September 24th, 2023 the Oakland Athletics took on the Detriot Tigers and once again the story started & ended on the mound. The A's hitters have become more or less predictable. Zach Gelof will get a hit, Shea Langeliers may go deep, Ryan Noda will drive at least one pitch, hard and Esteury Ruiz might steal two bases.
But as we head toward the end of the year and start truly looking forward to Spring 2024 one thing has become confusingly clear, nobody knows who will take the ball for the Oakland A's, consistently. We have up to 7 pitchers from which to imagine could be starting next year; Paul Blackburn, Ken Waldichuk, Zach Neal, Mason Miller, Sean Newcomb, Kyle Muller. But the man we care about today is JP Sears. The same JP Sears has gone 3-1 in his last several outings and have carried the weight of 163.1 innings and 31 starts.
"Take the ball, and consistently give me 6 solid innings" is his prime directive. He really does not have a choice anymore. He is 27 years old. He is in his prime. Take the mound or do not, that is the question.
He answered by throwing a beautiful changeup to the 2nd hitter he saw today for his first strikeout but the same old problem showed itself. His slider will not slide down and in to RH hitters. Solid base hit to LF. Harmless as he gets out of the innings with a soft ground ball to 2B Gelof.
Ruiz, 3-7 for series, leading off for the A's (finally!), hitting a bouncing single squeaking just past shortstop and third baseman. He then stole his 64th base of the year. Ruiz has shown that he can hit the ball well and then take the double play out the table. He was thrown out trying to steal third. Watching the replay it looked as if he was safe. The A's did not challenge. Either way, Ruiz must, repeat, must be an everyday player next year, without excuse. He is two stolen bases short of breaking Kenny Lofton rookie record of 66.
Eyeing the top frame for the 2nd inning Sears confirmed that he is taking something off his slider. Throwing in the low 80's. He then sped up to 93 mph for his 2nd strikeout, swinging. Sears might have gotten a strikeout but his fastball continues to run inside to RH hitters. JP is over-throwing, again. Sears needs to relax and ease the ball to the plate instead trying to push it. His 3rd strikeout came on the changeup placed perfectly, down and away. He struck out the side on a 94 mph fastball on the outer third, swinging. He seams to lose it and then find it. Again, consistently confusing.
Truth be told he got a couple of breaks from the homeplate umpire. Several. of inside fastballs were 2-3 inches inside.
Sears strikeouts the first batter he faces in top 3rd. Four K's in a row, all swinging. At 81 mph he is hitting the strike zone consistently. Sears walks the next batter after giving up a double to Parker Meadows on a fastball on the outer to the LH hitter. On a lazy fly ball to shallow left Gelof commits a catching error but scored a single, incorrectly. Bases loaded 1 out and on his 51st pitch, Spencer Torkelson hits s dying quail out to shallow left-center, scoring 2. Brent Rooker commits an official throwing error trying to get the rear runner coming home. 2-0 Detroit. Which again was not scored correctly, Langeliers did not field it well.
And just like that, good Sears turns into bad Sears. Action already stiring in the bullpen. Now after walk to Miguel Cabrera, bases reloaded he gets his 6th strikeout to Jake Rodgers. A sharp line drive to the right fielder ends his 3rd inning.
Kevin Smith did not help matters by not hustling down the first baseline allowing a double play after a walk issued to Carlos Perez. Fielded on the skirt of the grass of the outfield by the shortstop, Smith gave up right out of the box.
Thankfully, manager Mark Kotsay let Sears take the mound for the 4th, 67 pitches. Sears finally got some help from his fielders on a diving backhand catch by Ruiz on a ball laced to left field by Trevor Short for the 2nd out. A harmless hit allowed to Meadows.
Ruiz lead off the bottom 4th with a double to left field. Ruiz over his last 20 games is .350. Furthering this writers belief that Ruiz is now an everyday player. His OBP is still single digits .300. If Ruiz begins to get his eye in and starts to walk, you are talking about a guaranteed All-Star next year. Book it. Gelof walks and its runners on 2nd. A's pull off a double steal for Ruiz's 65 stolen base but Ruiz is thrown out at home on a soft bouncing ball to the shortstop. Perez then hits into a tailor made 6-4-3 double play. Inning over. Consistently frustrating are the '23 Oakland A's, to be sure.
5 innings in, Sears is 85 pitches deep. He gets a strikeout on a changeup completely fooling Cabrera, right over the heart of the plate., looking. Finally a clean inning, besides a lazy single to left field. This was also his last inning. His final line? 5 innings - 6 hits -2 ER - 2BB - 7K's - 97-58 P/S ratio.
After a leadoff double Langeliers, Ryan Noda hits a sharp ground ball to short and Shea is gunned down trying to take third base on a fielders choice. Another error by A's baserunners. Oakland leaves them loaded on a soft ground ball to short by the 2-2 Ruiz. By the way, did anyone else notice Ruiz has the 2nd best batting average with runners in scoring position, in Major League Baseball (.367). Baseball is consistently unpredictable.
Come to the bottom of the 8th Seth Brown pinch hitting, 2 out, Rooker on first, Seth does what he has done most of the year, strikeout when the A's need him to not. Brown has become consistently predictable. Seth is going to arbitration next year and I frankly would not mind if Rooker is put in RF full time and Seth Brown is shown a respectful way to the door. His batting average, OBP and slugging is down 20-30 points across the board, compared to last year. His wAR is also down a full percentage point.
Leading off the bottom of the 9th Langeliers hits his 2nd double of the game in the exact same spot he his 1st, tailing down the left field line. Making it the 7 out of 9 innings the A's have the leadoff man on. Noda moves him over to 3rd on a groundball to 2nd baseman. With Tony Kemp pinch hitting strikeouts swinging. Tyler Soderstrum folllowed Tony Kemp, grounding out to 1st to end the A's season at home.
A's lose 2-0. Say what you want about the players, the manager, coaches, heck anyone associated with the ball club, but this seasons disappoint falls on one mans shoulder's. John Fisher. Ignoring the possible re-location. The owner of this club did every he could to cut costs and what we saw today was exactly what he paid for. Consistently infuriating, for us all.
News and Notes
Today marks 1,966 time the Athletics faced the Detroit Tigers. With Tigers leading the franchise series 1006-953 and 14 ties.
Javier Baez got a taste of his own medicine after gunning down several A''s baserunners, he hit a 110mph ground ball right to Gelof who was covering 2nd base for an attempted stolen base, for a perfect double play.
Oakland pitching matched an AL record of 95 hit batsman.
The official scorer for this game might need to go back to scorer-school. On a pitch that went directly between the legs of the Tigers catcher was scored a wild pitch. The fourth questionable scored ball.