There are lots of ways you can lose a baseball game. Last night, the Oakland Athletics snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by giving up a walk-off homer in a close game. Tonight, they took the suspense out of the equation, fell behind early, and let Arizona walk away with an 8-3 snoozer to guarantee a series victory for the D'Backs.
Tonight's pitching matchup was the most compelling part of the game. Arizona sent Trevor Cahill to the mound to face his former team, and Oakland responded with Jarrod Parker, the very pitching prospect for whom Cahill was dealt in December. Parker was coming off of a game in which he carried a no-hitter into the 8th inning, and Cahill had spun a complete-game shutout in his previous start. The stage was set for an epic pitcher's duel between the grizzled 24-year old veteran and the fresh-faced 23-and-a-half year old rookie who had succeeded him.
For the first half of the game, that was exactly what we got. However, things fell apart for Parker in the 5th, and Cahill cruised into the 8th inning for a smooth victory. There were a couple of questionable calls in this game, but there is no doubt that Arizona out-played Oakland. Parker was not sharp, the offense couldn't put anything together with runners on base, and the D'Backs smacked the ball all over the park from start to finish. If, for some reason, you want to read more about this game, then I'll continue after the jump.
Things did not start well for Oakland. Parker, who entered the game with an 18.1 inning scoreless streak, allowed Willie Bloomquist to reach base in the 1st. With two outs, Bloomquist broke for second. Entering the game, he had a 36% success rate on stolen bases (4-for-11). That is an almost unbelievably poor success rate. You could kind of see why, too, because Kurt Suzuki gunned him down with a perfect throw...except that 2nd base umpire Bill Miller called him safe. He looked out in real time, and he looked out on the replay, but that's the way it goes sometimes. On the next pitch, Jason Kubel singled to right, scoring Bloomquist and ending Parker's scoreless streak. Mistakes happen, and it's a bummer when they cost your team runs and force your starter to throw extra pitches early in a game.
The A's got the run back in the top of the 2nd, though, when Brandon Moss drew a walk and Suzuki bounced a double down the right field line. Suzuki would continue his strong performance in the bottom of the frame, when he cut down Aaron Hill trying to steal third after a leadoff double.
Things stayed relatively quiet until the bottom of the 5th. Parker allowed back-to-back 1-out singles to Gerardo Parra and Bloomquist, which brought Justin Upton to the plate. Parker worked him to a 2-2 count, and then floated a changeup across the inside corner for...ball 3. To be honest, I thought that the pitch looked a bit inside when they initially showed the replay, but Ray and Glen, as well as the post-game crew, were all very adamant that this pitch should have been called a strike and Upton should have been out. Instead, he got another life, and on the next pitch he lined an RBI double to center to re-take the lead, 2-1. After an intentional walk to Kubel, Parker was able to strike out Paul Goldschmidt for a big second out, but Miguel Montero capitalized on the situation by blasting a fastball 458 feet for a soul-crushing grand slam. At this point, the game was essentially over.
After the inning, Bob Melvin did something that he has proven very adept at doing: He got tossed out for complaining about the earlier missed calls. Oakland has been the victim of a lot of poor umpiring lately, and every time, Melvin has backed up his players and fallen on the sword. That's one thing that a good manager does, because it makes the players feel like they have his support.
The Athletics got the leadoff hitter aboard in every inning for the rest of the game, but couldn't put up the crooked number that they needed. In the 6th, they got a leadoff single. In the 7th, the got back-to-back leadoff singles. Progress! In the 8th, they loaded the bases with 1 out, but all they could muster was Jonny Gomes' pinch-hit sacrifice fly (off of Brad Ziegler!). In the 9th, they decided to start experimenting with extra-base hits, as Cliff Pennington and Jemile Weeks each doubled to bring in one more run, but it was too little too late.
A few notes from this game:
- Like I said, Parker was not sharp. He was hanging pitches and missing locations, and Arizona was hitting him hard. He was the victim of a couple of bad calls, but it was his poor pitching which did him in tonight. He's a rookie, so this kind of game will happen sometimes.
- Brandon Moss played alright. He drew a walk in his first plate appearance, and legged out an infield single his next time up. He also made a couple more impressive plays at first, particularly on a tough short hop on a throw from Pennington in the 5th.
- Suzuki played great, pushing two grounders through the infield for hits and making two perfect throws on attempted steals.
- Pennington went 3-4, and is now 5-for-9 with 3 doubles in his last two games.
- Cahill was on his game, keeping the walks down and recording a dozen outs on the ground.
- Josh Donaldson still can't hit Major League pitching.