by Charlie O. Mallonee
Baseball returned to the Bay Area on Sunday afternoon as the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics played the first of three annual Bay Bridge Exhibition Series games at the Coliseum in Oakland. The G-Men came out on top in game of one as they downed the A’s 5-1 before 21,229 fans on very chilly day.
Johnny Cueto made the start for the Giants and Daniel Gossett took the hill for the A’s. If you are a Giants fan you are very happy with the way Cueto pitched especially with the loss of Bumgarner. The big righthander pitched 5.2-innings giving up just one run (earned) on five hits. He struck out six and walked just one batter. Cueto threw 82 pitches (57 strikes). He looks ready to go for the regular season.
The Athletics Daniel Gossett looked good for the first two innings and then ran into some real trouble in the top of the third inning. Gossett gave up three runs off three three hits with the real damage coming from a Buster Posey two-run double that slammed off the center field wall. He would give up a solo run in the fourth inning.
Gossett worked 3.2 innings giving up those four runs (all earned) on five hits. He struck out two and walked one. Gossett threw 78 pitches (47 strikes).
“I thought his stuff was good. Similar to what we saw during regular Spring Training. He just did’t throw enough strikes,”said A’s manager Bob Melvin. “He got himself in a jam and Posey got a big hit … they scored some runs off of it. He has to be a little more efficient with his strikes and get ahead in the count.”
The A’s used six pitchers in the contest:
- Yusmeiro Petit worked 1.1 scoreless innings giving up no hits.
- Daniel Coulombe struck one and walked one but did not give up a hit in his one inning on the mound.
- Liam Hendricks posted all zeros in his inning on the hill. Melvin said it was his best outing of the training season.
- Raul Alcantara struggled in his one inning giving up one run on one hit. The hit was a home run to the Panda – Pablo Sandoval. Melvin indicated Alcantara has to start throwing his breaking ball for strikes.
- Simon Castro closed out the game by giving up no runs on no hits while striking out two and walking one.
There were not the many highlights on offense. The A’s only run came in the bottom of third inning when Dustin Fowler led off the inning with base hit. After Joyce came close to hitting one of out the park to deep center field, Semien grounded out to short and that moved Fowler into scoring position at second base. Jed Lowrie then hit a single up the middle and the speedy Fowler raced home to score the only run of the game for the Athletics.
The totals in game for the Giants were five runs, seven hits and no errors while the A’s posted one run, six hits and two errors. San Francisco is now 14-15 for the spring and Oakland falls to 13-15.
The two meet in San Francisco on Monday night.
Athletics Current Roster
The A’s have 17 pitchers, seven infielders, seven outfielders and three catchers for a total of 34 players. That number must be cut to 25 by Thursday. Look for Oakland to keep 13 pitchers, 10 position players and 2 catchers.
Due to injuries, the A’s are down to five starting pitchers by default. It appears the bullpen will receive maximum usage this season. The team did work at upgrading the relief corps in the off-season and now it appears it is a good thing they did with the injuries to the starters.
Who will play center field?
The battle is between Dustin Fowler, Boog Powell and Jeff Smolinski. Powell saw action with the A’s in 2017 playing in 29 games and hitting .282 including three home runs. He also played in 23 games for the Seattle Mariners before being traded to Oakland. Smolinski appeared in 16 games for the Athletics batting .259 with an OPS .607.
The Athletics acquired Fowler from the New York Yankees in the Sonny Gray trade. Fowler appeared in one game for the Yankees which is the total of his MLB experience. When Fowler was traded, he was on the disabled list with a ruptured right patellar tendon. He came off the DL last November.
Powell is hitting .250 for the spring with an OPS of .665. He has hit two home runs and two stolen bases. Fowler is batting .195 in 41 trips to the plate this spring. He has not hit a home run but has recorded four RBI and has three stolen bases. His OPS is .471.
Smolinski has hit .289 this spring with an OPS of 1.003. He has hit four home runs and recorded 13 RBI. Those are some numbers that may be hard to ignore
This appears to be a battle between power and speed. The advantage that Fowler possesses is his speed which can be a real asset on defense and could be a real help on offense if he could use that speed to get into scoring position. The problem is the on-base-percentage of .227. If that OBP is over .350, now that speed becomes a weapon.
The fact is the experience and offensive production of Powell and Smolinski gives them a real advantage in staying with the “big club” on Thursday and beyond. The A’s need Fowler to develop into a leadoff hitter who can get on base by the base hit, bunt or base-on-balls. He probably needs some time at Triple-A to work on those skills.
After the game on Sunday, Bob Melvin had this to say about Fowler, “He’s doing a nice job and he’s starting to swing the bat better. He’s starting to hit the ball the other way which means he’s getting on top of the ball and more on track. Early in the spring that wasn’t the case. His bats are getting better and better.”