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Live Blogging: A’s @ White Sox Game 66

June 11, 2011

9:12PM CDT: He didn’t have the magic tonight. Jesse Crain K’s Sizemore and the A’s fall to the White Sox 3-2. This win belongs solely to Brent Lillibridge who stole a home run from Coco Crisp in the eighth inning that would’ve given Oakland a 4-3 lead. Can’t really fault the A’s on this one, miraculously despite seven walks and a hit batter, Gio Gonzalez only allowed three runs, and the A’s had no business clinging around with that sort of a pitching performance anyhow. The White Sox went 0-for-10 with RISP and stranded twelve runners. John Danks had a good outing for the White Sox keeping Oakland at bay and that’s your ballgame right there.

9:10PM CDT: Down to their final out, the A’s have DeJesus at first and last night’s hero Scott Sizemore at the plate…

9:04PM CDT: They aren’t going to Thornton who remains in the bullpen, and it is Jesse Crain still and he walks Matsui on four pitches. David DeJesus is in as a pinch-runner at first to give Oakland some speed on the bases.

9:00PM CDT: A’s need one run to tie it and it is all up to: Hideki Matsui, Josh Willingham and Conor Jackson. It looks like they will have to contend with Matt Thornton. Thornton as we said yesterday has struggled this year with an amazing nine meltdowns (though he earned a fifth shutdown yesterday), so good guy to try and get to.

8:48PM CDT: With the thick foggy air I think that probably kept the ball in the ballpark, but Coco Crisp just missed a two-run home run (and career hit 1,000) by inches. Brent Lillibridge caught that ball about two inches over the fence on a great play that keeps the White Sox lead at one. An amazing play, but that’ll be all for Danks nonetheless. Too close for comfort for Ozzie I suppose. New White Sox pitcher will be Jesse Crain.

8:44PM CDT: 104 pitches, but still John Danks is starting the eighth inning. He’s been good, but I bet this reflects a bit of Ozzie Guillen‘s hesitance at using his beleaguered bullpen as well.

8:37PM CDT: With the next seven hitters being right-handed, Breslow gets dumped for Joey Devine. This is sensible playing of the matchups, also it is cool because he gave Breslow a shot again at getting Ramon Castro and when he walked him chance was done. So far – and granted we don’t have much to go on – the bullpen management seems much more sensible and fair. It has been flexible, giving guys an opportunity to get out of jams and messes, not being overly rigid to roles etc, but at the same time doesn’t let things spiral out of control (for example when Brian Fuentes was in there on Thursday and gave up a few runs, the game was already lost so Melvin was saving his pen for games like this). So, so far at least I am a fan of his bullpen strategy. In an interesting article by Christina Kahrl on ESPN’s SweetSpot she writes of Melvin’s bullpen usage,

“The 2007 Snakes squad that won 90 games despite allowing more runs than it scored might represent some bit of cleverness on his part — Melvin used his good relievers to good effect in the games his club could win, and his (very bad) bad relievers in the games out of reach, which tended to make blowouts worse considering the former BOB’s run-inflating environment.”

8:30PM CDT: I am guessing that Bob Melvin doesn’t want Adam Dunn to beat them and is playing the matchup with 1-for-45 vs. LHP Dunn by replacing Ziegler with Craig Breslow. Dunn can build the lead instantly with one swing of the bat so I endorse the move.

8:16PM CDT: Ziggy had a double play ball and Pennington gave it his all but a bad throw means everyone is safe and Lillibridge scores from third. So another short-lived tie. A’s trail the Sox 3-2.

8:10PM CDT: Wow, so this is really interesting. After a stolen base where Zuk’s throw went into center field  putting Lillibridge on third with just one out, despite the count being 1-0 Melvin is making a move mid-at bat and in will come Brad Ziegler to complete the AB against Alexei Ramirez. I like how Melvin gave Gio a shot to sort things out himself. I wonder if he finally had enough because of Gio’s two wild pitches and a balk today that he couldn’t risk him uncorking another?

8:08PM CDT: Seventh walk. A career high for Gonzalez, also he has had at least one in every inning now. Ugly, ugly line. Only two K’s.

8:05PM CDT: Surprised to see Gio back out there having already thrown 110 pitches. This is another way Melvin is different, as prior to him I am certain we would be seeing the bullpen already no matter what.

8:02PM CDT: Game tied again. Hideki Matsui with a sac fly to right to score Coco Crisp. Matsui does do a good job of getting the guys in. With men on third and less than two outs, he has 10 RBI in 11 at bats.

7:51PM CDT: Another walk to Adam Dunn. 1-for-45 versus LHP. Ugh. Gio Gonzalez is in meltdown mode. Bases are loaded. He has now walked his sixth batter – he did this against Detroit earlier this year with a similar result of really not getting burned by it as he should have (in fact against Detroit nobody scored). He has been lucky today with that – but that luck only last so long. 99 pitches, 52 for strikes. Have to assume this is his last inning of work whether he gets out of it or not.

7:33PM CDT: So much for the comment regarding Gio lowering his walk totals. Fifth walk of the night as he goes from 0-2 to walking Brent Lillibridge.

7:28PM CDT: Interesting comment from Ray Fosse – that Bobby Cramer pitched well enough Thursday night to be optioned and not outrighted to Sacramento. I was impressed by Cramer’s performance on Thursday, the A’s would be in a sticky spot if he hadn’t had such a gutsy outing with the starters just not going deep into games in their time thus far in Illinois.

7:25PM CDT: You can put on the board… Ramon Castro with his third home run on the year. No doubt about it and as quickly as the A’s tie it, the White Sox break the tie. ChiSox 2, Athletics 1. Gio Gonzalez is not looking great tonight – three innings pitched already 68 pitches (only 35 for strikes). Seems like a third straight night where the bullpen will need to shoulder a heavier than usual load.

7:17PM CDT: Tie game! Nice basehit by Josh Willingham, but Cliff Pennington doing a job to get home. He is ignites this offense for Oakland in that two spot – I really like the move. Traditionally I wouldn’t, but with this team (and to a degree in this day in age) where runs are at a premium, little things like good base stealing there leads to this run. Without that stolen base, Pennington is on second and I doubt on third with the hit going to Lillibridge in left.

7:05PM CDT: Passed ball by Zuk on a bounced curveball. Good throw by Zuk to try and get it but Gio didn’t catch the throw and Ramirez scores. White Sox 1, A’s 0. Going back to the previous play, the double steal. Carlos Quentin slid into second feet first, that is a smart play because first off it means that you don’t break a finger or something but secondly, it really prevents Jemile Weeks from putting his leg down or something similar and blocking the path to the base because he doesn’t want to get spiked. He goes head first, Weeks don’t have to worry about his fingers, that becomes Quentin’s problem and he likely is easily out. Never thought of it in that sense but it seems that’d be the case?

6:55PM CDT: Some bad calls in this game already. Gio Gonzalez gets called on a balk didn’t seem like a good call at all. Even Alexei Ramirez turned around to the ump seemingly surprised by the call. No deception at all – it was obvious just from Ramirez’ reaction.

6:42PM CDT: Bases are loaded with the HBP of Gordon Beckham. Control has been an issue early for Gonzalez with 33 pitches thrown and only 16 for strikes.

6:38PM CDT: 1-for-44 yet versus LHP yet Gio walks Adam Dunn to put two men on. As a strikeout pitcher you need to be able to get a guy who has struck out 82 times by June 11th.

6:20PM CDT: Looks like that ball bounced off Brent Lillibridge which is what changed its direction to hit Kurt Suzuki sort of in the groin area. Weird play, but the umps are ruling it ball three so Gio Gonzalez looks to have caught a break, the luck continues. It just sort of looked funny because the hit on Lillibridge (if it did indeed happen) didn’t look obvious, then Suzuki doubling over in pain made it seem perhaps more doubtful that Lillibridge did in fact get hit. Always see something new in every game.

5:56PM CDT: Interesting lineup Bob Melvin is putting out there today. Hideki Matsui (whom Melvin clearly likes a lot) is hitting third, Conor Jackson is in right hitting fifth, Scott Sizemore hits sixth, and then Daric Barton is in the eight spot. Yesterday here I wrote, in response to Susan Slusser’s comment that a Conor Jackson/Ryan Sweeney platoon for the three spot was in the mix,

“what team has a platoon in the number three spot? I mean it is one thing to have a platoon at seven, eight or nine. Or maybe a different leadoff guy here and there, but a number three spot? Wow, not sure I like that that is the case.”

Apparently Melvin agrees with me because in today’s A’s Drumbeat Slusser writes,

Bob Melvin spoke yesterday about the A’s lack of a true No. 3 hitter, and he said he understood why Bob Geren bounced Ryan Sweeney and Conor Jackson in and out of the spot.

Melvin said today, however, that he’s decided he wants a everyday No. 3 hitter – he said he feels it’s important from a psychological standpoint to have a set No. 3 guy, it’s too key a spot to rotate different hitters in and out.

So the A’s No. 3 hitter is: Hideki Matsui. Melvin showed an immediate affinity for Matsui, and Matsui has responded in Melvin’s first two games as manager. Now he’s making his first appearance of the season batting third, and Melvin said he likes Matsui there because ‘he’s a veteran and he’s a guy we need to lean on.’

To say this is a shift in approach from Geren is an understatement.”

Like I have long advocated, Melvin intends on using Landon Powell more frequently behind the plate, not just in the day game following a night game situations that he’s been used in thus far this year. Which is awesome and smart. He also commented that he wants to keep Josh Willingham and Coco Crisp in the lineup daily in left and center which has created a three-man fight for right field between CoJax, Sweeney and David DeJesus (who sits tonight). It’ll be interesting to see how this all shakes out, because I really like DeJesus who has really started to contribute too.

Today’s pitching matchup puts Gio Gonzalez opposite John Danks. Gio has really had a strange sort of year, very lucky with a 80.2% strand rate for example. He has struck out more guys than last year (8.3 K/9) but more importantly his control is continuing to improve (3.9 BB/9) though you’d still like to see it better than that. Danks has been the opposite of Gio in the luck department owning a 1-8 record, and while he hasn’t pitched well, he has not pitched that poorly either. His 6.0 K/9 are slightly below his career average (6.9) and his 3.0 BB/9 is right around his career mark (3.1). He presently has a 4.75 ERA (his worst since his rookie campaign in 2007) with a 4.57 FIP.

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