A's Insider notes: Pennington plays savior for A's

A's Insider notes: Pennington plays savior for A's

May 8, 2011

Paul Gutierrez
Our A's Insider takes a look at Oakland's 5-2 win over the Royals in Kansas City to take the first three on this road trip.

A heads-up Penny - Shortstop Cliff Pennington put a fast end to the sixth inning with a quick-thinking play and nearly saved a run in the process. On Mitch Maier's two-out single to right field, with runners at first and second, Pennington alertly cut off David DeJesus' throw and dived at an over-running Wilson Betemit at second base. He tagged him out to end the inning, a split-second after Eric Hosmer slid across home plate for the Royals' second run of the day. Pennington's tag ended the threat, the inning and was thisclose to costing Kansas City a run. The Royals had cut the A's lead to 3-2 on the play.Coco steps up - It is obvious that Coco Crisp's quad muscle is still hindering him, as evidenced by his dragging his leg. But if the A's dynamic lead off-hitting, center field-playing sparkplug has lost a step, it was one that many others in the game do not possess. He came up huge with a running basket catch of Chris Getz's fly ball in right-center in the seventh inning. Then, flipped to the right side by a left-handed reliever in the eighth, Crisp greeted Tim Collins with a two-out single up the middle on the first pitch he saw to score Mark Ellis and give the A's an insurance run.Suzuki smiles - Yes, it was Mother's Day, not Father's Day, but Kurt Suzuki continued his power surge since the birth of his daughter on April 26. His ninth-inning solo home run with two out and on a full count was his fourth long ball of the season, his third since Malia Suzuki arrived. He also has seven RBI in that span.CoJack just fine, thank you - Two days after a scary-looking collision at first base to end the A's series-opening victory, Conor Jackson was back in the lineup and producing. Jackson had three hits in his first three at-bats and drove in the A's first run with a single to right in the first inning.Pitchers own worst enemies? - The A's defense cost their pitchers in April but the pitchers themselves have made things tough on themselves of late. As pointed out by A's radio announcer Vince Cotroneo, all five of the A's errors in May have been committed by (drum roll, please) pitchers.
-- Paul Gutierrez

Cubs' Epstein: 'History doesn't really weigh on this club'


Cubs' Epstein: 'History doesn't really weigh on this club'

The Cubs are going to the World Series.

Yes, you read that right.

The Cubs are going to the World Series.

The Curse of the Billy Goat is broken. 

The 71-year drought is over. 

The truly once-in-a-lifetime moment has finally come to Chicago.

Holy cow.

The Cubs punched their ticket to the promised land with a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Best Pitcher on the Planet in front of 42,386 fans in the most euphoric moment in Wrigley Field's history.

Theo Epstein's vision is one step closer to coming to fruition.

"History doesn't really weigh on this club," Epstein said before Saturday's Game 6. "Just trying to win tonight's game. 

"These guys - a lot of them are in their early 20s and they're not burdened by that stuff. The organization isn't. It's just about trying to win and keeping it simple."


Rewind: Sharks slow, sloppy and undisciplined in loss to Wings

Rewind: Sharks slow, sloppy and undisciplined in loss to Wings

DETROIT – The Sharks had just one scheduled practice on their 10-day road trip, set to take place on Friday in Detroit prior to the fifth and final game against the Red Wings. It was canceled, though, as the coaching staff opted for rest rather than work.

The result was a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings in which the Sharks were sloppy in their own zone, were smoked in the faceoff circle, surrendered a plethora of odd-man rushes, and took eight minor penalties. They just couldn’t keep pace with a Detroit team that was playing its second game in as many nights. 

San Jose looked like a club that has held just a single solitary practice since the season began on Oct. 12.

“Some breakdowns, guys not being above [the puck], some giveaways in our own end, we’re kind of leaving [the defensive zone] early,” Logan Couture said. “We just don’t seem like we’re dedicated to defense like we were at the end [of] last year.”

[KURZ: Instant Replay: Sharks blanked by Wings, end road trip with thud]

“It wasn’t very good tonight,” added Martin Jones, who lost his third in a row in goal. “Too many penalties, too many turnovers. Just wasn’t very good tonight.”

The start was actually a decent one, as the Sharks were attempting to put Thursday’s third period collapse in Pittsburgh behind them, but Detroit eventually took over. Gustav Nyquist broke the scoreless tie four minutes into the second period, and added to the Red Wings’ lead with a second marker about 11 minutes later.

On the first, Paul Martin was caught flat-footed in the offensive zone, leading to a two-on-one rush by Detroit. Nyquist abruptly stopped on the faceoff dot in front of Justin Braun, and rifled a shot though. On the second, Matt Nieto had control of the puck and was headed up the ice before he stumbled and turned it over to Ryan Sproul, who found Nyquist in the slot. 

A bad line change resulted in Andreas Athanasiou powering a slap shot to Jones’ far side six minutes into the third period, giving Detroit a commanding three-goal lead. 

“We were late everywhere tonight,” Pete DeBoer said. “When you’re a step behind a good team they expose you, and I think that was the story. We’ll have to go back and figure out why, and get our game back in a better place.”

“We played into their hands. They’re a transition team, a speed team, and if you’re going to play east-west and turn the puck over they’re going to make you pay for it. We talked about it, but we still fell into that trap. Obviously the penalties didn’t help, and we’re playing catch up all night.”

Among those penalties was a double minor to Joe Pavelski for spearing Steve Ott, just a few seconds after Athanasiou’s goal. The captain seemed agitated for much of the night.

Pavelski said he didn’t think he got a whole lot of Ott with his stick, but “it’s a play you don’t want to make.”

DeBoer didn’t take issue with the play.

“Pav is a competitor. He was probably our best player tonight. He’s competing right until the final buzzer,” DeBoer said. “I don’t have a problem with that. It doesn’t bother me.”

The power play, though, is one area that the coach may need to focus on when the Sharks finally get a practice in on Monday at home. Despite being together for so many years, the top unit seems tentative with the puck and is misfiring on passes that are typically routine.

On one power play in the second period when the game was still scoreless, Pavelski was open in front of the net, but Patrick Marleau missed him on what would have been a tap-in goal. The Sharks finished 0-for-4 with a man advantage and have just one goal in a manned net this season during five-on-four play.

What has to change?

“Quite a few things,” Couture said. “We’re breaking in fine, [but] we’re too stationary, I think. I don’t know if we’re moving the puck well enough. Not attacking holes, not shooting the puck and getting it back.”

The Sharks will open up a three-game homestand on Tuesday with the Ducks. There is work to do before that.

“We’re 3-3. That’s the good news,” DeBoer said. “I think we’ve played some good hockey, but we have a lot of things we’ve got to clean up, too.”

Jones said: “Obviously it wasn’t the way we wanted to end the road trip. We’ll bounce back, and we’ve got a lot of games left.”