Second Look: An Analysis of Wednesday Night’s Oakland Athletics Win
It was a balmy night in Oakland. I expected a lot of Athletics’ home runs. With Sonny Gray on the mound, one home run from Mark Canha along with a sacrifice fly from Jed Lowrie was just enough for a 2-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox. When Sonny got tired, first John Axford and then Ryan Madson slammed the door in the eighth and ninth. The first victory of the season was exquisitely satisfying.
So the A’s were clinging to a one run lead in the bottom of the eighth. Jed Lowrie grounded out to first to lead off, but Danny Valencia worked a walk. Billy Butler was due up, and manager Bob Melvin went with Coco Crisp as a pinch hitter. Dallas Braden and the other ESPN announcers were wondering what message this might send to Butler, the A’s $30 million dollar man. I did not see it as a lack of faith in Butler’s ability to hit righties. Jake Petricka had a nasty heavy sinker. I don’t think I was the only A’s fan thinking Danny Valencia + Billy Butler +heavy sinker = instant double play. Even though Crisp eventually struck out, I definitely had no problem with Melvin’s strategy.
There will be a few tough games where Marcus Semien will have a couple errors, so I think we need to acknowledge those nights where Semien plays well. He made some nice backhand grabs. I thought he got Adam Eaton in the top of the eighth, but apparently there was not enough replay evidence to overturn the call. It didn’t matter a couple pitches later when Jimmy Rollins grounded up the middle. Semien, playing the shift, glided to his right, snagged the ball, tagged second and fired on to first to turn the double play. As Melvin put it on the post game show, the A’s played a “clean” game.
Speaking of BoMel, putting Josh Reddick out in right late in the game was a pretty shrewd move. After Semien’s double play, Jose Abreu lined a ball right over Yonder Alonso’s glove at first. Melky Cabrera hit a similar shot leading off the ninth. Both times, Reddick cut the ball off and held them to a single. I suppose Mark Canha, who started the game in right, could have made those plays – but Reddick seems to intimidate opposing base runners. You can almost hear the first base coach saying, “Don’t even think about it!” when the batter rounds first after hitting a single to right.
It did my heart good to see Dallas Braden back in the Coliseum. Braden strikes me as a very good analyst. He has great insights and a quick wit. It seemed as though sometimes he was thinking with the pitcher, and sometimes he was thinking ahead of the pitcher. The best part of watching the game was seeing Braden in the right field stands. The bleacher-creatures in right field were most excellent, the drumming was superlative – and Braden fit right in. Ray Ratto wrote a nice piece on the diehard A’s fans that everyone should check out here. Dallas Braden might be the living embodiment of survive, defy and thrive.
One final thought: I don’t want to seem catty, but I really enjoy seeing Brett Lawrie strike out for the White Sox…he gone.