A's lineup: Cespedes in CF, Hicks at 1B

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A's lineup: Cespedes in CF, Hicks at 1B

The A's are 10-3 since June 12, which ties them for the best record in Major League Baseball with the Texas Rangers. Manager Bob Melvin is shaking up the lineup considerably. Athletics (36-38) lineupWeeks 2B
Hicks 1B
Reddick RF
Cespedes CF
Inge 3B
Smith LF
Gomes DH
Norris C
Pennington SS
Instant analysisYoenis Cespedes returns to the outfield for the first time since May 13 in Colorado, the game he re-aggravated his hamstring. He will be playing center field with Coco Crisp getting a day off. Brandon Hicks is getting the start at first base instead of Brandon Moss, who has yet to receive a game off since he joined the A's. Hicks has never played first base in his Major League career, but he played three games there in the Minor Leagues. Derek Norris returns to the lineup after Kurt Suzuki got the start at catcher on Monday. Norris' last at-bat was a three-run walk-off homer. Top of the orderJemile Weeks returns to the top of the order. He has started 57 games as the leadoff hitter. He hit .216 (8 for 37) with two doubles, and three RBIs while batting second. Brandon Hicks will bat second. Melvin likes Hicks' chances against left-handed pitcher Jason Vargas. Hicks has two hits since joining the A's. Both of them are doubles, and they happen to be the first two extra-base hits of his career. Heart of the orderReddick and Cespedes remain in the third and fourth spots in the lineup. Reddick is batting .400 (2 for 5) in his career against Vargas. Cespedes is 1 for 4, but hit a mammoth home run against him on April 6. Bottom of the orderSmith will be getting another start in the outfield. He also remains in the lineup against a left-handed pitcher. Smith who was known as a platoon hitter when the A's traded for him, has hit two of his last four home runs against left-handed pitching. Six of his 59 career home runs have come against lefties. Smith has hit safely in his last seven road games. Derek Norris has collected a hit in his last two starts, including his first career home run. He is 3 for 12, with two runs, four RBIs and three strikeouts since joining the A's. Mariners (31-44) lineup Ichiro DH
Gutierrez CF
Seager 3B
Montero C
Smoak 1B
Saunders LF
Wells RF
Ackley 2B
Ryan SS

Reddick gets best of old roommate Healy, and the A's

Reddick gets best of old roommate Healy, and the A's

HOUSTON — Enduring a five-game losing streak is tough enough on its own.

Watching a former teammate play a part in prolonging the misery is worse.

Josh Reddick wasn’t the most dominant player on the field Friday for the Astros, but he picked his spots to make his presence felt, and that added a little salt to the wound for the A’s in a 9-4 defeat that was their fifth in a row. They’ve now lost 10 straight times to Houston.

Reddick was mad at himself after not making the play on Ryon Healy’s double in the sixth inning. He got another chance in the eighth and robbed his former roommate with a terrific catch as he slammed into the wall to end the inning. That stranded two runners and preserved what was a 7-4 lead at the time.

“Any time you’re playing against your former team you wanna do well against them. Beating them makes it a little bit sweeter,” Reddick said. “But when you can make a catch against a guy you became pretty good buddies with in a tight situation, it adds more to that.”

After Healy got his first big league call-up last July, and before the A’s traded Reddick to the Dodgers on Aug. 1, Reddick invited the rookie to move into his house as he cut his teeth in the bigs.

“I’m going to be giving Ryon a lot of crap, I guess you could say,” Reddick said afterward. “He gave me a little signal and finger wave and shook his head on the (double). I got him back and a little bit of payback.”

Reddick, who signed a four-year $52 million free agent deal with Houston in the offseason, was a pest to the A’s in more unconventional ways too. Twice he reached base on catcher’s interference calls when his bat hit the mitt of Stephen Vogt, another of Reddick’s closest friends on the A’s. It happened in the bottom of the first and contributed to the Astros’ three-run rally that tied the game off Jharel Cotton after the A’s had grabbed a 3-0 lead on Khris Davis’ three-run homer.

Vogt talked about both interference plays with mild disgust, more upset with the situation itself than Reddick personally.

“Typically I’m pretty far back behind the batter," Vogt said. “Reddick, I guess, has a pretty long swing when he’s trying to go the other way. … It’s just one of those freak things that obviously I’m not real thrilled about. It’s just frustrating. You don’t see it very often. It’s not really how you swing the bat typically, but he does a good job going the other way, and it’s on me. I’ve gotta make sure I’m far enough back and not reaching for the ball.”

As for Reddick’s important catch in the eighth, Vogt said:

“It’s hard to see him in a different uniform, and I know he loved it here as well. It’s hard to see him playing against us 19 times. To see him making catches like that, it’s not very much fun when he’s not wearing green.”

However, the A’s have more pressing issues than getting stung by old friends. They’ve struck out 57 times over the past five games, and with each day that passes, it’s increasingly clear how much they miss the speed and playmaking ability of center fielder Rajai Davis, as well as the offensive production of shortstop Marcus Semien. Both are on the disabled list, Davis for the short term with a strained hamstring and Semien likely for a couple of months due to wrist surgery.

Cotton wasn’t sharp, allowing a career-high 10 hits and failing to protect two early leads he was given. Those are the growing pains that will come for a rookie pitcher. What the A’s can’t afford are three-error nights like they had Friday and continuing to whiff at their current rate.

“When we went through our winning streak, we played real clean games, and now we’re a little shoddy,” manager Bob Melvin said. “There’s a psychological play that goes with that. When you’re not making plays and giving extra outs, it makes it tougher on pitchers and tougher mentally.”

Instant Replay: Davis goes deep twice, but A's get sloppy in loss to Astros

Instant Replay: Davis goes deep twice, but A's get sloppy in loss to Astros

BOX SCORE

HOUSTON – Khris Davis’ heroics only stretch so far.

The A’s slugger did all he could to keep his team in Friday night’s game, slamming two homers and driving in four runs, but it wasn’t enough as Oakland fell 9-4 in the opener of a three-game series against the Astros, who have won 10 in a row over Oakland.

That’s five losses in a row for the A’s, who got off to the kind of start Friday that suggested they might break back into the win column. With two aboard, Davis lit into a pitch from Charlie Morton and drove a three-run homer to right-center in the first.

But the early offense wasn’t enough to boost A’s starter Jharel Cotton, who gave up a career-high 10 hits and six runs over 4 1/3 innings. Only three of the runs were earned, due to three A’s errors, including a bizarre two catchers’ interference calls on Stephen Vogt, both with former teammate Josh Reddick batting.

Nevertheless, Cotton gave up too much hard contact. Davis’ second homer, a solo shot to right in the third, put the A’s ahead 4-3, but the Astros would come back to tie it in the fourth and take the lead for good with two runs in the fifth to send them on their way.

Morton struck out a career-high 12 over seven innings. All told, the A’s whiffed a total of 14 times, giving them a staggering 57 strikeouts over the past five games alone. Carlos Correa, Evan Gattis and Yuli Gurriel all drove in two runs for the American League West-leading Astros.

Starting pitching report

Cotton (2-3) heaved 30 pitches in a three-run first that had to be frustrating for him. It included the first of two catchers’ interference calls with Reddick batting. Cotton also got called for a balk when the ball slipped out of his hands while he was on the mound. With two outs, Carlos Beltran beat out an RBI infield single to the left side. Then Gurriel singled home a run and Gattis lofted a fly ball down the right field line that landed just fair and went for a run-scoring ground rule double. Cotton was trying to keep it a tie game in the fifth when Gattis got to him for an RBI single past Adam Rosales at shortstop to put Houston ahead 5-4.

Bullpen report

Cesar Valdez gave up three runs over three innings, as the Astros padded their lead in the late going.

At the plate

Davis’ two homers gives the A’s 29 for the month of April, the most they’ve hit in April since 2006, when they had 34. But the strikeouts are a mounting problem, and the A’s need to start finding more consistent sources of offense.

In the field

Reddick hurt the A’s with two hits and reached base four times overall, as he became just the seventh player in major league history to reach twice in one game on catcher’s infernece. But he also made an outstanding catch in right to rob Ryon Healy with two aboard in the eighth.

Attendance

The announced turnout was 28,472.

Up next

Andrew Triggs (3-1, 2.42) will look to rebound from a shaky start against Seattle, and he’ll be opposed by Joe Musgrove (1-1, 5.91) in Saturday’s 4:10 p.m. game.