Athletics

A's new-look middle infield clicking

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A's new-look middle infield clicking

SEATTLE -- The middle of the A's infield has undergone several in season modifications in 2012. The boldest shift came when the team acquired shortstop Stephen Drew via trade on August 20, and sent their previously untouchable second baseman Jemile Weeks to Triple-A Sacramento. As a result of the move, incumbent shortstop Cliff Pennington was shifted to second base. The large shakeup came as a surprise to many, but it has been yet another effective move by the Oakland Athletics front office. Since donning the white cleats Drew has started to turn his season around. After missing a total of 137 games with a fractured right ankle he sustained on July 27, 2011, Drew is starting to get back into the swing of things. He has reached base safely in 13 of his 15 games with the A's. "I'm feeling really good," Drew said. "It's been a long process coming back from injury overall. Now I don't even think about it, which is a good thing." Drew had been a bit rusty after missing the first 73 games of the 2012 season, but he is hitting .333 (6 for 18) in September after batting .205 in August. The A's were banking on his recovery when they pulled the trigger on the trade with the Diamondbacks. Drew, 29, is the Diamondbacks franchise leader in triples with 52, and his 776 hits with Arizona are third most all time for the organization."It's just been a lot more work not having any Spring Training," Drew said. "I didn't have that many games since I came back up here. For me I knew hitting and fielding would come, it was just more or less coming back from the injury."
RELATED: Bottom of order surging
Drew has a history with A's manager Bob Melvin and bench coach Chip Hale. Their votes of confidence in the shortstop, along with the work of the A's scouts, gave the organization enough valuable information to deem his acquisition beneficial. "Early on he was hitting into some tough luck, hitting balls right at people, but still drawing some tough walks," Melvin said. "Recently the ball has been dropping for him and he's hit some balls good, his batting practices have been better, he's feeling more and more like part of the team, all those things take some time."Drew had been with the Diamondbacks his entire career after being drafted by Arizona with the 15th overall pick in the first round in 2004. He says a change of scenery benefited him. "It's a great team to play for," Drew said of his new baseball home. "We're just having fun and playing hard every day." Since Drew joined the A's, Cliff Pennington has started to turn his season around as well. The new double play tandem is turning it around together. Pennington is hitting .545 (12-for-22) over his last seven games. His 4-for-4 performance on Friday was his fourth multi-hit effort in his last seven games. Pennington insists he hasn't changed a thing at the plate. "You go through streaks and unfortunately we went through a bad one for a while," Pennington said. "Not really any changes, just trying to get good at bats and right now and they are falling in. They weren't earlier."Pennington may have been a liability earlier in the season, but he is a streaky hitter and it looks like he is heating up. He hit just .197 in 82 games before going on the disabled list with left elbow tendonitis, in the 22 games since returning from the DL he is batting a much more palatable .294. Pennington says he feels much better but the left elbow tendonitis that landed him on the DL will likely bug him until the offseason.
"He's actually been swinging it quite a bit better, especially recently," Melvin said. "To see him drive balls that means his legs are underneath him, the bat head is getting out there and he is squaring balls up. A resurgent Pennington is a big boost for the A's. Last season he ranked fifth in the American League with a .348 batting average with runners in scoring position. He paced the A's with 148 games played and obtained career highs in hits (136), home runs (8), and RBI (58). "This guy was a big performer for us last year and got big hits for us," Melvin said. "It's one thing to get hits, it's another thing to square some balls up and feel good about what you are doing."Pennington has impressed his manager and teammates with his seamless conversion to second base. He has started each of his last 11 games at that position after making his previous 439 starts as a shortstop."It's huge," Drew said of Pennington. "For him to move over there and play as well as he has, it shows how skilled he can be." Meanwhile, Jemile Weeks remains with the River Cats as they take on the Reno Aces in a best-of-five Pacific Coast League playoff series. Including his postseason stats, Weeks is hitting .303 (17-for-56), with four doubles, 9 BB, 1 HR, and 11 RBI in 13 games since being optioned to Triple-A. The River Cats are facing elimination if they lose Saturday night's game.

A's give up four home runs, drop series opener to Orioles

A's give up four home runs, drop series opener to Orioles

BOX SCORE

BALTIMORE -- Adam Jones called it a game the Baltimore Orioles needed to win.

The center fielder set the early tone, and the rest of the team followed his lead.

Jones hit a pair of home runs, Jonathan Schoop added a three-run shot and Baltimore beat the Oakland Athletics 7-3 on Monday night. The Orioles won for the second time in six games, but they are still in the thick of the wild-card race.

"Adam's done that a lot and it never goes unnoticed or unappreciated or assumed, more importantly," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Jon obviously had a big blow there, but can't tell you how hard it is, as hard as Adam plays as long as he plays, and then mid-to-late August you're still able to do that. That's one of the things that separates Adam."

Wade Miley (7-10) held the A's to two runs, five hits and four walks over six-plus innings to pick up his first win at Camden Yards since June 17. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA against Oakland this season.

Jones tied a career high with four hits and is one home run shy of reaching 25 for the seventh consecutive season. Zach Britton got the final out with two runners on for his 11th save this season and his 60th in a row.

Baltimore beat Chris Smith (0-3) for the second time in 12 days. Smith allowed five runs and six hits over 4 1/3 innings - his shortest start of the season. He was pulled after allowing Schoop's three-run homer, which made it 5-1. Ryan Dull entered and allowed another homer by Jones.

"I always feel strong at this time of the season," Jones said. "It's called pacing myself. I've learned how to pace myself over the years."

Jed Lowrie homered for the A's, and Boog Powell hit his first career home run in the eighth inning, appropriately enough doing so in Baltimore, where an unrelated Boog Powell slugged 303 home runs and won the 1970 MVP.

"It didn't seem real," said Powell, who made his major league debut earlier this season with Seattle and was acquired in a trade earlier this month for Yonder Alonso.

The younger Powell is expected to meet his namesake for the first time Tuesday, according to MLB.com.

Welington Castillo responded for Baltimore with a solo home run in the eighth off Michael Brady that provided the 7-3 lead.

Oakland took a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI double by Matt ChapmanChad Pinder was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first on the play.

The Orioles tied it in the bottom half on a sacrifice fly by Mark Trumbo. Jones led off the fourth with a homer and Baltimore never trailed again.

"He's a good hitter for a reason. It's tough," Smith said about Jones. "You try to attack his zones, and it seems like I make a good pitch and he breaks his bat but he finds somehow to put it in the outfield."

MACHADO HONORED:
Manny Machado became the third Oriole to earn AL Player of the Week honors this season, joining Schoop (July 23) and Tim Beckham (Aug. 7). Machado batted .385 (10 for 26) with four home runs and 12 RBIs over six games.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Athletics: C Bruce Maxwell, who took a foul ball off his face mask Saturday at Houston, did not start for the second consecutive game. He entered as a pinch hitter in the seventh and went 0 for 2. . SS Marcus Semien left in the seventh with a wrist injury.

Orioles: SS J.J. Hardy (wrist) went 0 for 3 with a walk on Monday in his first rehabilitation game with Triple-A Norfolk.

UP NEXT:
Athletics: RHP Paul Blackburn (3-1, 3.46 ERA) received a no-decision after allowing four runs in 5 2/3 innings in his lone appearance against Baltimore on Aug. 11.

Orioles: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (5-8, 6.47 ERA) struggled in his previous outing against Seattle, when he was charged with six runs and eight hits over 4 1/3 innings. He is 4-1 with a 4.70 ERA in eight career starts against Oakland.

A's Cotton notches first big league victory in two months: 'He found out if...'

A's Cotton notches first big league victory in two months: 'He found out if...'

HOUSTON — No one questions the quality of stuff that Jharel Cotton takes to the mound.

According to A’s manager Bob Melvin, the key for his rookie starter is more an issue of mindset and aggressiveness.

Cotton was in attack mode Sunday after a wobbly first inning against the Houston Astros. The result was an encouraging six-inning outing that set the A’s on the path to a 3-2 victory that helped them avoid a three-game sweep at Minute Maid Park.

While the victory was important for his team’s overall psyche, Melvin also hopes it triggers some confidence for Cotton in how he can attack a dangerous lineup and have success.

“I think he found out if he throws the ball over the plate, it’s gonna allow him to stay in the game longer,” Melvin said. “He should take a lot out of this game, especially against a lineup like that. Knowing that if I’m throwing the ball over the plate, using a mix of pitches and I’m not afraid to use my fastball, that the results can be good. We’ve seen him pitch really good games because he’s got good stuff.”

Cotton (6-10) rang up his first major league victory since June 23 against the White Sox. That was before a blister on his thumb led to a stint on the disabled list. Since then, he’d struggled with walks, ill-timed homers, and generally enough turbulence to invite speculation on whether the A’s might skip him for a start or send him down.

He answered Sunday by holding the majors’ highest-scoring team to two runs on four hits over his six innings. That was after walking two in a 25-pitch first. Not since that scoreless outing against the White Sox back in June had Cotton surrendered less than four runs in a game.

A’s closer Blake Treinen, who recorded a six-out save and combined with fellow reliever Chris Hatcher to bring home the ‘W’ for Cotton, said watching Cotton tame the Astros lineup didn’t surprise him.

“I’d heard of him from before I was even (traded to the A’s), and I’ve seen his stuff. Sometimes as a young pitcher it just takes experience. When things are going really well, you don’t have to think.You just trust it.”

The A’s beat the Astros for just the third time in 15 games this season. On so many occasions, Houston has taken advantage of Oakland mistakes and forced the issue with aggressive baserunning. On Sunday, it was the A’s who dictated things in that fashion.

Center fielder Boog Powell, who went 3-for-4 with a walk from the leadoff spot, led the game off with a single against Brad Peacock (10-2). Then Marcus Semien grounded one toward the hole on the left side. With Powell racing hard into second, Astros shortstop Alex Bregman threw wildly into right field. Powell came around to score, and Semien — advancing all the way to third — came home on the play when Marwin Gonzalez made another throwing error.

Jed Lowrie scored on a passed ball in the sixth to push the A’s lead to 3-1, marking the first time in Oakland history the A’s scored three or more runs in a game without notching a single RBI.

Semien’s mad dash around the bases reminded him of a similar play as a Little Leaguer in El Cerrito, when he circled the bases in the same kind of way on his mother’s birthday. Afterward, she convinced him he’d hit a real homer.

“I got some texts from some old Little League friends about that one today,” Semien said.

It wasn’t conventional, and it didn’t matter. Over the first two games of this series, the A’s had scored one run total and advanced just one runner as far as third base.