Categories
Game Report

No relief for A’s, except for Puk

After the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, Tuesday marked the first day of 2021 in which I followed a painfully familiar working-day routine.

  1. Alarm clock on my phone wakes me up.
  2. Tap on the MLB At Bat app.
  3. Quietly repeat ‘please, please, please, please etc’ as I wait for the app to load up the score from the A’s game that took place whilst I was asleep.
  4. Say “aww, shit”.
  5. Chuck my phone back onto my bedside table and start the day in a huff.

That routine takes place whenever the A’s lose a night-game, but Step 3 was more desperate than usual given the way we were swept up by the Astros.

Monday night was a chance to banish the bad vibes and get our season underway with a joyful win over the LA Dodgers. It didn’t happen, with the A’s losing 10-3, and we’re now hoping that the sixth time is a charm to get our first win on the board.

Frustration continues

In my blog yesterday I put forward the idea of Daulton Jefferies being called up to be a potential long-relief option in the bullpen, not least due to the possibility of Frankie Montas leaving his start early after his recent finger issue.

It turned out that A.J. Puk was the promoted pitcher, in response to Chad Pinder being placed on the Injured List, but unfortunately the rest of the prediction came true.

Watching parts of the game back over lunch today, Frankie seemed to start out well enough in terms of his stuff, yet he found some trouble and the second and third innings got out of hand.

It’s so frustrating because the games so far look terrible when you cast an eye at the final score, yet there have been moments early on in all of them when a play here or there might have made a difference.

In this one, Matt Chapman had a chance – a very difficult one, but “Ain’t Nobody Like Matt Chapman”, as we like to sing – to get us out of the second inning with just one run allowed. The difference between Chappy producing some magic there, snagging a groundball and then beating Chris Taylor to third base, and the next batter, Corey Seager, clearing the bases with a double was big on the scoreboard and vast on the A’s morale.

As we all know, making those moments count is what baseball – and indeed most sports – at the highest level is all about. The Dodgers and Astros are quality teams and you have to take your chances when they come along as, if you don’t put them under pressure, they are likely to do so instead. As a fan it’s difficult to watch it and not get a feeling of “here we go again”, but it’s important that the players don’t look at it that way. The only people who can turn this around is them and we know they have the talent to do it.

At least Puk pitched well

No one demonstrated the talent on our team better than Puk last night. He must have been disappointed not to get the final rotation spot on the Opening Day roster; however he seemed determined to take his chance when it came and that’s exactly the reaction you want.

The impressive 3.1 innings pitched by Puk hopefully were a sign of better things to come, both for him and the team. As in Spring Training, the blazing 97-98 MPH fastball wasn’t on show and he sat around 93-94 MPH yesterday, so this may be a different version of A.J. than the one that caught everyone’s attention as a prospect.

If he’s able to stay healthy from now on then he can still be very effective from the left side with that sort of velocity, although it does perhaps put more emphasis on the development of his change-up as a weapon against right-handed hitters. His change-up yesterday was thrown at 90 MPH, which isn’t really enough separation from the 94 MPH fastball to fool hitters once they’ve seen it a few times, although he only used it twice so maybe I shouldn’t overanalyse that just yet.

Just having him out on the mound was a very welcome sight and, let’s be honest, that counts for a lot when most of the first five games hasn’t made for pleasant viewing.

Next up

Attempt number six at getting our first win of the season is another night-game start against the Dodgers. First pitch is 2.40 am UK time.

Fingers crossed that my reaction to checking the score when I wake up will be different to this morning’s rude awakening.

Categories
UK Schedule

A’s schedule for the week beginning April 5th

After a tough home series against the Astros, there’s no let up for the A’s in the coming week.

The Dodgers come to the Coliseum for a three-game series to start things off, with the final game being a mid-week day-game for us to enjoy at a convenient time. As of Sunday evening, the probable starting pitchers for the series are as follows:

  • Frankie Montas vs Dustin May
  • Chris Bassitt vs Clayton Kershaw
  • Jesús Luzardo vs Trevor Bauer

The team then heads to Houston and their ever-pleasant fanbase for a rare three-game series that covers Thursday to Saturday. It leaves us without a game on Sunday, which is almost unheard of. Every other team is playing that day and, as usual, it’s just the ESPN Sunday Night game (Phillies at Braves) that isn’t played in the day-time, so it at least gives us a chance to watch some other teams that evening.

As noted above, the game on Saturday against the Astros is currently scheduled to be broadcast on UK TV.

Categories
Game Report

It’s not about results

Wasn’t it great to be able to watch some baseball yesterday?

A lazy, low-scoring, seven-inning Spring Training game was never so welcome as the A’s 2-1 defeat to the Dodgers on Sunday.

The score didn’t matter, it rarely does this time of year. What mattered was the chance to meet up with some friends – via a Zoom call – have a few beers and to talk some baseball.

A few things I noticed

Few things make us Brits laugh harder than seeing people in Arizona wrapped up in three layers of clothing and a blanket at a Spring Training game. Our friend in the state, Karl, confirmed that there was a fresh breeze in the area, although one deserving of a long-sleeve shirt rather than full-on Arctic survival gear. Maybe it was thought to be an added protection from Covid-19?!

Our laughter was tinged with jealousy at the 2,000 or so who were on-hand at Hohokam Stadium for the game. Keeping the kids in the spray-painted rectangles on the grassy bank looked a challenge, yet otherwise it seemed to be a real success.

One of the joys of Spring Training is being able to see some of the Minor League prospects and several made an impression yesterday. Buddy Reed was the stand-out, showing off his cannon of an arm from right field, but we also got to see the Shortstop Sorcerer that is Nick Allen making a couple of impressive plays in the infield and also an at-bat by our First Round draft pick from last year, Tyler Soderstrom.

Next Up …

The A’s are back at it on Monday with a game against the Cincinnati Reds. It’s another 20:05 UK time first pitch, although there is no TV coverage of the game so MLB.TV/MLB At Bat app will be the place to listen to the radio commentary.

“Great Hair” Grant Holmes will start the pitching procession, with new recruit Aramis Garcia doing the catching duties. Cody Thomas, the prospect we acquired in the Kolarek/Neuse trade with the Dodgers, makes the start in centre field, whilst Matt Chapman will be DH’ing as he eases his way back into action after hip surgery.

Categories
MLB

Spring Is About to Begin

Winters are long enough anyway, but the 2020/21 version has dragged more than any other. Covid-19 lockdown across the UK has meant basically everything has been shut, short of essential shops and services. That’s still the case, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not just the vaccination programme that brings cause for optimsim.

Baseball is back, to watch or listen to on a British evening when there’s literally nothing else to do.

Normally I would have some measure of understanding for the unenthused “it’s only Spring Training” crowd. Not this year, though. If you’re not excited about being able to unwind from a stressful day by watching a few innings then I’m not sure why you bother with the sport at all.

Anyways, it’s not so much Spring Training that I’m excited about, but A’s Spring Training. As we covered in our recent podcast, the player signings over the last couple of weeks have lifted all of our spirits. We’ve got a good team this year, no one else in the AL West has really taken a step forward, and we have every reason to go into the season confident that we will have a good chance at retaining the division title and heading to the play-offs for the fourth consecutive year.

Not Your Normal Nine Innings

Like everything else in the world, the games are going to be slightly different to normal. Games can be shortened to 7 or even 5 innings up to and including 13 March and it’s already been confirmed that the A’s first four games will be 7-inning affairs.

Baseball traditionalists will shriek in horror, yet it makes total sense. The main MLB players don’t play the later innings of games through the first half of spring anyway. Whilst it’s a shame to reduce the playing time of some prospects, there’s a clear logic in limiting the number of players that have to be taken to a game by the road team when social distancing measures need to be complied with.

Melvin’s Plans

Bob Melvin has announced the starting pitchers for the first four games:

  • Sun vs LAD – Daulton Jefferies
  • Mon vs CIN – Grant Holmes
  • Tues vs MIL – Parker Dunshee
  • Wed vs COL – Cole Irvin.

It’s going to be good to see this group of pitchers on the cusp of the Majors getting a chance to show what they can do, albeit accepting that Spring Training is about preparing for the season rather than results.

Mark Canha and Ramon Laureano are expected to feature in the opener against the Dodgers today, with Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland also likely to get their first playing time in the Green and Gold.

Game Coverage

Today’s Cactus League opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers is set for 20:05 UK time. It’s being broadcast by the Dodgers’ TV network so is one of twelve A’s games available to watch this spring on MLBTV.

You can still enjoy the game without an MLBTV subscription as it’s been announced that the radio coverage will be available for free (likely just needing you to set up a free MLB.com account if you haven’t got one already).

2020 MLB Season about to begin

Nearly four months after the original scheduled Opening Day, the 2020 MLB season is finally going to begin.

That means it’s a good time to relaunch the A’s UK blog.