Gomes picks up Doolittle; A's win streak hits five

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Gomes picks up Doolittle; A's win streak hits five

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OAKLAND -- In baseball, when things go wrong, they go verywrong. The As experienced that phenomenon on a season-high nine-game losingstreak from May 22 to June 1.But the opposite is also true. When things are going right, they go very right.The As are currently in the midst of a season-high five-game winning streak,and the latest one, a 6-4 victory over the San Diego Padres Saturday, includedsome shocking twists.With the As leading 3-2 in the seventh, manager Bob Melvin replaced starter TysonRoss with rookie left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle, who was originallydrafted by the organization to play first base. Doolittle worked himself in ajam with a leadoff double and a walk sandwiched by strikeouts. As Doolittle putit himself, he was one pitch away, but hung it. The lucky Padre on thereceiving end of the hanger was Will Venable, who doubled to right to plateboth baserunners and give San Diego a 4-3 lead.Thats when things started to go right for the As.
RECAP: Instant Replay -- A's 6, Padres 4
In line for his first Major League decision, Doolittle saw his L turn into aW thanks to an unlikely hero.Jonny Gomes, a native of Petaluma, was called upon to pinch-hit for Seth Smithin the bottom of the seventh with the game-tying run at third base and thego-ahead run at first. Melvin replaced Smith with Gomes because the Padres hadleft-hander Joe Thatcher on the mound, despite Gomes 0-for-34 streak as apinch-hitter heading into the at-bat. It was more the matchup with me for Thatcher, Melvin said.Smittys history wasnt great off him. Melvin went on to admit that he was unaware Gomes pinch-hitslump was as bad as 34 at-bats.Thatcher threw one ball to Gomes before Padres manager BudBlack decided to bring in right-hander Luke Gregerson.Considering Gomes .223 lifetime average againstright-handers and his struggles as a pinch-hitter, the As hopes seemed slim.But Gregerson bounced his first pitch in the dirt, allowing Cliff Pennington toscore the tying run from third easily, then fell behind 3-1 to Gomes. Thatswhen he threw a fastball that Gomes absolutely pulverized to straightaway leftfor a 6-4 As lead, putting Doolittle in line for his first big-league win.Gomes was asked if the pitching change was akin to a mental180-degree turn.A little more than 180 degrees, he said. From aleft-hander to a right-hander, then the runner on third scores, down one to atie. But I knew the fastball inside was coming.A mid at-bat pitching change is rare, but Black was simply playing the numbersgame. Did it offend Gomes?You dont take it personally, but as a competitor, you gotto dig in a little more and get it done.Gomes got it done, and Doolittle was the beneficiary, despite his ugly inningof work.Its a sign of a team thats pretty confident in whattheyre doing, Melvin said. We got held down offensively early on and had alead and for the first time Sean got hit a little bit. But its the hittersjob to pick him up. The pitchers have been picking this thing up for the betterpart of the season. The way weve been swinging the bats, I dont think anyonethought it was over once we got down.While Melvin witnessed the rally, Doolittle did not.I came back in the clubhouse to do my arm exercises andmissed it, Doolittle said of the game-winning home run. But I heard thecrowd.The As announced a crowd of 17,135 on striped sock giveaway day, then sent thefaithful home happy with another interleague win, their sixth in 11 games thisseason.A big reason for the As recent improvement is a confident offensive unit. TheAs came into Saturdays game with the second fewest runs scored in the AmericanLeague at 247, 36 of which came in Oaklands sweep of the Colorado Rockies andthe series opener against San Diego. It only took six runs to get the job done Saturday.A different guy is stepping up every day, Doolittle said.Its really fun to be a part of.The postgame clubhouse was a perfect portrait of a team having fun, with musicblaring and teammates joking and eating together after a comeback win.Were starting to get some character in here, Gomes said. Hittingis contagious.Gomes may have caught the hitting bug from Smith, the man he replaced in thelineup. Smith scored the first run of the game when he hit a soloshot off Padres starter Ross Ohlendorf in the fourth inning. As a designatedhitter this season, Smith is hitting .178 in 23 games. But when he gets thechance to play in the outfield, as Melvin allowed him to do Saturday, heshitting like an All-Star. Smith owns a .344 average as an outfielder thisseason and all seven of his home runs have come as a two-way player.Melvin said before the game that those numbers were a factor in his decision topencil Smith in as the left-fielder, but that Smiths tendency to block hisview in the dugout as a designated hitter also contributed.Im glad he kicked me out of the dugout, Smith said.Its not clear whether Smith will be in the lineup at all Sunday, and if so, asthe designated hitter or an outfielder. Regardless, hes ready to get back tothe O.co Coliseum as the As go for consecutive sweeps of N.L. West opponents. Winning makes everything better, Smith said. Well come back tomorrow readyto play.

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?