Archive for the ‘Oakland A’s’ Category

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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Oakland Explodes (And So Does Gio)

Monday, May 12th, 2014

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The Oakland A’s touched Gio Gonzalez for seven earned runs in just 4.1 innings of work to sweep their three game series with the Washington Nationals, 9-1. Former Nationals catching prospect Derek Norris homered twice off of Gonzalez, plating six of the A’s nine total runs.

But the Oakland run explosion was overshadowed by Gonzalez’s meltdown in the Nationals’ dugout at the end of the 2nd inning, after Jose Lobaton could not get a bead on a pop foul off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes. Gonzalez threw his glove in the dugout, which was caught on camera, then responded to what appeared to be an off-camera comment.

Gonzalez was apparently yelling at Ian Desmond, who responded. But the details of the confrontation remain unknown. “Well, sometimes wtihin the confines of a team, they’re all competing out there, it’s just competition,” Nationals’ skipper Matt Williams said after the loss. “We’re not going to go any further than that with it. That’s the team’s business, for nobody else.”

We have a video of the incident:

The Nationals have struggled in Oakland. “They’re losing. And they’re playing bad,” MASN commenter Ray Knight said following Sunday’s loss. The Nats were outscored, outhit, outpitched — and outplayed by the White Elephants in three disappointing games.

“I’m not concerned with anything at this point,” Williams said of the Oakland series. “This was a tough series against a very good team. A couple of early deficits and a ballgame [Saturday] night that we could have won against arguably their best guy. So, am I concerned? No. We need to do a better job all around.”

The A’s, meanwhile, appear to be at the top of their game. Their series against Washington featured an offensive onslaught (21 runs in 27 innings) supported by strong pitching. Lost amidst Washington’s dugout confrontation was the fact that Oakland’s Scott Kazmir stymied Nats’ hitters, throwing seven innings of four hit baseball.

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Matt Williams has a special kind of talent. The Washington skipper can give a ten minute press conference without saying much at all — which seems to be his preferred mode of dealing with those who cover the team. He was especially mum about yesterday’s dugout confrontation . . .

Williams retains the right to remain silent, but we retain the right to speculate. The Gonzalez confrontation was not with catcher Jose Lobaton, who missed a pop foul in the second, but with shortstop Ian Desmond, who slow-played a grounder in the 1st inning off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes. That would have been the third out of the inning. Derek Norris followed with a round tripper . . .

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A’s Walk Off In The 10th

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

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The Washington Nationals squandered a 3-1 lead in the 9th inning (as well as a brilliant start from righty Tanner Roark) and fell to the Oakland A’s in the 10th inning, 4-3.  It was the third walk-off win for the A’s this season, and the first time this season that Washington closer Rafael Soriano failed to close out a game.

The trouble for Washington started in the bottom of the 9th, when Soriano gave up a single to A’s catcher John Jaso, which was followed by Jed Lowrie double and a Josh Donaldson single. Jaso scored on Lowrie’s double, while Lowrie then scored on Donaldson’s single. The three successive hits tied the game at 3 apiece, sending the two teams into extra innings.

With Soriano looking on, the A’s then rallied against reliever Drew Storen in the bottom of the 10th to win the game. Jaso was again at the center of the fireworks, sending a Storen offering to the base of the wall in deep right field to score pinch runner Nick Punto.

The walk-off win was a particularly bitter pill for starter Tanner Roark, who boosted his team with 7.2 innings of two hit baseball against a potent A’s offense. “Me and Ramos were on the same page,” Roark said of his outing. “So when you get that rhythm and that tempo going and you don’t have to shake anything off, that’s perfect.”

The inability of the Nats to close out the game was baffling to Washington, and not least to Rafael Soriano — who had been perfect in 13 innings prior to Saturday. “Bad day. That’s all I can say,” Soriano said following the loss. “Very bad day, and I can’t be perfect every time, and it happened tonight.”

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Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Baseball analysts and predictors seem to have learned their lesson. After regularly saying the A’s are no better than a 2nd or 3rd place team in the always-interesting A.L. West, Oakland is now a prohibitive favorite to win the division this year. And there’s good reason for that . . .

It all starts with pitching, despite the fact that the White Elephants lost uber righty Jarrod Parker for the season to Tommy John surgery (this will be his second time) as well as up-and-comer A.J. Griffin. These aren’t footnotes: Parker and Griffin (along with Sonny Gray) were supposed to carry the team into the playoffs this year . . .

But the A’s haven’t skipped a beat. Journeyman Scott Kazmir has stepping into the breach, winning his first six starts for Oakland before losing to Seattle last week. The A’s also seem to have rehabilitated Drew Pomeranz, a reputed kick-around (Texas, Cleveland, Colorada) head case with a huge upside. Pomeranz has been put into the rotation after throwing 18 innings and accumulating a 1.45 ERA . . .

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