Athletics

Gray strikes out eight, A's go deep to take down Red Sox

Gray strikes out eight, A's go deep to take down Red Sox

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- Taking the mound with the lead in the second inning after a rough start to the game was just what Sonny Gray needed to get back on track.

Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis hit first-inning homers to spoil Hector Velazquez's major league debut and Gray took it from there to get his first win of the season for the Oakland Athletics, 8-3 over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night.

"That really kind of got me going and gave me the kick I needed to really try to focus down and put up some zeroes," Gray said. "The offense really bailed me out early tonight. That was huge."

Gray (1-1) allowed two runs in a 31-pitch first inning in his 100th career start before settling down. Relying heavily on sharp breaking pitches, Gray gave up just one more run the rest of the way, while striking out eight in six innings to give him wins against all 14 other AL teams in his career.

"When he's punching guys out, that's the sign that Sonny is Sonny," catcher Stephen Vogt said. "He's an ace and aces go out there and punch people out. That's what he did tonight."

Chad Pinder added a homer in the fourth inning against Velazquez (0-1), who had a rough first start after spending his first seven years as a pro in the Mexican League.

Staked to a 2-0 lead before taking the mound in his major league debut, the 28-year-old Velazquez fell behind just four batters into the game when he allowed a two-run homer to Lowrie and a solo shot to Davis for Oakland's first back-to-back homers of the season.

"I thought there might be a little bit better command in the strike zone," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "There were some pitches that stayed up in the middle of the plate that they made him pay for. First time out for him, not making any excuses. This is not a 21-year-old coming up making his debut. It was just more the command within the strike zone."

After Boston tied the game in the fourth on a solo shot by Mitch Moreland, the A's went back ahead in the bottom half when Trevor Plouffe hit an RBI double and Pinder followed with a two-run homer on the next pitch to make it 6-3.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: LHP David Price (elbow) and 3B Pablo Sandoval (knee) will begin rehab assignments at Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday. Price is expected to throw 85 to 90 pitches and could be activated from the DL next week.

"Tomorrow is a big day for him in seeing how he comes out, the number of pitches thrown," Farrell said.

Athletics: 1B Yonder Alonso sat out after being removed from the game Wednesday in Seattle with a sore left knee. He had an MRI on Thursday that showed no structural damage and will likely miss at least a couple of days. ... RHP Daniel Mengden (foot) allowed two runs in six innings and RHP John Axford (shoulder) pitched one scoreless innings in a rehab assignment for Triple-A Nashville.

CAUGHT ON BASES

A's leadoff hitter Rajai Davis had a rough night on the bases. He was caught stealing second after leading off the game with a single and then was thrown out at third trying for a triple in the third. Davis beat the throw from center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and was initially called safe. But his foot came off the base momentarily on the slide and he was tagged by Deven Marrero. The play was overturned on replay.

TOUGH UMP

Home plate umpire Marty Foster took a hard foul ball off the mask in the third inning that left him stumbling before Boston catcher Christian Vazquez steadied him. After being checked by the trainer, Foster stayed in the game.

EMPTY HOUSE

The attendance of 12,016 was the smallest for a Red Sox game in Oakland since the A's drew 8,221 for a game on May 3, 1999.

UP NEXT

Boston's Chris Sale (4-2) goes for his eighth straight double-digit strikeout game in the second game of the series. Sale already has one streak of eight straight double-digit strikeout games in 2015 for the White Sox. The only other player with at least 10 strikeouts in eight straight starts was Pedro Martinez for Boston in 1999. Kendall Graveman (2-2) starts for the A's.

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

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USATSI

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

OAKLAND — Matt Olson is aware of the company he’s keeping in the A’s record books.

His reaction is a mix of reverence and a shrug-of-the-shoulders type humbleness.

That’s the personality of the A’s rookie first baseman. Even as the conversation about him and his awe-inspiring home run pace grows louder, he remains the same steady, grounded presence.

“I’m happy for him,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “The guy’s worked his butt off. He’s the same today as was when he first got called up.”

Olson cleared the fences once again Friday night, his two-run homer off Nick Martinez in the second inning helping the A’s to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. At this point, it’s much more newsworthy when Olson doesn’t homer than when he does.

He’s crammed 24 homers into just 57 games this season. Taking into account his first call-up last September, and Olson’s 24 homers over the first 68 games of his career are the second-most in the history of major league baseball over that span to open a career. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger also hit 24 and only the White Sox’s Jose Abreu, with 25, hit more over his first 68.

Olson’s 13 homers in September are the most by any rookie in major league history for the month, and there’s still eight games left in it. But Olson’s hot streak dates back to Aug. 27. He’s hit a major league-best 16 homers in 23 games since then.

Among rookies in A’s history, only Mark McGwire (49) in 1987 and Jose Canseco (33) in 1986 have hit more than Olson’s 24. But neither Bash Brother, nor any other player in Oakland history, ever hit 15 homers in a 21-game span as Olson recently did.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Olson said before Friday’s game. “I grew up with a Mark McGwire poster on my wall. It’s a little surreal.”

Who saw this coming?

Olson went 2-for-21 without a single RBI in his first taste of the bigs last September. Then he shuttled five times between Triple-A and the majors this season before getting called up once again Aug. 8 and being told he’d get a shot as the A’s regular first baseman with Yonder Alonso having been traded. The constant shuttling took its toll, though Olson never let on about that publicly to reporters.

“You could see (the frustration),” said Ryan Christenson, his manager at Triple-A. “When he walks in and you tell him ‘You’re getting sent up,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, how many days is it for this time?’ He wouldn’t voice it necessarily, but you could sense it.”

Olson, with help from Bush and others, made an adjustment coming into this season. He began holding his hands out farther away from his body to begin his swing. With his 6-foot-5 frame, Olson had found himself getting jammed inside. Then in trying to adjust to that, he couldn’t square up pitches on the outer half.

“Now, his hands are firing from where he wants them to,” Bush said. “He doesn’t have to fight. You want your hands to have a clean path. Now he can stay in there, stay behind the ball, let his hands work for him.”

Olson, a 23-year-old from Lilburn, Ga., takes this sudden burst of success — and attention — in stride.

“I’ve been hit with so many stats here in the past week, I can’t even keep track of who’s done what, and honestly what I’ve done,” he said. “I kind of try to ignore all that.”

That’s OK. Others are taking plenty of notice.

 

Kaval calls A's ballpark plan 'as big a project' as Oakland has seen

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AP

Kaval calls A's ballpark plan 'as big a project' as Oakland has seen

OAKLAND — A’s president Dave Kaval took part in a fan Q&A session Friday at the Coliseum as part of the team’s Fan Appreciation Weekend.

Here’s some bits and pieces from the session, which was moderated by A’s radio broadcaster Ken Korach:

—Would the A’s re-consider the Coliseum site for a new ballpark if the Peralta location ultimately doesn’t work out?

Kaval: “We’re 100 percent focused on Peralta. We think it can be a dynamic location, and we’re excited about engaging the community. .. But we’re not abandoning East Oakland.”

To that end, Kaval emphasized once again the A’s ambition for the Coliseum site — if all of the current professional teams do in fact bolt the location — to eventually house a youth sports academy with baseball fields and other facilities.

“Wouldn’t it be something to have more home-grown players playing at our (new) ballpark?”

—What other ballparks might be inspirations for design of the venue?

“I think the two guiding principles we have, are, 1) that it’s an intimate ballpark. Not a bad seat in the house. No nosebleeds. Think Fenway or Wrigley (plans are for a roughly 35,000 seat stadium). And 2) build something uniquely Oakland. Something that feels like Oakland, whether it’s an Oaklandish store (built in to the stadium), or the foodie culture …”

—Addressing how city and county funds might be utilized, Kaval emphasized that the ballpark itself will be privately financed, as has been stated before. He mentioned public funds being used for infrastructure (also a long-established idea), including possible enhancements to the Lake Merritt BART station, which is a short walk from the proposed stadium location.

“We’ll work together with the county, with the city, with (the) Peralta (Community College District). This is as big a project as the city has ever seen, a massive coordinating effort.”

—As Kaval told NBC Sports California in this story last week, the A’s plan to retain a good chunk of their current young core of talent to be the cornerstone players once the new stadium opens. Their target move-in date is Opening Day, 2023. That likely means sinking money into long-term extensions for players who will be arriving at, or nearing, their free agency years. Kaval mentioned the Cleveland Indians of the early 90’s as an example of a team opening a new stadium with a home-grown group of stars. Billy Beane, the head of the A’s baseball operations, has made the same comparison in the past.

— The A’s plan to build substantial parking, but the idea is for the new ballpark to be “(public) transit-first, like AT&T Park and Fenway,” Kaval said. … “It’s gonna take cars off the road.”

Having said that, Kaval added that the A’s will aim to preserve the tailgating culture with the parking that they do provide.