A's drop eighth consecutive home opener

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A's drop eighth consecutive home opener

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OAKLAND -- For the first time in 2012, the A's took the field at the Oakland Coliseum Friday night, but Brandon McCarthy could not maintain his dominance over the Mariners in front of an announced sellout of 35,067, as he was chased after five innings.Yoenis Cespedes provided A's fans something to cheer for, but Oakland never posed a serious threat after the Mariners' four-run third inning.The A's lost their eighth consecutive home opener by a score of 7-3, and fell to 1-2 on the young season.Co-Players of the Game: Batting eight and ninth for the Mariners, center fielder Michael Saunders and shortstop Brendan Ryan went a combined 4-for-7. They were catalysts for all four of Seattle's scoring rallies and amassed four runs between them.Turning point: After Brendan Ryan's double to lead off the third inning, Chone Figgins laid down a sacrifice bunt. Charging hard, Josh Donaldson threw off balance to first base. His throw sailed right and nailed Figgins between the numbers. Ryan scored, Figgins advanced to second, and the Mariners' four-run inning was in motion.Where he left off?: In his last five starts against the Mariners, McCarthy has been dominant to the tune of three complete games, a 1.86 ERA, a .182 Mariners batting average, 30 strikeouts and three walks.The first two innings went as McCarthy expected. Aside from a couple of base hits -- one from Dustin Ackley who homered off McCarthy in Game 1 -- the Mariners looked innocuous.The third inning was a different story. It started double-error-single-walk. All four base runners scored.In Game 1 this season, it took McCarthy just 82 pitches to get through seven innings of one-run ball against Seattle. He threw 59 strikes. Friday, McCarthy had to wind and throw 95 times to get through five innings. He threw 58 strikes.G-G-G-G-Get the tape!: Before the game, Bob Melvin said, "You want to make a great first impression on the fans."That's exactly what Yoenis Cespedes did with the A's trailing 5-0 in the fourth inning. His mighty hack connected with a 2-1 pitch from Jason Vargas and sent fans, media, and the Twitter world into a frenzy.Cespedes' shot may have dented the concrete facade above the luxury suites in left center field, a solid 40 feet above the 388-foot sign in left-center.Cespedes, who sent an almost identical shot in BP, now has two home runs in three MLB games. He looks awfully comfortable in that trot.When asked about hitting in the cold Oakland weather before the game, Cespedes said through a translator that when he hits it well, it's gone.He wasn't lying. It measured 462 feet.Squandering the sixth: The A's got a break in the sixth inning when, following Coco Crisp's leadoff single, Jason Vargas threw Josh Reddick's comebacker into center field.With two runners on, none out, and Jonny Gomes, Yoenis Cespedes and Kurt Suzuki coming to the plate, things looked good for the A's.But Oakland's extensive foul ground victimized a visibly frustrated Gomes, Cespedes struck out after corkscrewing himself into the ground and visiting with trainers, and Kurt Suzuki grounded out to third to end the threat.Squeeze it: Every so often you see an infielder drop a ball transferring the ball to his throwing hand. Rarely do you see it happen to an outfielder.In the third inning, with the bases loaded and nobody out, Mariners cleanup hitter Justin Smoak skied a ball to left-center field. Coco Crisp stood under it, but Yoenis Cespedes came flying in, called off Crisp, made the catch, and squared to home.Cespedes' reputation was enough to keep the speedy Figgins from attempting to tag up, but had he broke for home it would have been an easy score as the ball slipped from Cespedes' glove on the transfer.A batter later, Jesus Montero flied to right, where Josh Reddick waited. He made the catch, but as he prepped to throw, the ball slipped out of his glove. Figgins, who was tagging this time, scored easily, and the Mariners' big inning continued.Both Cespedes and Reddick attempted their catches with one hand.In the pinch: Seth Smith was called upon in the bottom of the eighth inning, pinch hitting for Jonny Gomes, who might have still been fuming from his pop-out with two runners on two innings prior.Smith fouled off two pitches in a 1-2 count before roping on a 96-mph fastball to right field.Jemile Weeks scored, Coco Crisp advanced, and Bob Melvin gained a little trust in Smith.Delaying history: Ichiro Suzuki, batting third for just the 16th time in his career, went 0-for-5. He still needs three hits against the A's surpass Rod Carew as the all-time leader.The A's still have 16 games against Ichiro's Mariner's this year.

A's spring training Day 13: Gossett part of fifth starter mix

A's spring training Day 13: Gossett part of fifth starter mix

MESA, Ariz. — An unexpected opportunity came Daniel Gossett’s way Sunday, and the young right-hander took it in stride.

When the A’s adjusted their starting rotation, Kendall Graveman got bumped to Monday and Gossett learned he’d be taking the ball to start Sunday’s Cactus League home opener against the Los Angeles Angels.

“I’m here for what they need me for,” Gossett said. “So anything they need, gimme the ball.”

He spun two scoreless innings in a game Oakland lost 5-3 at Hohokam Stadium. A nice first impression for Gossett, indeed, but the truth is A’s officials were already quite familiar with him.

A second-round pick out of Clemson in 2014, Gossett impressed at three levels of the farm system in 2016, beginning the year with Single-A Stockton and finishing it with Triple-A Nashville.

This is his first big league camp, and manager Bob Melvin even mentioned Gossett as being part of the fifth starter conversation.

“He impressed everybody in the organization last year, so when talking about that fifth spot, who knows?” Melvin said before the game.

The only blemishes on Gossett’s day were the pair of walks he issued. After walking Jefrey Marte to lead off the second, he got a lift from his catcher, as Josh Phegley fired a strike to second to nail Marte trying to steal.

“A pitcher’s best friend, I guess,” Gossett said. He went 10-6 with a 2.69 ERA across 27 starts at all three levels of the minors last year, and his 151 strikeouts led the A’s farm system. Gossett’s fastball ranges anywhere from 90-95 on the gun. He throws a changeup that gets the most swings and misses, plus a slider and curve.

Grady Fuson, an A’s special assistant to the general manager, liked the adjustments he saw with Gossett over the course of last season.

“He’s a super kid, a grinder,” Fuson said over the winter. “He’s a guy that hadn’t struck many guys out and had been very hittable in the strike zone. (In 2016), he started executing to different parts of the zone that limits the hard contact.”

CAMP BATTLE: Alejandro De Aza sparked the A’s first rally in the third Sunday with a triple, then scored on Mark Canha’s double. With Jake Smolinski sidelined currently by a shoulder issue, it’s a good time for De Aza, a non-roster invitee to camp, to make his mark. The door could be open for him to make a push to make the roster as a fifth outfielder.

“He’s an interesting guy,” Melvin said of the nine-year veteran. “He knows how to play the game, he can play all three outfield spots. We’ve seen him before when he’s given us trouble, too, with the White Sox.”

Another contender for a reserve outfield spot is Jaycob Brugman, who has yet to crack the majors but is already on the 40-man roster. He singled home a run in the seventh. Like De Aza and Smolinski, Brugman can play center field, and it stands to reason the A’s will want to carry someone who can back up Rajai Davis at that position.

NOTEWORTHY: Phegley admitted to some butterflies before getting behind the plate for his first game since July, when a right knee injury wiped out the rest of his season.

But he looked good springing up to nail Marte on the second-inning steal attempt. The A’s are counting on Phegley returning to his role as the right-handed hitting platoon partner with Stephen Vogt behind the plate.

STOCK RISING: Melvin was impressed, and entertained, by the first look he got at reliever Simon Castro on Saturday against the Chicago Cubs. Castro retired Kris Bryant to strand a runner at third, the only hitter he faced. But it was what happened before the at-bat that caught Melvin’s attention.

“When he came to the mound he was pretty vocal,” Melvin noted. “He was fired up, telling the guys ‘Let’s go!’ I haven’t heard that too many times out of pitchers, let alone in spring training. So he impressed me with his eagerness to pitch.”

FAMILIAR FACES: Campy Campaneris and Blue Moon Odom each threw out ceremonial first pitches before Sunday’s exhibition home opener, which drew a smallish crowd of 4,072.

A’s reliever, movie buff Axford makes 2017 Oscars predictions

A’s reliever, movie buff Axford makes 2017 Oscars predictions

Update: Axford finished the night correctly predicting 19 of 24 Oscars this year.

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A's reliever John Axford is not your casual movie fan. 

Axford majored in Film at Notre Dame and has a proven track record when it comes to the biggest night for movies. 

The last two years, Axford correctly predicted 17 of 24 winners for the Academy Awards. In 2014, Axford went a perfect 18-of-18 with his predictions. 

On Saturday, Axford offered 24 predictions for the 2017 Oscars. 

Axford is a clear believer in La La Land, choosing the film for eights Oscars, after winning a record-breaking seven Golden Globes. 

Will he go a perfect 24-for-24 this year?