Last nights game sucked. Lets just get that out of the way ahead of time.
That said, I wouldn’t worry about the offense. That was the third time this year John Lackey has shut us down, and in the previous two games following the beatdown, the M’s combined for 31 hits against Bartolo Colon and Jered Weaver. As we talked about last week, the M’s hyper-aggressive offense leads to high variability, and on any given night, against any pitcher, they can get either put up a goose egg or a 10 spot and it shouldn’t surprise us.
Also, much is being made this morning of Jose Lopez missing the tag on Gary Matthews at second base last night. Without making any excuses for Lopez (yes, a more aggressive tag would have helped), can we give Gary Matthews Jr some credit for making one of the best slides of the year? The pop-up slide isn’t exactly a routine fundamental that everyone can pull off, and that one was beautiful. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a runner be able to pull off a pop-up slide that effectively to avoid the tag. Lopez could have made the whole thing moot by not waiting for Matthews to slide into his glove, but let’s be honest – 99.5% of the time, the runner does slide right into the glove, and no one says a word to Lopez about his tag.
This actually is becoming something of a bigger issue. The club has, over the years, been quite happy to let the media and fans know how unhappy they have been with Lopez’s work ethic, his conditioning, and his lack of concentration. It has essentially become part of the narrative. A couple of recent high profile mistakes in the field are now feeding into the already established belief (and one that has foundations in truth) that Lopez can hurt you at times with his faux pas. However, the problem arises when people begin to incorrectly value the actual cost of these mistakes.
For all the frustration you may have for Lopez missing the tag last night, he was still a plus with his glove on the night. His double play in the first inning was a thing of beauty, one of the toughest DPs you’ll ever see a second baseman have to turn. Thanks to improved footwork and somewhat above average range, Lopez is actually a defensive asset. This gets lost in all the “oh my god I can’t believe he didn’t get the tag down” hoopla. Yes, he made a mistake, but taking the stance that those are the kinds of plays that a team “can’t tolerate in a playoff run” is just missing the forest from the trees. If you take Jose Lopez out of the line-up, you’re actually degrading the defense. And this isn’t a defense that can afford to get any worse.