I use that word dropped because it seems like almost every key hit today was of the bloop variety. What can you say about this game? The A's have been playing playoff baseball from the start of the season, seemingly each and every game is a close one because the offense remains as inept as it has been the last two seasons. At least so far.
Of course the A's did the 12th inning tease, getting the tying run to third base and the winning run to first but Hideki Matsui, pinch hitting for Kurt Suzuki, popped one up into the tough Oakland sun to Asbrudal Cabrera who was at the center of a bunch of the game today. Cabrera had the hit to give the Indians the 2-1 lead that held up until the bottom of the eighth inning when Ryan Sweeney, who was a remarkable 5-6 today, dropped a double down the left field line to tie the game 2-2.
The A's had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the tenth when, who else, Sweeney singled to right field and Conor Jackson was suddenly held up at third base by Mike Gallego. Look, we can't be the only one who is frustrated as hell by the A's offense or lack thereof, but if I'm the third base coach there, I send Jackson. He might've gotten nailed at the plate but you have to be aggressive in that instance when your offense is struggling so badly and the bullpen is seemingly as thin as it is right now with pitchers that anyone trusts in a key situation. Andrew Bailey...you complete us.
And yes, I can't believe I've gotten down to the fourth paragraph without mentioning Brett Anderson. The guy was simply amazing and looked for the first four plus innings that he could be completely untouchable today. But he had a couple of hits in the fifth of the infield variety and then the sixth started out with three straight singles after that Cabrera guy made an incredible play on Conor Jackson to end the bottom of the fifth.
As for the other stars of the game, no question it was Sweeney, who was both great offensively AND defensively, outside of the ill-advised throw he made to third that allowed Michael Brantley to advance into scoring position. Sweeney made two great catches, one running back to the wall, Willie Mays-style, and the other of the diving variety. The other guy who stood out to me was Conor Jackson, who just has fantastic at bats. He's patient but not in your typical A's, "I've been told to be patient" way as many of the other guys at the plate over the past few years seem to be. He actually swings at pitches that are hittable, he goes with pitches and he'll take the walk if given to him. Weren't a bunch of people calling for him to be released back in the offseason? I'm just saying, remember this guy was once a top prospect who got the crap kicked out of him by Valley Fever (whatever the hell that is) and had other injuries as well. Perhaps we're just seeing what he would finally mature into now? I remember how much people like Zonis used to lust after the young Jackson in Arizona. We'll see, but I really like the guy's approach.
The bullpen seems to be in shambles right now. I'm not sure if Balfour and/or Ziegler was available today, but I'm assuming they were not since the A's kept running out left-handed pitchers against the Indians until finally one of them cracked and that happened to be Craig Breslow. At the same time, you can't blame the bullpen for being in shambles because the A's have played a ton of extra innings games already this year because our starting pitching has been great while the offense, well, no sense in whacking that dead equine again.
You have to wonder what kind of psychological effect this is having on our young pitching. It has to be incredibly frustrating for a guy like Anderson to come out after a rough start last game and basically pitch beautifully for nine innings only to have a no decision for his effort. I've never pitched in the big leagues but it really has to make them feel like they have to hold the opposition to nothing or it will automatically be a loss or, in this case, a no decision for nine great innings.
And that's what I mean by playoff baseball. Every game seems like, no matter the opponent, it's going to be close. But maybe that's just the A's MO this year. Close in the division. Close in games. That's what worries me about things though because those close games are the ones where a managerial mistake here and a mistake there can and will cost you a lot of games. But like the old saying goes, close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades. Or something like that.