Anderson's unforgettable return to mound

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Anderson's unforgettable return to mound

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OAKLAND -- After 14 months away from the Major Leagues it would be hard to script a more special return to the mound for Brett Anderson. The 24-year-old lefty looked like he never underwent the season-ending "Tommy John" surgery that derailed his 2011 season. Anderson tossed seven innings of one-run ball earning a win that was 443 days in the making as the A's defeated the Twins 4-1. After countless hours spent rehabbing, being poked at and examined by doctors, stretched out, throwing under careful watch, side sessions, some simulated games, and six rehab starts, Anderson returned to the Major Leagues with a vengeance. "You remember your debut and this is kind of like my second debut," Anderson said. "It is always going to be special and I'll remember it forever."Anderson faced one over the minimum in his seven innings pitched. He allowed just four hits, didn't walk a batter and struck out six. Even though Anderson hadn't pitched in the big leagues since June 5, 2011, he turned in one of the best performances of his career."I thought he was about as good as you can be for the first time out," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "I know talking to a lot of the players that he can be as dominating as anybody we have here."The A's couldn't have been more correct in their assessment of Anderson after he threw his final side session on Saturday. He clearly was ready to return. Anderson induced 13 ground ball outs and didn't record a single fly out. The only run that Anderson allowed scored when Norris couldn't handle one of Anderson's sliders. It was ruled a wild pitch."I felt pretty good," Anderson said. "The slider was pretty good, got some strikeouts, early contact on the fastballs. Just mixed and matched and made some pitches when I had to."Five of the six strikeouts Anderson recorded were on sliders. Anderson's fastball topped out at 93 mph, he also effectively worked in his curveball and a change-up.The big test for Anderson was just working through the first inning nerves. He allowed two singles in the opening frame and then retired nine straight batters. "Just getting out there and getting on the mound again, throwing a pitch in the big leagues was kind of a relief," Anderson said.As if Anderson's first start back couldn't have been any more special, the A's defense bailed him out with a triple play in the fifth inning. It was the 21st triple play in A's franchise history, the eighth in Oakland history."I was extremely excited," Anderson said of the rare feat. "I don't know if I've seen a triple play, let alone be on a mound for it, so it's pretty awesome and it kind of propelled me for the last couple innings."Anderson is now 1-0 and has a fresh start on his career. His last Major League win came on May 26, 2011 against the Angels. After surviving most of the season with four rookies in the starting rotation the A's now have three veterans in the starting staff for the stretch run -- Bartolo Colon, Brandon McCarthy, and Anderson. The A's are a season-high tying 10 games over .500 (66-56) and they are armed and dangerous.

A's lineup: Healy to DH, Plouffe back on the hot corner vs Astros

A's lineup: Healy to DH, Plouffe back on the hot corner vs Astros

Bob Melvin is making no changes to his lineup in Game 1 against the Astros, but the manager did make one defensive change.

Oakland A's (10-12)

1. Jaff Decker (L) CF
2. Matt Joyce (L) RF
3. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
4. Khris Davis (R) LF
5. Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
6. Ryon Healy (R) DH
7. Stephen Vogt (L) C
8. Trevor Plouffe (R) 3B
9. Adam Rosales (R) SS
Jharel Cotton -- RHP

Houston Astros (14-8)

1. George Springer (R) CF
2. Josh Reddick (L) RF
3. Jose Altuve (R) 2B
4. Carlos Correa (R) SS
5. Carlos Beltran (S) DH
6. Yuli Gurriel (R) 1B
7. Evan Gattis (R) C
8. Alex Bregman (R) 3B
9. Norichika Aoki (L) LF
Charlie Morton -- RHP

Graveman delivers in front of 'Blue Moon' Odom, rest of A's can't

Graveman delivers in front of 'Blue Moon' Odom, rest of A's can't

ANAHEIM — The A’s collection of individual highlights during their visit to Angel Stadium shouldn’t have equated to a three-game sweep for their opponent.

Jesse Hahn fired eight one-hit innings Tuesday, the same night Josh Phegley delivered a pinch-hit homer in the 10th before the A’s lost in 11 innings. On Thursday, Kendall Graveman turned in perhaps the defensive play of the 2017 season by a pitcher, recording an unassisted double play that was the first by an A’s pitcher in 46 years.

All great moments to relive in the clubhouse afterward, but surely they ring a bit hollow given the final outcomes. The A’s were swept by an Angels team that, like Oakland, has been hit hard by the injury bug. Los Angeles is without key relievers Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, Cam Bedrosian and Mike Morin, not to mention starter Garrett Richards among others.

Yet the Angels pitching staff twice held the A’s to one run over the three-game series, including Thursday’s 2-1 defeat, when the A’s mustered just three hits.

“We’re a little streaky right now,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “… Give them credit, they pitched really well, and they really are down a lot of guys in the bullpen. We would expect to do a little more damage.”

They couldn’t Thursday, and that it made it tough to savor Graveman’s incredible play the way they should have.

With runners on the corners and no outs, he fielded Juan Graterol’s comebacker and caught Ben Revere in a rundown between third and home. Graveman ran him down and after applying the tag, hurdled Revere and made the tag on Cliff Pennington, who was trying to advance from first to third in the chaos.

“That’s probably the best play I’ve ever seen a pitcher make, hurdling over an (opponent) to get the second out unassisted,” Melvin said. “I didn’t even know how to put that one down on my card.”

Graveman, one of the A’s better overall athletes, was asked if he’d ever recorded an unassisted double play before.

“Never. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one,” he said. “(Ryan) Madson said he’s never seen one and he’s watched over 2,000 games.”

Incredibly, the last A’s pitcher to pull off an unassisted double play previously was in attendance Thursday night. John “Blue Moon” Odom did it back on July 11, 1971, also against the Angels. Odom attends most of the A’s games in Anaheim, and he’s struck up a friendship with Graveman over the years.

“Every time we come here and even in spring training, I try to catch up with Blue Moon Odom and see how he’s doing,” Graveman said. “He and Wash (former A’s infield coach Ron Washington) are friends so we always cut up about Wash. He’s a great guy. He sits in the front row. He came in and saw me right before stretch and told me ‘I’m gonna be front row watching you.’ That is pretty neat that that happened.”

A’s first baseman Yonder Alonso said he’s never surprised to see Graveman make a great defensive play.

“The guy’s a pitcher, but it feels like he’s a shortstop playing the position.”

Graveman was visited by trainers after the fifth-inning play, but Melvin said it was mainly to give the pitcher a breather and let him get his adrenaline under control. Neither Graveman nor his manager revealed anything specific that bothered Graveman. Seeing him stay in the game and complete six innings of two-run ball had to be encouraging for Melvin.

“The first thing I asked him was ‘What’d you fall on?’” Melvin said. “He said, ‘My butt.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re all right then.’ But you’re not gonna see that play again probably.”

The A’s are giving their manager and fans some accomplishments to marvel over. As they move on to Houston trying to halt a four-game losing streak, they just need to figure things out on the scoreboard.