Pratt's Instant Replay: A's 6, Orioles 1

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Pratt's Instant Replay: A's 6, Orioles 1

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The A's hit the century mark of the season, winning their 100th game 6-1. As the team hit triple digits, these are the numbers that really matter -- the A's are 10 games over .500, are 18-3 in July, have won nine of their last 10 games, and are just 3.5 games behind the American League West-leading Texas Rangers.At the PlateYoenis Cespedes continues to amaze. This time he put a monster hack on a hanging slider that landed with a thud 10-plus rows deep in left field. The ball was on the outside part of the plate but that didn't stop the powerful slugger from arching out with his bat and somehow pulling it out of the park.Cespedes now has 14 home runs and nine of them have come with a runner on base. He tried to admire his blast at home but he didn't have much time to do -- the ball left the yard very quickly. He added an RBI-triple in the eighth inning driving in Jemile Weeks. He went the other way on an outside pitch perfectly and then turned on the jets, flying around the bases before gliding into third.Kurt Suzuki doubled with one out in the fifth inning. That wasn't the impressive part of what he did in this game. Next, Eric Sogard softly singled to right field, as Suzuki hustled around third he beat the throw home with an awkward rolling hook slide to score the A's third run. The cather started the slide on his back reaching out toward the plate with his left hand, then the momentum of his body took him into a full barrel roll across the plate. Not to be outdone by Cespedes, Chris Carter launched a mammoth two-run blast of his own to left field in the sixth inning. Carter now has eight homers this season -- five of them have come against righties. That is impressive considering the fact that Carter had been used primarily in a platoon against left-handed pitchers.Starting Pitching ReportBartolo Colon had his two-seam fastball working but home plate umpire Marvin Hudson wasn't calling it for a strike early in the game. Colon's two-seamer has late movement that breaks in over the plate left to right. He threw the pitch several times with two strikes only to have it called a ball. It was on that pitch that Chris Davis was caught looking to end the fifth.Colon lasted 5.2 innings and scattered seven hits. He struck out five batters and walked just one. He got his seventh win of the season.
He left with runners on the corners and two outs. A's manager Bob Melvin was right not to let Colon finish the inning. Omar Quintanilla, who was 2 for 2 against Colon, was due up when Melvin pulled the veteran starting pitcher.Bullpen ReportJordan Norberto entered the game in relief of Colon. He struck out Quintanilla to end the inning. Norberto stayed in the game for the seventh inning. He escaped unscathed despite allowing a single and seeing the leadoff hitter reach on an error. Norberto collected an out in the eighth before being lifted after allowing a single.Evan Scribner took it the rest of the way. He pitched 1.2 innings and allowed a run on a solo homer to Nick Markakis.In the FieldNorberto didn't get much help defensively in the seventh inning. The first batter in the frame, Taylor Teagarden, reached first on an error by Brandon Inge. The second batter reached first on what could have been a double play when Sogard dropped the ball on the exchange. Davis reached on a bloop single to left that Cespedes decided to play on a hop -- it looked like it could have been easily caught. Fortunately for the A's they escaped the inning unscathed.Cespedes was moved to center field prior to the eighth inning to replace Coco Crisp who left the game with hamstring tightness. Cespedes flashed his defensive skill in center on a deep ball into the gap. He was playing shallow but made a great read on the ball, taking a perfect angle and using his speed to make a backhanded catch just in front of the wall.
Up NextThe A's will go for the sweep in Baltimore with Travis Blackley (3-2, 2.69 ERA) on the mound. The Australian-born lefty is 3-0 in his last seven starts.They will be opposed by the sixth left-handed pitcher in their last seven games -- Wei-Yin Chen (8-6, 3.82 ERA). Chen has lost one game in his last three starts.

A's spring training Day 43: Shore K's Trout in surprise big league start

A's spring training Day 43: Shore K's Trout in surprise big league start

TEMPE, Ariz. — Rather than join his minor league teammates for workouts like usual, Logan Shore got word Tuesday morning he would take the ball for the A’s against the Los Angeles Angels.

A few hours later, Shore was striking out Mike Trout to highlight his impressive four-inning outing. What an experience it was for Shore, a right-hander drafted last summer in the second round out of the University of Florida.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “There’s not really any words to describe that.”

The A’s scratched No. 5 starter Raul Alcantara, opting to throw him in a minor league game rather than let a division opponent get another look at him for scouting-report purposes. That presented Shore with a surprise opportunity.

He responded with four innings of one-run ball, holding the Angels to two hits. The game would take an ugly turn as the A’s bullpen got lit up in a 14-3 loss. But Shore’s outing was a glimpse of what Oakland might have to look forward to with the 22-year-old. The righty didn’t come out of college with the same hype as Florida teammate A.J. Puk, who the A’s drafted sixth overall last June. But he’s thought to be more polished than Puk at this stage.

Shore went 0-2 with a 2.57 ERA in seven starts with short-season Vermont in his pro debut. This spring, he’s been grouped with high Single-A Stockton, but he hasn’t received his official regular-season assignment yet.

“That’s the kind of lineup that gets your attention a little bit,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I thought he threw the ball really well. He had great command of his fastball, a backdoor sinker, good changeup, good slider. He probably got a little bit tired at the end, but he was very impressive. That’s the first time I got to see him throw.”

Shore pitched in relief for the A’s earlier this spring as a minor league extra, so that helped him keep his nerves in check Tuesday. Still, it was a different challenge tackling what closely resembled the Angels’ regular-season lineup, which features Trout and Albert Pujols in the meat of it.

Trout struck out and flied to right against Shore. Pujols flied to right and singled.

“I grew up watching all those guys, so it’s kind of cool to get to pitch against them,” he said.

HEALTH UPDATES: Left fielder Khris Davis and third baseman Trevor Plouffe, both nursing minor injuries, won’t return to the field until the Bay Bridge Series which starts Thursday night at AT&T Park, Melvin said. Plouffe has missed the past few games with a groin injury and Davis has a right quad issue.

“We’ll just bubble wrap them right now and send them home,” Melvin cracked.

Right-hander Chris Bassitt took another step in his Tommy John recovery with a 30-pitch session that included two sets of 15 pitches, simulating two innings with a break in between.

NOTEWORTHY: The A’s play their Cactus League finale Wednesday on the road against the Cubs, but most of the game will feature minor leaguers. All of the players who are heading north to face the Giants will be leaving for the airport sometime in the latter stages of the game.

On that topic, the A’s announced the 43 players that will make up their Bay Bridge roster. It includes 30 players from the 40-man roster, six non-roster invitees and seven extras from minor league camp. Oakland officially has 36 players still in camp, with Saturday the deadline to cut down to the final 25-man roster.

ODDS AND ENDS: After Shore left the game, the Angels struck for five runs in the fifth against Liam Hendriks. … The next inning, highly touted prospect Grant Holmes gave up five runs (four earned) in two-thirds of an inning. Holmes was one of three righties acquired from the Dodgers in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade. Jharel Cotton and Frankie Montas were the others.

 

Revisiting the A's top 5 questions from the start of spring

Revisiting the A's top 5 questions from the start of spring

TEMPE, Ariz. — The A’s moving truck has already left the desert, and the team will be bolting for the airport after Wednesday’s Cactus League finale.

Spring training is quickly drawing to a close, with only the three-game Bay Bridge Series remaining before the games start to count. To mark that reality, here’s a look at the five most burning questions Oakland faced back when camp started in mid-February, and what kind of answers have materialized since …

1) Does Sonny Gray return to his old self?
The A’s absorbed their first major injury blow early when Gray, their potential Opening Night starter, went down with a strained lat muscle after a March 7 start. It wasn’t exactly what the right-hander had in mind coming off a 2016 season that sent him to the disabled list twice. Encouraging news came last week when Gray was allowed to start throwing again one week ahead of schedule.

When exactly he returns is tied to how soon he gets back on the mound. He’s been playing catch out to 105 feet, but manager Bob Melvin stressed the A’s aren’t going to rush things with Gray. Until further notice, the assumption is still that Gray will miss most of April.

2) Can a ‘healthy’ outlook be sustained?
Given what you read in the above item, obviously things haven’t gotten off to a great start in this department. Jake Smolinski, a candidate to make the team as an extra outfielder, showed up to camp with a sore right shoulder and required labrum surgery. Second baseman Joey Wendle, who was ticketed for Triple-A to begin with, also has been set back by a shoulder injury. But the focus, from an injury standpoint, is on Gray. If he were to miss just the first month of the regular season, that’s an absence the A’s should be able to cover. Any longer than that, and his presence really will be missed.

After last year’s roster-wide rash of injuries, better health is the most important first step in the A’s escaping the American League West cellar.

3) Who wins the closer’s job?
Six weeks of spring training has yet to reveal an answer here. If Melvin knows who his closer is, he isn’t saying publicly. Lefty Sean Doolittle, one of the veteran anchors of the relief corps, said Melvin hasn’t discussed roles yet with the relievers themselves. Expect more news on that during the Bay Bridge Series, which runs Thursday through Saturday. Of the four assumed ninth-inning candidates — Doolittle, John Axford, Santiago Casilla and Ryan Madson — none has been lights-out in Cactus League games.

The guess here is Madson, the A’s main closer last season, gets the first crack at the role this year as well.

“I don’t even think it’s on anybody’s radar,” Doolittle said Tuesday. “That’s one of the things that makes our bullpen effective. We’re not as attached to those roles as people might think.”

4) Where does Ryon Healy fit into the puzzle?
He fits in a little at first base, a little at third base and a little at DH. What we know is that Healy’s bat will be in the lineup regularly, it’s just a matter of where. Melvin spread his time pretty evenly between all three spots. Healy responded with a terrific spring at the plate. Entering Tuesday, he ranked third in the Cactus League with 16 RBI, the most spring RBI by an Athletic since Kevin Kouzmanoff also had 16 in 2010. Healy will play first base against lefties, platooning with Yonder Alonso. He’ll spell Trevor Plouffe at third. But it stands to reason a large chunk of his time will have to come at DH.

“I think he’s handled it well,” Melvin said. “It’s not easy, especially for a younger guy that was originally a first baseman. He worked as hard as anybody last year to make himself a third baseman. Now, it’s a little bit different for him and he knew that coming into camp. I think he’s handled his time wisely, worked hard at both positions, and he knows he has to move around a little bit this year.”

5) Can the A’s get their mojo back?
If a positive clubhouse vibe plays any part in a team turning around its on-field fortunes, the A’s are off to a good start. The early indications are that newcomers Plouffe, Matt Joyce, Casilla and Rajai Davis — those latter two are in their second stints with the A’s — all add some nice leadership qualities and mesh well with the returning vets. True, you can’t really read too much in spring training, when everyone always gets along in the spirit and optimism of a new season. But the A’s do seem to have better components up and down their roster to lead to a healthier season-long chemistry.

Just as you’ve read in the past, getting off to a strong start in the standings is the most effective way to maintain that chemistry.