Play at the plate proves momentum-builder in A's win

06/17/2013 12:00 AM

03/04/2014 10:48 PM

OAKLAND – As A's third-base coach Mike Gallego waved catcher John Jaso around third in the fifth inning of a 2-2 game Sunday, he could not have known the A's lineup would eventually tee off against the Seattle Mariners' bullpen to turn a close game into a 10-2 blowout.

He was, however, well aware that the A's had runners thrown out at home plate in each of their previous three games and that, like an umpire, it's said the third-base coach is only noticed when his actions turn out for the worst.

Before Sunday's game, A's manager Bob Melvin attributed two of those plays largely to circumstance – Brandon Moss representing the winning run in the 15th inning Thursday and the A's trying to break a scoreless tie against Felix Hernandez on Saturday. Friday, Nate Freiman was waved around third despite a late read on a single up the middle after the ball was bobbled in center field.

Still, the plays did not sit well with Gallego.

"Hell yeah, it weighs on you," he said Sunday. "And it's tough because as a third-base coach you try not to get caught up in how things are going out there; you try to stay focused on the situation at hand."

The situation Sunday was a tie score with Jaso on first base and nobody out. Yoenis Cespedes lined a double into the gap in left-center, where Endy Chavez – who on Saturday threw out Jed Lowrie from right field trying to tag up – played the ball off the foot of the wall and threw to his cutoff man, shortstop Brendan Ryan.

Ryan, standing on the outfield grass, whipped a one-hop throw home that catcher Mike Zunino caught without shifting from his position in front of the plate. Zunino dived to try to tag Jaso, but Jaso executed a headfirst dive to the outside part of the plate and slid across safely with his left hand to give the A's their first lead of the series.

Asked why he sent Jaso, Gallego said: "I thought he was going to be safe. That's why."

He then expanded.

"Jaso I know is one of our better base runners," he said. "And the read that he got off the ball, he broke right away and got a nice turn around second base.

"In a normal situation, I probably would've held him up. But we hadn't been scoring many runs. And when you've got two pitchers like that, you've got to take advantage of any opportunity you get, because you know there's not going to be too many opportunities out there."

Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma entered the game with the second-lowest ERA in the American League at 1.79 and riding a streak of 28 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run – a streak that ended at 31 2/3 innings when the A's scored twice in the fourth.

So deciding to wave Jaso was influenced in partly the same way as Gallego's decision to send Lowrie home on a fairly shallow fly ball in the fifth inning of a scoreless game Saturday, with the A's facing Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. It ended up being Oakland's best chance to score in a game in which they were shut out 4-0.

"Probably a risk-reward play right there," Gallego said of Sunday's call. "But at the same time, we're going to be aggressive. We're going to stay aggressive. You're going to live by the sword and die by the sword. Sometimes you get beat, sometimes you don't."

Asked if he was surprised to see Gallego sending him home, Jaso, who runs well for a catcher, said he wasn't sure. Jaso saw Chavez approaching the ball as he rounded second, "so I wasn't going to go unless Gags was really sending me.

"But Gags is good with it," Jaso said. "He knows how hard it is to push runs across the board, and he knows with a guy like (Iwakuma), you've got to make the outfielders throw you out.

"If he is safe, it builds great momentum in your favor. So you take advantage. You don't leave a guy stranded out there when you've had an opportunity to see if he can score."

Gallego said he was "well aware of (Chavez's) arm strength," and that Ryan is "one of the best at relays."

His decision, though, had to be made before Ryan released his throw. Along with Jaso's read off the bat, Gallego said he paid particular attention to the carom of the ball off the wall, at which point he started windmilling the arm.

"It did kind of kick back to (Chavez), but he hesitated for a split second, and that's all I needed with the combination of Jaso's jump and turn at second," Gallego said. "You get that much time to make a decision.

"It was a risky play, an aggressive play. I'm just glad that he came out safe. Sometimes you've got to take a shot."

Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. Read his Bay Area Baseball blog at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkawahara.


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