Spurs end five game skid and Kings four game win streak with 113-104 win

The San Antonio Spurs came up with a nine point victory over the Sacramento Kings on Fri May 7, 2021 at Golden One Center in Sacramento (@spurs photo)

By Jeremiah Salmonson

The Sacramento Kings were back in action on Friday night. They last played on Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers. The Kings would look to keep their momentum going having four in a row. The kings and Spurs entered the game both vying for the 10th spot and to get into the play in tournament. The Spurs held the spot and were multiple games up on the Kings entering play. However, before we talk about Friday’s game let’s discuss the Kings against the Pacers.

Flashback Wednesday: The Kings played the Pacers on Wednesday and played one of the better games of the season. Sacramento’s defense held the Pacers to only 93 points as the Kings offense put up a cool 104. It was the Kings fourth win in a row as they looked to inch closer in the playoff race.

Friday night recap: The Kings were set to take on the conference standing rivals on Friday at 7PM PST in Sacramento.

In the first half, the Kings held their own. In the first quarter the Kings were outscored 25-21, but looked solid and San Antonio didn’t have a lot of momentum. In the second quarter, the Kings managed to outscore the Spurs 28-27 but it wasn’t enough to grab the lead going into halftime. The Kings entered halftime down 52-49. If the Kings would want to stay in the playoff hunt they would need to win in comeback fashion.

In the second half, the Kings started off well. They managed to outscore the Spurs in the third quarter 32-26 to grab the lead heading into the final quarter of play. However, the Spurs mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter out scoring the Kings 35-23. That would put the Spurs over the top and defeating the Kings 113-104 in Sacramento. The game most likely marked the end of any playoff hopes for the Kings as this was the team they desperately needed to make ground up on. Leading the way for the Kings in defeat was Terence Davis who scored 24 points. The Spurs were led in victory by DeMar DeRozan who had 25 points.

Up Next: The Kings will stay home to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night at 7 PM PST.

Sharks Fall 5-2 to Coyotes, Kessel Scores 900th Point

The Arizona Coyotes Phil Kessel (81) tries to quickly handle the puck against the San Jose Sharks Marc Edouard Vlasic (44) at the SAP Center in San Jose on Fri May 7, 2021 (AP News photo)

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks gave up a 2-0 lead to lose 5-2 to the Arizona Coyotes Friday. Phil Kessel scored his 900th NHL point in the game with a break-away goal in the third. Other Coyotes goals came from Victor Soderstrom, Conor Garland, Michael Bunting and Jan Jenik. Darcy Kuemper made 26 saves for the win. Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier scored for San Jose and Josef Korenar made 29 saves in the loss.

After the game, Sharks Head Coach Bob Boughner talked a little about what he had seen from the younger players during the last several games: “They’re a little bit in and out, and then they’re still learning the ropes and how to come every night and prepare and be consistent at the NHL level.” Boughner mentioned Noah Gregor, Rudolfs Balcers and Alexander Chmelevski as players in this category.

Erik Karlsson scored the only first period goal at 3:47. With some traffic in front of Kuemper, Karlsson took a shot from high in the slot. Tomas Hertl got an assist.

At the end of the first period, John Leonard fell, face-first, into the boards by the benches. After some attention from the trainer he was helped from the ice and into the dressing room. He did not return to the game. There were no specific updates about his condition after the game. Boughner did say that “he looked like he was in pretty rough shape,” during the first intermission.

The Sharks out-shot the Coyotes 9-6 in the first, with two of those coming on the power play.

The Sharks’ second goal came from Timo Meier off the rush with linemates Alexander True and Ivan Chekhovich. Meier took the shot from above the face-off dot for his 11th of the season at 3:30 of the second. Chekhovich earned his first NHL point, an assist in his second NHL game.

Victor Soderstrom cut into the Sharks’ lead, scoring for the Coyotes at 4:59. He took a shot into the far side of the net through traffic around the net. Assists went to olive Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland. It was Soderstrom’s first NHL goal.

Conor Garland tied the game at 4:59, during a 5-on-3 power play. Garland and Jakob Chychrun played catch across the ice before Garland slapped the puck past Korenar. Chychrun got the assist.

The Coyotes out-shot the Sharks 13-9 in the second period, with three of those coming on the power play. The Sharks had one power play that generated two shots.

Phil Kessel broke the tie 4:53 into the third period. Kessel was already behind the Sharks defense when Dvorak’s pass found him. He broke away and beat Korenar on the glove side. Assists went to Christian Dvorak and Alex Goligoski.

The Sharks seemed to have tied the game at 7:46 with another goal from Erik Karlsson but it was called back as an off-side play.

Michael Bunting gave Arizona a two-goal lead at 9:57. Evander Kane broke his stick on a shot and immediately had to hustle back to defend one-on-three. He was unable to give his goaltender much help. Conor Garland got an assist.

Jan Jenik made it 5-2 into an empty net, in the final second of the game. That was his first NHL goal, in his first NHL game.

The Coyotes out-shot the Sharks 15-10 in the third. In the face-off circle, the Sharks won 54% of the draws. Evander Kane had 6 shots on goal, and Tomas Hertl and Erik Karlsson each had five. For Arizona, Jakob Chychrun and Michael Bunting each had five shots.

The Sharks next play on Saturday, again in San Jose, against the Coyotes at 7:30 PM PT.

Slater goes yard to give Giants huge win 5-4 over San Diego

The San Francisco Giants Austin Slater (13) is congratulated by Brandon Crawford (35) after hitting a solo shot home run against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Fri May 7, 2021 (AP News photo)

By Jeremy Kahn

Austin Slater came up with the biggest hit of the game when the San Francisco Giants needed it the most.

Slater hit an opposite field home run in the bottom of the seventh inning, as the Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 5-4 at Oracle Park.

It was the second home run of the night for the Giants, and the second by a right-handed to the Arcade section of the ballpark.

Buster Posey got the Giants on the board in the bottom of the third inning, as he hit his seventh home run of the season that gave the Giants an early 2-0 lead.

Evan Longoria lengthened the Giants up to 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning, as he singled to score both Slater and Posey and that looked like it would be enough, especially the way that Anthony DeSclafani was looking on the mound.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the Padres that the Giants were going to win this game after just five innings, when it is a nine-inning game.

Trent Grisham cut the Giants lead in half, as he hit a two-run home run off of DeSclafani in the top of the sixth inning that also scored Jorge Mateo, who led off the inning with a single.

After Manny Machado doubled with one out in the frame, Sam Selman came on to replace DeSclafani and then Eric Hosmer tied up the game with one swing of the bat with his fourth home run of the season.

DeSclafani ended up with a no-decision, as he went 5.1 innings, allowing three runs on four hits, walking one and striking out three.

Blake Snell, who came over to the Padres after helping the Tampa Bay Rays to the 2020 World Series, went 4.2 innings, allowing four runs on just one hit; however, Snell walked six and struck out five.

This became a bullpen game, as the Giants bullpen of Selman, Zack Littell, Camilo Doval, Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee went the final 3.1 innings, allowing one run on two hits, walking one and striking out three. Doval pitched a perfect seventh inning with a strikeout to pick up his first major league victory.

Despite allowing a lead-off walk to Jake Cronenworth in the top of the ninth inning, McGee came back to strikeout the side to pick up the eighth save of the season, including getting Ha-Seong Kim on a called third strike to end the game.

The Slater home run off of Keone Kela in the bottom of the seventh inning was the only batter that Kela faced, as he was lifted for former Giants pitcher Pierre Johnson.

In all, the Padres bullpen went the final 3.1 innings, allowing one run on three hits, walking one and striking out five; however, that bad pitch by Kela cost them a chance to gain ground on the first-place Giants in the National League West.

With the victory, the Giants lead in the NL West jumped up to a 1.5 games over the Padres and 2.5 games over the Dodgers, who have lost four in a row, including a 9-2 loss in the opener of the Freeway Series to the Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim Stadium.

NOTES: Mike Yastrzemski and Jarlin Garcia were activated from 10-day injured list and Alex Dickerson was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder impingement.

This was the sixth straight game that the Giants picked up five or fewer hits against the Padres, which is the longest streak for the Giants against any opponent since 1901, this according to STATS, INC.

The Giants are now 11-3 on the season at home, the best home record in the major leagues thus far this season.

Prior to the game, Willie Mays was driven around the field in a convertible, as the team celebrated the 90th birthday of The Say Hey Kid. Mays, who turned 90 yesterday is the oldest living member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Giants Community Fund is proud to introduce Willie Mays Scholars a new program designed to address racial and educational inequities by providing Black youth in San Francisco with academic and holistic support, in addition to a scholarship of up to $20,000…with the expertise of local partners, 100% College Prep and Alive and Free, scholars will receive mentoring and tailored wraparound services, empowering them to achieve success in high school, college and beyond…in celebration of the Say Hey Kids 90th Birthday, please join the Giants and Willie in giving the gift of education at jrgiants.org/MaysScholars.

UP NEXT: Kevin Gausman looks for his third win of the season, as he takes the mound on Saturday afternoon, while the Padres will send Joe Musgrove to the hill.

Wondolowski’s late brace give Quakes 2-1 comeback win over Real Salt Lake

(image from @TechtonicTakes)

by Marko Ukalovic

SANDY, Utah–Chris Wondolowski scored two goals in a four-minute span late in the second half to give the San Jose Earthquakes a thrilling 2-1 come from behind victory over Real Salt Lake on a drizzly Friday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium.

San Jose have won three games in a row. Real Salt Lake had its two game wining streak to start the season snapped.

Wondo’s late heroics started when he scored the equalizer in the 83rd minute. Shae Salinas sent in a cross to Carlos Fierro whose shot was saved by Real Salt Lake goalie David Ochoa. Wondolowski kept himself onside inside the box and chipped the rebound over Ochoa for his first goal of the season.

He then completed the brace with the game winning goal just four minutes later in the 87th minute. Fierro possessed the ball down along the right sideline. He made one look into the middle before sending a perfect cross between two RSL defenders and Wondo buried a header past Ochoa into the lower right corner of the net for his second goal of the match.

With his brace, the all-time MLS leading goal scorer now has 168 goals in his career. He missed last week’s game against DC United due to a one-game suspension for receiving a red card against FC Dallas.

“It was monumental for me,” said the Quakes captain. “The first two weeks, I probably had the two worst plays of my career back-to-back. I can’t be thankful enough for the teammates that I have that picked me up and also the coaching staff. I say Matias, and a lot of it is Matias, but it’s his coaching staff as well with Omar [Zarif] and Guido [Bonini]. Those guys really help propel me and I wanted to repay them. They’ve been the wind behind my back, and I needed them these last couple weeks but I’m proud of this group, proud to be a part of it.”

Real Salt Lake (2-1-0) first quality scoring chance came in the 16th minute. Justin Meram had a shot from 20 yards out that hit the cross bar. The Quakes were able to clear away rebound and no second chance opportunity for RSL.

RSL drew first blood late in the first half when Rubio Rubín made a spectacular acrobatic play in the 43rd minute. A throw in from the left side line went to Damir Kreilach where he headed the ball over to Rubín. The 25-year old native of Beaverton, Oregon played the ball off his chest and fired a bicycle kick all in one motion into the upper left side of the net past Quakes goalie JT Marcinkowski for his third goal of the season.

Marcos López made his first start of the season at left back for head coach Matias Almeyda. His errant pass set up RSL’s first goal

San Jose (3-1-0) had two quality scoring chances in the first half. A corner kick led to Tanner Beason’s header attempt flying high over the net in the 19th minute. Then in the 38th minute, Fierro’s shot attempt from the right side of the box was saved by RSL’s goalie David Ochoa.

Despite controlling the possession in the first half 65%-35% and getting four corner kicks, San Jose went into the intermission licking their wounds down by a goal.

Each team received a yellow card in the first 45 minutes. Kraeilich earned his in the first minute of play when he made a hard sliding foul on Florian Jungwirth. Eric Remedi earned his card in the 21st minute with a hard foul along the right wing on Andrew Brody.

San Jose had a chance to get on the board early in the second half. Tommy Thompson raced in from the right wing and centered a ball into the middle of the box but Cristian Espinoza’s shot was blocked by a Real Salt Lake defender at the 57th minute.

“Chris [Wondolowski] gets ready every day with the belief that he can keep scoring. He supports whoever is playing and gives everything when he is called up. He deserves to score these goals because he is our legend that continues to score,” Almeyda said.

RSL had one last gasp to tie the game in the fifth minute of stoppage time but Nick Besler’s header from the center of the box went ride to the right.

“We are happy for this win. The team never gave up and fought until the end. Our offense is really good, but I also think our defense did a great job. We are happy for them. As time passes, we are learning more about each other and that has helped the team develop, and we have seen that in every match,” said Fierro.

Marcinkowski finished the match with three saves on four shots to earn his third straight victory. Ochoa made four saves on six shots in the losing effort.

GAME NOTES: San Jose had seven corner kicks. Real Salt Lake had four.

Salt Lake out fouled San Jose 11-9.

San Jose entered the game with a 0-3-3 record in its last six games at Rio Tinto Stadium.

UP NEXT: The Earthquakes return home to begin a three-game homestand when they host the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday 5/12 at 7:30pm at PayPal Park.

Brown hits one downtown for A’s walk off win 2-1 over Tampa Bay; Manaea just misses a no hitter

In the first inning no one had any idea that Oakland A’s starter Sean Manaea seen here throwing to the Tampa Bay Rays line up would throw a near no hitter into the eighth inning at the Oakland Coliseum on Fri May 7, 2021 (AP News photo)

Tampa Bay 1 – 3 – 1

Oakland 2 – 7 – 0

By Lewis Rubman

May 7, 2021

OAKLAND–The A’s have been facing some veteran hurlers recently, but none as veteran as 41 year old Rich Hill, their antagonist for tonight. Of all the players in the major leagues, only Alberto Pujols is older than he is, and yesterday Pujols was designated for assignment.

Hill’s pitching for Tampa Bay, i.e., St. Petersburg, reminds me that Ring Lardner, who wrote You Know Me, Al, which Virginia Woolf said contained “the best prose that has come our way,” and “a story about baseball, a game which is not played in England, a story written often in a language which is not English,” as well as “Golden Honeymoon,” a story that depicts St. Petersburg as a place where, like triples in Ramón Laureano’s glove, retired people go to die. (I’m 80 years old, so I can get away with this sort of morbid ageism).

Among his baseball travels during his 16 year major league career, was a sojourn with Oakland, for whom he started 14 games in 2016. Frankie Montás was one of the players the A’s got in exchange for sending Hill, along with Josh Reddick, to the Dodgers. Going into tonight’s fray at 1-1, 6.39, Rich hoped to show that despite his age, he’s on the hill, not over it. He, not incidentally, also hoped to extend the Rays’ five game winning streak, which has vaulted them into second place in the AL East, a game and a half behind Boston.

Sean Manaea, going for Oakland, is, at 29, not quite young enough to be Hill’s son, but easily could be his nephew. Like the rest of the A’s, he’s had a mixed season, taking the mound tonight was a record of 3-1, 3.48 over six starts. In his last three, he went 2-0,2.65. He received no decision in his most recent outing, giving up four runs on seven hits in five innings against Baltmore five days ago. Before that, he faced the Rays in St. Pete, going five innings and giving up four hits without a decision.

Manaea had a score to settle with Rays; he was the losing pitcher in the 2019 wild card game against them. Like Mike Fiers, who was ineffective against Toronto yesterday afternoon, he has a no-hitter to his credit. He accomplished that feat in April 2018, against Boston in the Coliseum. By the way, on this day two years ago, Fiers, after a pre-game delay of about an hour and forty minutes due to the misfunctioning of the left field light banks, threw his second no-no, defeating the Cincinnati Reds, 2-0.

The A’s mound corps, starters and relievers alike, has been bouncing around between being a concern and a cause for pride and back again to being a concern. For the first 19 games of the season, even including the horrendous 0-6 stretch that marred the opening week of the season, Oakland’s team ERA was 2.73.

Now it’s 4.33. Only three American League teams have a higher one. Opposing hitters are doing so at a .257. In this they lead the league. (Remember that this has not been a hitters’ year). The Janus like nature of the home team’s pitching staff can be seen in its league leading status in both shut outs and wild pitches. (All of these figures are as of around 2:00 0’clock this afternoon).

Before Wednesday,the A’s relievers hadn’t blown a save or been charged a loss. By today, they had done both. Yesterday and the day before, the bull pen surrendered 12 runs; in the dozen contests that preceded that two day melt down, they’d given up a mere 10.

A bright spot had been Yusmeiro Petit’s 12 inning scoreless streak, which he extended tonight in the eighth and ninth innings to preserve a 1-1 tie and Jake Diekman to get the win by striking out both batters he faced in the top of the ninth before Seth Brown’s walk off home run gave Oakland the victory.

Oakland almost jumped out to an early lead in the second when, on an 0-1 count, Stephen Piscotty pulled a 72 mph curve into the left field stands, just a few outside the foul pole. But Hill shut down Elvis Andrus and Tony Kemp to keep the scoreless tie intact for the nonce.

Hill benefited from some excellent defense behind him in he bottom the sixth. Yandy Díaz made a nifty scoop of a grounder Olson hit behind him and first and beat his fellow first sacker to the bag. Then Manuel Margot made a diving catch of Sean Murphy’s dying quail to left to end the inning.

It seemed as though Manaea were paying hommage Dallas Braden’s Mothers’ Day perfect game as he set down the first 18 batters he faced. Then he walked Randy Arozamena to open the seventh. He struck out Margot, and then allowed a mighty blast to right center by Margot. Piscotty caught it with a little dump at the wall, and Yandy Díaz grounded into a 6-4 force out to end that frame.

Hill didn’t come out for the Oakland seventh. He had pitched a beautiful game, one in which he reminded me of Ed Lopat, throwing fast balls in the 80s and lots of breaking pitches, with excelllent control. He allowed only two hits, two walks, and a hit batter on 79 pitches, of which 56 were strikes.

His succesor, Andrew Kittredge, wasn’t as successful. After Chapman fouled out to first, Jed Lowrie got his third hit of the night, a double to right center. Seth Brown, pinch hitting for the right handed Piscottiy against the righty Kittredge, hit a single through the shift to brng in Lowrie with the game’s first run.

The elation of that one run lead was deflated when Mike Brosseau opened the eighth with a double to right center and Mike Zunino brought him home with the tying run on a single to center. The no-hitter and the lead were gone, and, after he struck out Keven Kiermaier looking, so was Manaea. He had pitched magnificently and left the game with a line of one run on two hits and one walk. He struck out 10 Rays on 90 pitches. 63 of them were strikes. Yusmeiro Petit was called on to replace him.

In spite of a blown call on what should have been a 3-6-1 double play, a called that was left standing on review, Petit managed to wiggle out of the inning after a single by Willy Adames had put men on the corners. He also pitched to one batter in the ninth, Margot, who lay down a bunt to third and was thrown out by the slick fielding Chapman. Petit then gave way to Jake Diekman, struck out his two batters.

Kittridge gave way to Pete Fairbanks, who kept the A’s off the board the in eight and who yielded to Jeffrey Springs, who couldn’t in the ninth. Seth Brown, who had driven in the game’s first run in the seventh took Springs 392 feet to right to give Oakland a hard fought and well earned win.

Diekman’s win was his second and brought his ERA down to 1.93, exactly one run higher than Petit’s phenominal 0.93. The loss charged to Springs put his record at 2-1,2.45.

Today’s game is going to be a tough act to follow. Tomorrow’s is slated to start at 1:07, with Frankie Montás (3-2,5.87) going mano a mano against Tyler Glasnow (4-1,2.06)

San Francisco Giants podcast with Michael Duca: Yastrzemski, Posey and Cueto expected to return this weekend against Padres

San Francisco Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski who has been out with an injury is seen here in this Sep 9, 2020 photo is expected to return tonight against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park (AP file photo)

On the Giants podcast with Michael Duca:

#1 Johnny Cueto is expected to be back in the rotation recovered from the lat tightness injury according to San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler. Kapler certainly was looking forward to seeing Cueto back to help out.

#2 After the Colorado series this week the Rockies and Giants both had some offense and got some runs scored. The Rockies wound up taking the last two games of the three game set.

#3 Giants outfielder Mike Mike Yastrzemski is also expected back in the line up before his going on the injured list Yastrzemski was hitting .215 with 17 hits, four home runs and six RBIs.

#4 Catcher Buster Posey is also hopeful for this weekend after suffering a hamstring injury during Wednesday’s game. Posey has been important to have in the line up especially with the San Diego Padres coming in tonight.

#5 Michael, taking a look at the starters for tonight’s game at Oracle Park for the Padres Blake Snell (1-0 ERA 3.51) and for the Giants Anthony DeSclafani (2-1 ERA 2.00)

Join Michael for the San Francisco Giants podcasts each Friday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Sacramento Kings podcast with Jeremiah Salmonson: Kings bring in four game win streak/Spurs a five game losing streak for tonight’s game

Sacramento Kings De’Aaron Fox (5) is expected to be back tonight after spending two weeks on the Covid-19 protocols list (NBA Analysis Network file photo)

On the Kings podcast with Jeremiah:

#1 The Sacramento Kings winners of seven of their last ten games and have won four straight a remarkable come back after losing nine straight games.

#2 The odds of the Kings making the post season not likely but when you consider the last seven wins and what they did to get them it seems like head coach Luke Walton had to rework the offense and defense.

#3 Marvin Bagley III led the way with 31 points in the Kings last game in Indiana. Bagley’s effort was key for the Kings win 104-93 against the Pacers.

#4 De’Aaron Fox whose been out for two weeks due to Covid-19 protocols is expected to return tonight against the San Antonio Spurs at the Golden One with the Kings playing the way they have been Fox would be another great addition to their charge.

#5 San Antonio head coach Gregg Poppovich is a competitor and as Walton knows he can be outsmarted too by Poppovich. The Spurs who are on a five game losing streak will be pushing hard to win this one tonight how do you see this match up as the Kings come in on a four game win streak?

Jeremiah does the Kings podcasts each Friday at http://www.sportsrasdioservice.com

San Francisco Giants day off report: Cueto and Yastrzemski expected to return this weekend

San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto throws against the Cincinnati Reds line up on Apr 14, 2021 is expected to return to the Giants pitching rotation by this weekend against the San Diego Padres (AP News photo)

By Jessica Kwong

The San Francisco Giants had Thursday off before they start a three-game series against the San Diego Padres on Friday.

After falling to the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday and losing the series, the Giants could use some good news, and they got it.

Manager Gabe Kapler said Johnny Cueto, who has not pitched since April 14 due to a minor lat injury, will be back in the rotation this weekend. Cueto will start on Sunday against the Padres, which will be his fourth start of the season.

In the three games he’s pitched so far this year, Cueto has a 1.80 ERA, a 1.91 FIP and 18 strikeouts to four walks in only 20 innings on the mound. Cueto will replace Logan Webb, who struck out five and walked three in just 3 2/3 innings in Wednesday’s 6-5 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field.

Additionally, who has been out since April 25, is expected to return this weekend.

Kapler hopes that Buster Posey, who left the game on Wednesday with a sore hamstring, benefited from the day off and will be back in action this weekend.

After the game on Wednesday, the Giants optioned catcher Joey Bart back out to Triple-A Sacramento, where he will start the River Cats season.

Perhaps the biggest news on the Giants’ day off was celebrating the 90th birthday of legendary center fielder Willie Mays. The Say Hey Kid spent nearly all of his 22 seasons in Major League Baseball with the Giants. The Giants filled their Twitter account with birthday messages and retweets honoring the Hall of Famer,

In addition, the Giants Community Fund introduced the Willie Mays Scholars, a program dedicated to addressing racial and educational inequities by providing black youth in San Francisco with scholarships of up to $20,000 and academic support.

Semien haunts old club with 4 hits and 3 runs scored; Jays clobber A’s 10-4

The Toronto Blue Jays Marucs Semien had himself an afternoon against his former teammates the Oakland A’s at the Oakland Coliseum on Thu May 6, 2021 (@Blue Jays photo)

Toronto 10 – 16 – 1

Oakland 4 – 6. – 2

By Lewis Rubman

May 6, 2021

OAKLAND–This pitching match up of this afternoon’s contest between the 15-14 Toronto Blue Jays and 19-13 Athletics pitted two veteran starting pitchers recently returned from the Injured List. Going for the visitors was Hyun Jin Ryu, reinstated just yesterday (?), who had compiled an impressive April earned run average of 2.60 in his 27-2/3 innings of work over five starts.

Never mind that his won-lost record was 1-2; his WHIP was a measly 1.06. His resumé includes seven years of stardom with the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Association, where he won 59 regular season games. That doesn’t seem so impressive until you realize that only Chan Ho Park, who won 124, had more games in his W column. Ryu, like Park, went on to pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers Ryu seems to have a case of the seven year itch, since that’s the amount of time he stayed with the Dodgers (if you count 2015, a season he missed due to injury).

He signed with Toronto in December of 2019, in time to turn in a 5-2, 2.60 COVID shortened season mark. He finished third in the Cy Young balloting and had the third highest WAR of all players in the majors. Among pitchers, only Shane Bieber, at 3.2, did better.

This was only the second appearance of the season for the A’s Mike Fiers since coming off the Injured List on April 26., He was adequate in his first start, a week ago yesterday, giving up three runs and six hits over six innings in a losing effort against Baltimore’s Jim Means,who went on to throw a no-hitter a couple of days ago.

Fiers has tossed two of those himself, most recently on May 2, 2019 against Cincinnati. There was no question of Fiers throwing a no-hitter today; Marcus Semien and Bo Bichette opened the game with back to back singles. But Fiers recovered and retilred Vladmir Guerrero, Jr., Teoscar Hernández, and Randal Grichuk, the last on a three pitch strike out.

The Athletics started off with a bigger bang than Toronto’s. Mark Canha launched Ryu’s second offering, an 88 mph four seamer, into the left field seats for his fifth home run of the year and first lead off four bager of his career. Then Ryu set down Ramón Laueano, Matt Olson, and Sean Murphy in order.

Fiers got two quick strikes on Semien, leading off the third. But the A’s alumnus worked the count full before pulling a double down the left field line, just beyond the reach of a diving Matt Chapman. Bichette followed with a 3-2 walk, bringing Junior Guerrero to the plate.

With lthe count at 2-2, Fiers struck him out swinging, and Murphy picked Bichette off at first for an unusual double play. Toronto appealled the call at first, but a video review quickly confirmed it. Fiers seemed to have escaped the worst, but he hadn’t. Hernández walked, and Grichuk whalloped a blast that left his bat at 110 mph and landed 412 feet away, in center field, putting the Jays up, 3-1.

Oakland got a run back in the third on a one out single to right center by Tony Kemp, who advanced to second on Canha’s ground out to short, followed by a walk to Laureano and Olson’s automatic double that hopped over the low right field fence on one bounce. The A’s went ahead when the next batter, Sean Murphy, lined a double to left that brought both of them home. When Chapman struck looking to end the inning, the green and gold was back on top, 4-3.

That didn’t last long Jonathan Davis singled to open the fourth. Then Danny Jensen, htting all of .072 blasted an authorative home run to left. A fly out and an infield single leater, Fiers was gone, and Deolis Guerra was pitching for the home team. The A’s bullpen, tested and found wanting last night, was called on once more. Bichette stole second and third on Guerra, and Hernández, whom he walked, stole second, but the A’s reliever got through the frame without allowing another run.

Fiers’ line for the afternoon was five runs, all earned, one nine hits and two walks. He struck out two, and 43 of his 69 pitches were strikes. He allowed two home runs. Oh, those warm dry afternoons in the Coliseum! He eventually was charged with the loss.

There was a glimmer of hope for the A’s with two out in the bottom of the fifth. Laureano fisted a line drive single to right that got past Hernández, allowing Oakland’s fleet footed center fielder to motor to thirid. But Olson went down swinging on a change up to end the mini threat.

Things got hairy for Guerra in the sixth. With one down, Semien’s fly ball landed in front of Piscotty in right. Bichette followed with a line drive single to left that eluded Andrus’s glove. Junior Guerrero hit sharply to the mound. Guerra fielded the ball, turned, and threw low and outside to second.

The error loaded the bases. It also ended Guerra’s agony. Romo came in. Hernández’s single to center scored Bichette and Semien. Guerrero stopped at second. Grichuk then hit a double to deep right center that Laureano mishandled and which brought Guerrero home with Grichuk ending up at third when Kemp threw wildely on his relay to that base.

Guerra gave up three runs, two of them earned, in two innings of hard labor. He allowed two htis and a walk, threw 32 pitches, 23 for strikes. Romo faced four batters in his 2/3 of an inning. Two of them got hits, and he was charged with one run, which was earned.

Travis Bergen relieved Ryu for the Oakland sixth. Toronto’s starter pitched five innings to qualify tor the win. The four runs he allowed were earned. He gave up six hits and a walk, strikng out six. His pitch to strikes ratio was 91-58. Bergen threw two hitless innings, allowing a walk.

Reymin Guduan pitched the seventh for Oakland and surrendered the Blue Jays their tenth run on a 386 foot homer to left by Semien, who was cheered loudly by a good portion of 3,611 fans in attendance. He stayed on until Adam Kolarek assumed the unpleasant task of facing the surging Blue Jays for the final frame. In spite of singles to the first two hitters he faced, he got out of the inning unscathed.

The forelorn A’s fruitlessy faced Joel Payamps in the eighth, and he hung around to finish the job in the ninth.

24 hours before the final out was recorded at 3:48, it looked as if the A’s might sweep this four game series against the Jays. They ended up with a split.

The Jekyll and Hyde A’s take on the Tampa Bay Rays in a three game series starting at 6:40 tomorrow evening. Sean Manaea (3-1,3.48) is scheduled to face Rich Hill.

That’s Amaury’s Sports and Commentary: The Making of a Closer A’s Great History with Closers

Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley during his Oakland A’s pitching days (Baseball Wikipedia file photo)

The Making of a Closer: A’s Great History with Closers

That’s Amaury Sports and Commentary

By Amaury Pi-González

OAKLAND–On Cinco de Mayo 2021 the Oakland Athletics were on their way to their 20th win and maybe extending their 2-game lead over the surprising Seattle Mariners in second place. With a 3 -2 lead into the eight-inning manager Bob Melvin called for Lou Trivino in relief.

Trivino was a perfect five for five in saves opportunities, and the A’s were the only team in baseball this early season with seven saves in seven opportunities and no blown saves. Trivino gave up fve earned runs, the A’s lost their first game this year to the Toronto Blue Jays 9-4 and they had their first blown save of the season.

The closing position is a relatively new position in baseball, from the 1990’s. The A’s signed Trevor Rosenthal during the off season to take over as closer for the team after they lost the most coveted free-agent closer, Liam Hendricks who was signed by the Chicago White Sox. Rosenthal is out after surgery and is not expected to be back until maybe August at the earliest.

Manager Bob Melvin has successfully used Lou Trivino to take over the 9th inning, although this May 5, used him in the eight, nothing wrong with that. The other closer has been lefty Jake Diekman who himself is 3 for 3 in closing situations. So with those two, the Athletics so far this year has handled the last part of the game with much success.

The Oakland Athletics have a great history with closers. Two of their closers are in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, a claim that most teams cannot make. Rollie Fingers, who used to throw, will relieve for an average of three innings and then later with Dennis Ecksersley, who began the general practice of a closer to enter the game to pitch the ninth inning when the team was ahead by three-runs or fewer. Fingers ended his career with 314 games saved and 114 wins usually throwing more than one inning, “He is the master” said fellow reliever Dan Quisenberry. Eckersley saved 390 games.

I once asked Eck what keeps him with that edge in the ninth-inning, and he told me “the fear of failure is what drives me”. He was a competitor like all these guys who made a career in the last inning of the game and are credited with a game saved. I am not one that likes to give players nicknames, but I did called Eck “La Cuchilla” trans: “The Knife”, he was a surgeon with that slider and he got most hitters out. There was one exception, Tigers second-baseman Lou Whitaker he enjoyed great success over Eckerseley.

Dennis Eckersley had his great success as he came to Oakland in 1987 with an extensive resume he was a starter. He was a 20 game winner with Cleveland in 1978 and with other reams compiled a record of 197-171, starting 361 games, completed 100 games in 1,071 games he pitched, 2,401 strike outs and a 3.50 ERA. I remember when Eck came to Oakland; he never envisioned being a closer in his life, yet under the great system of Manager Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan. He became one of the greatest closers.

Necessity is the mother of invention, when the need for something becomes imperative; you are forced to find ways of getting the results you want, maybe even achieving it. When kids start playing baseball, from T-Ball all the way up to High School their dreams are of pitching, playing the infield, maybe the outfield, some kids have the calling for catching, but you will never see a kid saying: “when I make it, I want to be a closer.”

This is because such position in the game is something that evolves and developes by many circumstances. It is only early May and the closing situation still developing with the Athletics. We are witnessing maybe the making of another closer inside the Oakland Athletics organization with Lee Trivino, or maybe not. Nobody really knows.

The King of Closers? Panamanian-born Mariano Rivera, “Mo”, in 2019 was the first player unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame, his sensational career with the New York Yankees spanned for 19 years and a total of 652 saves. Perhaps the next Mariano has not been born yet.

Stay well and stay tuned.

Amaury Pi Gonzalez is the lead play by play announcer for Oakland A’s Spanish flagship station KIQI 1010 LaGrande San Francisco and does Sports and Commentary at http://www.sportsradioservice.com