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Live Blogging: A’s @ Royals Game 35

May 8, 2011

4:10PM CDT: Brian Fuentes gets Betemit, Mike Aviles and Pena 1-2-3 all righties and gets the save and the A’s get the win to again move one game above .500. Strangely I looked at the numbers and despite his historical troubles with left-handed hitters, Fuentes actually is doing better versus righties this year than lefties. Can’t imagine that will last too long given his history. Regardless he gets the job done today and we’re thankful for that, helping Tyson Ross get his first win of the year as a member of the rotation (he had one already this year as a reliever). The Yankees have a 12-5 lead over the Rangers in the 8th in Arlington so the A’s should finish today tied for second, and if the Indians hold their 2-0 lead over the Halos in Anaheim (currently in the 6th) one game out of the division lead. Good day for the A’s, hitting wasn’t stellar but was much better than what we’ve seen and importantly they got some insurance runs to save the heart health of A’s fans in the late innings. Should start tomorrow’s series in Arlington tied with Texas, good chance to hit them around when they are down as both Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz are on the disabled list, though Neftali Feliz just returned off his DL stint. 5-2 win from Kansas City. Lets go Oakland!

4:03PM CDT: Suzuki better talk to his teammates about Coleman because DeJesus K’s too. So three strikeouts in the inning for Coleman but more importantly a solo shot in there too. Fuentes has three runs to play with as he goes for his ninth save on the 2011 campaign.

4:01PM CDT: Coleman K’d CoJax and Willingham, got two strikes on Kurt Suzuki but Zuk had him figured out because he belted it – a no doubter – to left field. A’s get another much-needed insurance run and now lead 5-2.

3:56PM CDT: Great slider from new Royals pitcher Louis Coleman. He K’s Conor Jackson on two straight swinging strikes against the nasty slider. When he was called up to the Royals this past April from Triple-A Omaha his numbers in Omaha were even gaudier than Eric Hosmer‘s (when you look at these numbers you wonder if that Omaha team could compete at the MLB level!) but in his mere seven innings of work with the Omaha Storm Chasers he struck out sixteen. Which translates to a 20.6 K/9. So far in five outings with Kansas City he is at 11.1 K/9.

3:49PM CDT: As predicted Balfour is in to toss the eighth inning. As noted many times, Balfour has struggled with his control this season (6.4 BB/9) so while his ERA is a stellar 1.93 his FIP is a more pedestrian 3.58. Where Balfour comes out well ahead of his A’s teammates is in the SD:MD ratio where he is 8.0 (eight shutdowns to one meltdown). No one else is even close.

3:42PM CDT: So the strategy of turning Coco Crisp around fails as he rips a single up the middle. Ellis scores, A’s tack on an insurance run and lead 4-2. First pitch from Collins, nice hit by Crisp as guys with deceptive motions like Collins sometimes you want to take a pitch or two.

3:38PM CDT: After looking really sharp Wood tosses a four-pitch walk to Cliff Pennington, putting runners on first and second with two out but that’s more than enough as far as Ned Yost is concerned because it looks like Tim Collins is coming in to pitch and shorten this inning.

3:28PM CDT: Love Michael Wuertz. Slider in the dirt gets Melky Cabrera to chase. What a great pitcher. Need to use him a heck of a lot more than we are. A’s get out of the seventh, 3-2 lead intact.

3:23PM CDT: Heck of an at-bat from Brayan Pena to draw a walk. But love the moxie from Wuertz, count is 3-2 and he goes changeup, slider, changeup, slider. So tying run on first.

3:19PM CDT: A’s bullpen is responsible for holding the lead this last third of the game as Bob Geren goes to Michael Wuertz for the Royals half of the seventh. Love what we’ve seen from Wuertz thus far in the little we’ve seen of him. Wuertz has 10.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9, while his 0.00 ERA is unsustainable, his FIP is 1.67 and he has been pitching that well. It’s a tall order to hold this late-inning heroic Royals club at bay with a one-run lead so hopefully the offense can make something happen too. I presume Geren will go to the very typical, Grant Balfour for 8th, Brian Fuentes for the 9th set up unless the score changes dramatically.

3:08PM CDT: Blake Wood comes in to pitch and promptly picks of Daric Barton but a dropped ball by Hosmer lets him get back to first. Wood is having a good year in the Royals pen, 3.38 ERA, 3.03 FIP, with 7.6 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9. Good numbers despite an average .303 BABIP.

3:05PM CDT: Barton with a basehit. Brings up CoJax who is 3-for-3 today, so 16-for-41 in his career versus Francis, but Ned Yost must know it as he is giving Francis the hook.

2:59PM CDT: Maier gets a basehit to right-center. Hosmer scores, but talk about heads up baseball right-fielder David DeJesus saw Betemit take a wide turn around second and threw behind him to Cliff Pennington who tagged Betemit inning over. With the way Tyson Ross started to struggle locating the pitch, DeJesus really saved that inning. Great play. Hosmer got in just before Betemit was called out, so the run does score but A’s lead 3-2. Great decision-making by DeJesus.

2:56PM CDT: Walks Betemit. Ross is having a tough inning, wonder if he is getting tired. Mitch Maier up to the plate, tying run is on first (Betemit), go-ahead is Maier at the plate. Still Ross is only at 85 pitches.

2:53PM CDT: Eric Hosmer misses his first career home run by mere inches, and must settle for his first career double and RBI. Royals close the gap but A’s still lead 3-1.

2:47PM CDT: Ross has made some great defensive plays this game. That was not one of them. He made an ill-advised underhand toss to Barton that went clear over his head and down the line allowing Melky Cabrera to get to second. Fosse is commenting on it as well, but the Royals are playing exciting baseball under Ned Yost, Cabrera went straight to second. They’ve done this taking the extra base thing continually this series, it is no wonder they’re having the season they are having. If they’re teaching this to their young kids and when they come up they play with this smart aggressiveness this club has the potential to be a thorn in the sides of every American League team for years to come.

2:43PM CDT: Kevin Kouzmanoff drills it to left-center and over the fence in spite of the stiff breeze to left not because of it. A’s add to their lead care of the solo shot and are up 3-0 on the Royals. It is both his third home run of the season and the third of his career off Jeff Francis. Coming in to today’s game not surprisingly, it is Kouz and CoJax who have the most career appearances against the longtime Rockie pitcher Francis, and both have liked hitting off him, coming into today Kouz was 9-for-20 (.450/.476/.950) with four doubles and two home runs, and Jackson was 13-for-38 (.342/.381/.711) with two doubles and four home runs.

2:37PM CDT: Another good inning of work from Tyson Ross. Good line on the day: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2BB, 3K. Can’t complain when you have a pitcher throwing the way Ross has this year but I wonder what is different that has resulted in such a markedly lower K/9 rate. As I mentioned earlier he entered with just 4.8 K/9 and this game he is a bit higher than that as he is averaging 5.4 K/9 right now, but last year in his time in Oakland he posted a 7.3 K/9 mark and in Sacramento a 10.7 K/9 mark. Wonder if it is like that strange correlation that Gio Gonzalez has, where he seems to see lowered K/9 numbers when his control is better, as Ross’ BB/9 are down too last year he had 4.6 BB/9 in both Oakland and Sacramento.

2:23PM CDT: Fosse just shared a story about Kansas City Star reporter Lee Judge, who wrote a column about Wilson Betemit “not taking one for the team” when the Royals could’ve won the game. After watching this video (and I give huge credit to Judge for putting his money where his mouth is) I will never ask why a player doesn’t take one for the team again. Here is the result. Great story, this is why I love Fosse, neat stories like this and he gives a great player perspective.

2:12PM CDT: Smart play by both Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer, on the comebacker to the mound Tyson Ross got Gordon in a rundown between 2nd and 3rd, good job by Gordon of keeping it alive long enough for Hosmer to make the equally smart move of getting to second to make the best out of an otherwise worse situation. Good play all around really as Ross did a good job of getting Gordon.

2:02PM CDT: Kevin Kouzmanoff singles to follow an Ellis single. If these two guys get back-to-back hits we need to make something of this inning, can’t let that go to waste. Hits from them have been few and far between so far in 2011.

1:55PM CDT: Interesting, Fosse just talked about yesterday’s play with Alex Gordon. Turns out that the play was called correctly and Fosse offered his apologies to the umpiring crew as the rule was a timing one, so that the run at third would’ve scored regardless, so it did not cost the A’s a run as suspected. Fosse also felt that he misread the Jarrod Dyson off of third sac fly play to end the game. Hearing how he described it is easy to see how it appeared as if Dyson left early, stating that players will push off the bag at third like a sprinter would push off a starting block, and when you view it through that prism and look at the toe of Dyson’s foot the call – while close – looks to be called correctly. The whole upper body may have moved early but the toe pushed off as Ryan Sweeney released the ball in left. A testament to Dyson’s speed as it wasn’t really close despite a relatively shallow fly ball. However no word on that Willingham strike out which was very clearly a missed ball and strike call.

1:44PM CDT: Following the first pitch ground out from Daric Barton off Francis Ray Fosse makes a good point comparing Francis to Bob Welch saying that these guys who have good offspeed stuff, throw curves first pitch in and get a lot of groundouts from guys sitting fastball first pitch. Seems like sound advice to sit and make him show curve first and take the pitch.

1:38PM CDT: Wow, Ellis tries to flip a GIDP ball to Pennington gets by Pennington and Kouzmanoff picks it up, with no one on third Jeff Francoeur takes off for third, Tyson Ross grabs it from Kouzmanoff and dives and gets Francoeur at third. Love seeing the pitcher get out there and help himself out like that. Amazing recovery from a disastrous broken up play. It helps to dive like that when you’re 6’6 I suppose. Hosmer does get a hit on the play as Francoeur had advanced and was out trying to get to third. So a strange 4-5-1 out.

1:34PM CDT: And that is not the way to get to the bullpen early as the A’s let Francis get a six-pitch inning in the top of the second. Pretty bad.

1:23PM CDT: Ellis turns over one to end the threat with a weak ground out to Betemit, but the good news is the A’s scored early (when does that happen?) and also they made Jeff Francis work as he threw 25 pitches in this first frame. The A’s need to continue to do that because though the Royals bullpen is good, they have been overworked with them second in the league in innings pitched (107.0) only to Toronto, and they are starting show some cracks as yesterday’s performance by Aaron Crow indicated. The earlier we can get to that overworked pen the better and Francis is a good candidate to beat up on as he isn’t the greatest of pitchers though his FIP (4.19) indicates that his ERA (5.45) is higher than it should be.

1:17PM CDT: Eric Hosmer nearly throws the ball into left field but a good play by Alcides Escobar gets Jackson out at second on a failed 3-6-3 double play. Run scores, A’s lead 2-0.

1:15PM CDT: Conor Jackson with a basehit to right scores Crisp and advances Barton to third. Nice work by CoJax. A’s take the early 1-0 lead. Good job taking advantage of the Wilson Betemit error to lead off the game and making the Royals pay for the mistake.

1:14PM CDT: With the way the wind was sort of carrying it, I thought that might’ve left the field. But Daric Barton hits it out to right and it hits the base of the wall for a double for Barton, so A’s are doing alright to start with Coco Crisp on third and Barton now at second. Francis has a history of struggling in the first inning, so its good to get an early jump on him. In his career, hitters have bat .326/.381/.476 against the Canadian in the first inning, as he has allowed a 6.12 ERA, compared to an overall mark of .284/.341/.454 with a 4.80 ERA.

12:54PM CDT: The A’s and Royals finish up their three-game set today at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, their only trip to KC this entire season (how I hate the unbalanced schedule…). Tyson Ross will square off against Jeff Francis today. It is Mother’s Day and of course last Mother’s Day in Oakland Dallas Braden pitched a perfect game (interestingly enough on this date in 1968 Catfish Hunter threw his perfect game), Ross is taking Braden’s spot in the rotation while he is out with shoulder stiffness, but it would’ve been nice to see Braden pitch again on the holiday. In his absence however Ross has filled in more than admirably, the two pitchers line up about even in innings pitched thus far, and Ross has been the better of the two:

Braden 18.0 7.5 2.5 1.0 3.00 3.54 0.3
Ross 22.2 4.8 3.6 0.0 2.38 3.07 0.4

The A’s outfield for today is without Josh Willingham who is expected to be suspended but is in the game as a designated hitter. Mark Ellis is back in at second base, and while I am a big Ellis fan he clearly is not getting it done and doesn’t deserve the playing time he is getting hitting a feeble .184/.218/.272 being worth -0.2 WAR, and while his UZR/150 is a good 6.3, it doesn’t justify having such a weak bat in the lineup, and really does not justify the weak bat hitting 7th. Kevin Kouzmanoff appears to have won back his starting job (for no apparent reason) as he again is in the lineup today. What a mess this infield is between Kouz and Ellis. The scuttling Daric Barton continues to hit second despite not doing much better than Ellis at .196/.326/.277 his only saving grace being the relatively strong OBP. His -11.9 UZR/150 is not a strong point either, coming off a year in which he was awarded the Fielding Bible award at first. I think at the least if unwilling to shake up the starters, Bob Geren should shake up the lineup order. A’s are 8-2 in getaway day games, hopefully that continues today after having a disappointing game last night with some very bad umpiring calls.

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