Written by Lee Tackett
Coco Crisp led off the 9th inning with his second solo home run in as many nights and the Athletics downed the Orioles 2-1. Jarrod Parker, undefeated in his last 16 starts, and Chris Tillman were masterful and each allowed one earned over eight innings a piece.
Chris Tillman didn’t allow an Oakland runner to second base until the fourth inning and kept the lineup at bay for the entire outing. Tillman’s only blemish on the afternoon came in the sixth when Kurt Suzuki hit a one out double and Jed Lowrie brought him home two batters later.
You’re welcome to look at the play by play to see the exact sequencing of Tillman’s pitches, but this was as good as he has been all season. On many hitters, Tillman established his breaking ball early in the count, and then went to the fastball when ahead for the punch out. He picked up steam as the game went on and struck out two of his nine in the eighth inning. Tillman was left with a no decision, still in search of his 15th win.
Darren O’Day came in to work the ninth and was rudely greeted by newest Oriole killer Coco Crisp. O’Day fell behind Crisp 3-1 and hung a slider in the middle of the plate and Crisp hit it to the flag court and put the A’s up 2-1. O’Day struck out two in his inning and was saddled with his third loss of the season.
Ryan Flaherty notched the Orioles first hit in the third with his 8th home run of the season, a solo shot to put the O’s up 1-0.
After the A’s tied the game in the top half of the sixth, the O’s pressured in the bottom half, but to no avail. Manny Machado led off with a double into the left field corner and after a Chris Davis pop out, Adam Jones walked. Matt Wieters hit a ground ball that looked like a sure double play, but Jones went into second aggressively and broke it up. Yet, with runners on the corners and two out Nick Markakis flew out to the left field warning track.
Nate McLouth smoked a 3-2 pitch to right for a single to start the eighth and Machado bunted him over, but Davis was walked intentionally. Both Jones and Wieters were unable to put good swings on the dominant Jarrod Parker and each grounded out to end the threat.
It was an ominous sign when the Orioles were unable to score with two on and one out in the eighth and Crisp’s ninth inning home run erased another great Tillman start.
Observations and Musings
-Last night was an offensive prizefight and tonight was the epitome of a pitcher’s duel. Parker and Tillman were both magnificent. Each showed excellent command and kept opposing hitters off balance all afternoon. Both seemed to sense that the game was going to be decided by a slight margin and got stronger as the game progressed. Hitters on both sides were rendered helpless and save for a few swings, no one even hit the ball hard.
Armchair Managing Take 1: I understand conceptually that it’s the right idea to bunt a runner into scoring position late in the game, but in doing so, Showalter effectively took the bat out of Davis’s hands. Davis is a hitter likely to do damage (hits for extra bases) and would render the runner’s position on the bases moot with such a hit. Bunting with Machado also took the bat out of the hitter’s hands who had taken one of the best swings of the day in his previous at bat. The Orioles offense is deep enough that even late in the game, bunting should be seldom used.
Armchair Managing Take 2: Coco Crisp is clearly swinging the bat well right now, some would say he’s even on a bit of a power surge. Again, I understand that O’Day has been arguably the team’s most reliable reliever, but his left-right splits can’t be ignored. Per FanGraphs, lefties hit .312, righties hit .163. The difference is significant. With both Crisp and Moss scheduled to come up in the inning, I can’t defend why Brian Matusz wasn’t used. Certainly Matusz is prone to walks and lapses in command, but sending O’Day out against two lefties showed an ill-timed disregard for the numbers.
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