New York 7, Oakland 3 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
A's Current Record: 9-6
What an ugly game. As much as I'd like to blame the Yankees for dragging out the length of games as Joe West suggested, it's not really their fault when opposing teams issue ten walks as the A's did last night. The battle for biggest offender last night is pretty tight between Gio Gonzalez and Edwar Ramirez. Gio walked more guys, five in 4.1 innings, but Ramirez' four walks in a mere two innings, including three walks in the seventh, was also pretty impressive. I think with after that performance he may as well print out directions/buy a bus ticket to Sacramento to have handy when Michael Wuertz is done with rehab.
Ramirez' walk party was bad, but not unexpected. Gonzalez' command issues, while also not out of the blue, was way more disappointing. He's such a frustrating pitcher to watch. Last night his fastball was in the mid-90s and his big curve made a couple of appearances. He was just so inconsistent and the Yankees took full advantage of it. After getting two quick outs in the first, he fell behind 3-0 to Teixeira before allowing him to double. He then walked A-Rod and lost Cano to a walk after a pretty good battle. Yes, Barton probably should have handled the grounder by Posada that extended the inning, but Gonzalez had a good shot to get out of the inning before Posada even came to the plate.
I know you can't just tell a guy to throw more strikes or do much to magically improve a pitcher's command. But I think it would help Gio to pitch inside more often, especially to right handed batters. He only hit one batter last year and in the minors, he hit two in 2007 and two in 2008. For a pitcher who has shaky control, this seems to indicate an unwillingness to pitch inside. There's no reason for him to aim for the outside corner so frequently when there's a pretty decent chance he'll miss his spot anyways. This hurt him the most against A-Rod and Teixeira. Yes, they're good hitters, but I'd rather Gio challenge them with his stuff than have him try to place a fastball on the outside corner.
His control got him in trouble again in the fifth. With one out he walked Nick Johnson and Teixeira, at which point Bob Geren made a pitching change. He brought in Craig Breslow who gave up a long home run to A-Rod. I know there may be some hand-wringing about the decision to bring in Breslow to face Rodriguez, but the decision is imminently defensible, if not ideal. You definitely want a lefty facing the bottom half of the Yankees lineup which featured three lefties and two switch hitters. That is why Breslow was the first man up in the bullpen. Geren probably assumed that Gio could at least make it to Cano or through the fifth inning, which may have been a mistake. However, Breslow actually had a lower FIP against right handers last year than against lefties, so he's probably the guy you want to have warm. This game turned on a lack of execution by the pitchers and not Geren's decision making.
The A's offense today didn't look as bad as I had feared they would. They only scored three runs, but they got a lot of baserunners and even hit two home runs. Travis Buck's line drive double play really killed the A's as did Kevin Kouzmanoff's weak at bat against Joba Chamberlain with the bases loaded in the seventh.
The best news for the A's is that they knocked Javier Vazquez out early and both Joba and Rivera made appearances in last night's game. The A's will need every edge they can get going into the last two games. Tonight, they'll face apitcher with the stuff to potentially shut them down (Phil Hughes) and one on Thursday who is very likely to do so (C.C. Sabathia).