... and the offense falls off a cliff: Indians 2, A's 1

Joe Blanton once again pitched a very good (not great) game for the A's, shutting the Tribe down for 6 innings; but Joe tired in the 7th inning, and his mechanics and control began to slip, and the Indians squeezed across 2 runs on a potential double-play grounder muffed by Barton and a bases-loaded walk by Blanton to Garko.

The A's bats, meanwhile, were effectively silenced by Cliff Lee and three Indians relievers. The A's scratched out a run on a Travis Buck sac fly in the 3rd -- but that turned out to be the only inning wherein the A's put more than one man on base.

As I speculated in opening up the game thread, the Blanton-Garko matchup proved to be key. Joe pitched around him in the 1st with a man on; then, in the pivotal 7th, after a (presumably) Geren-ukased IBB of Travis Hafner to load the bases, Joe once again, in effect, pitched around Garko, not willing to throw a pitch anywhere near the middle of the strike zone. The Indians took the lead on the bases-loaded walk, and the A's didn't really threaten again.

Two things are rapidly becoming clear in this young (in both senses of the word) season:
1. The A's, without Cust or Chavez in the lineup, have little to no power.
2. Bob Geren's in-game management of the pitching staff is questionable. Not utterly wrong, but ... questionable.

It's certainly not reasonable to say that Blanton shouldn't have started the 7th today: his pitch count was reasonable after 6, and he'd been keeping the Indians off-balance all day.

But as the 7th wore on, it was clear that Blanton's control was slipping away. And when Joe's control goes, his effectiveness goes. Geren was late getting Casilla warmed up in the pen; a couple batters tardy in pulling Blanton; misguided in walking Hafner to set up a bases-loaded situation for either a starter who was tired and had lost control or a reliever with oft-erratic control coming in after warming up hurriedly; and utterly wrong to let Blanton pitch to Garko in that situation. The A's were probably lucky that the walk actually minimized the potential damage in that plate appearance. Yes, Blanton could have escaped the inning had Barton made a clean transfer and started a 3-6-1 DP -- but just as official scorers are told to never assume the DP in assessing hits/errors/FCs, I'm not 100% sure that the A's necessarily would have turned 2 there. Even if they had, they would have been lucky to escape the inning that way, with as badly as Blanton was starting to miss the plate.

In any event, Cliff Lee and the Cleveland 'pen mooted the entire debate by shutting the A's offense down.

Off-day tomorrow, then Tuesday in Toronto.

Is my title too cerebral?
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