Archive for category Athletics Baseball
I have to admit, listening to the Washington Nationals-New York Mets game on ESPN Radio through the first five innings or so on Easter Monday made me think back to the Oakland A’s-Boston Red Sox opener back in 1998.
In the Nationals-Mets game, it was 40-something Bartolo Colon (a former Athletic, by the way) becoming the oldest opening-day starter in Mets history. And it was him losing 1-0 in the middle innings despite pitching a very strong game. Colon’s mound opponent: Max Scherzer, who was making his Nationals regular-season debut and pitching a dominant shutout.
Ahhhhh…back in 1998, it was the 40-something Tom Candiotti becoming the oldest opening-day starting pitcher in Oakland history, losing 2-0 to Pedro Martinez, who was making his Red Sox debut and pitching a dominant game. That night, it was a two-base error by second baseman Scott Spiezio in the fifth inning which led to Boston’s first run on a sacrifice fly. A couple of innings later, the A’s couldn’t turn a double play, and the Red Sox scored an insurance run on another sac fly (which would have been the third out had the A’s turned the DP moments earlier). Oakland did have a chance in the seventh, but Pedro struck out A.J. Hinch and Jason McDonald with runners in scoring position to escape the jam. Oh, by the way, Hinch was making his big-league debut and he had to hit against Martinez and catch Candiotti’s knuckleballs. Yikes.
But it was a moot point – in the Nationals game, the Mets scored three unearned runs off Scherzer, ensuring that Colon’s gem didn’t go to waste.
Speaking of A.J. Hinch having to catch knuckleballs in his first major-league game, check out this video of Andy Allanson and Ron Hassey having to catch Candiotti and Joe Niekro – and also bat against them – in a game from 1986. Candiotti’s first batter would be a sign of things to come for how wild this game turned out to be. Thanks to the YouTube user Classic MLB 11 for uploading it. (Hope it doesn’t get taken down.)
(This, by the way, was Candiotti’s fourth game in the majors throwing the knuckleball. Prior to that, he was a curveball-fastball pitcher.)
Have a fantastic baseball season, everyone!
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 There is a distinction here with Candiotti being the oldest starting pitcher for Oakland on Opening Day. In terms of opening-day player in the lineup, Reggie Jackson was the oldest player in Oakland history, as he was the DH back in 1987.
Since right-hander Kyle Drabek was called up over the weekend by the Toronto Blue Jays from Triple-A Buffalo – and to continue an earlier post about the same topic – I wanted to discuss one of the best games his dad, Doug Drabek, threw during his major-league career.
On September 30, 1990, Doug Drabek (now a pitching coach with the Short-Season Single-A Hillsboro Hops, Diamondbacks’ affiliate) pitched a complete-game three-hitter to beat the Cardinals 2-0 in St. Louis, clinching the NL East title for the Pirates. It was their first division title in 11 years, as Pittsburgh won its seventh straight game and 10 of 11.
The Pirates’ only two runs came in the eighth off hard-luck Joe Magrane on a sacrifice fly and a groundout. The unfortunate Magrane fell to 10-17 despite a 3.59 ERA, but the big story was Drabek, who got the shutout by throwing only 80 pitches. It was also Drabek’s 22nd victory, and the right-hander would go on to win the NL Cy Young Award in 1990.
That’s probably one of the best-pitched games of the decade – a complete-game shutout on only 80 pitches to clinch a division title – but it’s largely been forgotten. People might remember more about Mike Scott’s 1986 NL West-clinching no-hitter, because it was a no-no, but still, Drabek’s gem was spectacular.
Speaking of the Cardinals, in 1990 St. Louis finished last in the East with a 70-92 record, with Joe Torre taking over in the latter part of the season as manager. Though the Cards were a last-place outfit, there was one highlight on August 17 at Busch Stadium, when Bob Tewksbury threw a one-hitter to beat Bill Gullickson and the Houston Astros, 5-0. That night, Tewksbury lost his perfect game bid when Franklin Stubbs doubled to left on the first pitch leading off the eighth, and the Cardinals right-hander went on to throw just 79 pitches to complete the one-hitter. Had he gotten the no-no, it would have been the second in the majors in three days, following Terry Mulholland’s gem against San Francisco.
As it turned out, Stubbs would be the only Houston batter to reach against Tewksbury.
But 79 pitches in a one-hitter, a near perfect game? It’s all been forgotten as well.
Then on July 8, 1994, Tewksbury shut out Greg Maddux and the Braves 2-0 in Atlanta, where he used only 90 pitches in the complete-game four-hitter. It was a game where both he and Maddux went the distance, with neither one issuing a walk.
DETROIT-OAKLAND IN OCTOBER? Ahhhh, remember when Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander said back in July something about the Athletics acquiring Jeff Samardzija for the purpose of defeating Detroit in the postseason? It was something like this:
“I found it very interesting,” Verlander told reporters Saturday, according to MLB.com. “Really, when I saw that trade, I thought that they made that trade for us. No doubt about it in my mind.”
What I find interesting, just over a month later, is that the Tigers and Athletics could meet in October…but in a one-game showdown for the AL Wild Card to advance to the Division Series. How interesting that would be if things turned out that way!
Going into action on August 19, Detroit (66-56) and Oakland (73-51) were the two wild-card teams in the junior circuit, with the Tigers two games behind Kansas City (69-55) in the Central and the Athletics a half-game back of the Angels (73-50) in the West.
The Tigers (.5409) are actually only percentage points ahead of the Mariners (67-57, .5403) for the second wild-card spot, following Seattle’s loss to Jerome Williams and the Phillies 4-1 on Monday night in Philadelphia. Detroit was idle.
Should be an “interesting” finish to the season!
How about those “contending” Toronto Blue Jays, falling for a second consecutive night against the lowly Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park?
I guess Brett Oberholtzer and his “mediocre” ERA – a term referenced on tsn.ca’s game preview – was better in the August 2 contest than counterpart R.A. Dickey, huh? (That’s the R.A. Dicky, who by the way had an earned-run average which is not that different from the Astros left-hander at the start of the day….but what does tsn.ca really know about baseball?)
Anyway, the momentum in the game changed thanks to a pair of Blue Jays errors on a pickoff play in the middle of the contest.
With the score tied 2-2 in the fifth inning and Altuve on first base, the knuckleballing Dickey tried to pick him off but the throw instead bounced past first baseman Danny Valencia down into the foul territory in right field. With Altuve hustling around the bases, Valencia chased the ball down and eventually got to it, and then fired a throw to third base to try and get the Astros’ All-Star second baseman. Alas, the throw rolled away from Steve Tolleson, allowing Altuve, who had just slid into the bag at third, to quickly get up and score the tie-breaking run without a throw.
One big run on two errors (Dickey and Valencia), and DH Chris Carter homered moments later to give Houston a two-run advantage. The Blue Jays couldn’t recover, and the Astros’ four-run eighth inning put the game away, as Houston went on to the 8-2 victory.
This reminds me of a game between Oakland and expansion Tampa Bay during the 1998 season, with another knuckleballer involved in an error-filled play that gave the opposing team all the momentum it needed to pull out a victory.
On May 26, 1998 in Oakland, the Athletics had Tom Candiotti on the mound while the visiting Devil Rays had rookie Rolando Arrojo looking to improve to 7-3 on the season for the first-year franchise.
The A’s gave Candiotti a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a two-run homer by Matt Stairs, but everything fell apart for the veteran knuckleballer in the top of the third.
Devil Rays shortstop Kevin Stocker led off with a single, bringing up second baseman Miguel Cairo. With the count 2-and-1, Cairo dropped a bunt down the third-base line, and A’s third baseman Mike Blowers charged in to field the ball. Unfortunately, Blowers’ throw to first base went past Jason Giambi and rolled toward the Tampa Bay bullpen. Stocker, who was running from first base, scored easily.
A’s second baseman Scott Spiezio finally tracked the ball down and threw to third base to try and get Cairo…only to realize nobody was covering. With the ball scooting away, Cairo scored the Devil Rays’ second run to tie it at 2-2.
Two errors on the bunt play, and Tampa Bay had two runs on the board.
Two innings later, Quinton McCracken homered off Candiotti to put the Devil Rays ahead to stay, and the A’s went on to a tough 7-2 loss.
The key play, according to Candiotti, was the bunt that the A’s bungled. “I haven’t seen a bunt turned into a home run before,” he noted afterward . Wade Boggs, the Devil Rays’ third baseman who like Candiotti also threw a knuckleball, agreed with that last statement, saying: “It was more like my son’s Little League game, the way they were throwing the ball around.” 
“A lot of things happen with the Oakland A’s you haven’t seen before,” Stairs added . Ahhhh, yes… those were the A’s from a different era, one that would finish last in the AL West in 1998 and also lead the league in errors.
Okay, the A’s misplays in the Tampa Bay game from 1998 were probably worse than what was seen in Houston by the Blue Jays on August 2, but hopefully Toronto will keep throwing the ball away and finish the 2014 season in disappointing fashion.
Getting back to tsn.ca, good job, by the way, with the headline of the following recap in the Mets-Giants contest:
I was interested in the Cleveland-Seattle game from July 30 because of the major-league record Felix Hernandez was potentially about to break, but as it turned out, it was the Indians’ starter that was making the headlines.
Corey Kluber, who is now the ace in Cleveland after the Indians traded Justin Masterson earlier in the day, threw an 85-pitch shutout to defeat Hernandez and the Mariners, 2-0. In his previous outing, the 28-year-old right-hander had taken a perfect game into the seventh inning against Kansas City back on July 24 in the Indians’ eventual 2-1 loss to the Royals.
According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, Kluber’s gem against Seattle marked just the seventh major-league shutout on 85 or fewer pitches in the 21st century .
That stat – so few pitches in a shutout – reminds me of a game in particular, one that featured Greg Maddux against his former Cubs teammate, Mike Morgan. It was an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game back in the 1995 season, where the Atlanta Braves beat the St. Louis Cardinals 1-0 in a contest that took under two hours to complete.
That night, Maddux tossed a two-hit shutout to outpitch Morgan, who allowed only six hits and a walk over eight innings . A quick search on Baseball-Reference.com reveals that that game took place on August 20, 1995, with Maddux throwing only 88 pitches – 66 for strikes – in his nine innings.
As for Morgan? He threw 84 pitches – 55 for strikes – over his eight innings of work. It might have been his best start of the season – and he did come within two outs of throwing a no-hitter against the Montreal Expos over a month earlier on July 3.
A tidy, efficient game for both pitchers, with the only run of the game coming in the third inning when Marquis Grissom led off with a double, moved to third on Jeff Blauser’s sacrifice but, and came home on Chipper Jones’ grounder to second base. That was all the scoring for the night, with the game lasting only an hour and 50 minutes.
Any baseball fan knows about Maddux’s dominance that season – where the Braves ace right-hander went 19-2 and captured his fourth consecutive Cy Young Award – so I won’t talk much more about him.
Let’s talk a little bit about Morgan, who went just 7-7 despite a respectable 3.56 ERA in 21 starts. Apparently, if you made him throw enough pitches – something that the Braves didn’t do – you were going to get to him in the late innings. More specifically, Morgan was virtually unhittable in his first 75 pitches in 1995, but became a batting practice pitcher on his 76th pitch onward.
That’s what Dodger third-base coach Joey Amalfitano told first baseman Eric Karros before he stepped up to the plate to face Morgan in the sixth inning on August 9, 1995. Next thing you knew, Karros stroked a two-run homer on the Cardinals right-hander’s 76th pitch of the night, and the Dodgers – with knuckleballer Tom Candiotti on the mound – went on to beat St. Louis, 4-2.
Speaking of Candiotti, he himself also once tossed a complete-game 1-0 shutout where he threw only 85 pitches. The knuckleballer fanned three and didn’t walk a hitter in the four-hit shutout. But that was a spring-training game back in 1987 between the Cleveland Indians and the Oakland Athletics, though the A’s did have their everyday players in the lineup that afternoon. According to an old San Jose Mercury News story from March 28, 1987, Tony Phillips (0-for-3), Carney Lansford (0-for-3), Jose Canseco (2-for-3), Reggie Jackson (0-for-3), and Mark McGwire (0-for-3) all played in that game.
Ahhhhh…great memories, and it’s thanks to Corey Kluber, the new ace of the Indians.
 According to that same Yahoo! Sports story, Kluber faced one batter over the minimum in nine complete innings for his second straight start, which marked the first time it had happened in big-league history.
 Poor Morgan. He was also the losing pitcher in Dennis Martinez’s perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in July 1991, dropping a hard-luck 2-0 decision. He gave up only four hits in a complete-game effort, with both runs off of him unearned.
The July 31st trading deadline in Major League Baseball in 2014 featured a couple of blockbuster deals which first saw the Oakland Athletics acquire left-hander Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes from the Boston Red Sox for slugger Yoenis Cespedes, and then the Detroit Tigers stunning the baseball world hours later with the addition of former Cy Young winner David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team trade which also involved the Seattle Mariners.
Outfielder Austin Jackson, who was part of the Price deal and had been traded to the Mariners, was actually patrolling center field for the Tigers when he was pulled in the seventh inning of Detroit’s afternoon contest against the Chicago White Sox.
That reminded me right away of the Jose Canseco trade back in 1992, when the A’s slugger was standing in the on-deck circle in the bottom of the first inning with teammate Jerry Browne at the plate facing Baltimore Orioles right-hander Mike Mussina on the night of August 31 in Oakland. Canseco, who was hitting third in the lineup and playing right field for the A’s that night, was called back to the dugout by skipper Tony La Russa while Browne was still batting.
Lance Blankenship, a utilityman who played all three outfield positions as well as first base and second base for Oakland in 1992, was sent out to replace Canseco .
What happened was A’s general manager Sandy Alderson had just pulled off a trade with Texas, sending Canseco to the Rangers in exchange for outfielder Ruben Sierra and pitchers Bobby Witt and Jeff Russell.
So, the 1988 American League MVP was out of the game, after having played the top of the first inning in right field.
Okay, so not quite the way things unfolded in Detroit in 2014, with Austin Jackson being pulled while he was still on the field, but still… kind of a similar situation, being traded in the middle of the contest.
At least that was the first thing that came to mind when the details of Jackson’s departure from the Tigers-White Sox game was announced.
And getting back to Canseco, the trade of Cespedes to the Red Sox reminds me of that 1992 deal as well. Cespedes, who is of Cuban decent just like Canseco, has just gone from a team that is considered a potential World Series contender to a club that’s not going to make the playoffs. Just like how Canseco went from the first-place A’s in ’92 to the Rangers, who would finish a disappointing fourth with a 77-85 record despite Juan Gonzalez’s 43 home runs and 37 victories posted by the duo of Kevin Brown (21-11) and Jose Guzman (16-11).
Going from a contending team to an also-ran… obviously is very disappointing. That exact same thing, incidentally, also happened later to Sierra, one of the players picked up in the Canseco trade, as the moody outfielder would be dealt from the first-place New York Yankees in 1996 to lowly Detroit in exchange for another slugger, Cecil Fielder. The Yankees went on to win the World Series that year, denying Sierra of a shot at a ring.
One last thing about Canseco. Remember back on July 29 when Cubs catcher John Baker took the mound in the 16th inning of their marathon against the Colorado Rockies? Baker got the pitching victory and even scored the game-ending run in the bottom half of the 16th, but Canseco was not so fortunate in 1993. With Texas getting blown out in Boston, Canseco persuaded Rangers skipper Kevin Kennedy to let him pitch the eighth inning, and he wound up blowing out his arm which eventually required Tommy John surgery. Ironically, DH Chili Davis of the Angels also pitched during that 1993 season, in a blowout loss to Texas. Davis had better luck too, working two hitless innings but hitting Canseco with a pitch.
Ahhh….baseball back in the good old days….
Obviously, these trades in 2014 are very exciting to A’s and Tigers fans, but certainly it brought back some memories from seasons past. And, oh, of course, trades can still happen after the July 31st deadline – but players would have to clear waivers – so we’ll see if any other interesting moves take place down the stretch.
 Blankenship also played third base for the A’s in each of the previous two seasons, and would appear in two games at shortstop for Oakland in his final big-league season in 1993.