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Live Blogging: A’s @ Royals Game 33

May 6, 2011

9:33PM CDT: Jackson is up and seems alright. The A’s win 3-2. Gonzalez with the win, Fuentes with the save. Gio Gonzalez wasn’t at his top level today as he had a 4.81 FIP game, and his control wasn’t there (started out only 13 first pitch strikes to the 28 batters he faced) but he stranded 90.9% of baserunners and he has proven adept at pitching with guys on all year. So the A’s win. A’s are back a game above .500 at 17-16, hopefully we can break through the just one-game over barrier and build on this game. Offense still is struggling but tonight it was enough. Do it again tomorrow.

9:32PM CDT: Great play and throw by LaRoche at short to get Treanor out at first (Dyson on a grounder to third was already rounding third when LaRoche threw that ball, wow). A’s win but Conor Jackson may be injured as Treanor runs through his left arm.

9:30PM CDT: Dyson does what he is paid to do and steals second. Great lead off of Fuentes. Fast runner. Last year Dyson played in rookie ball, Advanced-A ball, Double-A, Triple-A and Kansas City had a combined 32 stolen bases, caught nine times. Nine-for-ten in his time in Kansas City.

9:29PM CDT: Wilson Betemit, base hit to left-center. Right-handed hitting Matt Treanor up next. Betemit is being replaced by the 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts speedster Jarrod Dyson at first.

9:27PM CDT: Wow, great pitch from Fuentes. Freezes Hosmer at the knees – strikeout. Two down. Fuentes is really filthy against lefties that is his strength and it is a very good one, Geren just never plays to it.

9:25PM CDT: Eric Hosmer is eager here in the bottom of the ninth needing a run to tie it. Second pitch of the at-bat he took a rip, but Fuentes beat him. Third pitch he laced it foul. It’d be nice to see Fuentes take advantage of his eagerness and get him outside lunging.

9:19PM CDT: I love that Glen Kuiper just said Brian Fuentes is due to pitch in the ninth then mentioned the handedness of each Royals hitter. He gets it. I get it. You readers get it. Why doesn’t Geren?

9:14PM CDT: 2-3-4 hitters due up for the A’s in the top of the ninth to face the Royals’ diminutive reliever Tim Collins (5’7). I like this guy, watched him a bit during spring training. A lot of interesting arms in the Royals bullpen this year. Hopefully the A’s can tack on a few insurance runs. So far he has proven adept at getting guys out via the strikeout (10.9 K/9) but on the not-so hot side he matches that with an 8.8 BB/9 walk rate. I think a lot of guys might wait out his deceptive pitching motion to earn the walk and a lot of those guys who don’t end up paying for it.

9:09PM CDT: I love Balfour’s intensity. He strikes out Melky Cabrera looking on a nasty pitch. Yet still yells and curses at himself (I assume) because he let it get to a full count.

9:06PM CDT: Grant Balfour out on the mound for the A’s. Seems clear we should expect to see Brian Fuentes as per the Bob Geren formula next inning. I think the Bob Geren formula for bullpen usage is pretty simple. Any inning 1-7 or any inning at all with the A’s behind, or any tie game in extra innings, Geren picks a pitcher (excluding Balfour or Fuentes) from a hat. If it is the eighth inning and the A’s have the lead he goes Balfour. If it is the ninth inning and the A’s have the lead or are tied he goes with Brian Fuentes. This is not an optimal bullpen usage strategy but it is what we have for now.

9:03PM CDT: Eleven straight set down by O’Sullivan. That last chart again following the 1-2-3 top of the eighth:

Sean O’Sullivan IP H R ER BB K
Game 8.0 5 3 3 1 0
Game (excl 5th inning) 7.0 1 0 0 1 0

8:59PM CDT: Gio Gonzalez has been a different pitcher since getting the lead, with four strikeouts since the A’s took the lead in the top of the fifth, to give him a total of six in the game. Perhaps even further proof of the importance of getting an early lead? For what is worth though, Sean O’Sullivan has been pitching a great game and if not for that one shaky inning we again would be lamenting the lifelessness of the A’s. Here is what his game looks like and then what’d look like if the fifth inning hadn’t happened:

Sean O’Sullivan IP H R ER BB K
Game 7.0 5 3 3 1 0
Game (excl 5th inning) 6.0 1 0 0 1 0

8:50PM CDT: Wilson Betemit is 0-for-3 today. I think Betemit is someone Oakland could possibly go after later this year. The Royals could call up third base prospect extrordinaire Mike Moustakas leaving the versatile Betemit without a sure spot in the lineup. Betemit signed at only $1M for the year, certainly fits into Oakland’s payroll. The former top-prospect hasn’t ever lived up to his reputation but has been a serviceable MLBer. Betemit thus far this year is off to a strong start, he came into tonight’s game eighth in batting average (.322), fourth in doubles (11) and seventeenth in on-base percentage (.374). His batting average is largely the result of an unsustainable .415 BABIP, but there are likely not too many good cheap options like Betemit on the trade market if the A’s look for an upgrade.

8:43PM CDT: Gio Gonzalez simply was not putting up with anymore of this Eric Hosmer taking pitches garbage. Uber aggressive, goes right after him, K’s on three pitches. Nice sequence. Four-seam (93), slow curve (81), blow him out four-seam (95). Here it is, hit it meat.

8:42PM CDT: Jeff Francoeur aggressive on the base paths and stretches a single to a double, aided by a slightly offline David DeJesus throw. Gives rookie Hosmer a chance to be a hero. Francoeur is having a great season with a .407 wOBA and 161 wRC+. His BABIP isn’t out of whack, so he is just making good solid contact. Big change for him is a lack of infield pop outs (8.3%).

8:22PM CDT: Aren’t you supposed to never make the final out on the bases Coco? Though in fairness, it looks like the ump blew the call.

8:19PM CDT:  Coco Crisp grounds out. Andy LaRoche scores. A’s take the lead 3-2.

8:18PM CDT: Kouzmanoff hits into a double play but is saved when Mike Aviles doesn’t throw on to first. Instead he gets an RBI, Sweeney scores game is tied at two. Lucky for the A’s there, because Kouzmanoff didn’t do anything to avoid the GIDP that is all on Aviles.

8:16PM CDT: Alex Gordon misplays a Mark Ellis ball, but the scorer rules it a hit. Bases now loaded. A’s need to do something here. Ellis has benefited from a few lucky hits past few games. Ellis has a bad .222 BABIP but it doesn’t explain away his .180 batting average entering tonight’s play. The A’s really need to seriously consider Eric Sogard coming up, not sure what you do with Ellis at that point, perhaps some clubs would be interested in him? But Sogard enters tonight’s game versus Colorado Springs at Raley Field with a .288/.366/.407 mark. That .366 OBP is what really stands out for me. Sogard has 13 walks in 135 plate appearances this year.

8:14PM CDT: Here we go. Hits starting to come. Andy LaRoche makes it three in a row, plates Kurt Suzuki and halves the Royals lead to 2-1.

8:12PM CDT: A’s string together two base hits in a row as Zuk and Ryan Sweeney get on board. First and third no one out. The A’s need to really shake up their lineup, Sweeney is a nice guy to have in. The complaint is that he doesn’t have power, but frankly none of the A’s really have much power and they don’t make up for it with any other sort of hitting value so Sweeney to me is a good call.

8:08PM CDT: Hosmer has some wheels and steals second base off of Gio Gonzalez. I say off of Gio because first off pitchers give up stolen bases far more often than do catchers and this time, Gio didn’t look to first, Hosmer left while Gio still could’ve thrown to Conor Jackson and picked him off. That was a steal of Gio, miraculous Zuk could even make it look respectable.

8:05PM CDT: This kid just doesn’t bite. Eric Hosmer walks again as he doesn’t offer up on any pitches outside of the zone (again) and takes first base after receiving another diet of fastballs and curves. Gio has now walked three in three and two-thirds, while only striking out one. His body language on the mound isn’t good, as with him you need to always worry about the escalating damage and things snowballing.

7:59PM CDT: 1-2-3 inning for Sean O’Sullivan. The A’s prompt these chicken or the egg type questions. Is the pitcher really “on” or is it the A’s offense that is really “off”? O’Sullivan is not this good but through four he’s now allowed just one hit and walked one. Clearly some of that is luck as he isn’t striking out anyone or overpowering hitters, but you need to ask how long does hitting coach Gerald Perry have a job with the A’s hitting so poorly? It is like a team wide slump practically.

7:52PM CDT: Mike Aviles hits an opposite field triple (ball really seems to be carrying tonight) that scores Matt Treanor that expands Kansas City’s lead to 2-0. Aviles has an interesting statistical profile, and I remember a funny post from Joe Posnanski that was critical of Royals manager Ned Yost. The quote from Yost that inspired Joe’s rant was from an article of Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star who quoted Yost saying of Aviles,

“He’s a guy who has a chance to hit .300. He’s a guy who can steal bases. He’s a guy who will give you a decent at-bat, and he finds a way to get on.”

Here is what Posnanski had to say about that comment in an all-round good post,

Mike Aviles‘ career on-base percentage is .327. That’s below league average. He has walked 42 times in more than 1,000 big league plate appearances. He didn’t walk much more than that in the minors. He has been hit with pitches three times. I think Mike Aviles is a very useful player, and he might even be the Royals best option as a leadoff hitter. But he most definitely DOES NOT find ways to get on. And when you say stuff like that you make it pretty clear what your priorities are — and on-base percentage is not the priority.”

But Aviles hasn’t “found a way to get on” anymore this year as he has a near career worse 3.2% BB this season.

7:37PM CDT: First MLB at-bat isn’t an at bat at all as Hosmer walks.

As you can see above (hat tip to Gio gave him a few pitches to hit. Pitches three, four and five were all curveballs between 82 and 83mph while the others were four-seam fastballs between 95 and 97mph. Like the strategy. Show the big leagues guys you can hit the breaking pitch. His patience wore out Gio though and forced him back to the fastball, and he just waited it out. Good at bat but a good strategy by Kurt Suzuki and Gio Gonzalez too.

7:35PM CDT: Standing ovation for Eric Hosmer first time at the plate. Welcome to the bigs kid.

7:24PM CDT: Opposite field home run for Alex Gordon – his third on the campaign – gives the Royals a 1-0 lead. See how important scoring Crisp from third was? Gordon a former top prospect much like today’s rookie debut Hosmer, is having a great year with people finally saying he may have finally clicked and broken through and blossomed into the player he always was supposed to be. Fangraphs’ Joe Pawlikowski had a really great article about Gordon’s breakout today which is totally worth reading but the jist of it is explained in this clip,

“Sometimes, players can change. That might be temporary, but every so often we find a player who recognized a problem and works to correct it. So far this season it appears Gordon has done that. It’s not just the results, but rather a seemingly altered approach. It has allowed Gordon to make more contact, which has led to some quality, if somewhat lucky, results. But the changes aren’t all luck. There has been enough of a change in his discipline and contact numbers that we might be seeing something real here, even if that .380 BABIP will drop. The Royals have a rising star heading to join the team this evening, but a just as important, if quieter, story is the re-rise of Gordon.”

7:18PM CDT: The fans at Kauffman Stadium have a good first impression of Eric Hosmer as he begins a 3-6-3 double play to get Hideki Matsui to GIDP and leave Coco Crisp stranded at third. Pretty bad for the A’s here. Need to score runs early, give Gio a lead, and another runner is stranded at third base, despite no one being out once he arrived there. With men on third and less than two out the A’s are an atrocious .216/.294/.314 – just like the problems with RISP (.209/.294/.289) I don’t know how exactly you solve it.

7:13PM CDT: Leadoff walk for Coco Crisp and while it appears as if control has been a problem for O’Sullivan with that gaudy BB/9 rate (5.6) realistically it really is the result of his last start which came against the Twinkies where he walked seven in six innings of work. David DeJesus gets a hit in his Kansas City visitor’s dugout debut with Coco in motion so good start to the game. It’d be nice to get some offense going here.

6:57PM CDT: The A’s are in Kansas City where Gio Gonzalez will square off against Sean O’Sullivan. Gonzalez has had some very good starts and some less than stellar starts this year featuring a good 8.6 K/9 and a worrisome 3.9 BB/9. It must be noted though that the walks are still down and have been every year since his debut in 2008 as they’ve gone from 6.6 to 5.1 to 4.1 to the 3.9 we see now. Hopefully the trend continues this year and so far he’s off to a good start. Gio’s numbers are starting to come back down to earth again but he still sports a strong 83% strand rate, 2.70 ERA and 3.50 FIP. Sean O’Sullivan who has split his time between the rotation and pen for his entire career starts for Kansas City featuring a 3.43 ERA and 4.10 FIP with a terrible 6.0 K/9 and 5.6 BB/9 ratio. The big news of course lineup wise for both these clubs is the first of the Royals many vaunted prospects making his debut this evening in the name of Eric Hosmer. With Omaha this year Hosmer had a .439/.525/.582 slash line (aided by a wholly unsustainable .500 BABIP) that earned him the promotion down the Missouri River to Kansas City. He will be starting at first and batting sixth. Cliff Pennington gets the day off for the A’s, meaning Andy LaRoche is our starting shortstop and for the first time this May Kevin Kouzmanoff gets the start at the hot corner. Ryan Sweeney and Conor Jackson‘s hot bats have given them the starts in left field and at first base respectively. I have to say, you need to sit Daric Barton if he is going to continue to not hit, but I am not sure Josh Willingham is someone I’d sit so frequently as he accounts for so much of Oakland’s power. This is the only trip to Kansas City for the A’s this year – a fine ballpark if you ever get the chance to go and I have been once prior to the renovation and heartily recommend it as it will surprise you as a charming ballpark that seems very intimate – so it’d be great to see David DeJesus get a bit hot and show them what they are missing.

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