Pratt's Instant Replay: Athletics 4, Angels 1

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Pratt's Instant Replay: Athletics 4, Angels 1

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ANAHEIM -- Starting pitcher A.J. Griffin was surgical on Wednesday night as he carved up the Angels' lineup. He hand-delivered Oakland a 4-1 win over the Angels. Griffin is now 6-0 to start his career. The last pitcher in A's history that has done better to start their career is Jim Nash, who went 7-0 in his first nine career starts. The A's win puts them a season-high 21 games over .500 and gives them their 12th consecutive road victory, tying an Oakland record set in 1971.
RELATED: MLB standings
Starting Pitching ReportGriffin made it three consecutive solid rookie performances for the A's starting pitchers in this series. The righty tossed a career-high eight innings of shutout ball. He gave up six hits, struck out six, and didn't walk a batter. Griffin was more or less cruising through the first three innings. He got into a little trouble in the fourth frame when Kendrys Morales and Howie Kendrick hit back to back singles with one out. Griffin went into lockdown mode and got Erick Aybar to pop out. He then got Vernon Wells to hit an easy fly ball to left field to end the inning. After the back to back hits in the fourth frame, Griffin retired nine batters in row. His streak was snapped by an Aybar single, but he retired the next two batters with ease to finish the seventh inning. He dispatched all three batters he faced in the eighth. At the PlateJosh Reddick stroked a two-out double in the first inning. An extra-base hit for Reddick is an encouraging sign as he has been struggling offensively lately. Reddick came around to score when Aybar couldn't glove a grounder hit by Yoenis Cespedes.
PRATT: Does Reddick deserve Gold Glove recognition?
Cespedes broke out of a 21-game homerless streak on Tuesday night. On Wednesday he smacked his second home run in as many days. It was his 18th of the season and it gave the A's a 2-0 lead. The A's loaded the bases in the seventh inning but couldn't break the game open. Brandon Moss grounded out to third base to end the scoring opportunity. The A's were able to add some insurance in the eighth inning after Josh Donaldson and Derek Norris each doubled. Norris' hit a screaming liner into the right-center gap, and Donaldson, always an adventure on the base paths, waited for the ball to land before breaking for home. Better safe than sorry. With a 3-0 lead, Coco Crisp swatted a single to right field to score Norris and make it 4-0. Bullpen ReportGriffin sure made this section easy to write. Sean Doolittle pitched the ninth inning. He gave up a leadoff homer to Albert Pujols. For Pujols it was his 30th home run of the season and he became the first player in MLB history to hit 30 or more homers in each of his first 12 big league seasons. Cook finished the game by retiring Vernon Wells. In the FieldThe A's season has been a wild one but maybe we have seen it all now. Crisp threw out Chris Iannetta as he tried to make it from first to third on a Trout single. It was Crisp's first outfield assist this season. In the fifth inning Crisp made a full extension dive in centerfield to rob Iannetta again. It was easily one of his best catches this season. Crisp 2, Iannetta 0. AttendanceThe Angels announced an attendance of 38,097. Rally Monkey CameosThe monkey appeared in the Hunger Games. He was in the fire suit during the chariot scene. Similar to Wednesday night the monkey appeared in the shower scene in Psycho. When will Lila Crane ever learn? Up NextThe A's will be going for a four-game road sweep of the Angels on Thursday. The series finale will feature a matchup of two aces. Brett Anderson (4-0, 0.69 ERA) takes on Jered Weaver (16-4, 2.86 ERA).

A's spring training Day 38: Alonso's offense comes to life

A's spring training Day 38: Alonso's offense comes to life

MESA, Ariz. — Yonder Alonso’s value usually gets discussed in terms of his defense, but the A’s first baseman is putting together a very impressive spring with the bat.

The A’s poured it on the Milwaukee Brewers in a 15-5 rout Thursday, and Alonso led the parade with two homers and three RBI. Both shots came off Junior Guerra, and the first would have cleared the right field wall had it been pushed back 30 feet farther.

Alonso is hitting .382 with four homers in Cactus League play. He says the extra work he’s putting in with hitting coach Darren Bush is paying off, and manager Bob Melvin likes what he sees from a player who hit .253 last year and knocked just seven home runs for the entire regular season.

“He’s had a great approach from the minute he got here,” Melvin said. “He and Bushy had a plan. He’s using the whole field a little bit more, which keeps him on breaking balls, which allows him to track fastballs a little bit more. He’s hit a couple balls good to left-center as well.”

The A’s love the defense they get from Alonso at first, but getting more thump from him offensively would be a boost for Oakland, which finished last in the American League in runs last season. His on-base percentage dropped to .316 last season, well below his career average of .334. That’s where a more patient approach could pay off, and that’s another focus with Alonso this season.

Right now, the plan is for the left-handed hitting Alonso to platoon at first with Ryon Healy, who will also see time at DH and third base.

“I think every day I’m coming in with a plan,” Alonso said. “Mentally and physically I feel fine. I’m ready to roll. I’m ready to continue to battle and continue to grind and have solid at-bats.”

CAMP BATTLE: A day after Andrew Triggs looked very sharp, another rotation candidate responded with his best start of the spring. Raul Alcantara gave up two runs over 5 1/3 innings against the Brewers, very much keeping his hopes alive for one of Oakland’s two open rotation spots. His outing was easy to overlook on a day the A’s hit four home runs and collected 18 hits total. But it was a timely effort for Alcantara, who is batting Triggs and Jesse Hahn for rotation jobs. Hahn’s next start is Saturday.

“His breaking ball, he struggled throwing it for strikes early and then found it, which is an attribute you want to see,” Melvin said of Alcantara. “It ended up being his best outing for us.”

Melvin said he thinks the battle for the Nos. 4 and 5 starter spots will go down to the wire.

NOTEWORTHY: Lefty Daniel Coulombe, trying to nail down a spot in the bullpen, threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings. After surrendering at least one run in each of his first five appearances, Coulombe has held opponents without a run in each of his last two outings (4 1/3 IP).

ODDS AND ENDS: Trevor Plouffe and Max Schrock hit the A’s other home runs along with Alonso’s two shots. Plouffe’s was an opposite-field blast to right. He’s hitting .361. Schrock was borrowed from minor league camp and went deep to right-center. … Ross Detwiler couldn’t shut the door in the ninth, retiring just two of the eight hitters he faced and allowing two walks and three runs. … Second baseman Joey Wendle, sidelined by a sore right shoulder, was scheduled to play catch for the first time in more than a week Thursday. He underwent an MRI a week ago that he said showed no significant damage. … Outfielder Jaff Decker (oblique) did all activity except take full batting practice. He seems to be progressing well and may still have a chance to battle for a roster spot.

Graveman takes to leadership role while Gray is sidelined

Graveman takes to leadership role while Gray is sidelined

MESA, Ariz. — Kendall Graveman feels comfortable with the leadership role that comes with being the A’s Opening Night starter, but he pointed out how all the starters will carry the load together.

“I told BoMel this morning when he told me, I said ‘I’m the No. 1 starter for Opening Night, but then whoever is the second guy is the No. 1 starter for us the next night,’ and that’s the way we have to go about it to be successful,” Graveman said Thursday afternoon.

That’s a message that Graveman says he’s already trying to spread to Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton, the starters who will follow him in the rotation. Oakland’s final two rotation spots are up for grabs.

With Sonny Gray sidelined by injury for what’s expected to be most of April, Graveman — with all of 52 major league starts under his belt — becomes the veteran leader of the A’s staff in the interim. Manager Bob Melvin gave Graveman the official word Thursday morning that he would take the ball April 3 against the Angels at the Coliseum. But shortly after Gray went down with a strained lat muscle March 7, Melvin approached Graveman about being his likely Opening Night guy.

It’s a natural fit. Graveman went 10-11 with a 4.11 ERA last season, and while those aren’t eye-catching numbers, they don’t tell the story of how valuable he was as the A’s lost starter after starter to injury.

Graveman has improved his mental preparation and his physical conditioning since coming over from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson trade. He’s become a meticulous studier to get ready for his starts. He’s picked the brain of veterans such as Gray and Barry Zito, who he played alongside with Triple-A Nashville for part of 2015.

And, not to be overlooked, his stuff and pitch arsenal have improved since he first arrived to the A’s. Though he’s a sinkerballer who relies more on location than velocity, the A’s clocked Graveman as high as 98 miles per hour on the radar gun in his last start.

“He’s kind of on a mission to be one of those guys that pitches at top of the rotation for many years to come,” Melvin said.