When Barry Zito has a bad game--and boy did he ever have a bad game tonight--it usually has the same flavor. In these bad games, it always seems like he's afraid to throw a strike.
Now, I don't know if he's actually afraid to throw a strike, or if he's just mechanically unable to. But as a fan, that's what it feels like.
Perhaps it's a little of both: that when he doesn't feel like he has good control, he's afraid to throw the ball too close to the middle of the strike zone. I might be tempted to say that perhaps the Yankees lineup intimidated him, but I've seen him go into this mode against Tampa Bay, so I don't think it's that.
Zito seemed to have a game plan of throwing inside fastballs to the right-handed hitters, but he couldn't get very many of them called for strikes, for whatever reason. Perhaps they weren't strikes, or perhaps the umpire's zone was a little tight. Whatever. Zito seemed afraid to adjust, to bring the ball out a little more over the plate. Instead, he started nibbling with changeups and curves and sliders.
The curveball was not working. Without it, Zito also seemed afraid to throw the high-and-away fastball to righties that plays off the curveball.
I'm not sure why. The fastball seemed lively, and no Yankee actually hit it. "Challenge them!" I yelled at the TV, to no avail. Zito started walking guys with fastballs off the plate, and then he started giving up hits left and right on changeups and curveballs. He gave up seven runs, but I don't think he gave up a single hit on his fastball. ARod's grand slam was a hanging curve.
And that was that. With Randy Johnson on the mound, you can only afford to give up a couple of runs if you hope to win.
Johnson only gave up one run in seven innings, an impressive off-balance home run by Frank Thomas in his first official AB as an Athletic. A nice debut for the Big Hurt, against the Big Unit.
Even though the A's didn't score any more runs against Johnson, I was actually pretty pleased with the A's approach against him. They seemed to be patiently looking for and finding good pitches to hit. On the whole, they swung at fastballs, and laid off the sliders and splitters. I gotta find some silver lining in tonight's dark cloud, so there you have it.