Tuesday: Oakland 4, Baltimore 2 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
Wednesday: Baltimore 9, Oakland 6 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
A's Current Record: 38-41
Unfortunately, I was unable to get to Baltimore for these games (and won't be attending tonight's game either). While I'm upset that I may not get to see the A's again in person this year, the fact that the A's played two really ugly games makes me feel a little less bad about not catching them in person. The way they played they could have easily dropped both games, although they got lucky enough that they also could have won both.
The story of Tuesday's game was Vin Mazzaro. Initially, Dallas Braden was scheduled to start, but was scratched because of elbow stiffness (luckily, Braden is likely to make his start on Saturday). Mazzaro then went 6 innings, walked 6, while striking out just 2. And though he gave up just 3 hits, 2 of them were doubles. Despite all this he gave up just one run and earned the victory. As evident from the high walk total, Mazzaro had a very tough time with the strike zone, throwing almost half of his 98 pitches for balls. What's even stranger is that Mazzaro only got one double play ball and did not benefit from outs on the basepaths either.
As is often the case, the A's offense was just good enough, riding a season high 4 steals, on top of 11 hits, to score four times. Coco Crisp was the star of the game, as he was a homer short of the cycle, walked once, and stole two bases. Unfortunately, Coco was the only A's hitter to knock an extra base hit as the rest of the offense continued its singles-only stylings. The offensive oddity was Kurt Suzuki's three RBI, despite the fact that he didn't hit the ball out of the infield cleanly on any of his RBI at bats. An infield single, RBI groundout, and single off of Miguel Tejada's glove accounted for his big RBI day.
Last night's affair was especially ugly. made worse by questionable bullpen management from Bob Geren. Granted, he was not given the best of circumstances, as Ben Sheets was shaky and Brad Ziegler gave up a rare home run to a right hander in a critical situation.
Ben Sheets labored through six innings (though to be fair, with the amount that guy sweats, it always looks like he's laboring). He gave up four runs, three earned, but was done in by the long ball as he allowed solo dingers to Adam Jones and Corey Patterson. The bullpen went out and gave up three more homers as the staff's five homers allowed tied a season high.
Perhaps the bullpen would have performed a bit better had Geren deployed them a little better. He seems deathly afraid of letting any reliever pitch on back to back nights, no matter how few pitches was thrown the previous night. Furthermore, he still allows Ziegler to face lefties and it bit the A's right on the backside yesterday. Entering the bottom of the seventh, the A's had a two run lead, thanks to the A's six run fourth inning. The O's had Tejada (R), Nick Markakis (L) , and Ty Wigginton (R), due up, with Luke Scott (L) ready to bat if any Oriole reached base. At this point, Ben Sheets was at 104 pitches and definitely could have faced at least one more batter. Instead, Geren brought Ziggy into the game, who retired Tejada, but walked the lefty Markakis, which brought the tying run to the plate. Had Sheets stayed in the game to face Tejada, Sheets or a lefty could have faced Markakis, with Ziegler facing Wigginton (or not coming into the game at all depending on the situation).
If Geren decided that Sheets was done, though, then his first bullpen choice was less than ideal, but defensible. Ziegler rarely gives up homers to righties, so it was tough to imagine Wigginton tying the game with a two-run blast. What was just stupid was bringing in Cedrick Bowers to face Luke Scott. Bowers should really be the A's mop up man (and probably should even be in AAA so the A's can carry an extra bat on the bench). Jerry Blevins should have been available as he threw just 8 pitches on Tuesday. Bowers faced Scott after Wigginton's jack, and Scott promptly gave the O's the lead with a solo shot of his own. For good measure, Bowers struggled through the rest of the inning, allowing a single and a walk before getting the final out of the inning. Tyson Ross' struggle in the eighth, and the A's inability to score in innings that didn't start with the number 4 may have made all this moot, but you can never know how the game would have played out had they escaped the inning with the lead (or in a tied game).
The A's look to take the series tonight, then head to Cleveland to face the AL's second worst team. The A's still have a shot at using a soft part of the schedule to leap back above .500, but the ugly ball they've played so far in Baltimore doesn't bode well for the rest of the road trip.