A's shut out by Duffy, Royals, rain

April 11, 2012, 8:08 am
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The Oakland Athletics couldn't contain a brief fourth-inning Royals rally, nor could they touch Kansas City pitching as rain halted their efforts at comeback six A's outs shy of a full game.

The tarp wasn't stowed until 7:25 p.m., 20 minutes after the scheduled start time. But baseball would not be denied, as Oakland avoided it's first rain-out of the millennium by forcing seven-plus innings in on the misty Oakland evening.

After a 43 minute rain delay to kick off the festivities, Graham Godfrey pumped a first-pitch strike. He induced fly balls from Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler, escaped the first inning with only 11 pitches thrown and so began his first full season in the majors.

A's manager Bob Melvin was encouraged by the outing. "For what Godfrey gave us -- 80-some pitches and six innings based on a shortened spring for him -- I thought he did fine."

"I was pretty satisfied with it," Godfrey said. "I caught a couple bad breaks, but you know, that's part of it."

Godfrey cruised until the fourth inning, when Billy Butler turned on afastball and trotted into second base with a leadoff double.

Those bad breaks he referred to led to the Royals' first runs.

First, Graham forced Jeff Francoeur into an off-balanced swing, but Francoeur managed to flare a single to right field.

Then, with runners on first and third, Mike Moustakas hammered a ball to dead center field. Yoenis Cespedes looked to have a beat on it, sprinting directly back towards the 400-foot sign. But when it came time to record the out, Cespedes' could not secure the catch as the bobbled ball fell safely to the warning track. Butler scored easily and the Royals were sitting pretty with runners on second and third and no outs.

It was a difficult play, especially given the weather, but it's the second time Cespedes has been unable to corral a deep fly to center in the young season. It's not a trend you want to see from the man who displaced last year's plus-defensive center fielder to left and who A's manager Bob Melvin recently referred to as "a true center fielder."

After the game, Melvin was quick to impress upon Cespedes' ability to get himself in position to make the play, rather than his inability to complete it.

Meanwhile, Godfrey's counterpart Danny Duffy loves pitching in Oakland. Three of his five career wins have come at the Coliseum.

Melvin entered the game with plenty of respect for the Royals' young hurler. "He's a talented pitcher, downhill plane, tall guy that throws up to 95-, 96-mph, plus curveball, good change-up as well. I know Duffy is a guy they're excited about."

He's not a guy the A's hitters are excited about after he allowed one hit and struck out eight.

"I have a gameplan that I'm going to follow regardless of what the other guy does," Godfrey said from the clubhouse. "But at the same time, you see what he's doing, how well he's throwing."

And he was throwing well. There were only two moments when the A's posed an offensive threat, and each ended in momentum for the Royals.

When the ball jumped off Daric Barton's bat in the second inning with Collin Cowgill on base, it looked like the A's would be on the board. But Lorenzo Cain made an athletic play to reel in the drive at the warning track and relay the ball to first base for the threat- and inning-ending double play.

"That ended up being a big play in the game," Melvin said. "I think the momentum shifts if that ball drops."

It didn't, and the A's only other threat came in the next frame when Pennington doubled with one out. He was promptly picked off by the wheeling Duffy.

Seven of the final 12 A's that came to the plate took the lonely walk from the batter's box back to the dugout after fanning.

"We just couldn't get it going offensively," Melvin said.

Cowgill played well in his busy debut for the A's. He recorded eight putouts, none more impressive than his run-saving over-the-shoulder catch to end the second after Chris Getz gave one a ride with two on.

Cowgill looked good at the plate too, working walks in each of his first two at-bats before firing a well-hit line drive to the right fielder.

The rain never completely stopped Tuesday evening in Oakland, and the A's and Royals are scheduled to be back out on the wet but covered Coliseum field Wednesday at 12:35 p.m. in the series' rubber match.

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