Instant Replay: Cotton tosses gem, A's blank Royals in series opener


Instant Replay: Cotton tosses gem, A's blank Royals in series opener


KANSAS CITY – Rising to the occasion in front of a packed crowd for the Royals’ home opener, Jharel Cotton delivered his finest start as a major leaguer.

The rookie limited the home team to two hits over seven innings as the A’s blanked Kansas City 2-0 to open a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium. Coming off a lackluster first start against the Angels, Cotton summoned the poise and command that marked his impressive September debut last season.

He was particularly dialed in with his changeup, getting Royals to chase his go-to offering all game. The odd 3:15 p.m. start (local time) made for mid-game shadows in front of the mound that made things no easier for hitters.

Cotton tied his career-high in innings pitched and enjoyed his first scoreless outing as a big leaguer. He struck out six and walked three.

The A’s got the only runs they would need on Khris Davis’ two-run homer off Ian Kennedy (0-2) in the fourth.

The afternoon began in emotional fashion for the Royals, who honored pitcher Yordano Ventura with a lengthy pregame ceremony. Ventura died in an offseason car crash in the Dominican Republic.

Starting pitching report

The Royals never advance a runner past second off Cotton (1-1). He struck out the side in the fifth, getting the Royals to wave at fastballs and off-speed stuff out of the zone. He benefited from a 5-4-3 double play to end the second and pitched around a leadoff walk in the seventh.

Bullpen report

The relief corps picked up where Cotton left off to salt away his victory. Santiago Casilla struck out the side in the eighth. With lefties due up for two of Kansas City’s first three hitters in the ninth, manager Bob Melvin called on Sean Doolittle for the ninth. A walk and a single, mixed in with strikeouts of Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer put runners on the corners with two outs. But Doolittle got former Athletic Brandon Moss swinging to end it.

At the plate

Davis got aggressive on a 3-0 count against Kennedy and hit a towering shot to right-center that rode the jet stream and carried over the wall for a two-run shot, his fourth homer of the season. The only other players with four homers to start the day were the Royals’ Salvador Perez and Houston’s George Springer.

In the field

The A’s missed out on a double play in the sixth on a replay reversal, as video showed Trevor Plouffe pulled his foot off the second-base bag while trying to make the turn. The third baseman was shifted over behind second base for the start of the play. Cotton got out of the inning unscored upon anyway.

Up next

After a day off Tuesday, the A’s and Royals resume this three-game series with a 5:15 p.m. game Wednesday. Andrew Triggs (1-0, 0.00), coming off a strong first start of the season, goes for the A’s with Jason Hammel (0-0, 5.40) throwing for Kansas City.

Vogt's defensive cameo comes straight out of left field

Vogt's defensive cameo comes straight out of left field

OAKLAND — Stephen Vogt made an unexpected appearance in left field Wednesday night, and his performance got approval from a pretty good outfield authority.

Former A’s teammate Josh Reddick was watching from the Houston Astros’ dugout and thought the catcher-by-trade handled himself very well.

“I was talking to (Houston manager) A.J. (Hinch) and I said, ‘It’s gonna be interesting because you know at least one ball’s gonna get to him,’” Reddick said. “You start laughing because four of the five that were hit that inning were hit to him.”

With the A’s bench short-handed, manager Bob Melvin sent Vogt to left after he pinch-hit for Rajai Davis, and indeed Vogt got a workout throughout the top of the eighth. That added a bit of levity to a 5-1 loss that otherwise provided the A’s very little to cheer about.

They were bottled up by Astros right-hander Mike Fiers and four relievers as the Astros won their ninth in a row at the Coliseum and their third straight in this four-game series. A’s starter Sean Manaea was rolling through five scoreless innings before Houston blitzed him for three runs in the sixth. The Astros tacked on a couple more late runs against Oakland’s bullpen and that was enough on a night the A’s mustered just four hits total.

After Vogt delivered an RBI groundout that scored the A’s only run in the seventh, Melvin wanted to keep Vogt’s left-handed bat in the lineup, so he asked the veteran catcher if he could handle left.

“I said yeah, absolutely,” Vogt said.

It’s easy to forget that Vogt came up through the Tampa Bay Rays’ system playing a lot of outfield, and he played more than a dozen games in the outfield in 2014 for the A’s, mostly in right.

He sure got tested. The Astros’ first four hitters of the eighth all hit balls in Vogt’s direction. He got a routine fly from Brian McCann, a difficult low liner off the bat of Yuli Gurriel that he smothered for a single, a double from Alex Bregman that he did a good job cutting off and a sacrifice fly to the warning track from Jake Marisnick.

“I had the adrenaline shot run up and I was loose and ready to go,” Vogt said. “Obviously I was a little more focused than probably your average outfielder out there. I’m glad the first one came to me, otherwise I would have been sweatin’ it for a while.”

Vogt has lost time recently behind the plate against right-handers to Josh Phegley, who has done an effective job controlling the running game. And though you shouldn’t by any means expect to see Melvin running Vogt to the outfield often, you also shouldn’t assume it won’t happen at all.

At some point, the A’s figure to call up catcher Bruce Maxwell as part of the crop of young players they’re trying to give more time too. If the left-handed hitting Maxwell were to share catching duties with Phegley, and if the A’s were to trade Yonder Alonso (again, we’re talking ‘ifs’ here), it’s conceivable Vogt’s left-handed bat could be put to use at spots other than catcher, perhaps at first base or, in a pinch, even the outfield.

His old teammate thinks he could pull it off.

“I remember him playing in right in ’14 when I was (injured),” Reddick said. “He did a pretty good job out there, it’s not like he’s foreign to it. He knows what he’s doing.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's third straight loss to Astros

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's third straight loss to Astros


OAKLAND — As swiftly as the A’s appeared to grab some momentum by sweeping the Yankees, it was snatched from their grasp.

The Houston Astros have taken the first three games of this mid-week four-gamer at the Coliseum, and the A’s will have to win Thursday afternoon’s finale to avoid being on the other end of a sweep.

They generated barely a whisper offensively in a 5-1 loss Wednesday night, advancing just one runner as far as third base. Mike Fiers (5-2), who’s come on strong for an Astros rotation that’s been decimated by injuries, held Oakland to three hits over six innings. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in four June starts.

Sean Manaea (6-4) was rolling along for the A’s until the sixth, when the Astros broke a scoreless tie with five hits and three runs off the lefty. Manaea wound up taking his first loss since May 15.

Striking quick: It was 0-0 when the Astros opened the sixth with three consecutive singles. Jose Altuve got things going, then Carlos Correa singled to center and advanced to second on Jaycob Brugman’s throw that went through to third, putting two runners in scoring position. Evan Gattis drove both home with a single to center, and he would score on Jake Marisnick’s single. That was all the offense Houston would need.

Alonso provides a spark: Yonder Alonso, in a fierce fight to win the All-Star vote and be the American League’s starting first baseman, doubled in the seventh and scored on Stephen Vogt’s groundout for the A’s only run.

Outfield arms: The A’s started Rajai Davis in left and Matt Joyce returned to the lineup in right after missing Tuesday with back tightness. Joyce did well to hold Brian McCann to a single in the fourth, retreaving his drive to the right field corner and firing it back to the infield. Davis kept a run from scoring in the third when he fielded Nori Aoki’s single and fired it back to the infield to keep Marisnick from scoring. That sequence was noteworthy given how often opponents have been taking the extra base on Khris Davis when he plays left.

Chapman still day-to-day: As the A’s look to avoid a four-game sweep Thursday, it’s unclear if they’ll have third baseman Matt Chapman back in the lineup. The rookie missed his third game in a row with an infection in his left knee. Manager Bob Melvin said the swelling in Chapman’s knee has gone down, but Melvin was non-specific on Chapman’s return.

“If it’s not tomorrow, hopefully it’s (the) Chicago (series this weekend).”

Stephen Vogt, Mr. Utility: The A’s were working with a two-man bench with Chapman out, which led to catcher Stephen Vogt making his first appearance in the outfield in three seasons. After pinch-hitting for left fielder Rajai Davis in the seventh, Vogt assumed left field duties in the top of the eighth and was immediately put through a workout. The first four Houston batters of the inning all hit balls toward left field, and Vogt more than held his own, including retreating to the warning track to haul in Jake Marisnick’s sacrifice fly and cutting off Alex Bregman’s double.