“Contagious” Starting Pitching Keys A’s to Win in Bay Bridge Series Opener

By Matthew Harrington

OAKLAND, Calif. – A bug is rapidly sweeping the Oakland Athletics clubhouse and every starting pitcher seems to have come down with it. It isn’t a case of the flu, but an epidemic of quality starts, with the latest “victim” to succumb being Jesse Chavez.

“It’s contagious,” said Chavez. “Yesterday, watching Jeff Samardzija pitch, I just wanted to feed off that. As a team, we feed off that. We’re playing good baseball. We’re happy to be home.”

The A’s right-hander matched a career-high in strikeouts (nine) over six shut-out innings in a 5-0 win against the San Francisco Giants at O.Co Coliseum Monday night. The win in the opener of the 2014 Bay Bridge Series marks the fifth-straight win for the A’s (56-33), who swept one of the American League’s best in the Toronto Blue Jays in a four-game set over the weekend. A’s starters allowed three runs over 27 innings of work in the quartet of outings.

“I just want to hold down this spot for what happened earlier in the year,” said Chavez. “Whatever role they ask of me, I’ll do it. I’m just looking forward to being a part of this team.”

The decision for Chavez (7-5, 3.06 ERA) also marks a swing towards the early-season progress that had the reliever-turned-starter in the running for American League pitcher of the month in April. Chavez was 2-4 with a 4.08 ERA over his last eight starts coming in to Monday night, including a five-inning, five-run loss at Detroit in his most recent start last Wednesday.

“The last two starts, with two strikes I was over the plate a little bit,” assessed Chavez on his recent struggles. “My main focus was finishing the at-bat if I got ahead.”

Fernando Abad pitched 2/3 of an inning of scoreless relief; Dan Otero did his part with 1 and 1/3 frames without a run. Ryan Cook fired off a 1-2-3 top of the ninth inning to wrap up the game. In total, A’s pitchers scattered only five hits to the San Francisco offense. The Giants left seven runners on base, while Oakland stranded nine.

Craig Gentry represented the first A’s run of the night on a John Jaso ground-out in the fifth inning to snap Giants Starter Ryan Vogelsong’s 18 and 2/3 innings scoreless streak in interleague play. An inning later, Alberto Callaspo provided the crushing blow, greeting newly-inserted reliever Juan Gutierrez with a one-out, two-run double. Callaspo took the first offering from Gutierrez, a 92 mile-per-hour fastball, into the gap in right-center to plate Josh Donaldson from third base and Jed Lowrie from first. Vogelsong (5-6, 3.92) was charged with all three runs, and ultimately, the loss after his five and 1/3 innings of work.

Lowrie chased Vogelsong earlier in the inning, singling on a first-pitch delivery to put runners on the corners after Donaldson was controversially hit by a pitch to open the inning. Replay showed that the ball hit Donaldson’s fingers near the knob of the bat, sparking debate from Bruce Bochy. The Giants manager already burned his challenge when officials upheld a hit-by-pitch of Craig Gentry in the bottom of the fifth.

“It was originally called a foul ball,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin. “Once (home plate umpire Paul Nauert) saw his hand, he changed the call around.”

“It hit the small pinky, the pinky knuckle,” said Donaldson. “He did the right thing. I have to give him some credit. When I heard it, it sounded like it hit the bat, but obviously I felt my hand hurting. I knew it hit my hand. He did the right thing, looked at my hand, saw it was swelling. He asked if I swung. I told him I felt like I didn’t.”

A couple of seventh-inning errors from Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford put Jaso and Yoenis Cespedes on second and third with no outs, setting up a Brandon Moss sacrifice fly off Gutierrez for a 4-0 lead. Donaldson, the starting AL all-star third baseman by way of fan vote, knocked Gutierrez out of the game on a laser up the middle to score Cespedes for the A’s fifth and final run of the night.

The sold-out crowd of 36,067 saw Oakland continue its dominance of San Francisco in the East Bay. Oakland has taken 10 of the last 12 games against their Northern California foes at the Coliseum.

“It’s always fun,” said Chavez of playing in the friendly rivalry. “It’s good baseball. It’s two good teams going at it. I think that’s good baseball.”

While the A’s continue to trend upward to the best record in the Major Leagues, the Giants have scuffled to one of the worst margins of victory in the league. Over the last 26 games, San Francisco (49-40) has gone 7-19 after winning 42 of the first 63 games of the season.

The black and orange send All-Star starter Madison Bumgarner to the mound Tuesday looking to split the two-game series in Oakland before the interleague rivalry series shifts to AT&T Park for a pair starting Wednesday. Oakland hands the ball off to its ace, Sonny Gray to sweep the first half of the home-and-home.

Big Inning Paces Tigers to Sweep of A’s

By Matthew Harrington

For the second time in the three-game series at Detroit, a big inning doomed the Oakland Athletics hopes of exacting revenge on the team that bounced them from both the 2012 and 2013 playoffs. Wednesday afternoon, the Detroit Tigers pounced on A’s pitching for a six-run sixth inning to seal up a 9-3 win and a series sweep in a matinee game at Comerica Park. Detroit (47-34)used a four-run bottom of the ninth Monday to walk off winners then shut the A’s out 3-0 Tuesday night.

A’s starter Jesse Chavez (6-5, 3.23 ERA) turned in his second-consecutive forgettable performance, taking the loss after surrendering four runs to the potent Detroit offense. In his last start on Friday against the Marlins, Chavez went only five innings in a six-hit, four-run no decision. His opponent Justin Verlander (7-7, 4.71), entrenched in a forgettable season, pitched well enough to be tabbed the winning pitcher after striking out four in his six inning, two-run performance to nail down the three-game sweep.

The A’s (51-33) did take some positives from Wednesday’s loss. Derek went 2-for-4 in his return from back stiffness that saw him sidelined since June 27. Yoenis Cespedes found himself penciled in as designated hitter after missing Tuesday’s game with tightness in his hamstring.

Coco Crisp and Brandon Moss accounted for the trio of A’s runs. Both hit solo home runs to right field off 2011 AL Cy Young winner Verlander in the first inning. Later, with the game well out of Oakland’s reach, Crisp scored on Moss’s seventh inning single off reliever Al Alburquerque. The Oakland first baseman’s performance Wednesday pushed him past an inactive Josh Donaldson (recipient of an off day from A’s Manager Bob Melvin) for the team lead in homers (19) and runs batted in (62).

Though the A’s struck early to stake Jesse Chavez to a 2-0 lead before he even took the mound, the Tigers struck often against the right-hander. Torii Hunter hit an RBI single off Chavez in the bottom of the first, then tied the game up on his run scoring base hit in the bottom of the third. Austin Jackson put Detroit ahead 3-2 in the home half of the fourth, plating Andrew Romine on a two-out single

The real damage came in six-run, three-pitcher sixth inning that saw the Motor City kitties score six runs. Chavez was lifted by Melvin in favor of Jim Johnson after walking the first two batters he faced. After retiring the first batter, Romine, on a sacrifice bunt, Johnson failed to record another out. Monday night’s hero Rajai Davis knocked a two-run single, Ian Kinsler singled in a run then 2013 American League Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera doubled in a pair to knock the 2012 All-Star from the game for Ryan Cook. In total, the beleaguered Johnson was responsible for four runs on four hits in his 1/3 of an inning.

Cook got the first batter he faced, J.D. Martinez, to ground out for the second out, but yielded a single to Torii Hunter that scored the inherited runner Cabrera. He then finished Nick Castellanos off with a pop-out, but by then the damage was done with Detroit sitting out front 9-2.

After facing the AL Central leaders Monday to Wednesday, the A’s head home to welcome the AL East’s top dogs. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and the Toronto Blue Jays flutter into town Thursday to open a four-game weekend series at O.Co Coliseum. Melvin has tabbed Sonny Gray to open the series in hopes of snapping the current three-game losing skid.

A’s Flounder Against Richards, Angels as Trout Makes Splash

By Matthew Harrington

Starter Garrett Richards and the Los Angeles Angels stifled the Oakland Athletics offense Monday night at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, besting the A’s 4-1 while limiting the visitors to four hits. Yoenis Cespedes and Stephen Vogt combined for all the Oakland offense, collecting two hits apiece. The A’s (39-25) scored one run for just the sixth time this season a day after exploding for 11 runs at Camden Yards.

Jesse Chavez (5-4, 3.04 ERA) pitched gave six strong innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits against the Halos, but the A’s offense failed to figure out Richards in support. The 26-year-old righty (6-2, 3.09) stymied the green and gold to only four hits over his seven innings.

The A’s took the lead in the top of the second after Yoenis Cespedes scored on a softly-hit Stephen Vogt single to left with two outs. Vogt proved steady at the plate and behind the dish in place of starting catcher Derek Norris. Norris sat out Monday night after taking a Manny Machado backswing to the back of the head yesterday afternoon in Baltimore.

Angels superstar Mike Trout collected his 44th and 4t5th RBIs on a sac fly in the third and a controversial fifth-inning ground-rule double respectively. With Hank Conger on second, Trout aboutfaced a 2-2 Chavez delivery to deep right field that looked labeled for the bleachers. Originally called a home run on the field, an umpire review revealed a fan reached below the railing to catch the ball for fan interference. Crew chief Bob Davidson overturned the play, placing Trout back on second base to the chagrin of Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia. Scioscia argued the play, resulting in an ejection from Davidson with the Angels leading 3-1. Hank Conger and Raul Ibanez also plated runs for the Halos.

After Richards, Joe Smith and Closer Ernesto Frieri locked down the A’s bats, pitching a scoreless inning a piece. Smith struck out two while Frieri k’d the side to pick up his 11th save of the season. Ryan Cook and Fernando Abad pitched a third of an inning a piece and Jim Johnson wrapped up the A’s pitching performance, allowing an unearned run in his 1 1/3 innings of work.

With the win, the Angels (35-28) move 3.5 games back of the A’s for the lead in the American League West. They’ll look to put together a fifth-consecutive victory Tuesday night, sending Hector Santiago to the mound in his return. Santiago seeks his first win of the season in his return to the rotation after Los Angeles placed Tyler Skaggs on the disabled list Monday afternoon with a right hamstring strain.

The A’s counter with Drew Pomeranz fresh off a bounce-back outing in which he narrowly outdueled Yankees sensation Masahiro Tanaka in a 2-1 loss in the Bronx. Pomeranz pitched seven innings, his longest start of the season, just one appearance after allowing five runs to the same Angels in a fortunate 9-5 home field triumph May 30th.

Despite Rough Ninth, A’s Preserve A Chavez Gem

By Matthew Harrington

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oakland Athletics made it five straight wins Monday night at O.Co Coliseum, but they didn’t make it easy on themselves against the Chicago White Sox. Despite a dominant performance from starter Jesse Chavez, the green and gold needed four different pitchers to get through a three-run ninth inning to hang on for a 5-4 win. Jed Lowrie and Josh Donaldson connected on two-run hits each and Sean Doolittle collected his second save in three opportunities to anoint Chavez the winning pitcher.

Jesse Chavez (3-1, 2.44 ERA) turned in a masterpiece, pitching 8-plus strong innings highlighted by seven strikeouts and only two walks. The lone mistakes were solo home runs issued to Dayan Viciedo & Jose Abreu, Chavez’s fourth and fifth home runs allowed on the year. All five long balls on the campaign have come with the bases empty for the righthander, a runner-up for the American League Pitcher of the Month in April.

“He’s been doing it all year for us,” said manager Bob Melvin. “I tried to get him all the way through it. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. Seeing eight strong innings again, he’s consistent in that regard.”

The journeyman reliever-turned-starter has found new life in Oakland after stops in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Kansas and Toronto. Monday night proved a reason why, with the Southern California native pitching an effective game, using 93 pitches to retire 24 batters. 68 of Chavez’s deliveries were strikes.

“It’s amazing,” said fellow pitcher Sean Doolittle. “It’s amazing the way he can pitch to both sides of the plate with both a cutter and a sinker and obviously that big curveball he had tonight. He really pitches. The way he adds and subtracts, moves the ball around. It’s really fun to watch. That’s the guy that over the last few years has really reinvented himself.”

Dayan Viciedo took a 2-1 delivery from Chavez to the opposite field over the wall in right center, his third long ball of the season, to give Chicago (19-21) a 1-0 lead in the second inning. The A’s (24-15) responded in their next turn at the plate, with right fielder Josh Reddick skying a fly ball to straight-away center field for an RBI triple. The ball carried over center fielder Leury Garcia’s head and a foot below the top of the wall, giving Nick Punto plenty of time to score from first base and tie the game.

Third basemen Josh Donaldson enter play scuffling through the month of May, hitting .194 with no home runs and a lonely pair of RBIs over 36 at-bats. He turned around his May misfortunes in the bottom of the fifth by about-facing an 87 mph 2-1 delivery from Danks. Donaldson pulled a line drive just inside the left field foul pole for a two-run home run, giving him what appeared to be his league-leading 10th go ahead RBI at the time. Reddick walked to open the inning but Danks struck out the next two Athletics to bring Donaldson to the dish with two down for the homer. Danks (3-3, 4.88) retired Cespedes on strikes to end the inning and close the book on his outing after three runs over six innings with five outs coming on strike threes.

Shortstop Jed Lowrie added what at the time appeared to be a pair of insurance runs on his 500th career hit, a double in the gap in left off reliever Daniel Webb in the seventh. Leadoff man Craig Gentry scored from first on the hit, nipping on the heels of Reddick who came around on the play to create a 5-1 Oakland edge. Reddick singled with one out to start the rally then advanced to second on Gentry’s four-pitch walk.

Lowrie advanced to third on a wild pitch with Yoenis Cespedes at the plate, but the Oakland clean-up hitter grounded into an inning double play after second basemen Gordon Beckham snag the grounder on the shortstop side of second. Beckham flipped the ball to Alexei Ramirez who pirouetted over the bag before relaying to first to gun down Cespedes by a step and avoid the big blow and set up a tense finish.

No sooner did Chavez get A’s fans on their feet by taking the mound to try to finish off the game did Jose Abreu put fans back in their seats stunned. Entering the ninth inning, Chavez managed to void the presence of dangerous designated hitter, holding him to a pair of strikeouts and a fielder’s choice in three plate appearances. Abreu finally managed to display his raw power, taking a well-pitched 0-2 offering to deep right field for his MLB best 14th homer to chase Chavez trailing 5-2.

Melvin tabbed Fernando Abad to face Adam Dunn, but the lefty specialist failed to finish the White Sox first basemen off, getting him to two strikes before issuing a walk. Chicago manager Robin Ventura replaced Dunn with the speedy Moises Sierra who moved to third position on a double by Viciedo off Jim Johnson with no outs. Alexie Ramirez, tied for the American League lead in batting average Monday morning at .333, added to his total by picking up a run-scoring single off Johnson to trim the A’s lead to two.

“Once Chavez gave up the first hit, we knew it was going to be Abad for the next guy,” said Melvin. “After that it was going to be Johnson against the righty. If we needed the backstop we had (Sean Doolittle).”

Melvin elected to utilize the backstopper Doolittle to try to neutralize pinch hitter Paul Konerko with the tying run on first base and no outs. Instead, Konerko popped the first pitch he saw to center field for a sacrifice fly, plating Viciedo from third to make it a slim 5-4 lead.

“It’s situations like that where you look at the bigger picture,” said Doolittle. “It really breaks down to, it sounds cliché to say, but one pitch at a time. There were so many things going on, Runners on first and third, a guy like Paul Konerko at the plate. I was focused on making a quality pitch right from the very start. Getting that first out was really big.”

Ramirez stole his seventh base of the season to move into scoring position but pinch hitter Tyler Flowers struck out swinging then Doolittle overpowered Leury Garcia, forcing him to chase a fastball at the eyes to convert his second save of the season.

“I really did want to get the save,” said Doolittle. “I wasn’t really thinking about it. When we were high-fiving and going through the line after the game I was really happy with preserving the game.”

While the ninth inning proved exciting for one reason, Josh Reddick’s plate appearance in the fifth was a memorable one for a different reason. Reddick finished the day 2-3 with a walk, two runs and a run batted in, but most of the talk postgame was on his switch in walk-up music in his second at-bat. The professional wrestling enthusiast ditched the entrance music of recently deceased WWE Hall of Famer The Ultimate Warrior for George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”. It certainly was a far departure from the guitar-heavy anthems players usually employ in their approach to the plate. It caught some of his teammates off guard.

“It’s just an awesome song,” said Doolittle with a straight face after the game. “It puts everyone in a good mood. I hope he keeps it up. “

Doolittle won’t be switching his battle hymn from Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” if he’s called upon tomorrow night against the White Sox to close out Drew Pomeranz’s first start as a full-time member of the rotation against Scott Carroll.

“Sometimes last year I thought about changing it,” said Doolittle. “But every time I hear it, it riles me up. I’m sticking with it for a while.”

 

Huge Third Inning Lifts A’s to Sweep of Rangers

By Matthew Harrington

The Oakland Athletics (18-10) rode a huge seven-run third inning to exact revenge on the hosting Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park, sweeping their American League West foes one week after suffering the same fate at the hands of the enemy from the Lone Star State. With the series win, including a 12-1 game three blowout over the 2010 and 2011 World Series Runner-ups, the A’s now sit three games ahead of the Rangers (15-13) for first in the division, with the green and gold owning the best record in the AL.

Jesse Chaves (2-0, 1.89 ERA) pitched seven innings of one-hit baseball, surrendering no runs on eight strikeouts and a lone walk. Oakland tagged Rangers starter Robbie Ross Jr. (1-2, 3.86) for 10 runs, six earned, over 3 1/3 innings. The Athletics also knocked Rangers relievers Alexi Ogando and Shawn Tolleson for a run apiece.

Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes and Eric Sogard had RBI base hits in a seven-run third inning. Alberto Callaspo and Nick Punto also knocked in runs on outs in the frame. Derek Norris hit a run-scoring single in the fourth, as did Sogard to make it a 10-0 A’s lead. Callaspo plated Donaldson on a fifth-inning single off Ogando and Crisp launched a solo home run, his third of the season, to right center with two outs in the sixth to complete the A’s 12-run day.

Josh Wilson connected on an RBI double off reliever Luke Gregerson in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Rangers their lone score in the series finale. Jim Johnson gave up one hit in the ninth to finish off the A’s sweep of their divisional rival.

The A’s continue their road trip in first place, traveling to Boston to face the reigning World Series Champion Red Sox for a three-game set. The A’s will send Dan Straily to the mound to open the series after an off-day Thursday. The Red Sox rotation is yet to be set with a double-header against the Tampa Bay Rays on the books after a rainout Wednesday night.

 

Jaso’s Pinch-Hit Heroics Continue A’s Dominance in Anaheim

By Matthew Harrington

Jesse Chavez once again produced a quality start, his third of the season, Monday night in Anaheim, but yet again the converted reliever-turned-starter headed off to the showers without a chance at being named the winning pitcher. Just like his previous two starts, Chavez’ offense rallied in its last at-bat to give the Athletics (9-4) a win. The A’s, owners of the best record in the American League, triumphed in their starter’s previous two efforts in extra innings.

Backed by a pinch-hit, two-run home run by John Jaso in the top of the ninth inning, Oakland stole a 3-2 come-from-behind victory to open up a three-game series against the Angels (6-7)at Angel Stadium. Yoenis Cespedes also homered, deposed closer Jim Johnson (1-2, 9.95 ERA) pitched a scoreless eighth inning for his first win in green and gold and Luke Gregerson’s one-two-three ninth-inning save closed the door.

Chavez struggled in the bottom of the first, surrendering a two-strike single to leadoff hitter Kole Calhoun. The lefty caught phenom Mike Trout watching a nasty curveball for strike three, but Calhoun had already advanced to second when miscommunication between catcher Derek Norris and Chavez resulting in a passed ball earlier in the at-bat. Albert Pujols laced a single through the left side to plate Calhoun for a 1-0 lead.

Chavez cruised through the rest of his appearance, pitching seven innings, surrendering four hits and only one earned run on nine strikeouts. The lone earned run came off the bat of Pujols who crushed a homer to center field in the third inning, his 496th long ball of his career. Pujols now moves into lone possession of 26th place on the all-time long fly list.

Angels starter Hector Santiago countered Chavez, pitching seven innings of one-run ball with five hits and three punch-outs. Cespedes’ third homer, a solo shot to right center to make it 2-1 Angels in the fourth inning proved the lone blemish to Santiago’s ERA. The A’s outfielder now has home runs in consecutive games after going yard off Charlie Furbush in the A’s 3-0 win in Seattle Sunday.

The Halos Joe Smith and Oakland’s Johnson pitched scoreless eighths for their respective clubs, opening the door for Jaso’s fireworks in the ninth. Josh Donaldson, owner of a now eight game hitting streak, welcomed Angels closer Ernesto Frieri to the top of the ninth with a single. Cespedes then hit a deep fly out to center for the first out on a 2-2 count. Cespedes had asked for time from home plate Tim Welke, but was denied his request on the pitch. A’s manager Bob Melvin then called on Jaso to pinch hit for Norris after the backstop went 0-for-3 against Santiago.

Last season, Oakland finished dead last in batting average for pinch hitters with 20 hits in 139 substitute at-bats. Jaso entered Monday hitting .200 as a pinch hitter with a lone home run. He turned on a 1-2 offering from Frieri and deposited deep in the right field bleachers to put the A’s ahead 3-2. With Frieri (0-1, 6.75 ERA) lifted after his first blown save of the season, Jose Alvarez finished off the final two-thirds of the ninth.

Melvin tabbed Gregerson to be the closer-by-committee candidate Monday evening, and the right-hander reward his manager with a perfect inning. Gregerson produced ground outs by Ibanez and Howie Kendrick, the latter of which came on a bang-bang play challenged by Angels Manager Mike Scoscia but upheld after replay proved inconclusive to overturn the out call on the field. Gregerson coaxed a fly out from former World Series MVP (then with the St. Louis Cardinals)David Freese to notch his second save of the campaign and pick up the A’s 14th win in their last 20 games at Angel Stadium.

Oakland and Los Angeles faceoff in game two of the three-game set Tuesday night, with Dan Straily (1-1, 2.77 ERA) tabbed by Melvin to take the slab. He’ll be countered by Garret Richards (2-0, 0.75 ERA) who enters play Tuesday with only one earned run allowed over 12 innings.

Norris’ 11th-Inning Homer Salvages Oakland’s Afternoon As Johnson’s Woes Continue

By Matthew Harrington

Athletics closer Jim Johnson blew his second save of the season, but a Derek Norris three-run homer in the eleventh inning salvaged a 7-4 A’s win in Minnesota Wednesday afternoon. Oakland took a 4-0 led over the Twins in the first inning from Target Field, but a home team rally capped by a two-run ninth forced extra innings for A’s for the second time this season.

Athletics starter Jesse Chavez had a second-straight solid start spoiled, picking up a no-decision after seven innings and only one run allowed. Chavez also was the victim of circumstance in the A’s previous extra-inning game, a 12-inning 3-2 walk-off over the Mariners last Thursday.

Phil Hughes failed to retire the first six batters he faced Wednesday, walking leadoff man Sam Fuld and Jed Lowrie before giving up four-straight base hits including a two-RBI single by Brandon Moss and run-producing hits by Josh Donaldson and Alberto Callaspo for a 4-0 lead with no outs. Hughes righted the ship, yielding no runs for the next four innings then four relievers combined to leave the A’s scoreless over the next five innings before Norris’ blast.

Designated hitter Jason Kubel cut the lead to three, launching a 2-0 Chavez delivery to deep right for a solo home run. It’d be the lone run the Twins produced off Chavez but second baseman Brian Dozier pulled the Twins within two on a solo blast of his own off A’s reliever Sean Doolittle to cut the lead in half.

The ninth inning continued to be a rocky ride with the two-time MLB saves leader Johnson on the mound. The leadoff hitter Kubel reached base on a single to center then ex-Athletic Kurt Suzuki drew a walk with two strikes to put runners on first and second. Johnson coaxed a bunting pop-up off the bat of Chris Hermann but Aaron Hicks took ball four with on another two-strike count to load the bases.

In a series of strange events, the Twins scored runs on the next two plays, but not without an umpire review for each. Eduardo Escobar flared a ball to left that Yoenis Cespedes scooped up and fired to third, looking for the force-out. The umpires ruled Suzuki safe at third after protest from Melvin, who then lifted his closer on the verge of blowing a second lead in three save opportunities in favor of Dan Otero.

Otero suffered the same fate as Johnson when guarding the one-run led. Brian Dozier lifted a sacrifice fly to right field, but Josh Reddick unleashed a laser to home plate to try to cut down Suzuki at home. After review, the call on the field was upheld, Suzuki was ruled safe and the Twins had forced a tie. Otero would walk Joe Mauer before ending the ninth with a ground out off the bat of Trevor Plouffe.

Neither team found the scoreboard in the tenth, with Glen Perkins and Otero pitching perfect innings to set up Norris’s blast. Norris, a pinch-hitter in the ninth who remained in at catcher for John Jaso, rocketed a delivery from Jared Burton (0-1, 9.00 ERA) to deep center to knock in Daric Barton and Callaspo for the decisive blow. It’s the right-handed backstop’s second dinger, both coming off right-handed pitchers. Otero (1-0, 1.69 ERA) walked a tight rope in the 12th, loading the bases on two singles and a walk before retiring Plouffe for the victory.

The A’s wrap up the series against Minnesota with another early afternoon game Thursday. Oakland’s Dan Straily and Minnesota’s Mike Pelfrey each take the hill looking for their first win of 2014.

Giants Fall to A’s 4-1

By: Phillip Torres

SAN FRANCISCO-The San Francisco Giants hosted the Oakland Athletics at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Friday night. It was the second exhibition game in as many days at China Basin against their rivals from across the Bay. Tim Lincecum faced off against Jesse Chavez who entered the game with a 4-1 Spring record. The Giants were coming off of a 4-0 defeat last night from Oakland, and they fell 4-1 again tonight as Chavez carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning.

Lincecum was a little wild on the night in his four innings before a line drive by Daric Barton ended his night early when it bounced off of his left knee. Buster Posey defended the ball nicely to through out Barton to end the inning, but the hit caused Lincecum to leave his last Spring Training outing earlier than expected. Lincecum ended the night with four innings pitched. giving up one run and three hits, and three walks while striking out four. His spring record fell to 1-1 with a 5.79 ERA. ”The Freak” luckily avoided a freak injury right before the season opener on Monday, as he sustained only a left knee contusion.

The Lone run that was given up by Lincecum came in the third inning as John Jaso blasted a leadoff homerun onto the right field arcade. Before Angel Pagan’s one out double in the sixth inning, Chavez had only allowed two base runners, and that was a walk to Michael Morse and when he hit Hector Sanchez with an inside breaking ball that cut a little too much. Chavez earned the victory on the night and closed his spring with a remarkable 5-1 record and a 2.22 earned run average.

Oakland added onto their 1-0 lead in the sixth inning with a three run rally to give them a cushion heading late into the game. Sam Fuld knocked in a bases loaded, bases clearing triple off of lefty Dan Runzler to extend the lead to 4-0.

San Francisco could not get any type of offense going all night until the ninth inning. Joaqiun Arias knocked in Juan Perez with a two out RBI single to put the Giants on the board for the first time in the past two games. the run made it a 4-1 Athletics lead but the Giants managed to get the tying run to the plate against closer Jim Johnson as Tyler Colvin followed the Arias single with a base hit of his own. The threat was short lived though as Sanchez then popped out on the first pitch with a towering pop fly to center field.

The last Bay Bridge exhibition game will continue on Saturday, but it will be played across the Bay Bridge in Oakland. First pitch on Saturday will be at 1:05 PM at the O.co Coliseum. It will be the last game of the Spring Training season as opening day will be on Monday March 31, 2014 as the Giants will be hosted by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Chavez Continues Impressive Spring with Fifth Win, A’s Beat Giants 4-1

Photo Courtesy USA Today
Photo Courtesy USA Today

By Kahlil Najar

SAN FRANCISCO – A’s pitcher Jesse Chavez (5-1, 2.22 ERA) looked great in his seventh appearance of spring training and beat the San Francisco Giants, 4-1. Chavez continued his domination during spring training as he took a no-hitter into the bottom of the fifth inning until Angel Pagan hit a double to get the Giant’s their first hit of the game. John Jaso and Sam Fuld provided the offensive power for the A’s tonight while the Giants were only able to score one run in the bottom of the ninth.

“It was a good one to finish off like that and go into the season and build off  of that one,” said Chavez on the win tonight. “Getting ahead was key for me tonight. If you can get ahead, you’re more than likely to succeed.”

On Chavez, Coach Bob Melvin said “Jesse’s been really sharp and efficient this spring. He had a really good cutter tonight and mixed his curve ball in just enough to slow him down a bit. He was on the corners all night.”

Tonight’s win solidified Chavez as a bona fied  starter in the A’s rotation and gives the Oakland faithful something to be grateful for after losing Jarrod Parker for the season. When asked about being a starter and how to keep it going, Chavez said, “I can’t get complacent. I still have to stay after it and keep doing what I’m doing and not change anything. I’ve been able to focus a lot more knowing that I have to go through line up three or four times. I’m happy that they have the confidence in me to put in me in the rotation and I don’t want them to think they made the wrong decision.”

“This is something he’s always strives for is to be a starter. He’s earned, he deserves it and you can see his confidence grows each time he goes out there,”said Melvin echoing his confidence in Chavez.

On offense, Oakland’s John Jaso hit his first homer of spring training on a first pitch 2-seam fast ball from Tim Lincecum (1-1, 5.79 ERA) to give the A’s a 1-0 lead in the third.

In the top of the fourth, the Giants biggest fear came to reality when Daric Barton hit a shot into Lincecum’s left leg and immediately dropped him. After stretching on the ground and taking time to make sure nothing was broken, the Giants were able to get Lincecum to get off the field with some help from the trainers. Luckily it was a left knee contusion and x-rays didn’t find anything.

“You never want anybody to see get hit by a come backer especially someone of his caliber,” said Chavez.

In the fifth, Jaso walked, Nick Punto doubled and Daric Barton walked to get the bases loaded for  spring training phenom Sam Flud. Flud didn’t disappoint as he took a 2-seam fastball to right field past the out-stretched body of Brandon Belt and into the deep part of right field that Hunter Pence had to scoop up and relay to home. By the time the ball reached home Flud was standing at third and had three more RBI added to his stat sheet to give the A’s a 4-0 lead.

The Giants were able to break up the no-hitter that Chavez had going into the sixth when Angel Pagan hit a double to A’s left fielder Yoenis Cespedes. After the hit, Melvin pulled Chavez ended  his night with 5 1/3 innings pitched with one hit, one walk and five strike outs.

“I don’t normally take out guys of potential no-hitters,” Melvin said. “At the time, I was almost glad that Pagan got the hit, to tell you the truth. But it was impressive. He was on it all night.”

The Giants were able to get to A’s closer Jim Johnson for one run in the bottom of the ninth but then he settled down and got Sanchez to fly out to Flud to end the game.

Both teams head to the other side of the Bay to continue the Bay Bridge series in Oakland when Dan Strailey takes on the Giant’s Edwin Escobar, game time 1:05 pm.