Monday, July 8, 2013

A's Take Opener 2-1

The first inning looked like an All-Star matchup between Jeff Locke and Bartolo Colon. The Athletics went down in order, and the Bucs managed a two-out single by Cutch in their half. It was more of the same in the second. Yoenis Cespedes walked and was quickly erased on a 4-6-3 DP in the second; the Bucs went down in order, whiffing twice.

Locke put Oakland away in order in the third. Clint Barmes opened the Buc half with a knock, and Locke's bunt worked out well; the throw to second for the force by C Derek Norris pulled SS Jed Lowrie off the bag, and the Bucs were in business. Starling Marte whiffed and a JT tapper to third moved them up a station. Colon reached back and blew three mid-ninety heaters past Cutch; he never touched one, and the Bucs let their first opportunity go by the boards.

It allowed the As to draw first blood in the fourth. Jed Lowrie doubled over JT's head with an out and went to third on a short wild pitch; Russell Martin's throw beat the runner by a heartbeat, but Pedro's quick swipe missed the mark. Josh Donaldson followed with a sac fly to center, and Oakland was up 1-0. Pedro started it off with a soft single dropped into left. Martin went after a 3-1 pitch and hit a one hopper to short; he beat the relay by a toe when Grant Green couldn't get the ball out of his glove cleanly. Garrett Jones walked on a full count, but Bradon Inge fisted a gentle liner to short and Barmes bounced out.

Oakland was retired in order in the fifth. The Bucs got a two out chopper from JT for a hit in their half; they've stranded six in five frames. Locke ho-hummed his way through Oakland in the sixth. Colon matched him, although a long at bat by Jones ran his pitch count up to 89.

The bane of the pitch-to-contact guy bit Locke in the seventh. He gave up leadoff ground singles, one a soft grounder by Lowry just between Jiones and the bag and another hit more sharply by Donaldson that was just past Pedro. He got two outs, and was almost out of the inning when a 5-3 attempt at a DP went Oakland's way on a play too close to call, but then walked Chris Young, a .189 hitter, on a full count and then lost Norris, a .208 batter, also on a 3-2 pitch, to make it 2-0 before getting the last out.

The Bucs set up shop with a couple of unlikely candidates. With an out, Barmes collected his second hit, a double of the bottom of the left field wall. Travis Snider went with a 1-2 running heater and punched it into left to put Bucs on the corners. It looked like Colon would work out of it when he K'ed marte on a check swing, but JT legged out a 65' tapper up the 3B line to bring in a run.  Cutch rifled a 1-2 pitch into center; Coco Crisp made a fully extended dive and came up with the ball on a web gem. If he missed it, the Bucs would have had the lead, so his do-or-die might have been a game saver.

Locke went seven, giving up two runs on three hits with three hits, three walks and four K, tossing 96 pitches. Justin Wilson came on and pitched a quick and clean eighth.

Luck plays a part in games, too. Pedro and Jones were on first and second with two outs, both singling the opposite way off Ryan Cook, after Martin and Gaby had a pair of unproductive at bats, K'ing and popping up. A passed ball moved them up a station. Barmes smoked an at 'em shot to left; Cespedes took just a couple of steps to grab it short of the track in front of the 383' mark. The Bucs have had their chances and squared up; they just can't get the ball to find grass in the clutch. And that plays into Oakland's hand; their closer, Grant Balfour, has converted 40 straight save.

Wilson tucked away the As without a peep; his two inning stint used up 20 pitches. Grant Balfour came on; the As closer's secret must be lulling guys to sleep as between every pitch he takes a walk, tugs at his jersey, plays with his necklace, rubs his pants and adjusts his hat. Whatever it is, it worked. He got Snider and Mike McKenry on soft flies, surviving Marte's bid to be a ninth inning hero when his shot was hauled down on the track in front of the T-Mobile sign; he needed six more feet.

The A's score on a missed tag and fly, then on a bases loaded walk to a .208 hitter. The Bucs lasered a pair of balls with runners on second and third and got outs for their efforts; oddly, the only Pirate RBI knock was a swinging bunt. For the night, they outhit the Athletics 9-to-3 abut stranded ten runners. Mama said there'd be days like this. The secret may not have been the balls that didn't fall, but the strikeouts, pops and grounders to the left side throughout the game with runners on, the textbook definition of unproductive outs.

Gerrit Cole takes on Dan Straily tomorrow night.
  • Cutch has ten game hit streak and Pedro six after tonight.Starling Marte's ended at a dozen games.
  • Jeff Locke now has fifteen straight starts giving up three runs or less, though his eight game win streak was lost.
  • Tonight's crowd ended the streak of 30K+ at 23,743.
  • Grant Balfour now has converted 41 save opportunities in a row.
  • The A's are 10-0 against Pittsburgh and are the last MLB team standing that has a perfect record against another team.
  • Pedro, with 22 lost balls, didn't make the All -Star home run derby cut. Captain David Wright (13) of the Mets chose Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez (24), Washington's Bryce Harper (13) and another Rockie, Mike Cuddyer (15). We don't imagine Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt (21) is feelin' any love, either.

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