Athletics

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's starting second half with win

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's starting second half with win

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND — Game time arrived at the Coliseum on Friday night, and Sonny Gray took the mound in an A’s uniform.

Then he showed exactly why he’s such a hyped-up trade target.

The right-hander continued a midseason hot streak on the mound, firing six scoreless innings as the A’s hung a 5-0 defeat on the Cleveland Indians to open up the season’s second half.

In the minds of many, the hourglass is running out fast on Gray’s time in green and gold. He’s been linked to several different pitching-hungry contenders, and the speculation only heated up after lefty Jose Quintana was dealt from the White Sox to the Cubs, leaving Gray as the best starting pitcher available who is team-controlled for the next two seasons.

A bogus report even surfaced Friday, about an hour before first pitch, that Gray had been scratched, fueling speculation that perhaps he had been dealt. It was quickly shot down by the A’s.

But his performance Friday only increases his attractiveness to buyers. Gray struck out five, walked one and allowed just two hits, lowering his ERA to 3.72. Over his past four starts, Gray is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA.

RETURN OF RAJAI: Rajai Davis, nearly a World Series hero for the Indians last fall after his Game 7 homer off Aroldis Chapman, went deep against his former club Friday. That was one of two homers the A’s hit in the fifth to open up a 4-0 lead. Yonder Alonso, fresh off his first All-Star appearance, hit his 21st of the season three batters later.

AGGRESSIVNESS ON THE BASES: Manager Bob Melvin talked before the All-Star break of the need for Oakland to show better base running. He got it Friday. In the third, Matt Joyce doubled and Davis scored all the way from first. Joyce took the opportunity to break for third on the throw, and that aggressiveness put him in position to score on Marcus Semien’s sacrifice fly. In the sevneth, Matt Chapman stole another run for the A’s by scoring on a wild pitch that didn’t skip very far away from Indians catcher Yan Gomes.

FOLLOWING THE BLUEPRINT: By jumping out to an early lead, and with Gray’s strong six-inning outing, it set up the A’s late-inning bullpen combo of Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle and Santiago Casilla. They blanked the Indians over the final three innings, and the A’s opened the second half with a shutout.

NO FACTOR: Melvin talked before the game about Cleveland’s dominant bullpen. But by getting to starter Carlos Carrasco for five runs over 6 1/3 innings, the A’s didn’t let the Tribe’s bullpen play a role in this one.

HELP ON THE WAY?: There was encouraging news on the injury front for the A’s as the second half gets underway. Utility man Chad Pinder is scheduled to run the bases Saturday at the Coliseum to test his strained left hamstring. If that goes well, he’ll likely begin a minor league rehab assignment right after that.

The A’s have been without reliever Ryan Dull for nearly two months due to a strained right knee, but he’s scheduled to throw a simulated game Saturday, and he too seems close to a rehab assignment. Dull’s goal is to be back by the end of July.

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

OAKLAND — Bruce Maxwell’s gesture to take a knee during the national anthem Saturday night at the Coliseum was no knee-jerk reaction by the A’s catcher.

It was something he’s considered for a long time, balancing his own personal convictions to make a statement with how it might affect his teammates and organization.

Think it was bold of Maxwell to become the first player in baseball to kneel during the anthem, in protest of racial discrimination and the inflammatory remarks of President Trump? It took just as much guts to stand before his teammates, manager Bob Melvin and GM David Forst and explain why he felt he needed to do it.

He did so in a pregame meeting Saturday that made for a degree of discomfort in the room, but also seemed to have played out in a healthy way.

“I didn’t want them to sugarcoat or aid me when it comes to the media and their personal feelings,” Maxwell said, “because the whole point of this is the ability to protest (based on) our personal beliefs and our personal choices.”

Many athletes have been critical of the President, with things intensifying across the sports landscape Saturday after Trump, among other things, withdrew an invitation for the Warriors to visit the White House and harshly criticized athletes who have knelt during the anthem, saying they should be booted off their teams.

After blasting Trump on both Instagram and Twitter, Maxwell took the field for the anthem and took the action that will define him in the eyes of the baseball world. Maxwell had been wanting to make a statement in some way. He said he and his sister dealt with racial discrimination growing up. Watching Trump’s rally play out in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. on Friday further persuaded Maxwell to finally do so.

“This goes beyond the black community, it goes beyond the Hispanic community, because right now we’re having … a racial divide in all types of people,” said Maxwell, who is African American. “It’s being practiced from the highest power we have in this country and it’s basically saying it’s OK to treat people differently. And my kneeling, the way I did it, was to symbolize the fact that I’m kneeling for a cause. But I’m in no way or form disrespecting my country or my flag.”

A’s outfielder Mark Canha stood next to Maxwell during the anthem with his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, a show of support. Canha said he’s considered kneeling before in protest himself but had chosen not to. As he listened to Maxwell address the team, Canha wasn’t going to let his teammate make his statement on his own.

“I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that’s going on in this country right now,” Canha said. “I felt like every fiber of my being was telling me that he needed a brother today.”

Canha added that he sensed some “discomfort” in the room as Maxwell addressed the team. But he also said there was support.

“It was an open forum to ask him questions. It was as articulate as I’ve seen him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “This wasn’t an emotional thing just today for him. … I think he handled it really well and everybody was comfortable after the session. I’m proud of him for the fact he went about it the way he did.”

Maxwell, who was born in Germany while his father served in the Army over there, said he will continue to kneel for the anthem. He doesn’t expect his teammates to do the same, only to stick to what they believe in.

“I have plenty of family members, including my father, who have bled for this country,” Maxwell said. “At the end of the day, this the best country on the planet. My hand over my heart symbolized that I am, and will forever be, an American citizen. But my kneeling is what’s getting the attention because I’m kneeling for the people that don't have a voice.”

MLB issues statement on A's Bruce Maxwell kneeling during national anthem

MLB issues statement on A's Bruce Maxwell kneeling during national anthem

A's catcher Bruce Maxwell made history Saturday night in Oakland. The 26-year-old became the first player in big-league history to kneel during the national anthem. 

Below is the official statement from Major League Baseball:

Major League Baseball has a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions. We believe that our game will continue to bring our fans, their communities and our players together.

MLB media services contributed to this report