A's mission: Don't let early injuries derail the 2017 season

A's mission: Don't let early injuries derail the 2017 season

OAKLAND — The A’s are less than three weeks removed from playing under the Arizona sun and basking in the optimism that spring training provides.

How things have changed in a short time.

Already their resiliency is being tested by injuries, the most significant being Monday’s news that shortstop Marcus Semien will be lost until well into June, most likely, because of wrist surgery.

The losses on the scoreboard aren’t so damaging right now. A 7-0 defeat to Texas on Monday night leaves the A’s at 5-8, and certainly that’s no reason to panic.

The bigger challenge for the A’s right now, particularly for those veterans who were around for last year’s injury-marred 69-93 season, is not to let a feeling of hopelessness creep in early and affect the team’s collective psyche.

Last year the A’s set an Oakland record with 27 disabled list transactions. They’ve already used the D.L. eight times this year. Semien joined it Sunday and No. 1 starter Kendall Graveman went on the D.L. Monday with a strained shoulder that the A’s hope only sidelines him for one start.

The short-term mission for the A’s over the next couple of weeks: Keep things together, keep the .500 mark in sight and be in position so that the potential return of players like Graveman and fellow starter Sonny Gray can be difference-making additions.

Graveman said he’s not concerned about negative vibes taking hold in the season’s first month.

“It’s tough luck for a lot of guys,” Graveman said. “But hopefully Marcus is going to be OK. Sonny’s trending in the right direction. That’s a positive sign that maybe this year we’ll all be healthy toward the middle and end of the year, instead of everybody going downhill at the end.”

There’s a lot that needs to break right for that to become reality. Most importantly, the starting rotation needs to return to full strength. Gray, on the shelf with a strained lat muscle, threw 2 2/3 innings in an extended spring training game Monday. He gave up a homer to his first batter but was sharper as the outing went along according to manager Bob Melvin, who watched the game on video.

Early May seems possible for Gray’s return. Graveman, who has a mild rotator cuff strain, has played catch in recent days and says he could get on a mound in the next couple of days. He, Melvin and general manager David Forst all expressed hope that Graveman will miss just one start before he’s eligible to come off the 10-day D.L. on April 25.

Graveman’s next turn in the rotation comes Thursday. The A’s have not announced a starter for that day.

The A’s entered this season hoping to turn the page from a health standpoint. Their tough luck early on is making that hard to do, but Melvin wasn’t looking to feel sorry for his team before Monday’s game.

“You look over at the other side who we’re playing,” he said of the Rangers. “(Closer Sam) Dyson just went on the DL, (Adrian) Beltre’s on the DL. So we’re not the only team. … You start out 10 days into the season or whatever with Marcus and Kendall having to go on the DL, that’s not ideal. But that’s where you rely on the depth and hopefully, knock wood, we don’t have anybody else we have to deal with.”

Forst, while acknowledging the injury misfortune, said he still likes the team the A’s can field right now.

“We’ve played well at times,” he said before Monday’s game. “Jharel (Cotton) has had some good starts, Andrew (Triggs) has pitched well. Sean (Manaea) pitched really well for five or so innings the other night. We have some really talented guys here, we can certainly compete in this division. It just takes a little chunk out of your depth every time somebody goes down, and makes it a little harder.”

That’s why the A’s need not look past the short term and just keep treading water for the time being. Eventually their roster could become whole again. And that would make a difference, provided they haven’t dug a hole they can’t climb out of.

 

A's lineup: In rare move, Melvin makes no changes vs Astros

A's lineup: In rare move, Melvin makes no changes vs Astros

PROGRAMMING NOTE: A's-Astros coverage begins at 4pm with Pregame Live on NBC Sports California and streaming right here.

After winning their fourth straight game on Tuesday, the A's are trotting out the same lineup Wednesday against the Astros.

Oakland A's:
1. Matt Joyce (L) LF
2. Matt Olson (L) RF
3. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
4. Khris Davis (R) DH
5. Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
6. Ryon Healy (R) 3B
7. Bruce Maxwell (L) C
8. Franklin Barreto (R) SS
9. Jaycob Brugman (L) CF
Jesse Hahn -- RHP

Houston Astros:
1. George Springer (R) CF
2. Josh Reddick (L) RF
3. Jose Altuve (R) 2B
4. Carlos Correa (R) SS
5. Brian McCann (L) C
6. Carlos Beltran (S) DH
7. Marwin Gonzalez (S) 3B
8. Yuli Gurriel (R) 1B
9. Norichika Aoki (L) LF
David Paulino -- RHP

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's streak-extending win over Astros

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's streak-extending win over Astros

BOX SCORE

The A’s took a noteworthy step toward changing the narrative in their recent history against the Houston Astros.

Coming through during clutch moments, both at the plate and on the mound, Oakland beat baseball’s best team 6-4 Tuesday at Minute Maid Park to run their winning streak to four.

Ryon Healy hit his first career grand slam to snap a 1-1 tie in the sixth, and starter Sean Manaea notched his first victory in seven career starts against the Astros, throwing 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball.

George Springer’s three-run homer off Liam Hendriks pulled Houston to within two runs in the ninth, but with two runners aboard, Santiago Casilla coaxed a 3-6-1 double play from Brian McCann to end it.

The A’s (35-42), who have stumbled so badly on the road for the majority of this season, moved to 4-0 on this six-game road trip and defeated the Astros (52-26) for just the second time in their past 17 meetings with them.

Key two-out rallies: They came in with a majors-worst .225 average with runners in scoring position, but the A’s delivered in some key at-bats and scored five of their six runs with two outs. Bruce Maxwell singled home Khris Davis in the second to get the A’s on the board. Then with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, with the score 1-1, Ryon Healy capped an eight-pitch at-bat with an opposite-field grand slam, his 18th homer of the season.

Making himself at home: Sean Manaea (7-4) flirted with danger throughout his 5 2/3 innings but wound up registering his first victory in seven career starts against Houston. He stranded two runners in scoring position in each of the first two innings, then wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth with minimal damage. With no outs and the bags filled, Manaea fell behind 3-0 to Evan Gattis. Gattis chased a low pitch that would have been ball four and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. A run scored on the play but that play defused the rally and Manaea escaped with just the one run scoring that kept it a 1-1 game. The lefty gave up nine hits, but he’s now allowed just one earned run over three career starts at hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park (16 IP).

Madson comes up clutch: Ryan Madson took two losses in four appearances at Minute Maid Park last season and allowed five earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. But manager Bob Melvin called on him in a crucial situation Tuesday, with two runners aboard and George Springer hitting in the sixth with the A’s up 5-1. Madson got Springer swinging on a 97 mile-per-hour fastball to end the inning and keep Houston from jumping back into the game after Oakland had scored four to command the lead. Madson retired all four batters he faced with three strikeouts.

Maxwell continues his roll: The A’s catcher went 3-for-4 and is 10-for-18 since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville. He also threw out Jose Altuve trying to steal second in the first.

Casilla slams the door: After Springer’s three-run shot in the ninth, Santiago Casilla entered and allowed singles to Altuve and Carlos Correa to bring the winning run to the plate. But Casilla retired pinch hitter Josh Reddick on a foul pop out and got McCann on the game-ending double play, getting over to cover first to cap the play.