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Game 81 wrapup: A’s selectivity at plate shows up once more; pitchers ability to avoid walks pays off

If there was one inning in the first 81 games of the season that defined the A’s offense, it was the second inning Friday.

The A’s worked Shelby Miller, a rookie who’d already won eight games for the Cardinals, for 51 pitches in the inning, with Miller getting just two outs.

He eventually gave up five runs on five hits and two walks as the A’s hitter made him unable to close out the inning no matter what pitches he threw.

The A’s have shown themselves to be as good as anyone at working the count, at being selective and at being patient at the plate this season.

And as DH Seth Smith said after the game, those aren’t always the same thing.

Smith had the biggest at-bat of the second inning. But Miller had already thrown 41 pitches before Smith came to the plate with the bases loaded. The veteran left-handed hitter then used seven pitches to work the count full before slapping a single up the middle good for two runs and a 4-0 lead.

“It wasn’t about patience or trying to work the count,’’ Smith said. “It was about trying to get a good pitch to hit.

“We’ve had that situation before (bases loaded) where we haven’t done what we’d wanted to do. It was a big situation for the club, and I was just looking for something nice in the zone.’’

The A’s saw Bartolo Colon (101 pitches) and Dan Otero (15) combine to throw 116 pitches in nine innings, an average of fewer than 13 pitches per inning. The Cardinals wound up going through three pitchers who threw 162 pitches in eight innings of just over 20 pitches per inning.

Not all games work like that, but when a team has a differential like that in its favor, they’re going to win the great majority of the time.

 

–The one walk Colon allowed Friday was the 201st given up by the A’s pitching staff in 81 games this season.

At the exact halfway point of the season, Oakland is on pace to issue just 402 walks, which would be a new club record for a non-strike/non-lockout season. The 1976 club allowed just 415 walks.

By way of comparison, the 2012 team walked 462, although when the pitching locked in during the second half of the season as the club ran down the Rangers to win the American League West, the final 81 games saw Oakland allow just 198 walks.

This may be the one great hidden statistic that underscores the A’s 104-60 record from last July 1 to the present. Oakland pitchers aren’t putting many men on base, hence fewer are scoring.

It’s a sound philosophy, and the A’s are making it work for themselves.

John Hickey

Returning to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.