Speed. How valuable is it? Overrated, because most base-stealers wind up giving away too many outs? Underrated, because of the intangible effect it has on distracted pitchers and hurried fielders? One thing is for sure: when you're going for a shutdown inning, it's probably best not to start it by walking Chone Figgins. Saarloos had thrown just 7 balls in 5 innings when he issued balls 8-11 to Figgins to open the fateful 6th. Then the steal the whole ballpark (except Saarloos, apparently) knew was coming. Then a tough, but playable ball to Johnson. Then eventually, a Baltimore chop in Anaheim and suddenly it's, "OK, let's try to take the last two games..."
Ultimately, the way I see it is that we gave up our best chance to win today's game yesterday. In order to pull out a big win on Sunday, we spent Duke, Street, Kennedy, and a lot of Witasick. As it turned out, the only way the A's were going to win tonight was to thank Saarloos for 5 solid innings and ask the bullpen to shut the Angels down for 4 frames. Which the A's `pen is deep enough to do on a "one-time shot" basis. But thanks to yesterday, that wasn't going to happen. So now the A's turn to Harden, Zito, and a refreshed `pen, and hope this series is an "all's well that ends well" affair.
One parting shot. There are two reasons Saarloos should have thrown to first after Figgins' 6th inning walk. One is that Figgins got such a huge jump Kendall really had no chance to throw him out. The other is that Angel Hernandez might have called it a strike. Personally, I thought Hernandez was equally awful for both teams, so no crying here. But from where I'm sitting, the worst home plate umpiring performance of the year so far. Just brutal!