Athletics

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

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

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A record-breaking performance sends the A's packing with a 6-1 loss. They should head home with their heads held high though, after going 4-2 on a key East-Coast road trip against two of the American League Wild Card contenders.At the PlateThe A's had a really difficult time solving Orioles starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen. The Taiwanese pitcher gave the A's batsmen fits at the plate. He set the tone by striking out the side in the first inning. Then in the fourth inning he struck out the side again, this time on 10 pitches -- Yoenis Cespedes swinging, Chris Carter looking, and Brandon Inge looking.Chen set a new record for strikeouts by a Taiwanese player with 12. His pitch count was high though and he couldn't make it out of the sixth inning. Right after Chen received a standing ovation for setting the new record, Cespedes brought him back down to earth with a sharp line drive RBI-single up the middle putting the A's on the board. The A's loaded the bases in that frame but Derek Norris popped out to end the threat.Starting Pitching ReportTravis Blackley had some trouble locating his pitches in this game. Finding the strikezone ended up being a figurative and literal pain in the neck for the Australian-born starting pitcher. Omar Quintanilla led off the third inning with a bunt single toward first base. Blackley dove for the ball and landed awkwardly. A's trainer Nick Paparesta and Bob Melvin visited him on the mound and examined his neck, but he stayed in the game after a few warm up tosses. Blackley was skipped in the rotation just before the All-Star Break with back stiffness so it was particularly concerning to see him in pain after diving for the ball.Quintanilla would continue to pester the A's after reaching first on that bunt single. He advanced to third when Blackley chucked an ill advised pick off throw past Chris Carter that ricocheted all the way down the right field line. Carter ended up being charged with the error and Blackley's problems were only just beginning. He walked J.J. Hardy next, then gave up an RBI-double on a hard-hit ball off the bat of Adam Jones. Matt Weiters stepped to the plate and struck a fastball down the middle for a three-run homer, giving the Orioles a 4-0 lead.Blackley looked out of sorts early in the game. His problems intensified after he tweaked his neck diving for that bunt attempt. He ended up with four walks and just one strike out. He has only allowed three homers this season, so the fact that Wieters took him deep could indicate the neck injury was bugging him.He ended up with five innings pitched and five earned runs and took the loss.Bullpen ReportJim Miller entered the game in the sixth inning and failed to record the shutdown inning for the A's. He allowed a solo homer to Quintanilla who gave the A's fits in this series. Miller bounced back and pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings. He struck out four batters and threw 49 pitches. Miller gave up a run but did a great job saving the rest of the A's bullpen. The A's don't have a day off until August 9.It seems that the A's relievers have been frequently used in one-plus inning situations.In the FieldThe A's had a chance to turn a double play on a ground ball hit by Wieters in the fifth. Inge fielded the ball and threw to Weeks who had to avoid the sliding runner in the process of throwing to first. Weeks' throw to first was high, and 6'4" Chris Carter jumped to receive the throw but it clanked off his glove allowing Hardy to come around to score. Carter was charged with the error on the play, but he wouldn't have even had a shot at the ball if he wasn't so tall.Up NextThe A's head back home to open up a 10-game homestand against the Rays, Blue Jays, and Angels. A.J. Griffin (3-0, 2.25 ERA) gets the ball in the first game. He has gone six innings in all six of his Major League starts. The rookie starting pitcher has yet to allow more than three earned runs.The A's will face yet another left-handed pitcher on Monday, and one of the best in the game, Rays starting pitcher David Price (14-4, 2.57 ERA). Price is 2-1 with a 3.62 ERA in his career vs. 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.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as A's avoid sweep vs Astros

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as A's avoid sweep vs Astros

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HOUSTON — The A’s experienced a welcome reversal of fortune Sunday in the place that’s been their late-inning house of horrors.

Their bullpen salted away a 3-2 victory over the Astros in a game that had potential heartbreak written all over it.

Three times last season they lost in walk-off fashion at Minute Maid Park. On Sunday, they left the door cracked open by stranding a runner on third in both the seventh and eighth innings, missing out on a chance to add to their slim lead. But recently acquired Chris Hatcher registered a big strikeout of George Springer to end the 7th with the tying run at third. Then Blake Treinen recorded a six-out save to help Oakland avoid a sweep by the American League’s winningest team.

It was a needed morale boost on a weekend in which the A’s received stellar starting pitching but simply couldn’t kick their offense into gear. They mustered just four runs total over the three-game series, but managed to secure a win over Houston for just the third time in 15 meetings this season. It was also just their fifth victory in their past 21 contests at Minute Maid Park.

A LONG DAY’S WORK: The hard-throwing Treinen, acquired from Washington as part of the Sean Doolittle/Ryan Madson trade, was nasty in finishing out the final two innings for his fourth save as an Athletic. With Santiago Casilla having struggled in the ninth, the A’s are evaluating whether Treinen might be a long-term answer at closer. After posting a 5.73 ERA with the Nats this season, he entered Sunday with a 2.65 mark in 16 appearances with Oakland.

POWELL PROVIDES A BOOST: Getting a start in the leadoff spot, center fielder Boog Powell went 3-for-4 with a walk and scored a run. His impact was felt most in the first. After leading the game off with a single, he came all the way around to score on a throwing error by Astros shortstop Alex Bregman. Marcus Semien circled all the way around the bases on the play after first baseman Marwin Gonzalez contributed his own throwing error on the same play.

COTTON RESPONDS: Jharel Cotton needed to deliver a strong outing, and the rookie did so against the majors’ most potent offense. He went 6 2/3 innings and held Houston to two runs on four hits. Coming in, the right-hander had been lit up for an 8.06 ERA over his previous five starts.

MAXWELL RECOVERING: Dustin Garneau started behind the plate for the A’s with Bruce Maxwell feeling the effects of a hard foul tip off his mask Saturday night. Maxwell said he had trouble sleeping throughout the night, and the A’s weren’t about to take chances given the concussion issues encountered by some of their catchers in the past. Josh Phegley and John Jaso are two who come to mind.

Maxwell typically would have been in there against a right-hander in Peacock.

“Our training staff has got as good a handle on these things as any training staff, based on the fact that we’ve had to deal with quite a few of them,”Melvin said. “They know the protocol really well. Based on past experiences with these things, we feel like it’s the prudent thing to do.”

IN RELATED NEWS …: A tie-in to Maxwell’s status is the fact that Josh Phegley continues to come along well in his rehab assignment. Returning from a strained oblique, has played three games for Triple-A Nashville. The A’s don’t intend to rush Phegley back, but Melvin suggested that were Maxwell to miss any extended time, Phegley’s timetable for return could be hastened.