Archive for the ‘Oakland A’s’ Category

Lester Heads To Oakland In Deadline Blockbuster

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

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The Oakland Athletics improved their rotation this morning, sending Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for lefty pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes in a blockbuster deal just hours before the MLB trading deadline. The deal for Lester includes a “competitive balance draft pick” headed to Boston and just under $1 million back to the A’s.

Cespedes is a big bat and an exciting player. He has 17 home runs on the season and provides power in the middle of the Boston line-up. Cespedes also provides a solid outfield glove for the Sox, who are in the midst of retooling a team that won the World Series in 2013, but are mired in last place in the American League East this year.

This was a trade no one saw coming. Cespedes was a regular feature in the Oakland line-up and an icon among A’s fans, but Boston’s faithful are upset about the team’s decision to part ways with the popular Lester. During yesterday’s game, Boston fans were chanting “We want Lester, We want Lester” in anticipation that the lefty would be shipped out.

The trade for Lester was an “all in” for Oakland, which has been regularly eliminated in post-season play because of their traditional inability to pitch well against the A.L.’s elite line-ups. But with the addition of Lester, the A’s now have one of the best starting staffs in the game — Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir.

Gomes is hardly a throw-in. Oakland compensated for the loss of Cespedes by acquiring a good outfield arm and a dangerous clutch hitter at the plate. Gomes was a member of the A’s back in 2011, when he hit 18 dingers for the White Elephants.

The swap answers one of the remaining questions of the 2014 campaign: whether Boston will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. Not surprisingly, the Red Sox are retooling for next year. They needed an outfield bat and Cespedes provides that, and they didn’t want to pay the freight for resigning Lester, who is a free agent after this season.

In the wake of the trade for Lester, the A’s traded lefty Tommy Milone to the Minnesota Twins for defensive outfield whiz Sam Fuld. Milone, a former Nat, became expendable when Oakland G.M. Billy Beane engineered a trade for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel earlier this month. Milone had demanded a trade after being assigned to Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate.

So far, at least, the Washington Nationals haven’t made a move, though they’re rumored to be interested in adding a player in their infield (and perhaps one with power) and another left hander out of their bullpen.

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Nats Collapse In The 9th, Lose In Miami

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

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In what had to be considered the most important game of the year for the Marlins, the Miami Nine scored four runs in the 9th inning on Monday night, and walked off with a stunning 7-6 win against the Nationals. The Nationals entered the 9th with what seemed a sure-thing victory, but Miami capitalized on a poor outing from Nats closer Rafael Soriano to win the game.

Soriano began the catastrophic 9th by walking Casey McGehee, the Marlins’ lead-off hitter, then gave up a double to Garrett Jones. A Marcell Ozuna single then scored McGehee and Miami was suddenly in the game with no one out. Jones then scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Adeiny Hechavarria then laced a triple, after Soriano gave up a wild pitch.

Even then, the Nats were still in the game, though Miami had tied it at six. But after closer Soriano hit Donovan Solano with a pitch, Nats manager Matt Williams pulled Soriano in favor of lefty Jerry Blevins. Blevins struck out Christian Yelich before giving up the game winning single to Jeff Baker.

The game was an absolute heart breaker for Nationals fans, who’d seen their team take two of three from Cincinnati and play well on the road. Before Monday night, it even looked as if the Nationals might put some distance between themselves and the second place Atlanta Braves, who scraped by the Padres, 2-0.

The loss came at the expense of Washington starter Jordan Zimmermann, who’d pitched one of his best games of the year. Zimmermann threw seven complete innings while giving up just four hits and striking out six. The young righty ace of the Nationals staff had a fastball that Miami’s hitters couldn’t seem to touch.

“He was really good tonight. He was down in the zone, he had a great slider,” Nats’ skipper Matt Williams said of Zimmermann’s outing. “Much better than his last one. The last one was just rust. Tonight, he proved that he is back on it.”

Ross Detwiler and Drew Storen came in in relief of Zimmermann, and while lefty Detwiler gave up a single run on two hits, the Nationals were still in line for the victory — with their top closer (“the best closer in the game,” as the Washington Post described him today) coming into the game.

“Bad day for me,” Soriano said of his performance in the ninth inning. “Every pitch that I threw, I had no command. Everything that I tried to throw didn’t work.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Marlins are trying to decide whether to be buyers or sellers, with the decision hinging on how they would do against the Nationals. Their stunning win tonight will undoubtedly help them to make the decision, though they remain under .500 by a single game and six games back in the standings . . .

It’s easy to see what the Marlins need: all you need do is take a look at their line-up. The Marlins can hit; they are an on-base team that registers just a tick above the Nationals in runs scored. That’s not true for their pitching staff, which ranks 11th in the National League with a 3.92 ERA . . .

The problem is that pitching isn’t that easy to find and Miami would probably hesitate to give up a top prospect for either a rental or a high-priced starter. Nor are the Marlins willing to part with any of their bullpen pieces, though they’ve reportedly received calls on fireballer Steve Cishek, who wracked up five saves in Miami’s just-completed 6-1 road trip . . .

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13 Runs, 19 Hits — Plus Gio

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

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Saturday’s whipping of Chicago was an offensive outburst like no other, as the Washington Nationals sprayed 19 hits (including eight doubles) and scored six times in the 3rd and four times in the 7th, victimizing the suddenly pitching poor Cubbies, 13-0.

The offensive onslaught was supported by an outstanding outing from lefty starter Gio Gonzalez, who held the Cubs scoreless in eight complete innings. Gonzalez allowed just four hits in his outing, while striking out seven, notching his sixth win on the 2014 campaign.

“He stifled our offense,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of the trouble his line-up had against Gonzalez. “He locates his fastball, works it to both sides of the plate. And his breaking ball is really good. … It’s got sharp, late break, good tilt. He can use it effectively against both lefties and righties.”

Every Nationals in Saturday’s line-up had a hit, including Gonzalez. Anthony Rendon was 3-4 (with three doubles), Jayson Werth was 3-4 (with two doubles), Ryan Zimmerman was 4-5 with three RBIs and Gonzalez stroked a 7th inning single that advance Wilson Ramos (who’d led off the inning — with a double).

“Obviously, this isn’t going to happen every day, but with the type of at-bats we put together today, even when the game is out of hand, it’s good to see every one grinding it out, even when it doesn’t matter,” third sacker Ryan Zimmerman, who is now hitting.272, said of the Nationals’ offensive outburst. “Everyone finished the game strong.”

The Nationals batted around in the third inning and scored six runs, eight Nationals batted in the 6th inning (while scoring “only” two runs) and nine Washington hitters came to the plate in the 7th inning, scoring four runs. The game marked the highest run and hit total for the home towners this season.

While Washington chased Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva after two innings, it was reliever Chris Rusin who was the designated goat for the North Siders. Rusin gave up nine hits and five runs in just 3.2 innings of work. Rusin’s shaky work raised his ERA from 1.80 to 6.23 on the season.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: It’s all about tunnels in Chicago. Both major dailies, the staid and standard Chicago Tribune and the tabloid Chicago Sun-Times, headlined Theo Epstein’s comment that yesterday’s swap of 40 percent of the Cubs rotation to Oakland now allows the North Siders to see “light at the end of the tunnel . . .”

We might expect Cubs fans to be skeptical, particularly after yesterday’s 13-0 drubbing of their beloveds at the hands of the Washington Nationals, but Epstein was all smiles during a press conference in which he announced the trade of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. “We certainly hope we’ve improved our future,” Epstein said . . .

Epstein also said that the trade had nothing to do with Starlin Castro, who must be wondering what the Cubs are going to do with the (at least two) premium minor league shortstops (Javier Baez and Addison Russell — winging his way east to Chicago from the A’s), who are poised to challenge for his slot . . .

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Cubs Swap Samardzija, Hammel

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

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It was a bad day for the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels, as the Oakland Athletics pulled the trigger on a trade that strengthens their shaky but tough pitching staff — and makes them the odds-on favorite to not only seize the American League West division championship, but to play deep into October.

Just hours after taming a potent Washington Nationals line-up in a 7-2 Independence Day victory, Jason Hammel was shipped out to Oakland along with tough Cubs righty Jeff Samardzija. The two will buttress an Oakland starting rotation that has had trouble competing with the likes of the Detroit Tigers, which just swept the A’s in three straight.

In exchange, the Cubs received Addison Russell (one of baseball’s top shortstop prospects), pitcher Dan Straily (who will report to Triple-A Iowa) and developing outfielder Billy McKinney.

It is not clear why the Cubs decided to complete the swap with the A’s as opposed to the Toronto Blue Jays, who were rumored among the front runners (with the Baltimore Orioles) in the race to get Samardzija. It was also thought that the Cubs would trade their two pitchers in separate deals, instead as a part of a package.

Then too, the Cubs already have a top flight shortstop in Starlin Castro and a shortstop waiting in the wings in Javier Baez, though as MLB Trade Rumors noted, “But [Cubs] president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer will gladly add the top-end prospect piece now and figure out any logjams in the future.”

For the Cubs, Russell has to be viewed as the key to the deal. It seems likely to us that when Billy Beane offered him to G.M. Jed Hoyer, the Cubs simply couldn’t pass him up. Russell is a solid hitter who grades out at 15-20-plus homers in the majors and a good glove. He’s as close as it’s possible to get to a “can’t miss” minor league middle infielder.

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Roark Defrocks The Friars (Again)

Saturday, June 7th, 2014

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We would say that Washington righty Tanner Roark seems to pitch his best against the Padres, but there’s no seems about it. In two starts against San Diego this season, Roark has allowed six hits in seventeen scoreless inning — winning successive games. Last night Roark was once again masterful, throwing eight complete innings of three hit baseball, as the Nationals downed San Diego, 6-0.

“Same thing he showed over in Washington,” Padres manager Bud Black said in referring to Roark’s last outing against his team. “Mixed his pitches, changed his speeds, commanded his fastball a little bit different than in his start in Washington. In Washington, he used his curveballs, more changeups.”

The Nationals are on a roll, despite accumulating only six hits last night. As it turned out, with Roark on the mound, that would be all they needed. The big blast against the Padres last night came off the bat of Anthony Rendon, who crushed his ninth round tripper of the season in the first inning.

Despite the lopsided score, San Diego’s Tyler Ross (a converted reliever), pitched well after the rough first inning. Ross has a snappy 3.22 ERA on the season and has thrown well on a staff that is fourth in the league in ERA. Ross began the year with an impressive eight inning performance against the Giants, holding them to just three hits while spinning a shutout.

The Nationals have won four in a row and six of their last seven and are creeping towards first place in the National League East. The Nationals are just one game back of the Braves and are tied for second with the Marlins.

“We are feeling good. We are feeling strong,” Roark said after his victory. “Everybody is hitting. Pitchers are pitching. We are putting together quality starts. The relievers are coming in and shutting down [hitters] when they need to come in. We are playing good team baseball.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Orioles are a scrappy bunch, which is good — because in facing the seemingly unconscious Oakland A’s, they’d better be. The A’s own the best record in the American League (38-23) and the best road record in baseball (at 21-11). They have made it look effortless . . .

Last night in Baltimore, the Orioles had their foot on the A’s necks, but couldn’t close the deal. It wasn’t for want of trying. Tied at 3-3 with two outs in the 10th inning, Nelson Cruz attempted a steal of home, taking advantage of an A’s infield shift against hitter Chris Davis. But Oakland reliever (and former National) Fernando Abad maintained his poise and threw Cruz out at the plate . . .

For the record, a steal of home is hard to score (attempted steal, and 1-2, yes . . .), because the data, simplified on the pages of a scorebook, never conveys the true drama of the play. That must be why the Sporting News this morning described Cruz’s attempt as a miserable failure. A failure, yes. But “miserable?” Don’t you believe it. Another foot off of third and Cruz would have won the game . . .

“Saw it, felt it, went for it, didn’t work out,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said of the Cruz attempt.

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The attempted steal was the second time that an Orioles runner was snuffed out at the plate. On the previous play, outfielder Brandon Moss threw out a sprinting Nick Markakis who rounded third with a clear lead on the baseball. Moss’s throw was a classic one bounce to the catcher. Oooohhhhh . . . .

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Nats Ambush The Rangers, 9-2

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

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The Washington Nationals ambushed the Texas Rangers on Friday night behind the pitching of Stephen Strasburg — and with the help of a three run home run by Ian Desmond. For one of the few times this season, the Nationals actually seemed to coast to a victory, with Texas playing catch-up to a suddenly potent Nationals line-up. The Nats notched 15 hits in the victory.

Strasburg provided yet another stellar outing, but this time his team supported him. The young righty threw a solid six innings while striking out nine. His only hiccup came in the second inning, when the Rangers put two runs on the board after an Adrian Beltre double and a Strasburg error off the bat of Texas catcher Leonys Martin. Roughned Odor and Colby Lewis then followed with successive singles.

The Nationals took the lead in the 4th inning when Ian Desmond put a Lewis offering into the right centerfield seats, which scored Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. Reversing a recent trend, the Nationals were 4-12 with runners in scoring position — and broke open the game on a 3-5 night from both Jayson Werth and Denard Span.

“[The homer] was real big,” Washington’s Denard Span said of the Desmond blast. “We got behind early. The mood was like, ‘Here we go again.’ We have been falling behind lately. With this home run, it gave us some type of energy. After that, we just piled on.”

Strasburg has now had eight straight starts where he has pitched six innings or more — and he could have gone much longer tonight, but with runners on base in the bottom of the 6th, Nats’ skipper Matt Williams decided that he had to have Tyler Moore pinch hit for him. The decision paid off, as Moore hit a two run double that all but sealed the Texas loss.

“Early in the first inning, he had some power behind his fastball and threw his breaking ball,” Texas manager Ron Washington said in analyzing Strasburg’s outing. “Then we started swinging the bats better. The guy is a good pitcher. We had some opportunities, but we couldn’t get a base hit. He’s a quality pitcher.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: That terrible sound you here is the San Francisco Giants eating the St. Louis Cardinals. Or maybe it’s the sound of the Giants eating all of the National League. On Friday night, the Giants showed why they’re the class of the N.L., downing the Redbirds in a 9-4 ho-hummer at Busch Stadium . . .

In truth, the score doesn’t do the game, or the Giants, justice. The Giants are 36-19, have hit more home runs than anyone in the senior circuit except for Colorado and are second in team ERA to the Braves. Scared? The Giants aren’t scared of anyone, so on Friday — when the Cardinals rolled out Mr. Universe, Adam Wainwright — the McCovey’s touched him for seven runs in 4.1 innings . . .

And . . . and the Giants did this on the same day that they announced that their powerhouse ace, Matt Cain, would go on the 15 day disabled list. Cain was due to return for his next start, but the Giants will play it safe, saving their righty for a mid-summer run against their in-division rivals . . .

Which leads us to ask: who the hell are these guys? The Giants finished ten games under .500 last year, but they spent the off-season retooling and restocking. While their core talent (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt) remained the same, G.M. Brian Sabean signed big bat Michael Morse to a one year, $6 million deal . . .

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Nats Notes: Reviewing The Oakland Meltdown

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals finished a disheartening series against the Oakland A’s, who have become the powerhouse of the AL West the last couple of years. The Nats were shut out, blew a save and lost in the 10th, and then were damn near shutout again. Things were so bad that MASN commentators Ray Knight and F.P. Santangelo both expressed their frustration with the Nats’ play in almost heated terms on Nats Xtra after the final game.

The only, and we mean only, bright spot for the Nats Nation was Tanner Roarks’ start in Game 2: 7.2 innings of two-hit, one-run baseball. It seems Tanner shook off his poor showing against the Phillies the week before and immediately returned to form, illustrating why he’s one of the best starting pitchers no one is talking about. If we have to stretch for a second bright spot, it’s that former Nats prospects Tommy Milone and Derek Norris, the A’s starting pitcher and catcher, both had great series. Cold comfort.

Aside from Roark, the Nats pitching staff was in meltdown. Doug Fister’s first start as a Nat only lasted 4.1 innings after giving up nine hits and seven runs, a performance Gio Gonzalez would repeat in his game. Fister couldn’t get anything down in the zone, and the only way Gio could find it was to throw two-seam heaters down the middle. Closer Rafael Soriano didn’t do anything different, pitching wise, but a wonky cut-off of rookie benchman’s Zach Walters throw from left field blew the save for the first time this season.

The defense, the one aspect of play manager Matt Williams really wanted to improve when he took his new position, was farm league. Lost flyballs, weird relays, poor fielding choices, they all added up. Theoretically, all of that could have been overcome if the lineup was moving and runs were scored. A’s general manager Billy Beane had a whole movie made about him for doing just that. But they weren’t. In the series, the A’s outhit the Nats two to one and outscored them four to one.

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