout swinging on a low change, but it's Outman's 97th pitch. This early in the season, as ineffective as Outman's been, and as inefficient as he's been, I can't imagine he'll see the fifth from anywhere but the dugout. I'm guessing it's Michael Wuertz time for the bottom of the fifth. Then again, I was wrong about Outman even coming out for the fourth, so we'll just wait and see.
Matt Holliday leads things off against Carlson and the count starts off 1-2 on three takes by Holliday. A foul ball precedes a chopped grounder to Millar at first. By the way, we're nearly two hours into the game and it's only the top of the fifth.
Nomar pops up a 1-0 pitch into center for an easy play for Wells. The TV missed the pitch as they were showing a replay of the Barrett injury. I hate it when that happens.
Carlson is working much more efficiently than Purcey was. My MLB.tv gets really choppy and I miss two pitches. It's 1-2 to Cust, but I only saw him take the first strike. He fouls the next one high into the seats in left. Cust takes a pitch just low for ball two. The Barrettzone strikes again. The next pitch comes right up in on Cust, who nearly swings trying to get out of the way, actually, but winds up hit square on the hand for a free base. We'd better hope he's ok because the last thing we need is the A's best hitter out for six weeks with a broken finger.
Kurt Suzuki then skies the next ball into right where Rios makes the easy play for the third out.
I got my guess nearly right. Andrew Bailey comes on for the A's, and he's throwing hard as usual. He gets Wells to 1-1 before he pops out in foul ground to Giambi. The TV guys are interviewing a UFC fighter who's sitting in the stands with a headset on.
Bailey's stuff is really good. You see why the A's were willing to skip him right past AAA to the bigs. His fastball is hard and mostly to spots, although it doesn't have any movement to it. His curve is bendy. He uses both pitches to get a 1-2 called strikeout on Lind: freezing him with a curve on the outside corner.
He apparently also has some type of slider, as he started Rolen off with something of that sort for a first pitch strike. The announcer calls it a cutter, and I think that's right. He's 0-2 on Rolen with the cutter and then a fastball hit foul. Rolen hits the curve foul before taking a cutter up and in that got away from Bailey. But Bailey finishes him off with the next pitch, a cutter down the middle that Rolen got a tiny piece of. Very nice, efficient pitching by Andrew Bailey, who looks to be Oakland's annual relief revelation for 2009.
The righty Jason Frasor comes on for the Blue Jays in relief of Jesse Carlson. Ellis fouls off his fastball for a first pitch strike. Ellis winds up at 1-2 before getting jammed into a short center field pop up that Wells catches at a jog.
Frasor also has a good arm, throwing in the low 90's and with a nice tight slider with a lot of downward break. He throws a 1-1 fastball that jams another hitter, this time getting Crosby to fist one out to short for an easy groundout.
Sweeney gets down 0-2 before taking the gas upstairs for ball one. Sweeney shows his contact ability by swinging at a pitch he shouldn't have, chasing a changeup (a new pitch for Frasor this year) down in the dirt he was fooled by, but managing to put wood on it for a foul ball. The count gets to 2-2 and there are a couple more foul balls before Frasor blows Sweeney away with a good hard fastball on or just off the outside corner. There's not much you can do with that pitch except hope to put a little bat on it and foul it off. Good pitching by Jason Frasor.
Bailey comes out for another inning, and he'll start off with Kevin Millar. He starts him off 0-2 quickly. A very nice breaking ball gets away from Millar before he can hold up and he taps it back weakly to Bailey, who tosses to Giambi for the first out.
Bailey's fastball has dropped to 89 in this inning, but his cutter still looks really good, as Rod Barajas swings through one on the outside corner, taking the count to 1-1. After the count goes to 1-2, Barajas strikes out on the sharp breaking curve which started off at mid-thigh and wound up at Suzuki's shoetops. That's three K's for Bailey in five batters.
And before I can even get done typing, he's at 1-2 on Bautista. Bailey just misses with the cutter off the outside corner to the righty, then misses well down with a fastball, so the count is full. The first payoff pitch is a fastball fouled into the stands near first base. Well, "near". They're not particularly close to first, as I noted. The next payoff pitch is a 92 mph heater on the outer half that Bautista swings right through. Four whiffs in six batters and no balls out of the infield. I call that a good outing by Andrew Bailey, who's been phenomenal to start the year. Maybe the A's will score in this half of the inning to reward him with a win, because you have to figure he'll give way to Russ Springer, Wuertz, or Sandy Casilla at this point.
Brandon League comes out for the top of the seventh even though Frasor pitched well, likely because this was Frasor's second straight day pitching. League's another righty with a sorta sidearm delivery that he sorts of swings around like a top. The A's are thus getting into the bullpen, exactly what Cito Gaston didn't want with Brian Tallet pitching tomorrow.
It's 3-1 on Cabrera, and I'm not sure Orlando is picking up the ball real well out of League's hand. It's moot, though, because ball four misses very low and the go-ahead run is on first base for Jason Giambi.
Giambi ought to be able to get a good look at the ball out of League's hand. He takes the first pitch well inside, then hits a low fastball pretty deep to left, but not nearly deep enough, and there's one out.
The announcers are talking about League's stuff being great, but his command not being good enough to be a closer. He proved that by walking Cabrera and then he proved it again by grooving a fastball to Holliday, who smacks it into the 89 gap for the go-ahead run. Holliday, unfortunately, tried to make it a triple, but was thrown out by about six feet at third base, so instead of a runner on second with one out for Nomar, he'll have the bases empty with two outs.
Nomar gets to 0-2 and then flies easily to right while A's fans wonder what could have been. Nomar's really not hitting well to start the year, and I can't wait for the day when Bob Geren realizes that this isn't 2001 and moves him down behind Cust in the order. It's really a simple fact that Cust is a better hitter, whether it's a lefty or righty on the mound, and thus should be getting more at-bats.
So the A's do get the run to pick up Andrew Bailey, and on comes Michael Wuertz, looking for a hold. It's the top of the order for Toronto, and Wuertz starts Scutaro off with two strikes. Wuertz's fastball isn't impressive -- his first one was just 84, but his slider is very effective. He gets Scutaro to ground an easy chopper to Crosby at third for the first out.
He throws a tight slider for strike one on the outside half to Hill, then tries another one, but misses up for ball one. Wuertz believes in the pitch, though, as he triples up on it, staying up with it, which Hill swings right through. The next slider is in the dirt and outside, and Hill nearly chased, but held up at the last second. He gets to full on Hill before striking him out on a very nice slider down just above the dirt.
It looks like Scott Downs, another lefty, is going to be next for Toronto. Unfortunately, my MLB.tv locks up on the picture of Downs in the bullpen, so I guess I'm going to miss some pitches here. In fact I apparently wind up missing the entire end of the inning. Who knows what happened, but apparently nothing much because I've got League facing Cust now. I guess it's not time for Scott Downs after all.
League and Cust isn't a good matchup for League. He's at 3-1, and Cust isn't chasing League's crap. He has gotten two fastballs in the strike zone, and he's fouled both of them off, one on a fly to left, the other backward. But League gets Cust to hit a grounder to the second baseman on 3-2. The defense was shifted, but Hill may have been able to get that out anyway.
Suzuki takes the first two pitches out of the zone from League, one inside and one low. League really has a lot of movement on his pitches, but he's sort of classic that way: he doesn't appear to have any better idea where the ball is going than the hitter does. Kurt fouls one off, then nearly goes through on an inside fastball, but holds up to make it 3-1. League leaves the next fastball up and Suzuki takes advantage, stroke a beautiful line drive just right of center. Wells was playing him to the right of center, but the ball was hit straight over his head. That ball was really stung. It's hard not to like Suzuki when he hits the ball like that.
So Mark Ellis has a chance to add a run to the A's lead, and he takes the chance. He gets a 1-1 fastball elevated just enough for him to knock one right up through the middle, not hit super-hard, but hard enough to slip between the middle infielders to the left of second base. Suzuki scores without a throw as he was 1/3 of the way home before Wells even reached the ball.
Mark Ellis got a very nice jump on the 1-0 pitch by League and Barajas had very little chance to steal second. He slid a little early and a lot awkwardly, but he's in there in scoring position for Crosby. The next pitch skips in the dirt and Barajas blocks it nicely, but he can't find it as it rolls back out into the field. Ellis did a nice job on his secondary lead so he was in a position to take third base when he realized that Barajas wasn't going to be able to get the ball. Crosby gets the count to 3-1 but then swings at a sinker at this shoetops that would have been ball four. League then just misses low with the 3-2 sinker and Crosby is on first base. I guess Scott Downs was throwing for fun, because Shawn Camp is now up and throwing for Toronto after a phone call by Cito Gaston.
Ryan Sweeney comes up with a chance to extend the lead against the sinkerballer. He hits the 0-1 pitch off his fist to Rolen at third, but softly. Crosby is out at second, but Sweeney is easily safe at first and the run scores, making it a three-run lead for the A's. Crosby looks a little shaken up after an awkward takeout slide at second. It's not clear what happened on the play -- the way he's reacting, perhaps he got kneed in the head? With a three-run lead and Wuertz having pitched very effectively in the 7th, I'm hoping we'll see him come out for another inning rather than sit him down for Casilla. I wonder whether Crosby is well enough to continue, and I further wonder, if he's not, what the A's will do. Nomar's the DH today, so they A's would have to put their pitcher into the batting order to let him play third. Chavez is on the roster but presumably unable to play. Maybe Landon Powell could play an emergency two innings at third.
I'm disappointed by the pitching choice as Casilla comes on for the eighth. He does start Wells off with a strike and then gets a chopped grounder to Cabrera for the first out. Cabrera certainly has a unique way of playing short, doesn't he? He doesn't bother getting his feet underneath him, preferring to just continue running in toward the infield and throwing off-balance to first base. It's gotten the job done so far.
Casilla's fastball command abandons him against Adam Lind, however, as he walks him on five pitches, with most of the balls not being very close, the the one strike being a borderline pitch.
He does start Rolen off right, though, with a 95 mph heater right at the knees. He then flashes the nasty slider, getting Rolen to swing at a pitch that wound up about two feet into the left-hander's batters box and in the first. The next pitch, another slider but less of a wipeout offering, is tapped on the ground to third. Crosby's only play is at first and he makes it easily.
Casilla's fastball isn't just hard, it also moves. He just threw a 96 mph pitch that, while it missed low and away, darted down and broke toward the batter. It's nasty stuff, and Casilla's really just another guy for the A's. It's a really nice bullpen, as usual. It didn't work out against Millar, though, as Casilla walks him without ever getting close to the zone.
He does start Barajas off with a fastball on the outside corner for a strike, though, and follows that up with a slider just like the one he got Rolen to chase. The 0-2 pitch is a nasty slider in the dirt that Barajas goes after and can't even come close to touching. It's the A's 12th strikeout in the game, with every pitcher recording at least one. Looks like it'll be Brad Ziegler time in the 9th, and I can't really argue it. Normally, I might take the "let the guy throw two" position, but here, Casilla dominated three batters and had real struggles with the other two. I'd rather not have a coin flip out there in the ninth, even with a three-run lead.
But for now, it's Shawn Camp pitching against the A's in the top of the ninth, and Jason Giambi leading off. Giambi's done nothing today, and not looked great doing it. The shift does him in this time, though, as he hits a hard grounder past the diving Millar, but Hill is there to make the play in short right and throws to Camp for the out. That's a base hit if Hill isn't drastically over to the right on the play.
Holliday then flies out lazily to right center on the first pitch he sees. Nomar nearly does the same, flying to foul territory in right. Rios gets there just as the ball does, but the wall makes it a tough play and he can't quite haul it in, so Nomar has new life. He doesn't do much with that life, though, as he strikes out looking on a nice backup slider by Camp that catches the inside corner. Nomar disagrees with the call, and I can't say I blame him. I don't think it was a bad pitch, but in the context of the rest of the zone tonight, it was certainly borderline.
Here comes Ziggy looking for his third save of the year in four chances. He starts off right, giving Bautista a first pitch strike. Bautista pounds the 1-1 pitch into the dirt in front of home plate, where it bounces up and hits him in the back. That must happen more often with Ziegler than almost anyone. He then throws that nice sweeping slider in the strike zone, where Bautista swings through it for the first out. That's thirteen K's for the A's pitchers, an excellent number.
The 1-1 pitch to Scutaro is elevated just a little, so Scutaro is able to make strong contact. It's still a ground ball, as the ball was moving downward as Scutaro made contact with it, but it's a hard-hit ground ball up the middle for a single.
It's to Aaron Hill, who Ziegler starts off with a fastball on the outside, and then a fastball on the inside for an 0-2 count. Hill lays out off the slider that Ziegler starts off near the plate but has break out into the lefty batter's box. This is classic Ziegler situation: a runner gets on first, because that's what they do by hitting ground ball singles, but then he gets the double-play grounder from the very next guy to get out of it. The next two pitches miss the zone, though, and the 2-2 pitch narrowly misses hitting Hill. And did I call that or what? A ground ball to Cabrera, flipped to Ellis, who throws to first with Scutaro right on top of him for the double play. Scutaro seems to not have been running on the pitch, or maybe the ball was just hit hard enough that they got the play anyway.
So it's a nice win for Oakland after a shaky four-run inning by Josh Outman led to a 5-1 lead for Toronto. The A's used David Purcey's weakness (throwing strikes) to their advantage, though, and Bobby Crosby came up with the big clutch hit that brought the A's almost all the way back. From there, it was little bits here and there that gradually extended a 5-4 deficit into an 8-5 victory, starting with the wild pitch that knocked out Michael Barrett, David Purcey, and the Blue Jays' lead in one fell swoop. The announcers made much of the A's absurdly low home-run total thus far (three), but this is the second time this year the team has put up eight runs, so they must be doing something right.