Seventh Heaven: AL pitching dominates in 4-3 All-Star Game win over the NL

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By Morris Phillips

CLEVELAND — For the American League and the Indians’ Shane Bieber, the 90th All-Star Game was everything it was cracked up to be.

The AL scratched together some early offense, then pitched with dominance on their way to a 4-3 win, their seventh win in a row in the Midsummers Classic. Bieber, pitching in front of his fanbase and his pride-filled manager, Terry Francona, struck out the side in the fifth to preserve a 1-0 lead, a feat that earned the 24-year old the game’s MVP, the first time a player from the host team has won the award since 1999.

“It’s an incredible feeling now, now that it’s kind of sinking in,” Bieber said. “Just to be able to do it in front of the home crowd, and my first All-Star Game is definitely not something that I expected, especially being added to the game five days ago, four or five days ago.”

Nine American League pitchers got one inning of work each, with AL starter Justin Verlander setting the tone with a two-strikeout first inning. By the time the NL got on the scoreboard for the first time in the sixth, they had just two hits while striking out 11 times.

Bieber and Oakland’s Liam Hendriks combined to fan Willson Contreras, Ketel Marte, Ronald Acuna Jr., Kris Bryant and Trevor Story consecutively before Charlie Blackmon homered off Hendriks to cut the AL lead to 2-1. In all, NL hitters struck out 16 times, and managed to hit just seven balls beyond the infield.

In contrast to last year’s showcase in Washington D.C., and juxtaposed against the homer-happy, first half to the 2019 season, the NL was completely out of step. Last year at Nationals Park, National League hitters clubbed five home runs–one each from Contreras and Story–while striking out 12 times and drawing five walks. In Cleveland, with seven hitters back in the lineup from D.C., they struggled to create a rally outside the eighth inning, when they struck for two runs off Cleveland’s Brad Hand.

“A lot of hard throwers and great pitchers over there,” Bryant said. “Unless you’ve seen them before, it’s a difficult matchup.”

While the NL offense appeared to hit the snooze button, the American Leaguers proved resourceful and scrappy, using infield singles to set up both of their initial runs. First, the Astros’ Alex Bregman legged out a chopper to third, and scored on Michael Brantley’s double. Then in the fifth, Gary Sanchez of the Yankees doubled, then moved to third on a ground out, and scored on Jorge Polanco’s infield hit.

The AL kept stitching it together in the seventh, when Oakland’s Matt Chapman drew a leadoff walk off Milwaukee’s Brandon Woodruff. Then with runners at the corners and no out, Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox hit into a double play, but Chapman scored on the play. Down 3-1, manager Dave Roberts summoned the Giants’ Will Smith to pitch to Joey Gallo, but the Rangers’ slugger spoiled that plan with a loud home run on Smith’s first pitch.

“I really didn’t understand the magnitude of it; I just hit a home run in the All-Star Game,” said an excited Gallo. “Watching this game growing up, and now I hit a home run in it. It’s pretty special. I think I have to take a step back. Everything happened so quick.”

Gallo’s homer was thumped, the loud crack of the bat inside the ballpark confirmed that. But the numbers did too. Gallo’s blast exited Progressive Field at 111 mph, the fastest in an All-Star Game since exit velocities were first tracked in 2015.

Gallo’s moment was Smith’s as well, and another humbling All-Star experience for Giants’ pitchers. Smith figures to be hot on the trade market in the coming weeks given his 1.98 ERA and 23 saves, but leaving a fat pitch over the plate to a left-handed slugger won’t enhance his value. But clubs will no doubt take note of the fact that Smith’s only allowed home runs to left-handed batters twice in the last three seasons.

The All-Star Game had a couple of feel-good moments with 19-year veteran C.C. Sabathia summoning closer Aroldis Chapman from the bullpen in the ninth, and getting a rousing welcome from Cleveland fans, who supported him over the first 7 1/2 seasons of his career. Sabathia has announced his retirement after the season, and his appearance organized by MLB was an acknowledgment of the extraordinary nature of his career.

Carlos Carrasco, recently diagnosed with leukemia, also made an appearance, with four of his Indians’ teammates and Francona. All five held placards across their chests saying “I Stand for Cookie (Carrasco’s nickname).” Carrasco stood in the middle, and his placard simply said, “I Stand.”

“He’s one of our teammates and one of the big guys in the clubhouse. You don’t wish that upon anybody. We just got to support him in any way we can,” said Brad Hand, one of Carrasco’s teammates on the field during the emotional moment.

Cubs beat the A’s 3-1 to sweep the series

 

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Oakland Athletics
Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sean Manaea Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

By Charlie O. Mallonee

OAKLAND–The Chicago Cubs made it a three-game sweep over Oakland as they beat the Athletics 3-1 on Sunday. The Cubs supported the outstanding pitching of Kyle Hendricks with some timely hitting and the 104 mph pitches of Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning to nail down the win for Chicago.

The Cubs have now won seven consecutive games and 10 of their last 11 contests. Chicago is a season-high 28 games over .500 with a record of 69-41 which is best in the majors. This was their 10th series sweep of the season.

The A’s have now lost three in a row and eight of their last nine games. Oakland is now 15 games under .500 with a record of 48-63. This was the ninth time the A’s were swept this season.

On the Bump

Kyle Hendricks (11-7) has quietly been one of the most solid pitchers for the Cubs this season. He did not overpower hitters as his fastball topped out at 89 mph on a consistent basis. It was the sinking action of his fastball that caused Oakland hitters to groundout and the change up that kept the hitters off balance that Hendricks used to defeat the A’s.

Hendricks worked 7.1 innings giving up just one run (earned) on three hits. He struck out four batters and walked none. Hendricks entire outing was about control.

Pedro Strop worked 0.2 innings of relief for Hendricks.

Aroldis Chapman worked the ninth inning thrilling the crowd with pitches that hit 104 mph on the radar gun. Chapman did give up a single to the A’s Stephen Vogt, so he is human.

“He pitched great. A couple of swings ended up being two runs for them. Pitching deep into the game for us again. Getting the swings and misses. Using all three pitches. It’s a pretty good line up that other than two pitches he did a great job against,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin evaluating the pitching performance of Sean Manaea on Sunday.

Manaea (3-7) worked 6.0 innings giving up two runs (both earned) on six hits. He struck out four and walked two batters. Both runs came via the home run. Kris Bryant hit his 27th home run of the season off Manaea to lead off the top of the sixth inning and Jorge Soler hit his seventh homer of the year to lead off the seventh inning.

The A’s used five relief pitchers in the game. Reliever Liam Hendriks came in with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the eight and worked out of that jam without allowing a run. Manager Bob Melvin praised Hendriks for his effort after the game.

Chris Smith who was just added to the A’s roster closed out the game for Oakland working a scoreless top of the ninth inning.

In the Batter’s Box

Marcus Semien was the bright spot for the A’s at the plate against the Cubs. Semien went 2-for-3 on the day. That included him crushing his 23rd home run of the season into the left center field seats which accounted for the only A’s run of the day.

Stephen Vogt and Max Muncy were the only other A’s to pick up hits in the game.

The A’s left three men on base.

Kris Bryant went 2-for-3, scored a run, hit a home run and walked twice in the game. The home run was his 27th of the year which is a new career-high.

Jorge Soler enjoyed being the Designated Hitter as he went 2-for-4. He hit his seventh home run of the season off Manaea.

Anthony Rizzo had a 1-for-4 day that included an rbi. He has now reached base safely in 14 consecutive starts.

The Cubs left eight men on base and went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Defense

Yonder Alonso executed the rare unassisted double play in the top of the third inning. With the bases loaded, the Cubs Ben Zobrist hit a low line drive down the first base line that Alonso snagged with his glove hand. He then stepped on the first base bag to double up the runner – Anthony Rizzo – to end the inning and the Cubs scoring threat.

A rare call by first base umpire Paul Emmel preserved a good defensive play by the A’s. In the top the fourth inning, Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras struck out but the pitch was in the dirt so the batter was able to run to first. Catcher Stephen Vogt fielded the ball and made the throw to first. Contreras ran out of the runners lane to distract Yonder Alonso who was waiting to catch the ball. Alonso dropped the ball but Emmel called Contreras out for leaving the lane and interfering with the play. It is a call that should be made more often.

Notes

Sonny Gray has been placed on the 15-day disabled list for the second time this season. Gray was lifted from the game on Saturday when he strained his right forearm in the fifth inning. Gray was on the DL from May 21 to June 4 with a strained right trapezius.

Right-hand pitcher Chris Smith has been promoted from Triple-A Nashville to take Gray’s spot on the roster. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Smith, catcher Josh Phegley has been transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

This is the 25th time the A’s have placed a player on the DL this season. That ties a club all-time record.

Up Next

The Athletics will stay in Oakland for a four-game series with the Eastern Division leading Baltimore Orioles:

Mon 8/8 RHP Kendall Graveman (7-7,4.46) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (3-8,4.08) 7:05 PM

Tue 8/9 RHP RHP Zach Neal (1-1,5.25) vs. LHP Wade Miley (0-1,7.20) 7:05 PM

Wed 8/10 TBA (probably a call up from Nashville) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (4-3,5.47) 7:05

Thu 8/11 TBA (possibly another Nashville call up) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (14-4,3.50) 7:05

The Cubs have the day off on Monday and start a two-game series with the Angles in Chicago on Tuesday.

Giants Minor League Spotlight: Prospects who are trade bait for a closer

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by Charlie O. Mallonee

The Major League non-wavier trade deadline is August 1st at 1:00 PM PDT. The San Francisco Giants are definitely one of the teams that are in the “buyers” category as that deadline approaches. The Giants are said to be on the hunt for a closer to carry them to another championship.

Closers do not come cheap. Even rental players who will be free agents next year can command a king’s ransom. The Yankees 100 mph-plus throwing Aroldis Chapman is the closing pitcher that is receiving the most attention. Chapman is a free agent after this season and the Yankees are not looking like a playoff team. It may be time to get value for your assets.

In today’s baseball business environment, teams want talented prospects that are not too far away from being ready to break into the big leagues. Teams can never have enough depth in their minor league system. The players you do not plan on using in the majors can become valuable trade pieces to bring you talent to fill holes that might open up in your player personnel plan.

Teams have been salivating over the Giants number three rated prospect – right hand pitcher Tyler Beede. Beede is currently pitching at the Double-A level for the Richmond Flying Squirrels. He is 5-5 on the season with a 3.00 ERA in 16 starts. Beede has a two-seam fastball that he throws 90-95 mph that creates ground ball outs. He has an above average changeup to go with a workable curveball. Beede needs to get stronger and develop more stamina but he will be a frontline pitcher. That is why the Giants say he is not available as a trade piece. Unavailable has a tendency to become “a well maybe” at 12:30 on August 1st.

Let’s say Beede really is not available. Then, who else might the Giants be willing to part with in order to get the closer they desire? I must confess that I have spent a great deal of time covering the Oakland Athletics so my thought patterns on going after prospects has been influenced heavily by the thinking and actions of Billy Beane over the years.

If I am the general manger of a team that has a closer that the Giants want, I am looking for pitching in return for my asset. I want a starting pitcher who is at Double-A and is projected to make it to the big leagues by late 2017 or Spring 2018. I want a pitcher who will be a number one to three starter. I also want a left handed pitcher if at possible because you can never have enough “lefties”. I will also try to get a Double-A level player who can hit and an A-ball pitcher who is still developing (a lefty would be nice). Desperate teams make desperate moves.

Do the Giants have a pitcher that meets that criteria? They do and his name is Andrew Suarez.

Suarez is a left hand pitcher who is 6-foot-2, 205-pounds. He was drafted by the Giants in 2015 in the second round out of the University of Miami. Scouts say Suarez has an above average fastball and slider and possesses above average control. He also has a curveball and changeup that he adds into his mix of pitches. Suarez works at 89-93 mph on the radar gun with his fastball topping out at 95.

Suarez started the season at Class-A San Jose where he went 2-1 with a 2.43 ERA. He has struggled a bit since his promotion to Double-A Richmond where he’s posted 3-6 record with a 5.14 ERA but he is getting more comfortable. In his last start on July 18th, Suarez worked 7.0-innings giving up two runs (earned) on four hits. He walked three while striking out 10 opposing hitters. Suarez has worked at least seven innings in his last three starts.

The scouting projections have Suarez ready to pitch in the big leagues in late 2017 or early 2018.

Will Andrew Suarez be a member of the San Francisco Giants organization on Monday? If I have a closing pitcher that Giants want, he wouldn’t be but I am not going to be making that decision. We will have to wait and see what happens.

Charlie O. Mallonee reports on the Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, Sacramento Kings and is the host of a weekly podcast for Sports Radio Service

Yankees beat A’s 5-4 to sweep the series

MLB: New York Yankees at Oakland Athletics
Oakland Athletics relief pitcher John Axford Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

By Charlie O. Mallonee

OAKLAND–The New York Yankees downed the Oakland Athletics 5-4 on Sunday at the Coliseum in Oakland. It was a painful loss on three fronts.

First, the loss gave the Yankees a four-game sweep over the A’s in the series. The last time the Athletics were swept in a four-game series at home was in April of 1999. After sweeping the Texas Rangers in three games to begin the home stand, the A’s could have never imagined closing it out 0-4 against a team they swept in New York earlier in the season.

Second, the A’s are not being able to take advantage of their home field environment. Oakland’s record is now just 8-15 at home while they are 11-11 on the road. That is really quite extraordinary as most teams fare much better in home stadiums before fan friendly crowds. For some unknown reason that is not happening for the Athletics at this point in time.

Third, it was another one-run loss. All losses are frustrating, but the one-run loss games just seem to come back to haunt a team because they are contests that could have been won if one thing had gone differently in the game. The A’s are 6-7 in one-run games this season.

On Sunday, the A’s took the lead in the bottom of the first inning when Billy Burns was able to steal second and third base and then score on a Stephen Vogt ground out. It looked like things might be going to go the A’s way in the game.

The Yankees scored single runs in the second and third innings off solo home runs from Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury. The crowd became nervous as New York took the 2-1 lead.

Oakland came back to score to two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning when Stephen Vogt hit a double to left field that scored Jake Smolinski and Billy Burns. The crowd came to life with the A’s back in the lead 3-2.

The Yankees served notice that they were not going to go down easily by putting together a four-hit two-run inning in the top of the sixth to retake the lead 4-3.

The Yankees put the dagger into the A’s in the top of the seventh inning. With two and runner at first, Carlos Beltran hit a double down the left field line that allowed the Aaron Hicks to score from first giving New York a 5-3 lead.

The A’s did make it interesting by scoring a run in the bottom of the eighth inning, but it ultimately was too little too late and the Yankees won the game 5-4.

In the batter’s box

Carlos Beltran went 2-for-4, scored a run, had a double and a RBI for the Yankees. He has now hit safely in five straight games (10-for-22, .455).

Jacoby Ellsbury had a 1-for-4 day that featured a home run. He is hitting .310 over his last 24 games.

Mark Teixeira snapped an 0-for-19 hitless streak with an RBI single in the sixth inning

Billy Burns had a big day for the A’s scoring three runs to go with two stolen bases. He went 2-for-4 for the game.

Coco Crisp hit a double and that extends his hitting streak to six games.

Stephen Vogt had a big day going just 1-for-4 but he had three RBI in the game. Two of those RBI came off a two-out double in the bottom of the fifth.

On the hill

The Yankees put together a strong pitching performance on Sunday against the A’s. Starter Michael Pineda (2-5) picked up his second win of the season working six strong innings. Pineda gave up three runs (all earned) on six hits while striking out six batters and walking just one.

Pineda working six innings allowed the Yankees to then go to their three-headed bullpen monster of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. Miller did give up a run but it was unearned as it was created by an error. Chapman picked up his sixth save of the season and threw a number of pitches in excess of 100 mph.

Jesse Hahn did not have a bad start for the A’s. He went 5.2 innings giving up four runs (all earned) on six hits. He struck out three and walked none, but he did give up two home runs.

John Axford was asked to come in and get Hahn out of trouble in the sixth was not able to make it happen. The bullpen cannot save the day every time.

Daniel Coulombe who was just called up from Nashville worked the final two innings of the game. He did not give up a hit or a run. Coulombe struck out two and walked none.

The Disabled List continues to grow

The Athletics announced on Sunday that Sonny Gray has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right trapezius. The A’s now have 13 players on the DL which is the most in the Major Leagues.

Gray had been struggling through a very tough beginning to his 2016 season. His record stands at 3-5 with a 6.19 ERA in nine starts.

This is the first time Gray has been on the disabled list in his career.

Left-hander Daniel Coulombe was brought up from Triple-A Nashville to replace Gray on the Major League roster.

This is Coulombe’s second time up with the big club this season. He faced the Red Sox on May 10 giving up three runs (all earned) in two innings of work. Coulombe had a 0.56 ERA in 13 appearances for Nashville.

 

Up next

The A’s travel to Seattle for a three-game series with the Mariners. The Mariners are coming off a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds and have won four games in a row. Seattle has sole possession of first place in the American League West.

The pitching probables are:

Mon 5/23 LHP Rich Hill (6-3, 2.54) vs RHP Taijuan Walker (2-3, 2.95)

Tue 5/24 RHP Kendall Graveman (1-6, 5.48) vs. RHP Nathan Karns (4-1, 3.33)

Wed 5/25 Athletics To Be Announced vs, Hisashi Iwakuma (2-4, 4.39)

The Yankees return to New York City and will begin a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday.