A's take early lead for series victory vs. Royals

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A's take early lead for series victory vs. Royals

June 16, 2011BOX SCORE A'S VIDEOMLB PAGE MLB SCOREBOARD

OAKLAND (AP) Jemile Weeks played through some nerves, Gio Gonzalez played through an illness and the Oakland Athletics played well enough for their first series win under interim manager Bob Melvin.Weeks had two hits and drove in three runs, and Hideki Matsui homered to lead the Oakland Athletics to an 8-4 win over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.Matsui's solo blast gave him a combined 499 homers in Japan and the U.S. and helped Oakland win a second straight game for the first time since a four-game streak May 26-29.NEWS: Melvin ejected, Matsui hits 499th career HR"The first couple of days were shaky from nerves and I just tried to stay confident," said Weeks, hitting .344 (11 for 32) since his June 7 callup. "I'm just going out there and playing as hard as I can."Melky Cabrera had two hits and drove in a run for the Royals, who lost their second straight. Jeff Francoeur, Wilson Betemit and Brayan Pena each added an RBI."He was establishing his fastball and left it up in the zone and we were chasing it," said Francoeur, who also struck out four times. "That's not a good combination, especially when you throw 94 miles an hour like he does."Daric Barton drove in two runs, and Coco Crisp and Kurt Suzuki each had an RBI in support of Gio Gonzalez (6-5), who ended a personal three-game slide for his first win since May 17."There were a couple of innings where I had to sit down and take a deep breath," Gonzalez said. "My throat is a little sore and I feel a little weak but I didn't want to show any weakness."Gonzalez allowed two runs on five hits over six innings. He walked two and struck out 10."He's usually pretty animated and he was subdued," Melvin said. "You could tell he was feeling it."Jeff Francis (3-7) gave up a season-high six runs on nine hits over 3 1-3 innings, his second- shortest outing of the season. He walked two and did not strike out a batter in a game for the first time."I was falling behind guys in certain situations and that doesn't do me any good," Francis said. "When I did throw a good pitch they put some good swings on them."Melvin earned his first ejection in an Oakland uniform, getting tossed by third base umpire Tim Tschida in the top of the third."There was some miscommunication," Melvin said. "Tim thought I was arguing with him but I was just waving my arms and yelling because I thought we weren't getting calls. It was not great form getting kicked out."Weeks' two-out double scored two runners in the second during the A's four-run rally."Hitting is contagious in my opinion and when guys are hitting like that you think, 'Well, I better go up there and get a hit,'" Weeks said.Matsui led off the third with his sixth home run of the season and third in seven games after going homerless in his previous 23 games. Barton later added his second RBI of the game."I don't know the time difference but I'm pretty sure a lot of people in Japan will be watching," Melvin said.The Royals scored twice in the fifth to make it 6-2 on Cabrera's single and Francoeur's double.Weeks singled home a run in the bottom of the fifth and Suzuki doubled home a run in the seventh.Betemit and Pena each doubled in a run for the Royals in the eighth.Notes: Francis has not won consecutive road starts since 2007. He has a 6.93 ERA away from Kansas City. ... Barton tied Sean Casey for most games to start a season without a home run by a first baseman at 63. ... Melvin plans to give Matsui a start in each of the series played in National League parks during interleague play. ... Cabrera has a hit in 12 of his past 14 games. ... Francoeur went 1 for 5 and is now 2 for 20 with seven strikeouts on the road trip. ... A's right fielder Conor Jackson had a hit and walked against Francis, improving to .436 (17 for 39) against the left-hander.

Rewind: If Kings can't fix slow starts, 'another losing season' awaits

Rewind: If Kings can't fix slow starts, 'another losing season' awaits

Opposing teams are making a habit out of bloodying the Sacramento Kings in the first quarter. Game after game, the team wearing purple falls behind big out of the shoot and it was no different Friday night in Boston. The Celtics looked energized, taking a 13-point lead early and then held on for a 97-92 win.  

A clearly frustrated coach Joerger placed the blame on his players in postgame, answering, “no, no” when asked if there is anything he can do to to get the team off to better starts. When pushed if it was on the players, he bluntly said, “yep.”

It’s become a chronic issue. The starters stumble. The second unit runs onto the court with buckets trying to bail water as quickly as possible. Whether it’s energy, effort or compatibility, something needs to change.  

At the 3:13 mark of the first quarter, Avery Bradley dropped in a 26-foot 3-pointer to give the Celtics a 29-16 lead. The combination of Matt Barnes, Garrett Temple, Ty Lawson and Omri Casspi went to work alongside DeMarcus Cousins and closed out the quarter on a 13-0 run to tie the game.

“They struggled out of the gate,” Joerger said of his starters. “The second unit was good. They had a lot of energy and brought us back from a slow start.”

Making up big deficits take plenty of energy, which always seems to come back to haunt the Kings late. They keep the game close, only to run out of gas at the finish line.

“It’s almost like we got to get hit first to react,” Cousins said from his locker stall. “That’s kind of been the slogan the whole year. It’s not good for us.”

Despite not playing since Monday, the Kings starters were a step slow on their rotations and two steps slow on their closeouts. Boston moved the ball freely and found the open man on their way to 5-of-9 from three in the first 12 minutes.

“We’re in a situation where we have to come out and be the aggressive team every night,” Cousins said. “We’re not that team that can just start playing and think we can turn it on whenever.”

Unfortunately, Cousins is making a similar speech on too many nights early in the season. Clearly it’s wearing on the two-time All-Star.

“If we don’t figure this thing out, we’re going to continue to have these types of games and just another losing season,” said Cousins.

Cousins backed his coach in post game, taking the blame, along with his teammates. For the first time in four contests, he didn’t crack 30 points or more, finishing with 28 and nine rebounds.

“If we want to change things around, it’s on us,” Cousins said. “And we’ve got to hold ourselves accountable and take responsibility for our effort coming out early in games.”

To add injury to insult, the 26-year-old fielded questions with tape surrounding his right eye. Cousins took an inadvertent elbow to the head from teammate Ty Lawson at the 7:08 mark of the fourth quarter. He missed two minutes of game time, which proved to be crucial, but returned to the floor after having the wound glued shut temporarily.

Following the game, Cousins received eight stitches from the team’s medical staff.

Sacramento has a chance to get back to even on their five-game road trip Sunday afternoon when they face the 10-9 New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The NBA schedule waits for no one. If they want to climb out of their slumber, they’ll need to find a solution to their early game struggles on the fly.

Evans: Giants still in 'search mode' for closer, but 'it's progressing'

Evans: Giants still in 'search mode' for closer, but 'it's progressing'

As the Winter Meetings get set to begin in Washington, D.C. on Monday, the Giants still haven't crossed off the top item on their offseason wish list.

The closer role remains vacant.

Names like Mark Melancon and Greg Holland have been linked to the Giants over the last few weeks, but nothing has materialized.

On Friday, GM Bobby Evans provided an update while speaking with ESPN's Buster Olney.

"There's been a lot of signings and a number of trades. In many ways, more done prior to the winter meetings than in the last couple of years. We still are in process, relative to trade options, relative to free agent options, to be clear who's pitching the ninth inning for us. So we feel we have the makings of a good bullpen, we just need to be clear who's pitching the ninth. And we'd like to solidify that through the trade market or free agent market. It's progressing. We're a month into this process, so we have a lot more information. But ultimately, until we have a closer, we're still in the search mode.

There's a nice balance between both. It's just that, they both have costs. Relative to a trade, sometimes you're giving up, in some cases, one or more of your top prospects and other prospects below that. In the way of free agency, it's obviously an expenditure for a certain number of years that is elavated more on the supply and demand side. That said, there are some middle tier late inning options as well that may not be as demanding as some of the bigger names. Again, it's a balance of options trying to measure all three."