A’s number three ranked prospect Holmes has tough debut in San Jose

Holmes 2

by Charlie O. Mallonee

After the Josh Reddick – Rich Hill trade to the Dodgers for three minor league pitchers, there was a reordering of the top 30 prospects in the Oakland Athletics farm system. One of those pitchers is now the A’s number three ranked prospect.

20-year old Grant Holmes is 6-foot-1, 215 pound, right-handed pitcher that was selected in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2014 Free Agent Draft by the Dodgers. Holmes went right from playing high school baseball to playing professional ball for the Dodgers with their rookie teams in Arizona and Ogden, Utah.He spent the 2015 season in the Midwest League and was pitching for the Dodgers high Class A California League affiliate in Ranch Cucamonga when the trade occurred.

Holmes has an above average fastball that he throws in the 93-95 mph range on a consistent basis. He also has a plus-curveball that can be thrown with slider velocity when it is at its best. The curve still lacks the consistency that it will need at the next level.

Holmes has a workable change up that he is using more as the talent of the opposing hitters improves. His control is rated as a bit below average. Scouts feel his control “regressed” some in 2015. Not enough to no longer consider Holmes a top prospect, but he does need to learn “to trust his stuff”.

Even though Holmes is the youngest player who will require the most time and development to make it to the major leagues, he ultimately could be the crown jewel of this trade. In 2019 or 2020, we could be talking about how the Reddick-Hill trade of 2016 paid off for the A’s with the acquisition of starting pitcher Grant Holmes.

Holmes made his first appearance for the A’s Class A Stockton Ports on Friday night versus the San Jose Giants. It was not the type of start Holmes wanted to have for his new organization.

Holmes worked just 4.0 innings giving up six runs (four earned) on eight hits. He had one strike out and walked one batter. He did not give up a home run in the game.

Holmes threw 72 pitches (52 strikes) to the 23 batters he faced. He induced eight hitters to groundout and two to flyout.

The Giants hit back-to-back singles off Holmes in the first inning.Holmes then walked a batter to load the bases. The next San Jose batter was hit by the pitch to force in a run. A sacrifice fly made it a 2-0 game after the first inning.

San Jose scored single runs in the second and third innings off Holmes. A error by the Ports left fielder in the fourth inning allowed to unearned runs to score giving the Giants a 6-1 lead and the night for Holmes was over.

Holmes was charged with the loss. His overall record for the season is now 8-5 with 4.20 ERA.

Sports Radio Service will continue to monitor Holmes play and bring you updates as warranted.

Hill and Reddick go to the Dodgers in exchange for three pitching prospects

reddick-hill

by Charlie O. Mallonee

The A’s indicated on Sunday they might go for a contract extension with pitcher Rich Hill rather than trade him. Either that was a smoke screen or the extension talks did not go well because Hill is now a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Hill is currently on the disabled listed due to a blister on his middle finger of his pitching hand. Hill was placed on the DL retroactive to July 20 on July 30. He can be reinstated on August 4. Hill was 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA in 14 starts for the Athletics.

Reddick had also been the focus of contract extension talks as he will become a free agent at the end of the season. Those contract talks were not fruitful or did not look promising as Reddick is also a Dodger as of today.

Reddick was hitting .296 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 68 games for the A’s this season. Reddick spent May 20 to June 27 on the disabled list with a fractured thumb. He had been seen as a trade target by several teams as the trade deadline approached. The Dodgers remained at the top of the list of suitors for Reddick’s services.

As has been the Athletics style, they will receive prospects in return for Hill and Reddick. In this case, all three prospects are pitchers.

cotton

Jharel Cotton is a 24-year old right-hand pitcher who has been playing at the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City this season. He had appeared in 22 games (16 starts) with a record of 8-5. His 4.90 ERA is high but earned run averages tend to run high in the Pacific Coast League.

Cotton has an above average fastball.The speed of that fastball changes depending on whether he is starting or relieving. As a starter, he throws the fastball in the upper 80’s. As a reliever, he ups the speed of his number one pitch into the 90’s.

Cotton has a plus-change up that he uses frequently as an out pitch. He also throws a cutter and a curve but both are considered below average. He really needs to develop a third pitch.

At 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, Cotton’s size is more suited to being a relief pitcher rather than a starting pitcher in the major leagues. Cotton has been assigned to the A’s Triple-A team in Nashville.

Detroit Tigers v Chicago White Sox

Frankie Montas is a hard throwing right-hander who has seen some time in the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox. He appeared in seven games (two starts) for the Sox in 2015. Montas was traded to the Dodgers in a three-team trade that sent Trayce Thompson to Los Angeles.

Montas had rib surgery in February and has been limited to 16.0 innings of work in 2016. There have been conflicting reports about when Montas will be able to pitch again. Some reports have him pitching again in September and others have him not returning to action until the Arizona Fall League gets underway.

Montas is 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds. His size may be a part of his power as a pitcher but it is also a concern about how it may impact his health in the long run.

Montas has an excellent fastball with some sink that he throws consistently in the 90’s and will ramp up to 102 mph on occasion. His number two pitch is a slider that he throws in the mid-80’s. Scouts say Montas needs to develop a third pitch.

Montas gets into trouble when he overthrows his pitches. His fastball straightens out and his slider flattens out which makes both pitches less effective.

The big question that has followed Montas is whether he is a starter or reliever. The early takes are that the A’s will work to make Montas a starter.

Holmes

The final piece of this trade is a youngster. Grant Holmes is just 20-years old and is already in his third year of professional baseball. The Dodgers drafted him in the first round of the 2014 draft with number 22 overall pick.

Holmes is a 6-foot-1, 215 pound, right-hand throwing pitcher. He has a fastball that runs up near 100 mph on a regular basis. Holmes also has a hard, sharp breaking curve ball. He also is working on what is considered a very promising change up.

Holmes is 8-4 with a 4.02 ERA for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga this season. He has appeared in 20 games (18 starts). Despite those impressive numbers as a starter, many experts see Holmes as a reliever by the time he reaches the big leagues.

The A’s have not announced what team Holmes will be assigned to in the organization.

 

 

 

It was a gray day for Sonny in Cleveland as the Indians win 8-0

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Indians
Tough day for Sonny Gray in Cleveland. Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

By Charlie O. Mallonee

The Cleveland Indians completed a three-game sweep of Oakland on Sunday by shutting out the Athletics 8-0. The Indians rode the strong starting pitching of Corey Kluber and the well timed hitting of the bottom third of the order to close out the A’s trip to Cleveland out on a down note.

The victory was the Indians 60th of season against 42 losses. The “Tribe” has now won three games in-a-row and are 6-4 in their last 10 games. The win gives them a 4.5 game lead over second-place Detroit in the AL Central.

The loss drops the A’s record to 47-58 – 11 games under the key goal of getting to the .500 mark. The A’s have lost three straight games and are 5-5 in their last 10 games. Oakland has dropped into last place in the AL West – 14.0 games back of Texas and 0.5 games back of the Angels in fourth place.

On the Bump

Sonny Gray looked strong in the first two innings of the game. He sat the side down in order in each inning and it appeared Gray was on track for a strong outing. Then came the third inning and the wheels came off for Gray.

Gray loaded the bases and then with one out, gave up single to right field to Jason Kipnis that was good for two RBI. Francisco Lindor then hit a sacrifice fly to center field that drove in Roberto Perez. Designated Hitter Mike Napoli then hit a two-run home run over the left center field wall to make it a 5-0 game in favor of the Indians.

The A’s were unable to find any runs in the top of the fourth to help Gray as he headed back to the mound to face the Cleveland batters.

Gray gave up another run on two singles and walk and his day on the hill was over. Daniel Coulombe came on in relief and gave up a sacrifice fly (run charged to Gray) before getting the final out. The Indians led 7-0 after four complete innings.

The Indians would score once more in the bottom of the fifth-inning.

Sonny Gray’s record fell to 5-10 for the year. Even more alarming his ERA rose to 5.84. On Sunday, Gray worked just 3.1 innings giving up seven runs (all earned) on eight hits. He struck out three and walked two. Gray threw 64 pitches (43 strikes).

Daniel Coulombe threw 1.2 innings in relief giving up one run (earned) on one hit while striking out two and walking two hitters. J.B. Wendelken worked three scoreless innings of long relief giving up just one hit, striking out three and issuing one walk.

It really was Corey Kluber’s day on the bump. The 2014 Cy Young winner was in great form as he threw 7.0 scorless innings distributing just five hits, walking just two A’s while striking out seven hitters. Kluber threw 103 pitches (67 strikes). It was the kind of performance that one would expect out of the number one man in the rotation of a first-place team.

The Indians used three pitchers to cover the eighth and ninth innings to close out the game.

In the Batter’s Box

Yonder Alonso had the only multi-hit game for the A’s. He had a double and a single in the game to raise his average to .250. Stephen Vogt, Jake Smolinski and Marcus Semien all hit doubles in the contest.

The A’s left eight runners on base and were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

DH Mike Napoli was the man at the plate for Cleveland on Sunday. He went 1-for-3 with a 2-run home run, scored two runs, had two RBI and added a walk.

The number seven, eight and nine hitters in the order collected five of Cleveland’s 10 hits and scored five of their eight runs. That is a pretty productive bottom third of the order.

The Indians left six runners on base and were 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

On Defense

In the bottom of the fourth, Lonnie Chisenhall was at first when Tyler Naquin singled to right field. Josh Reddick fielded the ball and then threw a bullet to third base to try to cut down Chisenhall who decided to challenge Reddick’s arm. Rookie Ryon Healy took the throw, put down the tag and Chisenhall became the first out of the inning.

Who goes – who stays

The clock is ticking and the phones are ringing as teams are desperately trying to make deals before the non-wavier trade deadline hits at 1:00 PM PDT on Monday. There are several A’s players that the “experts” think could be on the move.

The two most prominent names are still pitcher Rich Hill and outfielder Josh Reddick. The new wrinkle involving these two players is that several teams are trying to pick them up as a package. Peter Gammons of MLB Network says the Dodgers have asked about the two as a package deal. Ken Rosenthal of Fox is reporting that the Blue Jays are also pursuing the pair as a package.

With Hill on the DL due the blister on pitching hand, some teams have asked about a conditional trade that would reduce the compensation to the A’s if Hill is unable to become competitive for the rest of the season. The word is the A’s have said no to those proposals. Hill is a “as is” with “no warranty” trade. You buy it – you own it.

The name of Danny Valencia has dropped off the radar in the last 72 hours but do not be surprised to hear Valencia has packed his bags and is on his way to a contender tomorrow afternoon. His productive bat is too good to be ignored.

Up Next

The A’s traveled to Southern California after the game on Sunday and will have a day off before beginning a three-game series with the Angels on Tuesday.

Tue 8/2 @LAA LHP Sean Manaea (3-5,4.57) vs. RHP Matt Shoemaker (5-11,4.17) 7:05 PM PDT

Wed 8/3 @LAA RHP Kendall Graveman (7-7,4.15) vs. RHP Jared Weaver (8-8,5.14) 7:05 PM PDT

Thu 8/4 @LAA  To Be Announced for Oakland       vs. RHP Tim Lincecum (2-5,8.49) 4:05 PM PDT

The Indians will stay in Cleveland and will begin a four-game series with the Twins on Monday night.

 

Blue Jays beat the A’s 5-3 in a strange game

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Oakland Athletics
Marcus Semien hits his 20th home run of the season. Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

By Charlie O. Mallonee

The Oakland Athletics lost the final game of the three-game series to the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 on Sunday afternoon, but the A’s still won the series two games to one.

The Sunday game had “weird” painted all over it right from the beginning. Rich Hill started the game for Oakland and the speculation was that it would be his final start as an Athletic because of his trade value. Hill threw five pitches and called the trainer to the mound. A piece of skin came off where he had a blister that caused him to miss a start, and that was it for Hill. His day was over.

The A’s would use seven pitchers in the game but the real surprise was the appearance of starting pitcher Sean Manaea in the second inning of the game. The rookie left-hander was scheduled to start the game on Tuesday versus the Astros. After it was determined that reliever Andrew Triggs could not continue after being hit in the calf with a batted ball, manager Bob Melvin called on Manaea.

Melvin talked about how tough it was to ask Manaea to respond so quickly. “It’s tough to ask the kid to do something like that too. We were going to limit his pitches but we just didn’t have enough bullpen wise to get through the game if we didn’t use him. He responded really well. I’m sure he didn’t come to the ballpark thinking I might pitch today.”

Manaea worked five innings giving up two runs (both earned) on three hits. He struck out four Blue Jay hitters. Manaea did give up a two-run home run to Troy Tulowitzki in the top of the fourth inning. Tulowitzki hit his 16th home run of the season over the center field wall. Manaea did not figure in on the decision in Sunday’s game.

The Tulowitzki home run gave Toronto a 3-0 lead. The Jays scored a run in the that wild and confusing top of the first inning.

The A’s were having to battle the strong pitching of J.A. Happ who entered the game with a 12-3 record. Happ held the A’s hitless through the first three innings.

The A’s broke through in the bottom of the sixth inning when they sent nine men to the plate and scored three runs on four hits to tie the game at 3-3. Marcus Semien started the scoring for the A’s by hitting his 20th home run of the year.

The game remained tied until the top of the ninth when the Blue Jays put runners on base by virtue of back-to-back base hits. With two outs, former Athletic Josh Donaldson stepped in and hit a double to left field that drove in two runs giving Toronto a 5-3 lead. The A’s were unable to respond in the bottom of the ninth and the final score was Toronto 5 Oakland 3.

On the bump

Rich Hill showed reporters his finger and the skin that had come off that finger. It does not look like an injury that is going to heal quickly. Bob Melvin was clear in postgame press conference that Hill was not a candidate to start on Tuesday against Houston.

Andrew Triggs who was hit by a ball on his left calf has a serious contusion. Melvin said they will evaluate Triggs situation again on Monday.

Marc Rzepczynski worked 0.2 of an inning and struck out two batters. Liam Hendricks pitched 1.1 innings and walked one hitter while giving up no runs in relief.

John Axford (3-3) took the loss going 0.2 innings giving up two runs (earned) on three hits. He walked two and struck out one.

Patrick Schuster worked 0.1 inning to close out the game.

Happ worked 5.2 innings giving up 3 runs (all earned) on five hits for Toronto. He struck out five and walked one. Happ did not figure in on the decision.

Jason Grilli (3-1) was credited with the win. Grilli worked 1.0 inning giving up no runs and no hits in his time on the mound.

The save went to Roberto Osuna. It is his 19th save of the season.

In the batter’s box

Marcus Semien went 1-for-4 with a run scored, a home run and a RBI. He now has 20 home runs and 48 RBI both of which are career highs.

Danny Valencia had a 2-for-4 day that included scoring a run. Valencia is now hitting .307 in the 56 games since he came off the disabled list May 6th. There have to be some contending teams that want his bat in their lineup and are willing to part with prospects to get it.

Jed Lowrie went 2-for-4 on Sunday. Lowrie is 6-for-16 (.375) in his four starts as the leadoff batter this season.

Yonder Alonso came into the game as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning and went 1-for-2 hitting a double that was good for two RBI.

Josh Donaldson has reached base safely in 22 straight games and is hitting .388 over that period. He went 2-for-5 on Sunday.

Russell Martin went 2-for-3 on Sunday and scored a run. He is hitting .324 over the last 10 games.

Edwin Encarnacion had a 1-for-4 day but is .394 over his last 20 games.

Notes:

The Athletics were involved in a minor transaction on Sunday as they acquired left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler from the Cleveland Indians for cash considerations. Detwiler was pitching for Triple-A Columbus and will be assigned to Triple-A Nashville for the A’s. He will not be on the 40-man roster.

This move was made to shore up the pitching staff in Nashville which has seen so many changes as pitchers have been promoted to Oakland and others have been designated for assignment.

Toronto first baseman Justin Smoak signed a two-year contract extension worth $8.25 million on Saturday. The contract includes an option year that would pay Smoak $6 million if exercised.

“We love Toronto, me and my family, and we wanted to stay here as long as we can,” Smoak said. “So we just wanted to get something done.”

Smoak is currently a role player for the Blue Jays. His signing is seen as protection at first base in case free agent Edwin Encarnacion signs elsewhere.

Up next

Three-game series in Oakland with Houston:

Mon – RHP Kendall Graveman (5-6,4.37) vs. RHP Mike Fiers (6-3,4.35) 7:05 PM

Tue – To be announced vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel (6-9,4.90) 7:05 PM

Wed – RHP Daniel Mengden (1-4,5.54) vs. RHP Doug Fister (9-6,3.64) 12:35 PM

Toronto heads to Phoenix for two games with the Diamondbacks

The A’s Rich Hill outduels the Astros’ Doug Fister, A’s win 3-1

by Jerry Feitelberg

AP photo: Oakland A’s second baseman Jed Lowrie misses a Houston Astros Luis Valbuena smash for a hit at Minute Maid Field in the second inning of Thursday night’s game

HOUSTON–The Oakland A’s beat the Houston Astros 3-1 Thursday night in Houston. The A’s new  ace Rich Hill outshined the Astros Doug Fister in an old-fashioned pitching duel. The Astros scored their only run of the game in the first inning. Leadoff hitter, George Springer, tripled to get things going for Houston. The next hitter, Marwin Gonzalez, grounded out driving in Springer with the ‘Stros first and only run of the game. From that point on, Hill was lights out. Hill pitched six innings, allowed just the one run and three hits. He walked two batters but struck out ten. He threw 103 pitches and since it was just his second start since coming off the DL, A’s manager Bob Melvin turned the game over to the bullpen and did they ever do the job. John Axford set the Astros down in order in the seventh. Ryan Dull pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth and Ryan Madson did the same in the ninth to close out the game for Oakland.

The Astros, as mentioned above, scored first in the very first inning. The A’s came back and scored two runs in the top of the second. Singles by Danny Valencia and Khris Davis was followed by a walk to Steven Vogt to load the bases with no out. Marcus Semien grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Valencia scored to tie the game, and Davis went to third. Yonder Alonso doubled to left-centerfield to drive in the A’s second run. The score remained at 2-1 until the top of the ninth. Fister went eight innings allowed just two runs and three hits. The Astros brought in lefty Tony Sipp to face the left-handed hitter, Josh Reddick. With the shift on, Reddick hit a rocket up the middle that was fielded by Carlos Correa. Correa straightened up to throw to first but his throw drew the first baseman off the bag, and Reddick was safe. Correa was charged with an error.With two right-handed hitters coming up, Houston brought in former Athletic, Pat Neshek to pitch. Neshek retired Valencia and Davis but walked Vogt and Semien to load the bases. The Astros employed the shift when Alonso came to the plate. The Second baseman, Jose Altuve was stationed in short right, and Correa was near the second base bag. Alonzo hit a blooper that could not be fielded by Neshek and Altuve was too far away to make the play. Reddick scored the insurance run, and Madson closed out the game. A’s win, the A’s win 3-1.

Game Notes- With the win, the A’s are now 2-6 in their last eight games. They play three more games with the Astros before stopping play for the All-Star game. Kendall Graveman, Daniel Mengden, and Sean Manaea will handle the pitching chores for Oakland. Lance McCullers, Collin McHugh and reigning Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel will pitch for Houston.

Yonder Alonso was the hitting star for Oakland as he had two of the four hits and he drove in two runs. Center fielder, Coco, Crisp was tossed out of the game in the fourth inning. Crisp took a low pitch that was below his knees. The ump called it a strike. Coco was a little miffed. The next pitch was also low. Coco swung and missed as he thought he would be called out on strikes if he took the pitch. As he was heading back to the dugout, Coco tossed the bat, and it nearly hit the umpire. He also threw his helmet to the ground. He was thumbed out immediately. Bob Melvin never got a chance to intercept Coco. Billy Burns replace Coco in center.

Rich Hill is now 9-3 for the year, and the A’s improve to 37-49. The Astros’ Doug Fister falls tp 8-6 and they are now 46-40 for 2016. Ryan Madson picked up his seventeenth save. Game Two of the Series will be Friday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston at 5:10 pm PT.

Time of game was two hours and thirty-two minutes and 20,933 Houstonian were on hnd to watch the A’s win.

A’s Hill wins again after the Tigers implode in the decisive, sixth inning

Maybin comes up short

By Morris Phillips

So far in 2016, things have worked out for free agent-signee Rich Hill, and just the opposite for free agent-signee Mike Pelfrey. That pattern continued on Sunday as both starting pitchers crossed paths at the Coliseum in the A’s come-from-behind 4-2 win.

Staked to a 2-0 lead, and pitching as well as he had in any of his 10 previous starts for Detroit, Pelfrey saw things fall apart after he induced a double-play ground ball off the bat of Stephen Vogt, and appeared to be on his way to keeping the A’s at bay through the first six innings.

But Pelfrey gave up back-to-back singles to Danny Valencia and Khris Davis, then saw normally sure-handed Ian Kinsler boot a potential inning-ending ground ball off the bat of Yonder Alonso. That allowed Valencia to score from third, with the tying and go-ahead runs on base. Pelfrey then uncorked a wild pitch, allowing both runners to move up. Two pitches later—after issuing a walk to Marcus Semien, loading the bases—Pelfrey’s day was done.

“Pelfrey pitched well, and we were trying to him over the hump and let him pitch deep into the game,” Kinsler said of his gaffe. “To not come up with that, it hurts a little bit.”

“For some reason I’m having trouble getting through the sixth inning,” Pelfrey admitted. “That bugs me.”

Not as much as what happened next. Reliever Alex Wilson’s second pitch appeared to induce Billy Butler to deliver an inning-ending fly ball. But center fielder Cameron Maybin broke in on the ball, but saw it bound in front of his glove as he dove for the catch. That allowed two more runs to score, and suddenly the former Met and Twin was on the hook for the loss, despite not allowing an earned run.

Now 0-5, Pelfrey’s next start isn’t promised. Gifted a two-year, $16 million contract, the 6’7” right hander has failed to win any of his first 11 starts in Detroit. And he’s no Rich Hill, the A’s diamond signed to a one-year, $6 million deal that has now yielded eight wins in the same 11 starts. While Pelfrey’s trademark sinker hasn’t fooled anyone, Hill’s signature curve has shown real bite, putting him among the AL leaders in strikeouts after he fanned nine Tigers on Sunday.

And on Sunday the differences between the two were slight. While both allowed eight combined hits and walks, Hill was able to retire two more batters than Pelfrey, and was still standing when the afternoon caved in on Pelfrey and the Tigers in the sixth.

After walking the speedy Maybin to start the seventh, Hill recovered by striking out James McCann for the first out. But a balky groin that flared up earlier in the game cost Hill an opportunity to go further as a cautious Bob Melvin elected to remove his starter at that point. Reliever Ryan Dull came on to retire the two batters he faced, while also keeping Maybin rooted to first base.

Hill addressed the injury afterwards, saying he was fine, but with the A’s overpopulated as is on the disabled list, the concern persisted. Not only is Hill the A’s top performer thus far this season, he’s undoubtedly in line to make his first All-Star game appearance if continues to perform, and reaches double-digit wins prior to the break. Again, the 36-year old renaissance man insisted that he’s good going forward.

“It’s nothing significant,” Hill said. “Sleep on it, wake up, and I’ll be fine.”

The A’s captured the series with the Tigers, after dropping six of seven prior to Detroit’s arrival. The A’s are now 7 ½ games behind first place Texas in the AL West, and hoping a friendly, upcoming schedule will allow them to stay within striking distance of the Rangers and Mariners atop the division.

With all the injuries, the veteran leadership of the club—Ryan Madson, Josh Reddick and Coco Crisp—held a players-only meeting on Friday to insure the club maintains its focus through all the constant doings on the disabled list, which at one point numbered 12 players. The immediate response was good: Saturday’s offensive explosion and Sunday’s win in a closer, tense affair. Now, according to reliever Sean Doolittle, the club simply needs to back up those wins.

“With the injuries we’ve had, I think it would be somewhat foolish to start looking ahead,” Doolittle said, referring to a schedule that has the Twins, Brewers, Reds and Astros—all struggling—up next. “We need to play better at home, get more consistent.”

In Monday’s Memorial Day matinee, the A’s send Kendall Graveman to the mound, looking to end a personal, five-game losing streak. The resurgent Twins have Ervin Santana going, a pitcher who has beaten the A’s 15 times in 27 career starts.

 

The A’s Rich Hill tosses a shutout, snaps the four-game losing streak

by Jerry Feitelberg

AP photo: Oakland A’s pitcher Rich Hill throws at the Seattle Mariners line up in the first inning at Safeco Field on Monday night

The A’s lefty, Rich Hill, became King of the Hill Monday night as the A’s defeated the Seattle Mariners 5-0. Hill and the Mariners’ Tijuan Walker engaged in an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel Monday night at Safeco Field in Seattle. The A’s must love playing there as they won their fourth straight there this year. They also snapped the Mariners’ four-game winning streak.

The A’s scored all the runs they would need in the top of the seventh. A’s catcher, Stephen Vogt, homered to put the A’s in the lead 1-0. They scored four unearned runs in the top of the eighth when shortstop Chris Taylor made two errors to open the floodgates.

Hill went eight innings and allowed just eight hits, no walks and had six strikeouts. Hill became the first A’s pitcher to pitch into the seventh inning. Ryan Madson closed out the game for Oakland in the ninth.

Hill’s record for the year is 7-3. Walker drops to 2-4. Game two of the series will be played Tuesday night at 7:05 PM at Safeco field in Seattle.

Pitching, pitching: Hill and Jimenez prove baffling in A’s, Orioles doubleheader split

 

Schoop-ed

By Morris Phillips

Ubaldo Jimenez was as good in the nightcap, as Rich Hill was terrific in the opener of a doubleheader in Baltimore on Saturday.

For the A’s that meant a full day at the ballpark, and half the desired result, with their 8-1 win in the opener behind Hill, and a 5-2 loss in the nightcap in which Jimenez pitched a season-best eight innings, allowing just one walk.

In the Orioles’ win, Jimenez frustrated the A’s by spreading the eight singles and one double he allowed across the full breadth of his eight innings of work. Half of those singles came off the bat of Josh Reddick, who had seven hits in the doubleheader and saw his batting average leap from .260 to .301.

But with Reddick aboard each time, Jimenez stopped Oakland’s 4-5-6 hitters–Khris Davis, Chris Coghlan and Billy Butler–with all three going 0 for 4 for the afternoon. Manager Bob Melvin inserted Coghlan and Butler into his lineup for the second game to rest Stephen Vogt and Danny Valencia, but saw his decision to bat the pair in the middle of his lineup backfire with Jimenez methodically playing damage control.

While Coghlan (.148) and Butler (.195) saw their averages dip below .200, Khris Davis had an even more frustrating day at the park, going 0 for 9 while hitting fourth in both games, right behind the red hot Reddick.

The Orioles already led 5-0 when Jimenez allowed a leadoff double to Yonder Alonso in the fifth. Josh Phegley knocked in Alonso, and later scored from third on Reddick’s infield hit. But those would be the only two runs the A’s would manage as Jimenez put up three more zeros, before giving way to closer Zach Britton in the ninth, who earned his seventh save.

“He was solid, obviously,” manager Buck Showalter said of Jimenez. “How many walks did he have, one?  He dialed up something we needed.”

The 32-year old veteran hadn’t been nearly as effective in his four previous starts as he was against the A’s. Jimenez allowed 15 earned runs, while issuing 15 walks in his previous four starts, losing three. But on Saturday night, he worked smart, starting 23 of 32 batters with a strike and needing just 104 pitches to get through eight.

“The walks hurt,” Jimenez said. “Every time I walk a guy, it seems like they find a way to score.”

A’s leadoff batter Billy Burns had a rough go in the nightcap as well, getting caught stealing in the third, and grounding into an inning-ending double play in the seventh.

In the makeup of Friday’s rainout, played in front of a sparse crowd of fewer than 15,000, Rich Hill continued his renaissance, holding the Orioles to one hit over the first five innings to earn the win. Hill ran into trouble in the sixth, but Baltimore managed just one run on the journeyman pitcher, and reliever Ryan Dull.

Dull relieved Hill with a run in and pair of runners aboard, and dangerously walked Nolan Reimold to load the bases.  But Dull recovered by striking out Jonathan Schoop to end the inning.

Hill confounded his former team with his signature curve, surviving three walks and a hit batter, by striking out five, and allowing just two hits. The 36-year old Hill found himself in familiar surroundings, having pitched for Baltimore in 2009, and having shut out the Orioles in September, his revelatory month for the Red Sox that earned him a two-year deal with the A’s.

After the game, Showalter offered a detailed description of Hill’s 12-6 curve that robbed the Orioles’ hitters of their aggressiveness despite knowing exactly what to expect from the big right hander.

“It’s one of those that comes out the hand… I don’t want to say loopy, but he’s got real late finish,” the manager said. “We knew what he was going to do. I think he was fourth or fifth in baseball in strikeouts per nine innings, which is hard to do in the American League.”

The A’s backed Hill with a dink and dunk attack that produced 15 hits, including nine singles against a frustrated Mike Wright, who took the loss. Oakland tallied single runs in the second, third and fifth, before putting up three in the sixth.

In that frame, Dylan Bundy relieved Wright, and he and catcher Matt Wieters got crossed up on a passed ball that allowed Coco Crisp to score from third, while two other Oakland baserunners advanced. After Bundy retired Burns, Jed Lowrie’s single plated Alonso and Marcus Semien.

Semien capped the A’s scoring in the eighth with a two-run homer, his eighth.

The A’s conclude their series in Baltimore on Sunday with Kendall Graveman facing Baltimore’s Chris Tillman at 10:35am PST.

Too many men left on base – A’s lose 2-1

MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics
Photo Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

By Charlie O. Mallonee

Oakland – There is no such thing as a pretty loss. By their very nature, all losses all are ugly. But, some losses are “uglier” than others.

The Oakland Athletics had one of those very ugly losses on Sunday afternoon as they dropped a one-run game to the Houston Astros 2-1 in the series finale. The A’s did take the series two games to one.

It looked like it was going to be a high scoring, power game the way things began. All-star second baseman Jose Altuve took a one-one curveball over the left-center field fence for a home run to lead off the game for the Astros. Since the ball carries very well in the Coliseum during the day, everyone settled in for a “slug fest” that never happened. Instead, a pitching duel broke out in Oakland.

When the smoked cleared, the day belonged to the Houston Astros.

On the hill

LHP Rich Hill (3-3, 2.53) started the game for Oakland. After giving up the home run to Altuve, he settled down and got himself out of the first inning.

Hill set the side down in order in the second inning but struggled with the Astros in the third.

Houston managed to load the bases and Colby Rasmus hit a sacrifice fly to deep right field that allowed catcher Jason Castro to score from third. The Astros took a 2-0 lead and their scoring was over for the day.

Hill pitched 6.0 innings giving up just two hits (one home run) and allowing just two runs (both earned). He walked four and struck out four batters. Hill threw 106 pitches (61 strikes). It was the type of performance that would result in a win on many days.

The A’s bullpen did their job on Sunday. Liam Hendriks, Fernando Rodriquez and Mark Rzepczynski worked a combined 3.0 innings giving up no hits and no runs.

Hill was charged with the loss.

Veteran RHP Doug Fister (2-3, 4.60) started the game for the Astros. Fister was not overpowering or mystifying. He simply pitched to contact and the A’s kept hitting ground balls right at the defense.

Fister did allow the A’s to get seven hits but he kept them from being able to string them together until the seventh inning when Oakland would score its only run.

Fister pitched 6.2 innings giving up seven hits and one run (earned). He walked just one batter and struck out five. He threw 95 pitches (66 strikes).

The Houston relief corps worked 2.1 innings of scoreless relief.

In the batter’s box

In the batter’s box is where it was ugly for the A’s today. They were facing a starting pitcher who came into the game with a 5.56 ERA. As a team, you have to take advantage of that situation. An ERA that high screams of a pitcher who is struggling. As Don Henley says, “You kick ‘em when they’re down.”

Oakland had a pitching performance from their starter and relievers that was worthy of a victory. A win was not achieved for one simple reason – men left on base.

The A’s left eight men on base in the game. Even more disturbing was the fact they were just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. That is an ugly stat that make this an ugly loss.

The Astros struggled as well. They picked up seven base-on-balls in game and were unable to really capitalize on them. Houston left seven men on base and was 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.

On offense in general, this was a very strange game.

Defense

Just a note on defense. The Astros employed the defensive shift more than any team I have seen use it before in a game. They seem willing to play the percentage game and take their lumps if the opposition is able to beat them at their game.

The A’s were able to beat the shift several on several occasions but the Astros were successful using the defensive ploy. We will do some statistical follow up to see how successful the defensive scheme is over the long haul.

Up next

The Athletics open a 3-game home series with the Seattle Mariners on Monday night. Kendall Graveman will take the mound for the A’s facing the Mariners Nathan Karns.

The Astros return home to begin a 3-game series with the Twins.