By John Hickey
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013 at 8:37 pm in 2013 spring training.
Tommy Milone walked out of the Oakland clubhouse Tuesday seemingly having put the 1-0 loss to Cleveland behind him.
His teammates weren’t so fortunate.
They not only didn’t hit behind Milone, the A’s not getting a runner to second base, but they didn’t play defense behind him, either.
Brandon Moss and Eric Sogard made errors on the same batted ball by Carlos Santana in the fifth inning, and that led to the only run of the game being unearned. But it still meant a loss for Milone and the A’s.
Moss was kicking himself savagely after the game.
“That was just a bad play by me,’’ he said. “100 out of 100 times you should make that play. It was a high chopper and a slow runner. I should have played it for a long hop, but I got aggressive, came in and it wound up being an in-between hop.’’
And that hop kicked off Moss’s glove.
It went in the general direction of Sogard, who tried to field the ball with his bare hand and throw to Milone covering first. Santana, being one of the league’s slower runners, the play was there to be made.
“Obviously I didn’t get a good grip on it,’’ Sogard said. “It didn’t slip; I just didn’t make the play. Normally I make that one. And it wound up costing Tommy, who pitched great.’’
Sogard felt bad, but Moss was of the belief the ball should never have gotten to Sogard.
“This is one of those plays you take home with you after the game,’’ Moss said. “You see it over and over and over again in your mind. And it wasn’t because I was being lackluster. I was too aggressive. I was trying to be quick when I didn’t need to be.
“This one hurts.’’
–Milone took this one in stride, at least as much as he could.
“I was able to make some pitches with men on base,’’ he said. “I felt comfortable out there. My changeup was moving and my fastball was good.’’
Asked if the errors impacted his pitching, he said they didn’t.
“You have to pitch the same, no matter how the runner gets there,’’ said Milone, who had pitched out of the third and fourth innings, both times after the Indians had opened with a double.
“Whether it’s two errors or three errors or whatever, you’ve got to do your job and give your team a chance to win.’’
That Milone did.
The A’s didn’t reciprocate.
–Yoenis Cespedes is blessed of great natural speed and good instincts on the bases, which is why manager Bob Melvin has no problem having him run in big situations.
But last Wednesday in Oakland and again Tuesday in Cleveland, Cespedes was thrown out in the ninth inning trying to steal as the potential tying run. He’s tried three steals this season and has been caught three times. Last year he was safe on 16 of 20 steal attempts.
“The guy today (Cleveland closer Chris Perez) was slower than the guy last week (the Angels’ Ernesto Frieri),’’ Melvin said. “You’ve got to go in that situation. We’re not getting many hits. You’ve got to go.’’
When the A’s were struggling last year in the first half, they ran a lot because they weren’t scoring runs any other way. When they started hitting homers in the second half, they backed off on the steal attempts.
You can count on Melvin forcing the pace with his base runners when he can, but he doesn’t have as many options as he should. Coco Crisp and Chris Young are on the disabled list. Beyond them, Cespedes is the best bet.
Melvin actually had Cespedes run twice with Moss at the plate in the ninth. The first time he had the base clearly stolen, but Moss fouled the ball off. The second time the pitch from Perez was high and away, perfect for catcher Yan Gomes to catch and throw.
“It worked out well for them,’’ Melvin said.
–John Jaso had two hits as the leadoff batter, the only A’s hitter to reach base safely more than once. He has a .467 on-base percentage in his seven games as the leadoff hitter, which is much better than his .356 on-base percentage overall.
–Luke Montz grounded out as a pinch-hitter for Seth Smith in the eighth inning. That brings the A’s pinch-hitting numbers to new lows – 2-for-32 (.063). That’s in the “why bother’’ category of strategies at this point.
–The game Tuesday lasted two hours, 28 minutes. That’s the fastest game this season for a team that was averaging three hours, 18 minutes per game and for whom 22 of 34 games have lasted at least three hours.