Still in first place!
This game didn't have much going for it. It was another solid Bartolo Colon pitching performance, another low-scoring weak A's offensive attack, but whatever. There are no style points in baseball. A 21-5 win is the same as a 2-0 win at the end of the day. But just as a win is a win, a loss is a loss. The A's entered the top of the ninth inning today with a 2-0 lead. Bartolo Colon had thrown 95 pitches and Bob Melvin and Curt Young decided to leave the 2-0 lead for him to go out and get the shutout as opposed to making a move to the pen. This is one clear instance in this game where you can question the manager and his pitching coach's decisions. Should he have left him out? You can make the argument yes, you can make an equally strong argument against it.
First batter of the inning J.J. Hardy hits a ball up the middle. Sogard ranges far to his right to get it, flings it across the infield where Barton can't scoop it out of the dirt and Hardy is aboard. This is the second clear instance in this game where you can question the manager and his pitching coach's decision to stick with Colon. Do you give Balfour the ball despite it being a "dirty" inning for him to go out and close it down? Tying run is now at the plate, your starter has thrown 99 pitches and the 3-4-5 hitters are due up.
Nick Markakis comes up, after two straight balls, Colon coaxes two foul balls before getting him to swing strike three. This is the third instance (though less clear than the previous two) where you can question the manager and his pitching coach's decision to stick with Colon. The pitch count is now at 104. He has lost velocity on his fastball as he goes 91, 89, 89, 89 before ratcheting it up to 93 to K him. Its understandable. Colon is old and hasn't thrown this long so far this year. Melvin and Young opt to leave him in.
Next batter is Adam Jones, who gets two 90 mph fastballs the second of which he dribbles to the left side of the pitcher's mound. Colon goes down to get it, throws it in the dirt, the ball past Barton in the inning and its second and third with just one out, Matt Wieters due up. Finally Melvin and Young decide at 106 pitches that enough is enough.
Balfour comes in gives up a double to Wieters to tie it. Intentionally walks Chris Davis (the first pretty unquestionable decision of the inning) before giving up a home run to Wilson Betemit to end it leaving the A's 5-2 losers (and as a side note, I didn't think it was a no doubter - I didn't like how quickly Reddick peeled off of it even if he wouldn't have gotten to it, maybe Little League always run hard messaging still afflicts me).
Is Melvin to blame for this? I have to say yes. Because he had several opportunities to rethink the decision and didn't. It isn't his fault Balfour gave up the double or the home runs. But did he put Balfour in a position to succeed? I'm not so sure he did. Who takes the blame for this one in your mind?
Also as some icing on the cake. My morning's prediction the A's would sign Inge? It was confirmed when the A's were up 2-0. It has begun...