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An SB Nation blog for Oakland Athletics fans



Updated: 2017-04-29T19:04:47-07:00

 



Game #24: A Win’s a Win

2017-04-29T19:04:47-07:00

After a long stretch of frustrating baseball and a week of perpetual losing, any victory, no matter how it was played, can be a relief. The offense still looked anemic, Triggs’ control was sometimes lacking, but at the end of nine innings the A’s were still on top and the losing streak was over after five long games. Andrew Triggs and Jed Lowrie were the heroes of the game, Triggs pitching seven scoreless innings and Lowrie hitting the home run to provide all the offense the A’s needed tonight. The strike zone was small in tonight’s affair, pitcher’s rarely getting borderline low and outside pitches called properly. As such, opposing batters didn’t need to bite on many of Andrew Triggs’ looping curveballs and darting sliders, forcing Triggs to throw more pitches up and over the plate. The Astros hit for a better average than any other team in the American League, and they collectively were able to take advantage by spraying singles and getting runners into scoring position in the early going. But Triggs, relying heavily on his offspeed pitches, navigated around a runners-on-second-and-third, one out threat by striking out Carlos Correa and Carlos Beltran back-to-back, both swinging. In the third inning, a single and hit-batsman had the Astros in a good position to score again, but Triggs would retire Correa yet again to keep the Astros out of the run column. Following a quiet first three innings, in which the A’s did not record a hit, Jed Lowrie broke the game’s 0-0 tie and Joe Musgrove’s perfect game effort with a loud blast high and deep to right field. While the A’s would not score again in the inning, both Ryon Healy and Yonder Alonso recorded singles to further show signs that the dormant lineup was starting to stir. Triggs found himself in hot water again in the fourth inning, as well. After hitting Beltran to lead off the inning, Yuli Gurriel immediately followed it up with a sharp single to left. The next batter lofted a lazy fly ball into right field, where Jaff Decker camped under it and, upon seeing Beltran take off for third base on a tag up, uncorked a near-perfect throw that, after replay review confirmation, just barely beat the aging outfielder. The double play proved to be key, as Evan Gattis, persistent pain in the A’ss, hit a hard ground ball single down the first base line that surely could have scored Beltran and tied up the game, but instead the threat would end harmlessly as Triggs got another strikeout to get out of the inning with the lead intact. The offense continued to make sparks in the fifth inning, but the team would ultimately be thwarted by a familiar arm in right field that cut down Chad Pinder at home plate to hold the score at 1-0. In the seventh the Astros burned through three pitchers to work around a single and a walk to keep the A’s off the board. Triggs ended his outing stronger than he started it. He found his strikeout pitch despite the small strikezone, nine in total, and retired the final ten batters he faced on the day. He didn’t walk a single batter, though he did hit two, and only allowed five hits. Triggs has not allowed an earned run in four of his first five starts on the year. Khris Davis hit a hard line drive home run the opposite way in the eighth inning to finally expand the A’s tenuous lead to 2-0, giving the A’s a two run lead that would last for precisely three total at bats before Jose Altuve, in the bottom of the eighth inning, hit a solo home run of his own off of Sean Doolittle in relief. In the bottom of the ninth, Santiago Casilla was able to get the save with few dramatics, and there was much rejoicing. Andrew Triggs’ performance aside, the A’s didn’t blow their competition away today, but a win’s a win. No longer is the team sliding helplessly towards oblivion, as the slow climb back up the standings begins. The A’s didn’t make any major mental errors on the game, and the defense was solid, and the team did just enough to get the right breaks and secure victory number eleven. [...]



Game #24: Athletics at Astros

2017-04-29T18:58:19-07:00

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The A's haven't won a game in a week, and have fallen into a tie for last place in the division with the Mariners. This losing streak has featured a litany of bad baseball and blown opportunities, but today is a new day. Smart, fundamental baseball can turn things right back around for the team.

Andrew Triggs hopes to put his last start behind him and rediscover the magic he had in his first three efforts. He will be facing Joe Musgrove. First pitch is at 4:10. Lineups are below.

Today's Lineups

OAKLAND A'S HOUSTON ASTROS
Jaff Decker - RF George Springer - CF
Jed Lowrie - 2B Josh Reddick - RF
Ryon Healy - DH Jose Altuve - 2B
Khris Davis - LF Carlos Correa - SS
Yonder Alonso - 1B Carlos Beltran - LF
Trevor Plouffe - 3B Yulieski Gurriel - 1B
Stephen Vogt - C Brian McCann - C
Chad Pinder - SS Evan Gattis - DH
Ryan LaMarre - CF Alex Bregman - 3B
Andrew Triggs - RHP Joe Musgrove - RHP



Oakland A’s prospect watch: Joey Wendle off DL, back in Triple-A lineup

2017-04-29T16:31:30-07:00

The Oakland A’s activated Joey Wendle from the 10-day disabled list and then optioned him to Triple-A Nashville, the team announced Saturday. The second baseman opened the year on the DL due to a strained shoulder, after playing in only seven spring training games. Wendle had spent the last week on a rehab assignment in Nashville, so this move doesn’t actually change anything in the present day — he was already playing for the Sounds, and now he will continue doing so. He’s hit safely in five of his six games so far, including a 5-for-8 mark over his last two outings (three of them for extra bases). His total line so far: Wendle, 2017: 8-for-22, 140 wRC+, 3 XBH, 0 BB, 2 Ks It’s only a couple dozen at-bats and it doesn’t change anything we already knew about the 27-year-old, but when a player is starting the season a month late it’s especially nice to see him jump out to a fast start. The important takeaways from this news are that Wendle is healthy and playing again, and he’s not requiring a long shaking off of rust to get back in the swing of things. Hot take: The next question for Wendle is what he’ll need to do to get his next chance in Oakland. Jed Lowrie is off to an unexpectedly strong start at second base, with a 127 wRC+ and the most acceptable defense we’ve ever really seen from him. Shortstop is also covered, for what that’s worth, with another veteran stopgap in Adam Rosales (who is also playing well). But Wendle turned 27 on Wednesday and is in his third year of Triple-A; how much longer can they keep waiting to let him play? Many of the team’s current Triple-A prospects still need some time to finish developing, but Wendle is as ready as he’ll ever be, for better or worse. Unfortunately, there’s no good answer yet. It’s not even May, the middle infield is one of the only things going right in Oakland at the moment, and Wendle has only been back on the field for a week — I have to admit there’s room for a little more patience. But I’m talking about a matter of weeks here, not months. If we’re getting to the end of May and the A’s are still losing while Lowrie continues to block Wendle, et al, then I’m going to have a lot of new questions and my Twitter feed might start getting interesting again. We’re running out of time between “today” and “when Franklin Barreto gets here (and/or Marcus Semien gets back),” if we ever want to take a serious look at these older middle infield prospects. That goes for Wendle and also for Chad Pinder, who is apparently ready enough for the bigs that he’s already on the 25-man roster but is just sitting on the bench most days. Barreto: Not quite ready Speaking of Barreto, he’s off to an excellent start in Triple-A, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to get thrown in the fire quite yet. See if you can find which number I don’t like: Barreto: .333/.393/.551, 150 wRC+, 4 HR, 7.8% BB, 32.2% Ks Love the slash line. Love the wRC+, and the early power through 90 plate appearances. The walks are fine, and not a big part of his game anyway. But those strikeouts. We need to talk about those. Some context: 2014, A-: 19.5% Ks2015, A+: 18.4% Ks2016, AA: 17.8% Ks2017, AAA: 32.2% Ks Barreto’s game is based around making contact, first and foremost. His strength is his hit tool. Based on his current profile, he’s not going to provide his value by hitting lots of dingers, or drawing 100 walks in the leadoff spot, or playing elite defense. He’s going to do so by spraying hits all over the place, and you simply can’t do that if you strike out a third of the time. He’s the rare player for whom I don’t care much about his walk rate, but that K-rate is currently a dealbreaker. None of that is to say that I’ve soured on him. Not one bit. He’s off to a monster start, and I’m hopeful he’ll be starting in Oakland by the second half of this season. But for a 21-year-old with 24 games of experience above Double-A ball, all those early whiffs are a clear sign to [...]



You Don’t Need Talent To Play Intelligently

2017-04-29T11:26:06-07:00

First off, nothing goes worse with bad skill than bad luck and I want to acknowledge that for everything they have may have done wrong recently, the A’s also haven’t had a whole lot of good fortune. Last night, for example, the bottom of the 1st inning would have ended scoreless had Carlos Beltran’s squibber been 6" closer to Jharel Cotton (who missed it with a valiant dive), 6" closer to Trevor Plouffe, or hit a fraction harder — Plouffe’s throw to 1B missed getting Beltran by a hair. Then in the 4th inning, fractions of seconds prevented Adam Rosales from completing a play in the hole on George Springer that would have kept the A’s in front. Meanwhile, Plouffe’s would-be HR fell a foot short banging off the top of the high wall and his resulting double was turned into an out by the inability of MLB to get calls right even when they are staring at replays. Then there’s the skill part: Josh Reddick saved two runs with a running catch Matt Joyce only dreams of making. Stephen Vogt, who went to bed 33 on one fine February evening and woke up 60, managed to commit catcher’s interference twice and strike out on a pitch that hit him in the foot, is now batting .203/.226/.322. That all being said, what a team can do regardless of its physical ability is to play smart, fundamental ball to maximize its skill set — whatever that skill set may be. Perhaps my biggest frustration with the A’s right now is how often they are falling down in the areas where they are capable of succeeding even if they don’t currently boast the league’s finest athletes. Case in point: twice in one game down in Anaheim, A’s outfielders were caught laying back on their heels catching the ball. First it was Matt Joyce, catching a fly balls flat footed and lobbing a throw back to the infield as Cameron Maybin tagged up and went to 2B. Then it was Jaff Decker, laying back on a base hit to field it casually and not prepared for a throw to 3B as Albert Pujols lumbered around 2B and caught Decker off guard. Following the first play, you could see Joyce complaining to his infielders that they didn’t alert him to Maybin tagging. What Joyce overlooked is that on every fly ball with a runner on base, his job is to get in optimal position to catch and fire the ball at the cutoff man and/or next base. That’s just lazy fielding, which you would hope Decker would see and file away, not imitate just a couple innings later. Last night’s game was not just determined by bad fortune and inferior talent. The "red hot" Yulieski Gurriel has now come to the plate 73 times this season and he has walked exactly once. The A’s approach was to throw a pair of two strike fastballs right down the middle (later Gurriel got a breaking ball in a similar location), which Gurriel punished each time for key hits. Location mistakes? Perhaps. Was Gurriel a strong candidate to chase an offspeed pitch in the dirt or swing wildly at a fastball nowhere near the strike zone? Most definitely. Speaking of pitch calling, Evan Gattis burned the A’s on a two-strike fastball that Vogt stood up for and asked for the pitch "above the letters". Not a bad idea unless you happen to be pitching to Evan Gattis, one of the few hitters who can actually hit that pitch hard and has burned the A’s before on that exact pitch. Gattis, with a career .305 OBP despite batting .997 against the A’s, is another high qualified candidate to chase balls in the dirt that are literally not hittable. I don’t know why the A’s like to throw so many strikes, and pitches out over the plate, to hackers. It used to drive me crazy how the A’s allowed Yuniesky Betancourt, a bad hitter who never saw a pitch he didn’t like, to burn them time and time again by throwing him far too many strikes. I just looked it up, and sure enough Betancourt, a career .261/.285/.388 hitter, enjoyed a career line of .295/.316/.419 against the A’s. These are guys who get themselves out unless you get in the way. Thi[...]



Game #23: Despite Two Davis Homers, A's Fumble Their Way to Loss

2017-04-29T00:34:24-07:00

You know it's a bad night when you're just glad that only 3 of Cotton's 6 runs were earned, you didn't celebrate an early 3-0 lead, and even though Khris Davis may be leading the league in home runs, and you resist the urge to yell at him that he's wasting his life. So that was fun, right? A night at the ballpark, watching a baseball game, twenty-nine hits, fifteen runs; what a great game. Oh I'm sorry. Did I not mention that I attended the 66ers game tonight, and despite being a single-A baseball game, I'm positive that the baby Angels played less frustratingly that the major league A's in tonight's contest. Very few teams can elicit a feeling of doom despite scoring three quick runs in the first inning, but congratulations, A's, you've done it. This week's highlights including ruining not one, but two, outstanding pitching performances with horrible losses, and just to top it all off, they wasted a multi-home run night by Khris Davis tonight, punctuated by 14 strikeouts to complement their three errors. It was as fun as it sounds. I'd love to recap another 2-1 extra inning loss in as few words as possible, but sadly, the A's are making me address thirteen runs, none of which turned out very well for the green and gold. Blame the Angels; I'll never know how they are allowed to hold a night game on a getaway day; sending both teams to their hotel rooms after 5AM the next day, but regardless of the sleepless night, the A's played, well, forget single-A; try little league in this game. And the game started out so well, too! In the very first inning, Jaff Decker led off the game with a full-count ground-out, Matt Joyce was hit by a pitch for the A's first baserunner and Jed Lowrie singled to bring up Khris Davis, who blasted his first home run to give the A's the early 3-0 lead. I'd love to tell you they kept it longer than an inning, but I'd be totally lying. Jharel Cotton, who was less than sharp tonight, to put it generously, started his game with a walk. In what wouldn't be the first catchers inference of the night, Stephen Vogt allowed Josh Reddick to reach first base to put two on with none out. After a harmless fly ball for the first out, Cotton balked both runners up a base. To say that Cotton was perhaps rattled by the balks and the catchers interferences all over the place might be an understatement. Frustratingly, Cotton struck out Correa for the second out, but a weird squib of an infield single brought home the Astros' first run. A single brought the second in, and a ground-rule double tied the game. After a single inning. Shockingly, no one scored in the second inning, but doing his futile best to win the game by himself, Davis hit another home run to put the A's up 4-3 in the third. Plouffe was thrown out in the fourth trying to stretch a single into a double, and the Astros tied the game in the bottom of the inning despite a rare strikeout/throwout double-play from Cotton and Vogt. It was one of those nights; a great play would be made to get the first and second out, but the two-out single would follow to kill the A's. Did I mention that the fourth inning would produce the second catchers interference of the game on the same batter? What was up with Vogt and Reddick? With one out in the fifth, Jed Lowrie made a rare error to put a man on, and a double put two on. Houston scored the go-ahead run on a single and the next on a sacrifice fly, leading the game now 6-4. They would add a home run by Gurriel, with Cesar Valdez pitching, to make the score 7-4, and the A's would be left with one last chance in the eighth. Lowrie singled with one out, and with two outs, an Alonso singled put two runners on. A huge shot by Ryon Healy, who has been struggling, was caught at the wall by Reddick (as it always is when you're struggling), preventing the A's comeback. And then the game opened with a bunch of singles and a double; the A's lose 9-4, and are in full free-fall, despite the imminent return of [...]



Sonny Gray might return to Oakland A’s by Tuesday

2017-04-28T14:27:18-07:00

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Sonny Gray started for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds on Thursday, his second minor league rehab start this season, and for the second time he dominated the lesser competition. According to the team’s insiders, he could be back with the Oakland A’s next week to start against the Twins.

In his latest rehab outing, Sonny tossed six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and no walks. Combined with his start for High-A Stockton on Saturday, his total numbers are: 11 ip, 0 runs, 13 Ks, 0 BB, 3 hits (all singles). That’s about as close to perfection as a human pitcher can get. Here’s some video of Thursday:

So what does all this mean for Sonny and his next step? Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle suggests Tuesday as the likely date for the ace’s 2017 debut, as that would put him on regular rest, but she notes that the team’s Monday off-day could mean everyone gets pushed back a day — the bottom line is it should be one of the three games in Minnesota.

She also gives a minor update on Sean Manaea’s health after the lefty’s tight shoulder forced him out of his last outing after just two innings. Thanks to the combination of the off-day and Sonny’s return, the A’s could theoretically skip Manaea’s next start completely without having to plug in a backup like Cesar Valdez.

In a fun detail from Thursday, Jane Lee of MLB’s site notes that this was the second time that Sonny, a Nashville native and resident, started for the Sounds. Here’s more on that topic.

After finishing third in the AL Cy Young voting in 2015, Sonny was limited to 22 starts last year. He struggled virtually every time out and was visibly not on his game. He hasn’t pitched in the bigs yet this year due to a lat injury, but the last week has offered nothing but best-case-scenario-level encouragement.

Here’s hoping this is the real thing, and Sonny is ready to climb back on top of the world! Tune in next week (hopefully) to begin finding out.

P.S.: Next pitcher on the list for injury rehab updates will be Chris Bassitt. According to Slusser and also Lee, Bassitt will start for High-A Stockton on Saturday. This is his first game action since Tommy John surgery last May. Check out their stories for more details.




Athletics at Astros: Series Preview #8

2017-04-28T12:59:48-07:00

The A's three game trip to Los Angeles took a quick detour through hell, as the Angels' pitching staff confounded and frustrated a pressing A's offense for each game of the series, en route to a decisive sweep of Oakland. The sweep pushed the A's losing streak to four games, tying the longest stretch of losing the team has had so far this season, and to add insult to injury Sean Manaea had to leave his start on Wednesday early with an arm injury. The losing skid has caused the A's to tumble down to a 10-12 record on the year and into a tie for third place with the Texas Rangers, while the sweep propelled the Angels to a .500 record and a game above the A's in second place. The road trip won't be getting any easier, however, as the A's fly from Los Angeles to Houston to face the team that has comfortably led the AL West for weeks for the middle three games of the trip. The Astros are returning to Houston, as well, as the team has just completed its own six game road trip to Tampa Bay and Cleveland, going 3-3 overall. A strong team through and through, the Astros have been particularly good when playing on the road, boasting a 7-4 record that matches their record at home. Every other team in the division has at least twice as many losses on the road as wins, meaning the Astros' road performance is the reason the team is happily in first. The first time these two teams played each other this year, the Astros won both games, in Oakland, rather handily by 7-2 and 10-6 scores, before a slight drizzle rained out the third game of the series while the Giants, right across the bay, somehow managed to survive playing through the storm. Probably the biggest factor for Houston's success early in the season is the constant pressure the offense puts on the opposing defense. The Astros are currently first in the American League, and third in all the MLB, in team batting average and on base percentage, at .268 and .340 respectively. To top that off, most of the players who get on base are highly adept on the basepaths and are capable of stealing or taking an extra base on a hit, and it's the reason why the Astros are second in the American League in total bases on the young year. Especially when considering their home ballpark, it wouldn't be shocking to see the team's slugging percentage of .420 rise as summer comes rolling in. While the offense is coming from all over the diamond for the Astros, the outfield of Reddick, Aoki, Springer, and even Marisnick, has been particularly effective at the plate, each outfielder OPSing at .800 or above at the plate while playing good-to-great defense on the field. The Astros' offensive capabilities were never really in question. While the Astros always knew they had an ace in Dallas Keuchel, the back half of the rotation was full of question marks and guys coming off of career worst years. At least through April, any doubts in the rotation have been challenged, as the Astros have the fifth best team ERA in all of baseball at 3.48 with more than nine strikeouts for every nine innings. Dallas Keuchel has been his old self again, to the tune of a 1.22 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in his first five starts, but also pitching well out of the starting rotation is Lance McCullers, who has generated thirty-six strikeouts in just twenty-nine innings this year. In addition to the starting rotation, the bullpen has been solid as well, with Devenski and Feliz performing admirably to finish out games as uneventfully as possible, though the bigger names in the bullpen like Luke Gregerson and Ken Giles are still struggling. Here are the matchups for the three game weekend series: Fri, 04/28 @ 5:10: Cotton (2-2) vs Morton (1-2) on NBCSCA and MLB.tv Sat, 04/29 @ 4:10: Triggs (3-1) vs Musgrove (1-1) on NBCSCA and MLB.tv Sun, 04/30 @ 11:10: Hahn (1-1) vs Keuchel (4-0) on NBCSCA and MLB.tv [...]



Angel Stadium, reviewed by an Oakland A’s fan

2017-04-28T10:40:13-07:00

I can count the number of baseball stadiums I’ve been to on one hand, but I’ve been to two of the best: AT&T and PNC. I’ve also been to the ~objectively~ worst, obviously. I decided to further put off my final papers for school and head over to Angel Stadium to catch Thursday’s game. Here are my thoughts: Parking: Yeah, I’m taking this from the top. We got to the game about an hour early, and had no problem finding parking in the lot that surrounds the stadium. We forked over the 10 bucks to park there, but there were also a number of $5 options within walking distance of the stadium. Outdoor Aesthetic: Angel Stadium looks great from outside. It has enormous cap and bat structures out front, giving the stadium an almost amusement park-like feel (fitting that it’s only minutes away from Disneyland). Much like AT&T Park, the ramps to walk up to the higher levels are external and zig-zag up the side of the building. You get a nice view of the halo-ed “A” from the ramp. Indoor Aesthetic: They’ve done a nice job covering the inner corridors with player images and stats—it’s very immersive. You can see the game action from almost all of the indoor areas, and it wasn’t too crowded to walk around leisurely. Angel Stadium also has a couple of fountains. One is the infamous center field giant, from which many flares were shot. The other is this whimsical “A” shaped one out in the center field concourse: Angel Stadium A Fountain Angel Stadium Concourse Seating: I paid $8 for my ticket, so it’s hard to beat that. I sat in deep right field, which for the most part was great. However, much like the plaza reserved section of the Coliseum and some areas of the bleachers, the outfield wall was below and slightly behind the front row, so I couldn’t see many of the warning track plays. Luckily, they had adequate scoreboards to see replays. It didn’t look like anywhere else would have an obscured view. Food: The poll I included in the game thread names the famous Angel Stadium dishes, but none dominated enough for my meat-eating friends to give it a try. We did get some delicious garlic fries and a classic hotdog. It looked like most main dishes cost $10-12, and there were a number of vegetarian options (will have to go back for the mac n’ cheese) as well as helmets full of nachos, etc. The Angels clearly have not followed Dave Kaval’s lead in lowering beer prices: everything was at least $12, though they did have a variety of local brews. One especially helpful element was periodic concourse directories labeled by food type. Also, the lines for food were very reasonable. Garlic Fries Beer Stand Overall, I’d say Angel Stadium is a reasonable park with some frilly features, and was definitely worth the trip. [...]