The A’s Great Start: I have held my breath and refrained from doing a blog post, afraid I would jinx the A’s, who are off to their best start in many years. Alas, last night the Mariners, whom they had beaten 4 times this year already, found their bats and shutout the A’s 3-0.
The 0-0 tie was broken by a 3-run homer by Milton Bradley in the bottom of the 8th off Brad Ziegler, who got tagged with the loss.
But let’s put this in perspective. The A’s are now 6-3 on the season. That means they are on pace to win 108 games. Wishful thinking, I know. It probably won’t happen, but losing last night is not the end of the world.
One bright spot last night was a phenominal play by Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of 7th inning. Ziegler uncorked a wild pitch far off the 1st base side of the plate, sure to slam into the backstop. With Chone Figgins on 2nd base, Kurt lunged to his left, somehow stabbed the ball out of the air, spun around and fired a rifle shot to 3rd, right on the bag.
Kevin Kouzmanoff was waiting for it and tagged the speedy Figgins out. Bob Geren said, “I don’t think there’s another catcher who makes that play. That was flat-out amazing.” .
It was the second spectacular play Kurt has made against Seattle this year. 5 days earlier in Oakland, he tracked a foul flyball to the steps of the visiting dugout and caught it as he slid down the dugout steps. “He continues to do amazing things athletically, acrobatically,” said Geren. “He’s revolutionizing that position. He’s athletic as a catcher can get. It’s really fun to watch.” The play made ESPN’s 10-best plays of the day highlight reel last night, coming in at #2! You’ll probably get to see a replay tonight during the rubber game of the series with Seattle.
So the A’s are off to a great start. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the rest of the campaign. It is certainly a better first week of the season than we’ve seen in a long time.
Next Article: Meeting Bob Feller
As the baseball season begins its fall from summer into winter, and as I embark on a major rewrite of my novel “Contract Year,” I will be posting a bit less frequently on this blog. This is also a natural occurance as the season comes to an end and many people’s focus shifts to football (not mine, however.) There just simply will be less and less news on baseball during the offseason to write about. I will still try to post once a week, but don’t desert me if I miss one or two.
Cliff Pennington and Landon Powell Contribute Big: Cliff had a great game on Saturday, making 2 amazing plays at shortstop, and hitting his first homer from the right side, going 3 for 3 with 2 RBI’s and a walk.
He has a cannon for an arm and Sunday threw out Ichiro when everyone including Ichiro thought he had a hit.
Landon Powell has caught 3 games in the last 8 days and muscled his 1st career grandslam home run to right-center in the 2nd inning on Wednesday against the Royals, and a solo shot high up in the right field bleachers on Sunday. Here’s his trot to homeplate on Wednesday.
Apparently, Landon left the locker room before the press could get to him to ask him about his grand salame, and a conference call had to be set up so that the press could get their statement. Rookie mistake!
Scott Hairston and Gio Gonzalez: Scott Hairston was both goat and hero on Sunday. In the 5th inning with Seattle ahead 2-1, Scott came up with the bases loaded and 1 out, the best opportunity for the A’s so far against Seattle’s Doug Fister from Merced, CA, and popped up to Jose Lopez in foul territory, stranding the 3 runners. Unfortunately, Landon Powell couldn’t get the runners home either.
However, in the bottom of the 7th, Hairston came up with exactly the same situation as in the 5th,
but this time he delivered, blasting a grandslam into the left bleachers, putting the A’s ahead for good, 5-2. He was grinning as he met the huddle around home plate. I bet he called big brother Jerry who plays for the Yankees as soon as possible to tell him the good news.
Gio Gonzalez had undoubtedly his best outing of the season, pitching 7 innings, allowing 2 runs and only 2 walks and throwing 3 strikeouts. The best part of the outing was his effective use of the new 4-seam changeup that he has been working on for the last few months, giving him a credible third pitch to go with his breaking fastball and nasty curve. After giving up a run in the 1st, he settled down and allowed only one more run in the next 6 innings. In the bottom of the 7th when Gio’s day was done, Hairston’s slam got him the win, the second time the A’s gave him a victory in that fashion this year. In July, the A’s scored 6 runs to give Gio a win after pitching his final inning in Yankee Stadium.
Brad Zieger came in and pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning and Andrew (“Boom Boom”) Bailey closed it out for his 23rd save, tying Huston Street’s Oakland record for most rookie saves. Bailey was named American League Rookie of the Month for August. He also is considered one of the front runners for AL Rookie of the Year. Go get’em Boom Boom!
All for now. Upcoming topics include: Being a Fan Can Be Dangerous, Interesting Statistics, and anthing else that I get curious about.
I Can Post Articles on My Blog Again! My last blog post was on June 16th. The next day Comcast hooked up the last leg of my Triple Play package, and I dutifully logged in to mlblogs.com, went to “My Profile” and followed the instructions for changing my email address. I blythely hit the “Submit” button. I’m not much of a techie so I felt a real sense of accomplishment.
A couple of days later, I decided to post a new article on my blog and logged in using my new email and password. Up came an error message that stated in angry red: “Authentication Error: Email and/or password invalid. Try again.” Hmm. Maybe the change didn’t go through, so I tried to log in using my old email address and password. Same result. I tried other email and password combinations to no avail. Oh no, I couldn’t log in. Disaster! I can’t post any more articles?
I quickly emailed mlblogs.com and explained my plight. To make a long story short, after 3+ weeks of emails and phone calls back and forth to 4 or 5 different people, most of whom kept telling me to log in using the old email address (which I kept telling them I couldn’t do), I found Jacob Wilson who understood what happened. Bless his heart, he imported my blog with all prior articles, comments and photos into my new email account. So I am back and writing again on all things A’s.
The A’s Team We Were Hoping Has Finally Showed Up! Wow, the A’s won a series, and against the Tigers, the AL Central’s leading team. Yahoo!! I attended Monday night’s 7-1 victory in which Brett Anderson pitched scoreless ball into the 6th inning, when he walked two.
The usually-reliable Michael Wuertz came in and gave up a double to Gerald Laird to score one of those walks, marring Brett’s great outing. The A’s bats came alive in the 4th inning when Matt Holliday singled and Jason Giambi walked. Kurt Suzuki doubled in Holliday and Ryan Sweeney singled in the G man, giving the A’s the lead for good. The guys added on the rest of the runs in the 5th and the 6th inning, highlighted by Mark Ellis’ first homer of the year, a two-run blast, and another two runs on Sweeney’s 3rd of the season.
Small ball added the last run in the 8th.
Yesterday produced a 5-1 win to give the A’s the series win over Detroit. Highlights included Dallas Braden
pitching 7 innings of 5-hit, 1-run ball,
followed by 2 shutout innings from Brad Ziegler who now has the set-up role,
and Andrew “Daily” Bailey, the team”s closer to everyone but Manager Bob Geren.
The day’s offensive fireworks came on 2 homers from Jack Cust (14)
and Jason Giambi (11)
scoring 4 runs between them. Detroit’s only run came in the top of the 2nd on a double from Gerald Laird, driving in Ryan Raburn who had singled.
I like this team. I hope they continue to show up. Maybe the much-hoped-for warm weather has finally arrived.
Yesterday’s Game Against the Twins: Trevor Cahill pitched well initially, but in the top of the 4th inning got into some trouble and gave up a 3-run homer to Joe Crede. Oh, no, not again, must have been going through the fans minds. Not another long losing streak, please? Thankfully, after that Cahill pitched 3 more scoreless innings. Meanwhile, Twins’ starter, Nick Blackburn, completely befuddled the A’s for the first 7 innings, allowing no one past 2nd base.
Jack Hannahan and Adam Kennedy Man Up: In the bottom of the 8th inning, Jack Hannahan, batting in the 9 hole, led off with a triple (has he finally solved the riddle of hitting?) He scored when Orlando Cabrera stroked a single to center field, making the score 3-1 Twins. Then Nick Blackburn left a pitch up in the middle of the strike zone and Adam Kennedy sent the gift over the right field wall to tie the game at 3-3. Brad Ziegler, who had pitched the top of the 8th inning, worked a 3-up, 3-down 9th, keeping the game tied.
Things Start Going the A’s Way: In the bottom of the 9th, Jason Giambi led off with a walk, and was replaced by the speedy Chris Denorfia. Suzuki tried to bunt Denorfia to 2nd base but was unsuccessful in 2 attempts. Then Twins relief pitcher, Matt Guerrier, hit Suzuki, which accomplished the same result. Daric Barton laid down a nifty bunt in front of home plate and the runners advanced to 2nd and 3rd. Now, there were 2 on and 1 out.
Rajai’s First Walk-Off Hit: Manager Bob Geren had told Rajai Davis in the dugout before he went out to the on-deck circle, “You’re gonna win the game.” After Barton was thrown out at first after his great bunt, Raj stepped into the batters box. He dumped the first pitch he saw into right field for a walk-off single, scoring Denorfia and giving the A’s a 4-3 victory and a split of the series at 2 games apiece. That shut down the losing streak at 2 games.
The Battle of the Young Guns: Tonight the A’s move across the Bay to begin a 3-city interleague road trip. The pitching matchup for the first game is stellar: Tim Lincecum (5-1. 2.96 ERA, Opp. BA .235, WHIP 1.211) is going against Vin Mazzaro (2-0, 0.00 ERA, OBA .170, WHIP .923). For those of you who are not familiar with the WHIP statistic, it stands for Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched. It’s a truer measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness than ERA. In all those categories, Mazzaro has the better stats, but he’s only pitched 2 games in the Major Leagues. It should be fun to watch.
Last night A’s fans were treated to something very special: Vin Mazarro made his major league debut for the A’s in Chicago.
The 22 year-old pitcher from Rutherford, New Jersey was called up yesterday to join the starting rotation, whose oldest member is a mere 25 years old. That would be Dallas Braden, whose total MLB experience consists of 35 starts over the last 3 seasons. He’s the veteran in the rotation! The next younger is Josh Outman at 24, and Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson are both 21 years old. This is the youngest rotation in all of major league baseball.
Mazarro didn’t disappoint. He struggled a bit in the first 2 innings, but made quality pitches when he needed to and was helped out by stellar defense, including his great wheel and pickoff of Scott Podsednik as the latter strayed off 2nd base in the 1st.
From the 3rd inning on, Vin got his nerves under control and pitched 4.1 innings of shutout ball with ease. Craig Breslow came in and got a double play to end the 7th inning and Brad Ziegler pitched the 8th and 9th innings. Neither gave up a run, preserving Mazarro’s 1st major league win, a 5-0 shutout of the White Sox.
Mazarro was also helped by two great catches in the outfield. Ryan Sweeney did a face plant into the padding in centerfield padding as he caught a long fly ball near the top of the wall, robbing Paul Konerko of extra bases. Matt Holliday made a nice shoe string catch as well.
Vin had a couple of dozen family members and friends from all over the country in the stands to cheer him on. They could be heard making lots of noise with every strike and out that Mazarro rang up. His dad hardly sat down for the 6+ innings his son pitched.
After he settled down, Mazarro’s pitches looked like those of a seasoned veteran, with great movement and velocity in the low to mid 90’s and he located his pitches very well. “He kept us off balance. He had good stuff,” said Scott Podsednik. “You can see why their organization was high on him and brought him up and gave him a shot.”
When manager Bob Geren announced Mazarro’s call up a couple of days ago, he said, “The future is now!” Vin certainly put paid to Geren’s words. In short, Vin Mazarro showed us that he is the complete package, and I am sure that his success and poise on the mound, in what must have been a nerve-wracking pressure-packed situation, will rub off on the other young pitchers on the staff.
Last night was truly special, for Vin, the A’s and the fans. It was a glimpse into what is possible in the very near future, and gave the fans what they need most right now: legitimate hope. Maybe–keep your fingers crossed–it will translate into more butts in the seats at the Coliseum the rest of the season.
On that note, the A’s ran another hit promotion last night, taking a dollar off a plaza-level ticket for Saturday’s game against the Orioles. The A’s got 8 hits last night so a $24 dollar ticket will now cost $16 each. Go to the A’s website to order tickets and use the discount code “Hits” to get the reduced price. Oh, and the game starts at 6:00 pm because there’s a free Jordan Sparks concert immediately following the game. Such a deal!
The A’s opened a 6-game series on the road in Toronto Friday night. A’s startier Josh Outman got knocked around by the Blue Jays, starting with a screaming homer by Marco Scutaro on the first pitch of the game. Outman gave up 4 more runs in the third, two of them earned, putting th A’s in the hole 5-1. “Poor, quite poor,” Outman admitted. “Our bullpen has been excellent, but I’ve got to make it through five [innings]. I’m killing the bullpen.” Said bullpen, which shut down the Jays league-best offense for the rest of the game, ranked third in American League with a 3.19 ERA before the game. “It’s pretty impressive,” said Bobby Crosby.
But the real story happened when the A’s had bats in their hands: they scored 7 unanswered runs: 4 in the 4th, 1 in the 7th and 2 in the 8th, to win it 8-5.
The big hit came from an unlikely source, newly-minted utility infielder, Bobby Crosby. In the 4th inning, he stroked his 2nd hit of the season, a line-drive triple to the center field wall which cleared the bases which were loaded with A’s, That hit put the A’s back in the game 5-4. A wild pitch scored Crosby from 3rd to tie it up.
Bobby also made some nifty plays at third base. He said after the game he is getting more comfortable playing the other infield positions than his historical spot at short stop.
In the 7th inning, Matt Holliday’s double scored Orlando Cabrara to give the A’s the lead for good. In the 8th, Mark Ellis singled, scoring Suzuki who doubled. Ellie then stole 2nd and went to 3rd on a wild pitch. Sweeney hit a grounder to 3rd driving in Ellis,
to complete the scoring.
Brad Ziegler high-fives Suzuki (at right) after closing it out in the ninth.
This is the kind of game I hope we will see for the rest of the season. The guys showed that they don’t give up when the starting pitcher gets in trouble. It is a real pleasure to have some bats in the middle of the order, which has inspired everyone on the team, especially the guys at the bottom of the order.
On another note, the A’s called up Dan Giese from Sacamento. Maybe they want to get a look at him, since he was claimed on waivers from the Yankees on April 8th. Otherwise, I would have thought Jeff Gray would get the call.
A’s Hope Opener: Well, last night was certainly a disappointment (the A’s lost 5-4) but the game was overshadowed by the pregame ceremonies memorializing the four slain Oakland police officers gunned down a couple of weeks ago. I had a tear in my eye as four OPD officers, each representing one of the families of the slain cops, placed police caps and baseballs on the pitcher’s mound to stand sentinel as the audience lowered their heads for a moment of silence. Nick Adenhart was also honored–a mention that was appropriately brief so as not to detract from the local tribute. The jet fighters’ fly-over and fireworks, the latter choreographed with the rockets red glare and the bombs bursting in air, capped off the moving tribute.
Chavy’s Back: It is great to see Eric Chavez making gold glove plays at third base like the Chavy of old and to have his bat back in the lineup. He’s such a classy guy and had every right to complain during the two plus years he was playing hurt or sidelined, but he never joined the pity party. Hat’s off to you, Eric.
Bobby Bobbles: Crosby just booted a routine play at third base (Chavez is getting the day off, and there’s no TV so I am listening on the radio). I want Jack Hannahan back, lousy bat and all. He is a proven utility infielder. Bobby is anything but, and keeps demonstrating it on the field. It’s his $5+ million salary that’s keeping him in the majors, not his bat, and certainly not his fielding at any position other than shortstop. Please, can I have Jack back, Billy?
A’s Lose Again to the Mariners: The game’s now over. Let’s hope that the A’s can salvage a win tomorrow after blowing another one. The A’s had the lead or were tied for most of the game. Jack Cust’s homer in the fifth was a bright spot–the A’s first homer of the season–making it 5-3, A’s. But the M’s went ahead for good in a disastrous eighth inning off Santiago Casilla and Brad Ziegler, giving Casilla the loss.
Maybe the collective thinking about where the Mariners will wind up at the end of the season could be wrong–last place in the AL West, according to Baseball America and others. The M’s can flat out hit. However, the A’s young pitching staff is showing rookie nerves, which will disappear in the coming weeks, so I guess we can’t be too concerned yet. An A’s win tomorrow would sure be good for the guys’ (and the fans’) morale.