Joey Estes' first game for the Athletics was a time to forget. 4.2 innings 5 ER with 1BB and 2K's. However this night in Minnesota was something to remember and learn from. The Twins, surprisingly enough, have hit 224 homeruns. Good for 4th in Major League Baseball.
The power is up and down this lineup. More so than the Houston Astros (7th). But the Twins are also in the playoffs; the Astros, maybe not. So you are getting a playoff team, with good power. What more could a young pitcher out to earn a place in the A's '24 rotation ask for. This is why you pitch. Or why you should want to pitch in Major League Baseball.
Pablo Lopez, the best pitcher the Twins have fielded this season, 3.61 ERA and slated starting pitcher for Game 1 for their playoff run (229K's - 2nd highest in the AL). This is why you pitch. Beat the best. What more could a young pitcher ask for? Lopez, I should note had his worst performance of his year against the A's, 5.2 innings 7 ER on 8 hits.
As we actually cross the lines into the top frame, Oakland sporting the Kelly Green top's, Ryan Noda walks for the 75th time this year. 3rd highest among rookies in MLB. Gelof then hits a sharp liner between shortstop and 3rd. 2 on, no outs. Sadly, Seth Brown K's again. Rooker dittos shortly there after. JJ Bleday taps a come-backer to the mound. Joey Estes has now seen what MLB pitching looks like. Get into a jam? Get yourself out of it.
The 14th rookie pitcher to take the mound for the A's and on his first pitch, he lets Edouard Julien
hit the Twins 225th homerun of the season. "What are you going to do, kid", that is the question. The answer? 2 flyball outs, 1 strikeout. His slider looks sharp and changeup looks even better. His changeup has a tail to it, like a 2 seam fastball and his slider hits the strike zone. It maybe a slider but it breaks sharply. "Sharpler"?
His 2nd inning? 1 BB, 2K, a stolen base and 1 ER. The run coming on a flyball to RF that Seth Brown spikes his right ankle on is own cleats as the ball squeezed out of his glove. The first strikeout coming on a slow, slow sweeper dropping right into the strike zone lower half. Again, Estes showing he can break a ball, well. I saw it on his 3rd strikeout of the outing. Another slow "sharpler"; 81 mph, swinging strikeout.
Leading off the top of the 3rd inning was Lawerance Butler (0-4 - 4 strikeouts, last night). The .204 hitter knocked his batting average up a couple points but stroking a clean double to right field. Nice to see him make contact again. His swing is strong and smooth but his approach has been anything but. Noda moves the runner to third on a lazy ground ball to 2nd base. Seth Brown, the previously hurt Seth Brown, brings the runner home on a line drive single to centerfield. 2-1 Twins.
Come the bottom frame of the 3rd it is important to note the home plate umpire is being nice with outside calls on RH hitters. More than several pitched balls have been called strikes, that should not have been. The umpire has been equal between both teams. Estes then pulled the string on back to back changeup for his 4th strikeout. Clean inning besides 1 hit..
Again, there is a nice little tail that falls away from LH hitters. The important thing to note is, will this tail play against RH hitters? He seems to throw "straight" change ups to RH hitters. Not the best advice. The changeup needs to fall down and in as well as down and away.
After a whisper of a top half 4th, Estes nearly sprinted out of the dug. I would call it sprint but he made about 2-3 large hops. Estes has had a reputation of being a "highly" emotional player, according to the pitching coach, Brian McArn, for the AAA ball club. He should have been, after a more or less little league pop up for catcher Tyler Soderstrum. is dropped. Estes walks the batter but only so he could get Farmer to ground into a tailor made double play. 4.0 innings -58 pitches-39 strikes. Estes at thhis point, has started to learn what it means to paint the black in The Bigs. Take something off your fastball and let it work its way to the edge.
Butler hit his second double of the game with 1 out in the top 5th in more or less the same place he hit first. After a confusing flyball to right, Butler had to hold on 3rd and Noda stopping at 1st for a clean single. The right fielder played the ball as he was going to catch it. Seth Brown is pulled against the left-hander reliever for RH Aledmys Diaz, who promptly launches a rocket of a ball down the 3rd base line which scores Butler from 3rd. Diaz is now hitting .409 as a pinch hitter.
Brent Rooker, after watching curve ball after curve ball float outside and inside the zone, drops a perfect ball into a bucket in between the right-fielder and second baseman. Rooker did not give in on swinging at the curveball, working a full count, demanding a fastball and getting it. 4-2 A's.
Bottom of the 5th and Estes is starting to take a lot off his breaking ball. One clocked as low as 74 mph. Slowing his changeup even further, he induces his 2nd double play. 3-6-4. Not the first time we have seen Gelof wheel around the 1st baseman to complete the double play.
Estes, still throwing slowly, has a clean inning. How slow? He made Jorge Polanco fall down swinging at a 75 mph slider. I have not seen a swing like that all season. Polanco has to brace himself with his left hand so he did not hit is face on the dirt. He struck out, needless to say.
On his first pitch, Nick Allen ran as fast as Polanco swung, hitting a 2 out triple in the top of 6th. Harmless as the A's side is struck out. The right side of the plate is starting to become no mans land. The home plate umprise is not setting up properly - right at the tip of the homelate - behind the catcher. He is setting up slighty to the right of. This give the eye an angle that makes a pitch outside the zone, appear to be just clipping the black.
As Estes comes out for the 6th inning, getting ahead 0-2 on his first batter, 1 out. He gives up a clean single to LF. That closes his book: 5.1 innings 6 hits 2 ER's 1 BB and 5 K's on 75 pitches, 53 strikes. After the lead off homerun and allowing 1 more run in the 2nd inning, he appeared to be fully in control.
Kyler Muller then committed the cardinal sin of all pitchers, do not give up a game tying homerun. A walkoff homerun lessens the pain, because it is over quickly and a game leading homerun still give you a chance to take the lead back and reason to focus. Game tying homeruns are like getting a shot from a dentist, you cannot keep your eyes off the needle... errr scoreboard. Joey Estes gets the well earned and hard fought, no-decision.
The best thing I can say after watching Estes is he slowly but surely started slowing down his breaking ball and fastball. This produces several effects. He is far more accurate and throws the batters off who have been seen you throw smoke for several innings. He painted the black well with his fastball and induced 2 double plays with that tailing changeup and slow slider, that still bites hard at the break.
After Muller is lifted for Luis Erceg, the Twins' bats go quiet. This just before they get load again. Erceg does not enjoy it so much, as he has runners on the corners with 1 out. Two pitches later he eats a ground ball off his chest for the quietly turned 1-4-3 double play. The third double play of the night for Oakland.
As we find ourselves in the top of the 8th, Esteury Ruiz makes a cameo appearance, pinching hitting for Bleday. Ruiz, after seeing 1 pitch, takes the 2nd to shallow centerfield. All he has done is hit .313 in the month of September. In what baseball can only call a misdemeanor felony for not making him an everyday starter. If there is not such a thing, we need to invent one for that offense.
Ruiz, always an aggressive runner, gets thrown out at 2nd by Christen Vasquez on a ball that tailed right into Ruiz's shoulder but bounced into the Shortstops glove. An inaccurately perfect throw.
Ruiz, follows that offensive failure by an awkward play in right field. As he reached to take away a homerun, the ball hits the fence top, bouncing back into the field of play and then off a confused Ruiz's back. Ruiz, knew the ball came back into the field of play but lost it on the high bounce off the fence. Dany Jimenez, allowed the Twins to take a 2 run lead as Ruiz is, correctly, not charged an error.
The score does not change after the top of the 9th. Oakland takes it's franchise record, 110th loss. Since the Athletics moved to Oakland, they have never lost so many games. But in all this loss, as the saying goes, opportunity abounds. Joey Estes took his, as well as his next step forward. Did he pitch as well as Joe Boyle, no. But he certainly pitched better than Paul Blackburn, who is supposed to anchor the rotation. This creates another job listing - Help Wanted: Leader of the 2024 Oakland A's Rotation.
News and Notes
First and foremost, the AL office will need to have a conversation with the homeplate umpire this evening. In the last chance at bat for the A's, two consecutive calls strikes we well outside and inside. Gelof did everything he could to protect the plate but the umpire was not having it. Rung him up, undeservedly.