One of the aggravations that stuck with A’s shortstop Marcus Semien with his Game 1 error that led to four unearned Houston runs and, eventually a 10-5 Astros victory, was that the play was eminently makeable.
Easy? Not particularly. But Semien has been a Gold Glove finalist each of the last two years. There is a level of expectation that he brings to his work at shortstop.
After reliever J.B. Wendelken got the first two outs of the sixth inning with Oakland holding a 5-3 lead, former A’s outfielder Josh Reddick nubbed a grounder in Semien’s general direction. Semien wasn’t in the classic shortstop position but pulled over toward second base in a modified shift in deference to Reddick’s left-handedness.
Charging in, Semien got to the ball quickly enough, but bobbled the pickup. He recovered to get off a throw, but Reddick, who’d sprinted out of the batter’s box, got to the base fractionally ahead of the baseball.
“When you’re on the dead sprint and the ball is as low as it is, sometimes you just need to get control of your head,” Semien said in a Tuesday morning video conference call. “Just slow the ball down. Of course, I was trying to do everything in one motion and it didn’t work. It was still a close play even with the bobble, but Reddick got down the line pretty well.”
Semien said he hoped that the next out would come quickly and that the error wouldn’t amount to much. It didn’t work quite like that. The No. 9 hitter, Martin Maldonado, singled to extend the inning, then three consecutive two-out hits from George Springer, Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley with runners in scoring position, completely altered the nature of the game.
“That’s always tough,” Semien said. “Any time you make an error, you want to get out of the inning and hope that guy doesn’t score. That wasn’t the case. You want to move on to the next play, the next day. But when it affects the game in that way, it kind of sticks with you the rest of the night. That’s not going to help me or our team today. You have to move on and do what you need to do today.”
First baseman Matt Olson, who has grown up in the big leagues watching Semien make plays like that with ease, gave his shortstop plenty of slack.
“Yeah, that was a tough play,” Olson said. “Reddick is a good base runner and he hit it off the end of the bat. It was rolling pretty slow and we’re in the shift, so Marcus cut across, over toward second base. You know, it happens like that in baseball."
It's going to be a difficult for the infield for whatever's left of the postseason. In both the first and second innings Monday, the Astros got hits to the left of the of the infield. They didn’t amount to anything in terms of runs, but it did underscore how much the A’s are missing Semien’s running partner on that side of the infield, third baseman Matt Chapman, out for the year following hip surgery.
Chapman’s replacement, Jake Lamb, has done well enough defensively, but Chapman is the two-time winner of the Platinum Glove as the best defensive player in the American League. Nobody has had Chapman’s range, so the A’s have had to alter the way they conduct their shifting on defense to compensate.
“When we have a Platinum Glover at third, it was easier to play more straight up because his range was so good to his left and his right, but I think we’re doing a good job,” Semien said. “We’re under a bigger microscope now because it’s playoff games, but those have been hits during the regular season and they’ll continue to be hits if we’re in a certain shift. If we take away more hits in the shift than we don’t, it will work out.”
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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