OAKLAND -- The A's might need to entertain the idea of going with a six-man rotation. Even then they might have some issues. They say you can never have too much good pitching -- the A's might soon have that "problem" though. On Saturday both Brandon McCarthy and Dallas Braden threw bullpen sessions. They were throwing under the watchful eyes of A's manager Bob Melvin, pitching coach Curt Young, trainer Nick Paparesta, and bullpen coach Rick Rodriguez. After the sessions the team deemed the results encouraging. Both Braden and McCarthy mixed in their full repertoire of pitches and they each threw over 40 pitches. There is no word what the next step will be for either pitcher but it is a positive sign for the A's nonetheless. "Both of them looked good and felt good afterward," Melvin said. Braden went first, warming up with long toss in the outfield. He threw as deep as 110 feet then headed for the bullpen mound. During his session Rodriguez stood in as if he was a batter. McCarthy started long toss as Braden's session winded down. He didn't make as many warm up throws in the outfield or throw from the distance Braden did. He then hit the bullpen mound and completed his session. And then there's this guy Pitching in a game for the first time in over a year today...weird Brett Anderson (@BrettAnderson49) July 21, 2012Brett Anderson will be starting for the Stockton Ports at Banner Island Ballpark in a 7:05 p.m. game. He will be throwing 45 pitchers or three innings -- whichever comes first. It will be his first start in a professional game since June 5, 2011. A's starting pitchers have an American League-best 3.71 ERA. As a result they don't need to rush the return of any of the starting pitchers on the mend. Anderson and McCarthy could factor into the A's rotation soon though. Braden is behind them slightly.
HOUSTON — If the A’s eventually want to return to the American League West mountaintop, they got a good look at the team they’ll have to conquer.
The Astros boast one of the majors’ most talented and athletic rosters, with enough of a youthful core to suggest they’ll be battling for division supremacy for years to come. They took two of three from Oakland at Minute Maid Park, capped by Sunday’s 7-2 decision in which left-hander Dallas Keuchel held the A’s to just three hits over 7 2/3 innings.
The loss ended a season-opening stretch in which the A’s played 22 of their first 25 against AL West foes. They saw every team in the division at least once, going 9-13 in that stretch and 11-14 overall for the month of April.
It’s tough to glean too much from one month of play, but the Astros (16-9) so far are living up to the hype that stems from several notable offseason additions they made. They hold a three-game lead over the second-place Los Angeles Angels, with Oakland and Texas both five games back and Seattle 5 1/2 back.
Before the A’s bother worrying about who they have to knock off at the top, there are baby steps to conquer.
They need to generate some consistent offense, which has been lacking in their 1-5 start to this nine-game road trip. With that in mind, they’ll gladly welcome back center fielder Rajai Davis, who is expected to return from a strained left hamstring and rejoin the lineup Tuesday in Minnesota.
Also Tuesday, Sonny Gray will make his 2017 debut after missing the first four weeks with a strained lat muscle in his right side. One of the primary April storylines for the A’s involved the players they lost to injury. Now, they at least draw some optimism from the ones they’ll welcome back.
“We need to get these guys back,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ve been leaning on (backup center fielder) Jaff Decker a little harder than we need to. You get Raj back doing his thing at the top of the lineup and get your No. 1 pitcher back, hopefully this is a trend on an upward swing as far as getting players back, as opposed to losing them like we have been.”
Jesse Hahn, who took Sunday’s loss, could eventually be out of a rotation spot with Gray’s return. But that decision gets delayed with fellow starter Sean Manaea having just joined the 10-day disabled list with a strained shoulder.
Hahn was solid Sunday, going six innings and allowing four runs (two earned). But he got a taste of the diverse ways that Houston can beat a pitcher. The Astros have speed, as they showed in the first inning when George Springer beat out an infield single and scored all the way from first on Carlos Correa’s double.
They also have run producers up and down the batting order. Evan Gattis, who clubbed 32 homers last season, hit seventh Sunday and drove an RBI double to left that just missed being a two-run homer.
“One through nine, it’s a solid lineup over there,” Hahn said. “You can’t take any pitches off, any at-bats off. You’ve almost got to treat every guy the same or they can hurt you.”
Catcher Josh Phegley says the A’s have a good read on the rest of the division and the challenge that sits before him and his teammates.
“We’ve seen the teams we’re gonna face most of the year. We get a feel for their bullpen, some of the subs they make during the game,” he said. “I like the way our team stacks up against everyone else.”
But the A’s have their work cut out. Last year, they were 13-12 at the end of April, just 1 1/2 games out of first place before eventually finishing in the cellar. As they begin this May, they are three games under .500 and already five games out.
Help is on the way with the return of Gray and Davis. Now the A’s need to parlay that into some victories.
HOUSTON – The A’s got a sampling of what’s made Dallas Keuchel one of the majors’ top pitchers through the first month.
The Astros lefty pitched into the eighth and allowed just one Athletic to advance past first base as Oakland absorbed a 7-2 loss in the rubber game of this weekend series at Minute Maid Park.
After an off-year in 2016, Keuchel has regained his 2015 Cy Young-winning form, becoming the American League’s first five-game winner of 2017. He held the A’s to three hits over 7 2/3 innings, as the A’s fell to 1-5 so far on this three-city road trip. They’ve been held to two or fewer runs in five of their past seven games.
Jesse Hahn (1-2) turned in a quality start for the A’s, going six innings and giving up four runs (two earned) on eight hits. The Astros got a run off him in the first when George Springer beat out an infield hit and scored from first on Carlos Correa’s double down the left-field line. Evan Gattis’ double off the top of the left field wall scored another run in the fourth for a 2-0 lead.
Then a key play came in the fifth. Brian McCann hit a sharp bouncer toward first that took a big hop and got past Ryon Healy for a two-run single and a four-run cushion that Keuchel (5-0) wasn’t going to let slip away.
The A’s closed April with an 11-14 record and trail first-place Houston by five games
Starting pitching report
With Sonny Gray returning from the disabled list, Hahn is trying to prove he deserves to stick in the rotation moving forward. He was coming off an outstanding performance in Anaheim, when he held the Angels to one hit over eight innings. He wasn’t as sharp Sunday, but he wasn’t terrible either. The right-hander struck out six and didn’t issue a walk, but his command betrayed him a bit in the fourth. With one out, he hit Yuli Gurriel with a pitch and then advanced him to second with a wild pitch. Hahn fell behind Gattis 3-1 when the A’s killer hit a run-scoring double to left that fell just a few feet short of being a home run. The Astros’ two-run rally in the fifth was aided by Josh Reddick reaching base on yet another catchers’ interference play. Stephen Vogt was called for the infraction twice Friday night with Reddick hitting. Josh Phegley was behind the plate Sunday.
Any thoughts of an A’s ninth-inning comeback were dashed when Frankie Montas served up a three-run homer to Marwin Gonzalez in the bottom of the eighth. Oakland’s bullpen has surrendered 16 runs in 15 2/3 innings against the Astros this season for a 9.19 ERA.
At the plate
The A’s offense got cranking too little too late. Trailing 4-0 in the eighth, Adam Rosales singled and eventually came around to score on Ryon Healy’s two-out single. Rosales aided the rally with a steal of second base, which snapped a string of eight games without a stolen base for Oakland. They’re expecting to welcome Rajai Davis back from the disabled list Tuesday, and his speed is certainly needed with the offense scuffling. Down 7-1 in the ninth, Josh Phegley doubled and scored on Chad Pinder’s single. The A’s loaded the bases with two outs, prompting Astros manager A.J. Hinch to call on closer Ken Giles to retire Yonder Alonso for the final out.
In the field
Phegley’s catchers’ interference call went down as the game’s only error.
The turnout was 34,880.
The A’s wrap this nine-game road trip with three at Minnesota. They went 4-2 against the Twins last year. Sonny Gray will make his first start of the season in Tuesday’s 5:10 opener, opposed by Ervin Santana (4-0, 0.77). Wednesday — Kendall Graveman (2-1, 2.25) vs. lefty Hector Santiago (2-1, 2.43), 5:10 p.m. Thursday — Jharel Cotton (2-3, 5.00) vs. Kyle Gibson (0-3, 8.06), 10:10 a.m.