Athletics

A's looking to halt skid against Iwakuma, Mariners

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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.

 

Aaron Judge breaks Mark McGwire's rookie record

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AP

Aaron Judge breaks Mark McGwire's rookie record

NEW YORK (AP) — Aaron Judge has broken Mark McGwire’s major league record for home runs by a rookie, going deep twice on Monday to raise his total to 50.

The Yankees slugger hit a two-run drive to right-center off Kansas City’s Jakob Junis in the third inning to tie the mark. He added a solo shot over the visitors’ bullpen in left in the seventh inning against Trevor Cahill.

Judge has 13 home runs in September and six in five games. He hit two home runs for the second straight day and has four multihomer games this month.

McGwire hit 49 homers for Oakland in 1987, breaking the previous mark of 38 set by the Boston Braves’ Wally Berger in 1930 and matched by Cincinnati’s Frank Robinson in 1956.

Judge is second in the major leagues behind Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, who has hit 57.

Maxwell's Army father: 'I’m right there with my baby' when it comes to anthem protest

Maxwell's Army father: 'I’m right there with my baby' when it comes to anthem protest

OAKLAND — Bruce Maxwell’s decision to kneel for the national anthem before A’s games has become a national story, and the reaction on social media has ranged from sincere appreciation to ugly rancor over his actions.

One person watching from afar in Alabama wasn’t surprised when Maxwell became the first major league baseball player to take a knee, in an effort to raise awareness of what the A’s catcher views as long-standing racial discrimination that remains in this country.

Bruce Maxwell Jr., said he raised his son to make a difference in matters such as these.

“You don’t have to be brave to do it. You have to care about society,” Maxwell Jr. said in a phone interview. “If I’m trying to raise my child to be a productive citizen, then everything he’s doing is normal to me. That tells me that I did my job as a Dad, because he cares about society. And although he’s the one percent who made it in the world of baseball, he’s willing to sacrifice himself.

“You wanna talk about a proud Dad? I’m proud, buddy.”

The catcher has received death threats geared toward his father via social media, according to Maxwell Jr. The younger Maxwell didn’t mention those when he addressed the media Sunday afternoon, but he did say he’s received some racial slurs and people wishing him injury on the diamond.

Within the A’s clubhouse, Maxwell’s teammates generally gave carefully worded responses when asked about the topic of him kneeling for the anthem. Some were more expansive in their responses than others. But the common thread was a respect for Maxwell’s right to protest, and the manner in which he’s doing it.

“(Kneeling during the anthem) doesn’t bother me if guys are being respectful,” second baseman Jed Lowrie said Sunday morning. “You look at what Bruce did yesterday with his hand over his heart (while kneeling). He’s a guy from a military family, a guy who obviously has a strong respect for this country.”

Maxwell’s father served six years in the Army. He was stationed in Germany when Bruce was born there in 1990. As the two have talked over the past couple of years, the elder Maxwell sensed his son was getting closer to making some kind of social statement.

“What people don't see, or choose not to see, (is) you have minorities dying at the gun of police officers,” Maxwell’s father said. “And being what it is, whether they’re at fault or not at fault, whatever the case may be, it’s an epidemic.”

Maxwell, who is African American and said he and his sister experienced discrimination while growing up in Alabama, plans to continue kneeling for the anthem before every game. He’s got a strong backer in teammate Mark Canha, who on Sunday stood next to a kneeling Maxwell with his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, a scene that also played out Saturday night. All other A’s players, coaches and staff on the field for the anthem remained standing.

Unlike Saturday, a security guard stood near Maxwell during Sunday’s anthem.

Before Saturday’s game, Maxwell met with the entire team to make them aware of his intentions to kneel and why he’s doing it. A’s starter Kendall Graveman came out of that meeting firmly in Maxwell’s corner.

“I think he’s opened our eyes to a lot of things that a lot of us in this clubhouse have never been exposed to,” Graveman said.

The elder Maxwell was a sounding board for his son leading up to the decision to kneel for the anthem.

“I’ve told him, ‘Son, just be careful what you do.’ And he said ‘Daddy, I’m pretty sure what I want to do.’ So I’m right there with my baby. He’s 26 years old, but I’m right there with my baby.”