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Orioles hit 'em where they ain't, trounce Athletics 10-1

Frank Robinson threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The A's may have fared better if he'd started the game for them, as well.
Frank Robinson threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The A's may have fared better if he'd started the game for them, as well.

"Wee Willie" Keeler is famous for two things:

  1. Perhaps the most unfortunate nickname in human history
  2. His highly quotable advice to hitters: "Keep your eye clear, and hit 'em where they ain't."
He's also in the Hall Of Fame, so I guess he's sort of famous for playing baseball as well. But enough about him.

Today, the Baltimore Orioles followed Keeler's advice to perfection, dinking grounders and soft hits all over the field en route to a commanding 10-1 victory. This game was never really in question after the 2nd inning, and stopped being even remotely interesting after the 5th. There is a line of thought which suggests that, if you're going to make mistakes, you might as well get them all out in one night. "You can only lose each game once," Keeler didn't say (but easily could have, if Twitter was around then).

But hey, we didn't get shut out! Small victories.

This game had an ominous tone from the very beginning. After being briefly delayed due to rain, Oakland got off to a quick start, with Jemile Weeks reaching on a 4-pitch walk and Coco Crisp beating out a bunt single. After Josh Reddick skied out, the two speedsters pulled off a double steal, affording Yoenis Cespedes the rare opportunity to bat with runners in scoring position.

Unfortunately, this moment in time represented the highest Win Probability that Oakland would enjoy for the rest of the night. I'm not exaggerating; after this moment, our chances of winning never got higher. Cespedes watched a very hittable strike three sail past him, Jonny Gomes walked, and Kurt Suzuki muscled up to extend his usual popout all the way to shallow right field. Bases loaded on two walks and an infield single, no runs to show for it. It was the most A's inning ever.

In the 2nd inning, Baltimore exploded. Well, exploded isn't the right word. That suggests that they crushed the ball all over and did lots of remarkable things. In the 2nd inning, Baltimore...dropped a cigarette butt in a damp field and accidentally started a fire. Here's how they did it:

  • Adam Jones beat out an infield single on a slow chopper up the middle. Jemile Weeks made a solid play on it, but Jones is fast, and Weeks had no real chance.
  • Wilson Betemit singled on a slow grounder through the hole into right field. Ten feet to either side, and it's a routine double-play.
  • Chris Davis poked a low liner into left field for an RBI single. It wasn't a bloop, but it wasn't hit very hard, either. On the next pitch, Kurt Suzuki tried to pick Betemit off of 2nd base. A good throw would have had him. Unfortunately, Suzuki used up all of his good throws against Chicago. This one went into center field, advancing both runners. (1-0)
  • Ronny Paulino hit a grounder up the middle to plate both runners. Again, he didn't hit it particularly hard; just a routine grounder that found a hole. Cespedes' ill-advised throw home allowed Paulino to reach 2nd. The ball was not hit hard enough to make a play at the plate, and hopefully Cespedes learned something from that mistake. (3-0)
  • Ryan Flaherty, who is apparently a baseball player for the Baltimore Orioles, hit a ground ball. Thankfully, he was courteous enough to hit it toward Weeks, and an out was recorded. Baby steps! Paulino went to 3rd.
  • Robert Andino hit a ground ball which was nearly identical to Paulino's, but slightly harder. Paulino trotted home from 3rd easily. (4-0)
  • Nolan Reimold hit a flare into shallow center, and Cespedes went into an inexplicable feet-first slide to attempt a catch. A headfirst dive would probably have gotten the job done, and simply letting the ball fall in would have been less damaging. As it happened, the ball skipped past Cespedes, allowing the runners to move up to 2nd and 3rd.
  • J.J. Hardy hit a sacrifice fly to left, scoring an extra run as a direct result of Cespedes' defensive miscue. Whoops. (5-0)
  • Nick Markakis grounded out to Weeks, mercifully ending the inning.
And that is how you score 5 runs without drawing a walk or hitting anything hard at all. Oakland helped with three defensive miscues, although only Suzuki's throw resulted in an error. Wee Willie Keeler would have been so proud. Proud of the Orioles, that is. Not of Suzuki's throw.

Baltimore would add one more run in the 3rd, and three in the 5th. The final two runs in the 5th were particularly irritating, because they probably shouldn't have happened. After a walk to Hardy, Markakis singled on another soft grounder with eyes. That brought up Adam Jones; would you like to guess what he did? If you went with "hit a soft grounder up the middle for a single," then congratulations! You are very adept at recognizing patterns. Also, you are correct. Score, 7-0. Baltimore collected 11 hits off of Ross, and 10 of them were singles.

This was when things got fishy. With Jerry Blevins in the ballgame, Wilson Betemit hit the absolute shortest fair ball possible. Again, I am not exaggerating. The ball actually came to rest ON home plate (which, as part of the foul line, is in fair territory). You literally cannot hit a ball a shorter distance, fair or foul. Suzuki picked up the ball, tagged Betemit, and then tried to make a throw to 3rd...except that Betemit stayed in the batter's box, thinking the ball was foul. With Betemit's body in his way, Suzuki's throw attempt was blocked, and the runners advanced.

Rule 7.09(d):
"It is interference by a batter or a runner when...Any batter or runner who has just been put out hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate."
Home plate umpire Eric Cooper disagreed, and decided that it was not important enough to ask for help on the call. Technically, he was right about that; this didn't affect the outcome of the game at all, so it didn't turn out to be important. Doesn't change the fact that he blew the call.

The next batter, Chris Davis, knocked another single to right, scoring both runners. However, upon further review, Jones was clearly tagged out by Suzuki (thanks to another cannon throw from Reddick), and it was obvious enough that Cooper should have been able to see it in real-time. Two runners scored. One should have been out earlier on interference, and the other should have been out on the play at the plate. If you're going to be the victim of bad calls by the umpire, it might as well happen in a game which you've already lost.

The rest of this ballgame can be summed up in one sentence: Jonny Gomes homered to left, Chris Davis homered OUT OF THE STADIUM in right, O's win, 10-1.

So, what do we take from this game? Here's the rundown:

  • In the boxscore, it says that Tyson Ross got shelled. This didn't happen. He allowed a lot of contact, but it was almost entirely ground balls, and nothing was hit very hard. He only registered one strikeout, but he also only walked one batter. I don't know if he was catching too much of the zone, or if his pitches were too straight, or if this was just a case of really, really bad fortune (and poor outfield defense). But if my pitcher is going to give up 9 runs on 11 hits, I want it to look like this. He could pitch exactly like this next week and throw 7 sparkling innings.
  • Jonny Gomes has Major League power, but we already knew that. He's got plenty of flaws, but there are worse bats you could have in your lineup. I know, because the A's have had most of them.
  • Yoenis Cespedes is a rookie. Immensely talented, but a rookie nonetheless. This was a really ugly game for him, offensively and defensively, and hopefully he learns some lessons from it.
  • I'm ready for a little bit less Coco Crisp and Luke Hughes, and a little bit more Michael Taylor and Adam Rosales. Coco had two hits: a bunt single, and a grounder up the middle. Nice results, but unsustainable methods. He also missed a flyball on a dive, allowing the runner to advance (in theory, that is; Cespedes bailed him out with a bullet to 3rd base, for his one good play of the game). Hughes struck out twice and continued to not look like a Major Leaguer (although he did collect a solid single)
  • Kila made a nice dig at 1st base, saving Pennington from a throwing error. If he keeps playing solid defense like that, Daric Barton will soon find himself in another organization.
At this point, it's best to just forget about this one. The A's are going to have games like this, where nothing goes right and everyone looks terrible. That's just what young players do. My recommendation is to move on, enjoy your Saturday night, and tune in tomorrow for the next one.

It's what Wee Willie Keeler would have done.

The A's put this one behind them and come back tomorrow for the rubber match, bright and early at 10:35am. Bartolo Colon faces Tommy Hunter in a match of literal heavyweights (515 combined pounds of pitcher).