A's looking to halt skid against Iwakuma, Mariners

iwakuma_hisashi_mariners.jpg

A's looking to halt skid against Iwakuma, Mariners

No one has been tougher to get on base against in the AL than Hisashi Iwakuma.

This could present problems for an Oakland Athletics team struggling at the plate.

The Seattle Mariners right-hander will try to send the Athletics a season-high fifth straight loss Friday night in the opener of a weekend series at Safeco Field.

Iwakuma (3-1, 1.61 ERA) has been among baseball's biggest surprises, leading the AL in opponent batting average (.168) and walks plus hits per inning pitched (0.76).

He uncharacteristically walked three Saturday but yielded one run over seven innings to gain an 8-1 victory at Toronto.

Seattle (16-19) has won his last five starts at home, including three this year in which Iwakuma has posted a 0.48 ERA. His stellar season began April 2 when he allowed one run over six innings with seven strikeouts in a 7-1 victory at Oakland, winning for the first time in three starts against the Athletics.

Slugger Yoenis Cespedes is 3 for 6 with two solo homers against Iwakuma. He and the Athletics (18-18) travel west after totaling eight runs and batting .205 while being swept in four games in Cleveland, capped by Thursday's 9-2 loss.

"They're playing great and can't do anything wrong and we're struggling," manager Bob Melvin said. "That's what happens."

Cespedes homered in the first game of the series before going 1 for 11 with four strikeouts in the final three. Jed Lowrie was 2 for 15 in the series, Derek Norris 2 for 11, John Jaso 2 for 10 and Eric Sogard 2 for 9 for the A's, who have seven players on the disabled list.

Oakland is batting .218 and averaging 2.6 runs in May, and Seattle can relate somewhat to those woes. The Mariners are hitting a major league-worst .199 this month, although they are 4-2.

Seattle has been winning thanks to mound efforts like Wednesday's by Felix Hernandez, who went eight innings as the Mariners avoided a third straight loss with a 2-1 victory at Pittsburgh.

While Hernandez is the unquestioned ace of the staff, Iwakuma is developing a reputation of his own that has given Seattle confidence.

"They're unbelievable," second baseman Dustin Ackley told the Mariners' official website. "Any time you go out there, you're like, 'Let's just get a couple runs and these guys are going to cruise.' They are probably, arguably, right now the two best starters in baseball."

Oakland has won all three games started by Daniel Straily (1-0, 5.94), who takes the mound Friday after giving up three runs over 5 1-3 innings and not getting a decision in Sunday's 5-4 victory over the Yankees.

The right-hander yielded four runs over 4 1-3 innings in his lone start against Seattle on Sept. 29. He also yielded two homers in five 2012 at-bats to Kendrys Morales, then with the Angels.

These clubs split their season-opening four-game set in Oakland. Lowrie went 6 for 13 with four doubles while Michael Morse was 6 for 16 with four homers for the Mariners.

Oakland has taken the last four meetings in Seattle.

 

Report: Rangers bring back Gomez on one-year deal

Report: Rangers bring back Gomez on one-year deal

OXON HILL, Md. -- Outfielder Carlos Gomez has agreed to an $11.5 million, one-year contract to remain with the Texas Rangers, according to two people familiar with the negotiations.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the agreement was subject to a physical and had not been announced.

Gomez, who turned 31 last weekend, figures to play center field in an outfield that includes Shin-Soo Choo in right and Nomar Mazara in left.

He was released by Houston in August, signed with Texas and hit .284 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 33 games. An All-Star in 2013 and '14 with Milwaukee, Gomez has a .257 average and 116 home runs in 10 big league seasons.

Gomez batted just .210 with five homers in 85 games this year for the Astros.

With the agreement, Texas is not likely to keep outfielder Ian Desmond, who also became a free agent.

Arrhythmic poetry to Bill King making Hall of Fame posthumously

Arrhythmic poetry to Bill King making Hall of Fame posthumously

Bill King would have found his entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame for winning the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting a satisfying but indisputably odd thing for him to receive 11 years after his death. He would have said, and I can guarantee this, “Well, my work must have dramatically improved in the last few years.”

And Hank Greenwald, Lon Simmons, Greg Papa and all his other broadcast partners would have laughed and nodded. King knew he was good and didn’t mind being recognized for it, but he wouldn’t miss the weird touch of being hailed for it after his passing.

Nor would he have missed the amusing notion that he won the award in his ninth time as a finalist. The A’s teams whose exploits he described for a quarter-century reached the postseason nine times but won the big only once, in 1989.

But there is an arrhythmic poetry in the notion that King’s final recognition went this way rather than while he was alive. The nation caught on to him late, if at all, and while he was the voice of all things Bay Area sports for 43 years between the Warriors, Raiders and A’s, he was happily non-telegenic, and thoroughly content with living outside the troika of national broadcasting circles (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago) of the time.

He did want to be thought of as he is today by a larger audience, because he was a man with a healthy respect for his own talent and work ethic, but he knew the deal when he took it, and he took it happily. He was allowed to be himself by three separate owners (which is three over the current national average, given that broadcasters are now given a daily party line that must be adhered to), and he took full advantage. Talent gets you that kind of freedom, and obstinacy in the face of control allows you to use it fearlessly.

And now it’s been noticed, ironically enough in the sport most people thought was his third best. The NBA’s Curt Gowdy Award, given since 1990, includes many of his contemporaries (Chick Hearn, Johnny Most, Al McCoy, Joe Tait, Bill Schonely, et. al.) but not him, and the NFL’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, given since 1989, is almost exclusively reserved for network TV announcers, though some of King’s radio compatriots (Buffalo’s Van Miller and Pittsburgh’s Myron Cope) have also won.

But baseball embraced the Internet vote first, and King got consistent support from Bay Area fans who kept his name alive through a number of failed attempts when the voting was done by the public; he won under a new system in which winners are selected by a 17-person panel, which many people thought was not his best constituency.

If King were alive and still active, he would have been properly appreciative, though one should not have been surprised had he pulled a Bob Dylan with the Nobel Prize people and skipped the induction ceremony next July: “Thanks for the award, but I’ll have been in New York the week before and I'm taking that weekend off to sit on the boat. Give (Hall of Fame director) Jeff Idelson a ‘Holy Toledo!’ for me, and pass that bottle over here.”

It’s how we would want him to want it, anyway.