Surprise Starter Plays Stopper for A’s in Game Two of Double Header

By Matthew Harrington

Very few teams can feel confident after losing three of four games in a series, but the Oakland Athletics gained some piece of mind after dodging a four-game sweep at the hands of the Seattle Mariners (17-16) Wednesday evening at O.Co Coliseum. Yoenis Cespedes hit his sixth homer of the season, Drew Pomeranz fired five scoreless innings in his spot start and newly reinstalled closer Jim Johnson cruised to his second save of the season to close out a 2-0 A’s victory in game two of double header against the M’s.

The quality start by Pomeranz (2-1, 1.45 ERA), a starter by trade but long reliever out of Oakland’s necessity this season, could normally have been considered the surprise of the day. Instead, it was the fact that Oakland manager Bob Melvin penciled number 61 in for the start that most caught fans and writers alike off guard. The A’s had called up Arnold Leon from Sacramento to fill the 26th roster spot allowance for double the headers, leading many to conclude that top pitching prospect would make his Major League debut Wednesday night.

Instead Pomeranz, acquired from Colorado in the offseason in the Brett Anderson trade, got the nod and picked up his first win as a starter for the green and gold. The southpaw cruised through his five innings, allowing only one hit and no walks while striking out five. His skid-stopping appearance showed the Oakland coaching staff that he’s ready as an understudy if starters Dan Straily (1-2, 4.93) and Tommy Milone (0-3, 5.86) continue to falter. With the A’s offense scoring three runs or less in six of seven May games, it’s imperative that pitching picks up the offensive slack.

The A’s (20-15) received all the offense needed after shortstop Jed Lowrie singled Craig Gentry home off Seattle spot-starter Erasmo Ramirez (1-4, 6.00) in the third inning. Cespedes doubled the lead in the fourth after connecting on a 2-0 changeup from Ramirez to rip a liner over the wall in left field for his 20th run batted in on the season. While Cespedes now has homered on back-to-back days, third baseman Josh Donaldson saw his run of 29-straight games reaching base come to an end. Donaldson struck out three times and failed to reach base in four at-bats Wednesday.

Reliever Dan Otero strung together three shutout innings out of the pen after going a third of an inning in game one to save a staff that pitched four innings in the extra innings afternoon loss. Jim Johnson, taking the mound to a smattering of boos, silenced the critics momentarily by pitching a perfect ninth for his first save since April 6th. The A’s bullpen opened the second game down a man after Ryan Cook left game one in the tenth with an arm injury. The initial belief with the Oakland staff is that Cook’s injury is not that serious. Coco Crisp also exited game one after suffering a neck strain after crashing into the wall on an outstanding catch in the top of the fourth. Melvin expects his starting center fielder to be out for a few days, but will avoid time on the disabled list.

The A’s take Thursday off before welcoming their first interleague opponent to Oakland this season when the Washington Nationals come to town for a three-game set. Doug Fister is expected to make his 2014 debut with the Nats, facing Milone to open the series.

Finishing Blow Elusive as A’s Strand 10 Against Darvish, Rangers

By Matthew Harrington

OAKLAND, Calif. –Few teams can say they own All-World talent Yu Darvish, staff ace for the Texas Rangers. The Oakland Athletics can stake claim to that distinction, sporting a 6-1 lifetime record against the Japanese import including a sterling 2-0 record against the international sensation at O.Co Coliseum. Though Darvish didn’t manage his first win in his career in the confines of Alameda County Monday evening, his Rangers outlasted the Oakland A’s (13-6), erasing a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 victory.

“It was a very competitive game,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin. “It was about as close as you can get. They had their ace on the mound. We had them on the run early but recovered well enough to keep him in the game and go to their key bullpen guys.”

Neal Cotts (1-1, 3.38 ERA) picked up the win in relief, Shin-Soo Choo homered for the Rangers (12-8) and former Oakland middle infielder Donnie Murphy singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning to lead the Rangers to a come-from-behind triumph over the American League West leaders. Brandon Moss hit his fourth round tripper of the season and Coco Crisp moved into sole possession of fourth place on the A’s career stolen base list, swiping two bags to move past Carney Lansford with 147 pilferings in his time in green and gold.  Crisp also made an incredible leaping catch in center with his back to home plate, but came up lame clutching his ribs on a diving attempt later in the game.

“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” said Melvin. “It’s the second time he’s dove and knicked that area up a little bit.”

Dan Straily battled Darvish pitch-for-pitch before relinquishing a tied game to his bullpen in the sixth inning. Texas saddled reliever Sean Doolittle (0-1, 3.38 ERA) with the loss after the lefty struggled in the eighth to snuff out a Ranger rally. Jason Frasor, Cotts, Alexi Ogando and Joakim Soria held the A’s scoreless over three innings of relief.

Choo greeted Straily with his 12th career leadoff homerun, launching a liner to right for his second long ball of the season and a 1-0 Rangers Lead. Choo later left the game in the seventh inning after suffering left leg tightness when he grounded out on a slow roller to third. Josh Donaldson barehanded the ball for the bang-bang play at first with Choo originally being called safe by first base umpire Adrian Johnson. Melvin challenged the play and, after the replay was reviewed, the call of safe on the field was overturned by crew chief Larry Vanover.

“I heard that he was out,” said Melvin. “Based on the replay I was seeing, I wasn’t sure about it. At that point in time I’m going to challenge it anyway. After the seventh inning the umpires get together, so that was one I would probably challenge either way.”

Moss answered Choo’s dinger with a solo shot of his own in the home half of second, depositing a Darvish delivery just inside the foul pole and beyond the fence. For Moss, the four-bagger marks his fourth of the season and fourth-career off Darvish. Moss accounts for 4 of 41 total career round-trippers for Darvish, nearly ten percent.

The Athletics rally continued when a two-out single to left by Crisp brought Josh Reddick and Eric Sogard around for a two-run edge. It would complete all the scoring Oakland mustered off Darvish, who saw his string of consecutive seven-plus innings starts snapped at three 2014 appearances.

“When he’s out there, we know it’s going to be a pretty low-scoring game,” said Donaldson of Darvish. “We jumped out pretty early. Early on he was coming at us, throwing harder. He ran it up to 96 (miles per hour) then once he got settled in, he started changing speeds which is what he does best.”

The 56-million-dollar man came into play Monday with a 0.82 ERA after allowing two runs in 22 innings on the campaign, but the A’s nearly doubled his ERA to a still-miniscule 1.61 with their three earned runs over six innings. Monday also marked the first time in nine-straight starts that an opposing team scored more than two runs on last season’s batting-average-against leader. Darvish collected six punch-outs in the no-decision, firing a laboring 116 pitches.

Texas cut the deficit in half off Straily after Prince Fielder opened the fourth inning with a double to the corner in left followed by a RBI single by Ex-Athletic Kevin Kouzmanoff. Straily settled down to retire the next three batters in order. Kouzmanoff, the reigning American League Player of the Week for his 10-for-29 performance with two home runs and eight RBIs, finished the day with two hits, an RBI and scored the game-winning run.

A two-out rally in the visiting portion of the fifth inning led to the game-tying run. Fielder hit the third of three consecutive singles to plate Elvis Andrus. Straily then threw a wild pitch to put Alex Rios, the second single of the trio, and Fielder in scoring position, but got Kouzmanoff to chase a 1-2 slider to end the inning and close the book on his day.

“He was spotty at times,” said Melvin on his starting pitcher. “He recovered nicely from the first batter in the game hitting a home run. He had two outs in the fifth and tried to finish that one off, couldn’t do it. At times I thought he threw the ball well, there were times he was maybe a little bit off his command.”

Straily’s pitching line including five innings of work with three runs, all earned on 84 pitches. He struck out six and walked only two but turned the game over to Ryan Cook with no chance at being named the winning pitcher.

“Tonight I was pretty proud of myself,” said Straily. “I never really felt like I was out of any at-bats except having to work my way back into it early. I don’t really feel too down on myself. My first-pitch command was just terrible tonight. That’s something you can’t have out there. I gave it everything I had, I just wasn’t able to get it done there in the fifth.”

Oakland looked poised to add a cushion to its lead after Daric Barton singled to center on a soft liner, marking the fourth-straight inning the A’s leadoff man reached base. Sogard bounced into the momentum-sapping double play but Crisp and catcher John Jaso reached base then stole third and second respectively with Jed Lowrie at the plate. Lowrie coaxed a two-out walk to load the bases for Josh Donaldson, but the “Bringer of Rain” continued an A’s drought with runners in scoring position on the night. Donaldson went around on a check-swing for the third strike on a ball low in the strike zone.

“It’s just one of those things,” said Donaldson. “He’s a good pitcher. He started to bear down on us a little bit. We came up there with the bases loaded and he came in there with a pretty good slider for strike three. The guy’s good. He’s not just your run-of –the-mill guy.”

Donaldson represented one one of seven A’s outs in 10 opportunities with runners on second or third. The A’s left 10 men on base Monday.

“The goal is to get guys on base,” said Donaldson. “We were able to do that. More times than not when we’re going to come through in those situations. Tonight was one of those days where it didn’t happen.”

Ryan Cook and Fernando Abad combined to pitch a scoreless inning apiece before turning the game over to heir-apparent to the closer role, Sean Doolittle, in the eighth inning. Doolittle recently received a five-year extension with the A’s that many suspect puts him in line to take over the ninth inning role at some point in his career. Oakland fans hope Monday doesn’t represent a harbinger of things to come from the bearded southpaw.

Texas opened Doolittle’s frame with Kouzmanoff rocketing a ball to right center that Reddick couldn’t snag on a leap at the wall. Designated hitter Mitch Moreland advanced Kouzmanoff to third on a sacrifice bunt then Kouzmanoff scored on a Murphy bouncer up the middle, the game-winning base knock. Doolittle got Leonys Martin to fly out for the second out before being lifted for Dan Otero. Otero finished off the inning, then pitched a scoreless ninth to keep Oakland within one.

“After they got the bunt down, I snuck one past Murphy,” said Doolittle. “I thought I was going to find a way to get him out. I was doing a good job of staying short. I thought I made a good pitch. The pitch to Kouzmanoff was not a good pitch. The pitch to Murphy was well-executed. He just did a good job of smoking it back up the middle.”

Rangers manager Ron Washington, a former infield coach with the A’s, called on his closer Soria to shut the door on the A’s in the ninth. Soria got Jaso to strike out for the fourth time Monday night before Lowrie reached base then advanced to second on an error at short by Andrus. Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes, who nearly tied the game on a deep drive in a pinch-hit pop-out in the seventh, lifted fly balls for the final two outs and Soria’s fourth save of the season.

“I thought when he hit it, it was out,” said Melvin of Cespedes’ loud out in the seventh. “I know on a cold night it’s difficult here, especially in the big part of the ball park. He hits one good and it normally goes out.”

The A’s will look to get on track again in Tuesday night’s tilt which will feature Tommy Milone opposing Rangers right-hander Nick Martinez before a finale between young pitching sensations Sonny Gray and Martin Perez Wednesday afternoon. The Rangers will look to hand Oakland its first loss of more than two runs this season.

A’s outlast Rangers, 9-8

PhotoBy George Devine, Sr

If the A’s – now 4.5 games ahead in the AL West – go on to win the division, this night will probably be remembered as a key to their success. Ahead 9-3, Oakland came into the final frame with only a one-run lead, and prevailed 9-8 over the Texas Rangers at Arlington.

Yoenis Cespedes seemed to set the tone for the evening with a three-run homer to left center in the first. But the Rangers answered with two in the bottom of the inning, Dan Straily walked two, and a single by Adrian Beltre followed by A.J. Pierzynski’s sac fly made it a one-run game.

In the third, Josh Donaldson hit his 22nd homer of the year, to left. In the fourth, he doubled to center, after Derek Norris and Kurt Suzuki had singled to the same location. The fifth inning saw Alberto Callaspo walk, then advance to second as Chris Young singled to left, and to third when Norris singled to right. Callaspo scored when Suzuki walked, bringing Norris to second and Young to third. Young came home when Coco Crisp sacrificed to center. Brandon Moss homered to right center in the sixth.

In the home eight, the Rangers’ bats came to life. Beltre walked on Brett Anderson, as did Pierzynski. Anderson then left the game due to what were described as back spasms, to be replaced by Jesse Chavez. Jim Adduci’s base hit to left loaded the bases. Leonys Martin subsequently reached on an infield base hit. Ryan Cook walked Ian Kinsler and that forced in a run. Elvis Andrus single to right, and the margin was trimmed to 9-6. The runners on base moved ahead on a passed ball. Alex Rios’ base hit then posted two more runs.

Sean Doolittle held the 9-8 lead through the ninth, as the game’s elapsed time passed the four-hour mark. He picked up his second save of the season. The winner is Straily (10-7; 5.2 ip, 2 h, 2 er, 4 w, 4 k) and the loser Derek Holland (9-8; 3 ip, 8 h, 6 er, 1 w, 2 k, 2 hr).

The two teams atop the AL West meet again at 10:05 a.m. PDT on Saturday, September 14 with Bartolo Colon (15-6) facing Yu Darvish (12-8).

A’s stay atop American League West

by Phillip Torres

PhotoOAKLAND-The Oakland Athletics (82-60) entered the day a half game up on the Texas Rangers in the American League West, and remained on top after a 2-1 victory of the Houston Astros (47-95) on Saturday Afternoon at O.co Coliseum.

Oakland struck first when Yoenis Cespedes hit his 22nd homerun of the year on a 1-1 pitch to left field off of starter Brett Oberholtzer in fourth inning to give the A’s a 1-0 advantage.

The A’s got on the board again in the seventh inning with another long ball. On a 1-2 pitch, leadoff man Jed Lowrie cleared the Center Field wall to make it 2-0 Oakland.

After a Brett Wallace double in the eighth, with runners on second and third, Brandon Barnes grounded into a force out to knock him in. The Houston run cut the lead to 2-1. The Astros youth then showed on the series of plays. Barnes stole second base on the next pitch. But, Barnes got picked off trying to steal third after attempting to on the previous pitch that was negated by a Jonathan Villar foul ball. Oakland clearly noticed the attempted steal of third after the foul ball, but Barnes went for it again on the very next pitch and was picked off easily.

The base running mistake made it easy to see why the Astros only have 47 wins on the season.

Dan Straily earned the victory, his ninth of the season after tossing seven shutout innings. Grant Balfour picked up the save in the ninth inning.

There were 20,340 in attendance at the Coliseum. The A’s will finish off the series with Houston tomorrow afternoon.

Phillip Torres covers the A’s for SportsRadioService.com

A’s survive Astros’ assault, 7-5

By George Devine, Sr.

Despite Oakland’s being in contention all season, and Houston’s doing the opposite, an A’s-Astros game is frequently hard-fought, and tonight’s was no exception. An announced attendance of just over 15,000 went to enjoy a balmy (80 degree) evening at O.co Coliseum and saw a competitive game that had the fourth inning beginning well after the hour-and-a-quarter mark.

The A’s scored first in the second inning when Yoenis Cespedes singled to center, reached second on Nate Freiman’s base hit past shortstop Jonathan Villar, and third on a fielder’s choice, scoring on Chris Young’s bunt back towards Houston pitcher Dallas Keuchel. In the third, the Astros’ first three batters – Villar, Jose Altuve and Trevor Crowe – all hit Oakland starter A.J. Griffin (with a double for Villar) and all scored, the latter two on Matt Dominguez’ single. That made it 3-1 for the visitors. But in the bottom of the frame, The Athletics’ first two batters – Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie – followed a similar pattern. both hitting doubles, to tie it at 3. In the next inning Villar bunted for a single and brought Brett Wallace home from third. Advantage Houston, 4-3. But the Oaks scored two runs in the bottom of the inning, on a hit by Lowrie and a groundout by Cespedes. Donaldson’s two-run homer to left in the sixth broke the game open.

Houston added a run in the ninth when Villar singled to short and Altuve to right, with Crowe reaching on a force attempt with an error by second baseman Eric Sogard; Villar scored.

Keuchel took the loss (5-9; 3.1 ip, 10 h, 5 er, 2 w, 3 k) and Oakland starter A.J. Griffin is the winner (13-9; 7 ip, 4 er, 1 w, 9 k). Grant Balfour got his 37th save.

The A’s are once again in the lead for the AL West. The two teams meet again at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday, September 7 with RHP Dan Straily (8-7, 4.38 ERA) opposing LHP Brett Oberholtzer (4-4, 5.91).

The A’s win, back in first place

By Jerry Feitelberg

The A’s, just a game behind the Rangers, opened a three game series with the Division leaders starting on Labor Day. This is going to be a huge series. The A’s will need to win two out three to be even with Texas for the division lead. The last thing either team wants to be is a Wild Card Entry. The Rangers found that out last year when they lost a one game playoff to the Orioles and were eliminated.

The 23,495 people who were here in attendance were not disappointed as the A’s beat the Rangers 4-2 and  the A’s moved into a first place tie with the Rangers. Dan Straily started for the A’s and went five innings getting credit for his eighth win of the year. The Rangers’ starter, Derek Holland, took the loss. Both teams now have an identical record of 79-58 with 25 games left in the season.

The A’s took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second. Yoenis Cespedes hit a solo home run for his 21st home run of the year. Alberto Callaspo doubled and scored on a single by Chris Young.  The Rangers tied the game in the top of the fifth. Straily walked Mitch Moreland to start the inning and Moreland scored when David Murphy homered to tie the score.

The A’s came back to take the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth. Michael Choice reached first on a throwing error by Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre. Coco Crisp followed with a home run that barely made it over the left field wall and the umpires called it a home run but decided to review the play. After a minute or two, the umps came back and ruled in the A’s favor. A’s now lead 4-2.

There was no more scoring. Bob Melvin used four relievers to close out the Rangers. The Rangers did threaten a couple of times. Dan Otero worked out of a jam in the sixth and Grant Balfour had men on second and third with two outs in the ninth. Balfour got Beltre to ground out to end the game and earn his 36th save of the year.

Game notes- The A’s have won four straight and seven of the last eight and are in first place since August 9th. Dan Straily is 3-1 with in ERA of 2.63 during day games. Strailly when asked after the game if there was any extra pressure on him for this game replied “Not really, but you understand the magnitude of the situation.”  Coco Crisp hit his 17th home run of the year which is a career high. Crisp has homered 7 times in his last 12 games. Crisp left the game with when he hit a foul ball off his right shin. Bob Melvin said “it is a right shin contusion and we’ll see how he is tomorrow.”  Michael Choice made his Major League debut and walked his first time up and reached on an error. Melvin said Choice reaching on the error”was a huge play in the game.” Melvin used Brett Anderson in relief.  Melvin said that he would keep him there for a while as the starting rotation is ok. Grant Balfour picked up his 36th save of the year but it was not easy. However, Balfour worked out the jam and Melvin commented that “Balfour had to find a little extra will and would have to make a pitch and get out of the game.”

Game two of the three game series will be Tuesday night at the Coliseum. Game time will be 7pm.

Bartolo Colon(14-5) will start for the A’s and the Rangers’ will send  lefty Martin Perez(8-3) to the mound.

Game time 2 hours and 28 minutes.

A’s take the series, defeat Jays 5-1

By Jerry Feitelberg

Photo
The Oakland A’s finished an unusual four game series with the Toronto Blue Jays by beating them 5-1 on Monday in Toronto. The series was unusual due to the fact that the fourth game of the series wrapped around the weekend and was played on Monday. Getaway games are not usually played on a Monday but there is a first for everything, I suppose.

The A’s came into the game having won two out of three from the Blue Jays. The A’s lost the second game of the series by just one run but winning three out of four on the road is not a bad thing. The A’s had Dan Straily on the hill and he was opposed by J.A.Happ. Happ was making his second start since coming off the disabled list. Straily,who had not completed five innings in each of his last three starts, was terrific as he went 7 1/3rd innings allowing just six hits and one run. Happ was just as good as he went seven innings allowing just three hits and one run. The game was to be decided by the bullpens as neither pitcher got a decision. The game summary follow below.

The A’s got off to a great start as Chris Young, hitting leadoff, blasted his tenth home run of the year to get it going for the A’s in the first inning.

Toronto tied the game in the bottom of the eighth. Straily retired the first batter in the eighth but Jose Reyes and Maicer Izturis singled to put men on at first and second. A’s Manager Bob Melvin brought in Ryan Cook to pitch. Cook was facing the always dangerous Jose Bautista. Bautista hit a ball that got by Alberto Callapso, playing third base, allowing Jose Ryes to score. The ball was originally ruled a hit by the official scorer but it was changed to an error later. Cook then retired the next to batters to end the inning. Game tied at one after eight innings.

They A’s broke it open in the ninth. The Jays brought their closer, Casey Janssen, in to pitch the ninth. The A’s roughed him up for four runs. Josh Donaldson singled to get things going in the ninth. Yoenis Cespedes the fouled out. Brandon Moss pinch hit for Nate Freiman and drilled a double down the right field line. The Jays walked Josh Reddick to load the bases. That brought up Callaspo. Callaspo atoned for his error as hit lined a double to right field that scored two runners. Catcher Stephen Vogt singled to drive in the third run of the inning. Eric Sogard then hit a sacrifice fly to bring in run number four of the inning. Sean Doolittle was brought in to close out the game. Doolittle Gave up a single with one out but retired the last two batter to secure the win for the A’s.

Ryan Cook got credit for the win while Casey Janssen took the loss for the Jays.

The A’s remain one game back of the Texas Rangers. The Rangers beat Houston Monday afternoon 2-1. The Astros travel to Oakland for a three game set starting Tuesday night at the O.Co Coliseum.