A microcosm of the whole season in one neat package! Let's go to the videotape:
1) The Average News: Jake Westbrook is a mediocre pitcher with extreme ground ball tendencies, and walks spell trouble for him
It's too bad my home/road split for Jake didn't hold up, but Jake pitched pretty well: he induced 16 ground ball outs (to 3 flies), he gave up fewer than a hit an inning, and kept the team in the game.
On the other hand, he walked more (3) than he struck out (1), and a guy he walked scored, which is a recurring theme for this staff. Walk guys, they score. How does an extreme ground-ball pitcher give up two homers, anyway? Well, Thomas is a known low-ball hitter. I can't say that I'd rather have Westbrook throwing strikes to Chavez (hitting .285, not toasty) than Thomas (hitting .230, quite toasty), but I would like to give up fewer runs with two outs (another recurring theme).
2) The Good News: we have power, and we can hit left-handed pitching
Don't look now, but Grady Sizemore has 11 home runs. He still hits righties way better than lefties, but he is improving his numbers against portsiders and has 3 homers against them this year. Travis Hafner, of course, can hit anyone, and hit his 16th home run. Note that both of Zito's homers were solo shots; while he walked only two guys, he threw 122 pitcher (66 strikes) in seven innings. We certainly made him work, but the flip side is that he worked more carefully with runners on base.
3) The Good News: the bottom of the lineup contributes
Last year, a bottom three of Broussard, Blake, and Boone could be counted on for double-digit outs and single-digit hits (where I mean "one finger" rather than a number in the ones place). It was awful, and killed a lot of rallies.
This year, the lineup has shuttled around quite a bit, but the bottom of the order has become a consistent source of offense. Last night was no exception: Blake had a hit and a run, Belliard had two run-scoring hits, and Boone had a hit and an RBI. How many teams sport 7-8-9 guys hitting .316-.280.-270?
4) The Bad News: Jhonny Peralta does not
Peralta's 2005 season was, I thought, a harbinger of things to come. He's not Miguel Tejada, but he was very productive last season. This season, not so much. Going 0-for-4 with 3 Ks out of the 6 hole (finally!) is indicative of a guy who really hasn't put together any consistent hitting this season. (It only took two months for Inertia Man to pull him out of the THREE hole.)
5) The Good News: Raffy Betancourt throws strikes
16 strikes and 6 balls in an inning of work. He struck out two, which is good. He gave up a hit, which is not so good, since it was the game-winning RBI. But still, you build a pretty damned long list of problems this team has before you get to Rafael Betancourt.
6) The Bad News: Ferd Cabrera does not
Although Cabrera did not give up a hit nor a run, he did walk two guys and threw 14:14 strikes and balls. I like Cabrera, I really do, and he's been pitching very effectively since returning from the DL after a horrid start. But I'll say this: game on the line, I'd rather see Betancourt.
7) The Bad News: Scott Sauerbeck is a one-batter pitcher
Okay, it's easy to go back in hindsight and say this, that, or the other. But the facts are:
a) Scott Sauerbeck is not more effective against lefties than righties. In fact, he has the most absurd REVERSE platoon split I've ever seen: .250/.419/.542 against LEFTIES, .136/.240/.227 against RIGHTIES.
b) Scott Sauerbeck is not actually effective against lefties at all (see above)
c) Although Nick Swisher has a significant platoon split, Eric Chavez does not
d) Scott Sauerbeck is a fungus
To protect a lead in the 8th inning, you must bring out at least your third-best relief pitcher, if not your second-best. Scott Sauerbeck is not that person. Inertia Man opened the book, saw the letter "L," and knee-jerked his way into a loss. Hey, Chavez is good: there's no guarantee that Betancourt wouldn't have coughed up the exact same homer. But we're talking about LIKELIHOOD here, and it is more LIKELY that Betancourt would pitch well than Sauerbeck. Who is a fungus. Please bring up Lopez.
8) The Bad News: we play poor defense
And there it is, a snapshot Polaroid Moment: Aaron Boone makes an error, putting the go-ahead run on base. After something addressed in (9), that runner scores and we lose.
We play worse defense than the all-rookie Florida Marlins. We play worse defense than the all-putrid Kansas City Royals. Aaron Boone has nine errors, and it is June 7. Jhonny Peralta isn't better, the outfield arms and ranges are crummy, and our pitchers are atrocious at fielding their position. It is what it is, but moreover, it means we absolutely CANNOT afford to put extra guys on base via the walk, because we're as likely to give the opponent a fourth out anyway.
9) The Bad News: Victor Martinez is not the best at throwing out basestealers
Remember that error in (8)? Well, the next guy only hit a single, and the next guy was out, so no harm, right?
Except that Bobby Crosby stole second base before the single.
Raffy wasn't much help (our pitchers, aggregately, aren't good at holding runners, another recurring theme), but it's hard to argue that Martinez or Laker is anything close to adequate at controlling the running game.
10) The Bad News: we muster little offense in the last few frames
I haven't looked this up. I am willing to be proven wrong here. But there seem to have been a BUNCH of games where the other team forges ahead late, or leads late, and the margin is small, and our hitters accomplish exactly bupkis. Last night, Kiko Calero and Huston Street each threw a perfect inning. Calero needed 12 pitches, making him the less efficient (10 for Street). Street's the closer, but Calero came in with an ERA up around 5. We just don't hit in the 8th and 9th, unless it's not necessary. (Could just be an impression borne of frustration on my part, I'm not certain.)
11) The Surprising News: we didn't leave a bunch of guys on base!
Well, it's not a perfect microcosm.