Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Blackburn halts A's skid

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Blackburn halts A's skid


ANAHEIM — Paul Blackburn’s pitching style probably doesn’t wow A’s fans.

To appreciate his work, however, just look at the score and the position the A’s are in when he leaves the game.

The rookie turned in another stellar outing Saturday night, working 6 2/3 scoreless innings and setting the A’s up nicely for a 5-0 victory to snap a string of seven consecutive losses at Angel Stadium.

What an odd route the A’s took offensively. Their biggest hit of the night came from catcher and No. 9 hitter Dustin Garneau, who singled home two runs in his first game as an Athletic.

They got another run when Mark Canha swiped home on a double-steal attempt in the sixth, the A’s first steal of home since Carlos Gonzalez did it more than nine years ago.

The constant was Blackburn (3-1), who notched his fifth quality start in seven major league outings and lowered his ERA from 3.05 to 2.60. He held the Angels to five hits and didn’t issue a walk. He struck out just one, instead keeping his defenders busy and limiting the hard contact off the Angels’ bats.

He’s just the fourth pitcher in Oakland history to throw more than five innings in each of his first seven games, joining Willie Adams, A.J. Griffin and Bill Krueger.

Here’s five things to know as the A’s evened this three-game series at a game apiece:

RAJAI ON THE RUN: The veteran speedster continued his inspired play of late, going 2-for-5 and stealing three bases from the leadoff spot. He wasted no time, singling in the first, then stealing second and third and scoring on a wild pitch. Davis is hitting .339 with 15 runs and 13 stolen bases over his past 23 games. Yet he wasn’t the A’s biggest story on the base paths …

CANHA PULLS A SURPRISE: Davis was on first and Mark Canha on third when the A’s pulled a double steal in the sixth. Catcher Martin Maldanado’s throw went through to second, and Canha broke for home, executing the A’s first steal of home since Carlos Gonzalez did it June 22, 2008 against the Marlins.

THE NEW GUY CONTRIBUTES: Not only was Garneau calling pitches for the A’s fourth shutout of the sason, he chipped in with a two-out two-run single in the fourth that extended the A’s lead to 3-0. Garneau was claimed off waivers from Colorado on Friday, and he’s from Orange County, so it was a big night for him.

KEEPING THINGS IN CHECK: The Angels top five hitters can do some damage, but A’s pitchers held them to a 4-for-20 night combined. That included a quiet 1-for-4 night from noted A’s killer Mike Trout.

MAKING AN APPEARANCE: A’s bench coach Mark Kotsay, on a leave of absence while he spends time with his daughter Sienna during a medical issue, joined the A’s on Saturday and will also be on hand Sunday. He lives in nearby Rancho Santa Fe. Sienna Kotsay was hit by a tennis ball in her right eye and was experiencing partial vision loss in the eye. Her vision is improving, but there’s still no timetable for Kotsay to rejoin the A’s full-time.

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


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.

Could Franklin Barreto get a look in center field for A's?


Could Franklin Barreto get a look in center field for A's?

Don’t count out top prospect Franklin Barreto as a possibility for the A’s in center field.

It’s long been speculated that the middle infielder might eventually get a look in center, and the idea has at least been discussed in team circles. It’s tied partially to whether the A’s exercise their $6 million club option on Jed Lowrie and bring him back as their regular second baseman in 2018.

Regardless, the battle to be Oakland’s everyday center fielder will be one of the A’s most intriguing storylines next spring. Grady Fuson, a special assistant to general manager David Forst who spends much of the season evaluating the team’s farm system, discussed several of the team’s center field options in the latest A’s Insider Podcast.

So much revolves around the health of 22-year-old Dustin Fowler, one of three prospects the A’s received from the Yankees for Sonny Gray. He’ll spend the winter continuing to rehab from a devastating knee injury suffered in his very first major league game in June while still with New York.

The A’s are hopeful he’ll be ready for spring training and believe he can be a solution in center.

“Fowler certainly is the guy we made this trade for, and I think everybody, top to bottom, in the system is counting on him taking that spot,” Fuson said. “But we all know he’s been hurt. How he comes back, who knows? Boog (Powell’s) been doing a very good job for us. And there’s other options.”

The 21-year-old Barreto, who has split time between second and short this season at Triple-A and with the big club, played some center in the Venezuelan Winter League in 2015. He’s always talked with enthusiasm about the idea.

The A’s experimented with another highly touted young infielder, Yairo Munoz, in center field in the minors this season.

“(We’ve) had discussions about taking Munoz out there, which we’ve done,” Fuson said. “We’ve had discussions about maybe Franklin Barreto, depending on what happens at second here at end of the year, over the winter, and early in camp.”

Lowrie has enjoyed a very strong season with Oakland, and A’s executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane has said the team is seriously considering picking up his option. Having Barreto be an option in center could be a way to keep him in the majors in 2018 even if Lowrie returns at second base.

Fuson stressed that the idea of Barreto in center hasn’t advanced past the early-discussion phase. No decisions have been made.

What’s interesting is that, in a short time, the A’s have gone from scarce few center field options to suddenly having several. Powell and Fowler may enter the spring as front runners, but Munoz, Jaycob Brugman, Chad Pinder, Jake Smolinski and, perhaps, Barreto may all have a shot too.

The A’s also used their first-round pick in June on high school center fielder Austin Beck, who represents another option down the road.