The A's pitching, defense and clutch hitting took a near total holiday today.
As great as Zito was last week against the Twins, he really struggled against the Tigers tonight in Game 1 of the ALCS. Gaudin, Kennedy, Calero and Blanton pitched well in relief (4.1 IP and no runs), but Zito allowed 7 hits, walked three, struck out no one and gave up 5 runs in 3.2 innings.
Where the A's played nearly flawless defense against the Twins, they kicked the ball around today. Chavez made an uncharacteristic mistake on a bases-loaded grounder in the third inning that allowed a run to score. It was a tough play moving to his left, but Chavez usually makes that play -- an out there would have saved a run and ended the inning.
Then, in the fourth, D'Angelo Jimenez looked like he was trying to stop the clock instead of turning a double-play. With Craig Monroe on first, Marcus Thames grounded a ball to Chavez who zipped it over to Jimenez. As he turned to throw to first for the double-play (a near guarantee with a healthy Mark Ellis), Jimenez essentially spiked the ball into the ground (it did make it at least 75 or 80 feet in the air). Instead of two outs and the bases empty, Zito had only one out and a runner on second. The next two batters doubled and grounded out. If Jimenez had turned that double-play, the A's are out of the inning without allowing any more runs. BUT - the Tigers ended up scoring two more runs.
Those two defensive missteps arguably cost the A's 3 runs. Take those three runs away and the final score is 2-1, which takes us to our next point...
The A's were 0-13 with runners in scoring postion. Here's the litany of good situations the A's turned sour:
-Runners on first and second with one out in the first.
-Runners on first and second with one out in the third.
-Runners on second and third with NO out in the fourth.
-Runners on first and second with NO out in the fifth.
-Runners on first and second with one out in the sixth.
It's almost unbelievable that a team could put itself in all of those situations and not score a single run. But then, this is how the A's roll in the post-season. So far this year, the A's are 3-34 with runners in scoring position. Since making the playoffs in 2000, the A's are 40-174 with RISP (according to my rough scanning of the retrosheet box scores: example). That's a .230 batting average. In fact, the A's were only 4-42 (.095) in 2001 while losing two of five to the Yankees.
This clutch hitting problem is nothing new, but we don't have to like it. And the A's don't have to keep it up. Tonight was painful, but the A's are capable of going 4-2 over the remaining 6 games against the Tigers. They just have to pitch, play defense and get a few clutch hits.
LET'S GO A'S