Coming into today, the Tigers were a scuffling ballclub behind a starting pitcher who gave up 5 homeruns in less than 2 innings in his last outing. Somewhere, in the corner of the A's locker room, Dan Otero is blushing. The A's were in the midst of their best stretch of baseball behind a pitcher who is just finding his groove. This is a game playoff teams win, and a game that the 2015 A's have been insistent upon losing. Yet today, the A's did what they were supposed to do. I'm really starting to believe.
The action got going in the second, after Josh Reddick and Brett Lawrie singled to open the frame, Eric Sogard (face of the MLB, bat of the PCL, I'm just going to keep saying that forever) stepped to the plate. On a 3-1 pitch, Sogard hit a tapper back to pitcher Shane Greene. Now if you haven't gathered, Shane Greene is not good at his job of throwing the ball to home plate. He is significantly worse at throwing the ball second, as he uncorked a filthy slider into left center field. It's hard to ever count on a double play, but had this ball been fielded competently, there would likely be two outs and a runner on third. Instead, Reddick scored on the throwing error, and the A's had runners on first and second with no outs.
As an aside, if I'm Bob Melvin and Eric Sogard is up with a 3-1 count, I'm putting the take sign on 100% of the time. This was just a horrendous job of hitting in an otherwise solid game for our adorable elf, and thankfully, this error played a huge role in our winning the game, but my goodness was that a pathetic at bat.
Next up for the A's was lefty mashing catcher Josh Phegley. Swinging first pitch against the righty starter, Phegley launched a triple to deep right center, plating two more runs and extending the lead to 3-0. Phegley has looked nothing short of a steal lately, generally playing decent defense and hitting the ball with authority.
On the other side of the ball, Jesse Hahn was weirdly phenomenal. Again, without his best stuff and without anything resembling great command, Jesse kept the Tigers hitters off balance and generally confused, leading to almost no hard contact in the early innings. I don't have the exact stats here in front of me, but Jesse had numerous swings in misses on fastballs in the zone, often during fastball counts. When a guy is looking fastball, then gets a fastball in the zone, and still can't hit it over and over, you know you've got something special on your Hahnds. If Jesse can find consistency with his offspeed pitches, his dominance will continue and grow.
The lone blemish on Hahn's record was an RBI single by Miguel Cabrera in the fifth, following dinky singles by Anthony Gose and Jose Iglesias. There are worse things than giving up a single to arguably the best hitter in baesball.
The A's continued the scoring in the fifth, as Billy Butler sent a single to left with runners on first and second. The runner on second (Burns) would have scored regardless, but thanks to an error by rookie left fielder Daniel Fields, Stephen Vogt scored from first on the play. There are many options for the name-pun joke here (his last name is Fields, after all), and I will let you battle it out in the comment section. The frame ended with no more damage and the A's up 6-0. The A's added their final run in the 7th, when bucks crusher Brett Lawrie doubled to deep center, scoring Ben Zobrist. On that play, Billy Butler was unable to score from first because he is seriously the slowest person on planet earth. If you are someone who is annoyed by Billy Butler's slow jaunts around the basepaths, do not watch this highlight.
Pomeranz relieved Hahn in the bottom of the eighth, putting up a scoreless frame in which he looked phenomenal. It's not hard to picture him as a stud reliever, pounding the strike zone, throwing harder, and not losing focus. Plus, even if he does do his Drew dilly-dally, it's only one inning. It can't go that slowly, right? Right?
Wrong, says Dan Otero.
With the A's up 7-1 in the bottom of the ninth, everyday Dan Otero entered the game in the mop up-iest of duties. After striking out Miguel Cabrera (wtf?), Otero gave up consecutive groundball hits to Fields, Kinsler, and JD Martinez. It is important to note that all three easily could have been outs if hit a few feet in either direction, but still. C'mon Dan. Successful R&B singer Tyler Collins followed with a 3 run homerun, taking a blowout to a save situation, and ruining the days of AN as a whole. Tyler Clippard entered the now 7-5 game and promptly got two flyball outs. Clippard's save didn't come without more psychological damage, however, as Stephen Vogt had to leave the game due to a leg cramp sustained while chasing a foul ball. It appears rather harmless, as it's just a cramp, however an injury to the A's best player in the ninth inning of a blowout is not ideal. I am routinely amazed at how professional athletes injure themselves in the most innocuous ways, and also how they can't tell a foulball will be fifteen rows up right off the bat. That said, I believe in Stephen Vogt, and I believe he'll be back with little to no time missed at all.
Some other notes:
-Brett Lawrie went 2-4 with a booming double today. His stats are still rising, and while the power isn't quite there yet, it's easy to see how he could be a valuable and above average third baseman.
-Billy Butler hit the ball well today and throughout this series, avoiding groundballs and really stinging line drives all over the field. I don't think he'll return to his great form we saw in years past, but he can still provide value.
-Sam Fuld was terrible again today, making the argument for a DFA. At the very least, his starts should be fewer and farther between, with his value being gained as a defensive replacement.
In spite of Dan Oterrible's best efforts, the A's sweep the Tigers and are absolutely rolling. This season isn't anywhere near over just yet.