Pratt's Instant Replay: Rangers 7, A's 2

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Pratt's Instant Replay: Rangers 7, A's 2

BOX SCORE

For the third straight night the A's got off to a promising start before falling apart. This time it was two fifth-inning errors that did them in against the division-leading Rangers. Texas defeated the A's 7-2, it is the first game the A's have lost by more than one run in their last eight losses. Starting Pitching ReportTommy Milone pitched much better than the score indicates. He lasted five innings allowing six runs, only one of them earned. He struck out a career-high six hitters. The young lefty fell victim to shoddy defense in a big fifth inning for the Rangers. Texas plated five runs, three coming on a Josh Hamilton homer after the A's committed two errors. Giving the top-hitting team in baseball extra outs is a recipe for disaster, and it burned the A's on Saturday. The Rangers' other two runs in the fifth came on a two-run single by Ian Kinsler. He struck out looking in his first two at-bats.At the PlateChris Carter stayed hot since being called up to the A's on Friday. The right-handed slugger is 3-for-7 with two homers, three runs and two RBIs in his last two games. Carter was a factor in the A's only two runs. He homered in the second inning, then hit a two-out double in the fourth inning, and came around to score on a single by Brandon Inge. Inge now has 34 RBIs in 40 games with the A's. Yoenis Cespedes lead off with a double to right field in the sixth inning, but the A's failed to score. Cespedes is 6-for-12 in the series with three RBIs and one walk. Bullpen ReportBrian Fuentes made his first appearance since June 23. He pitched a scoreless sixth inning, but was charged with a run in the seventh after he remained in the game and gave up two hits before departing. The run scored when Jordan Norberto gave up an RBI single to Hamilton. Norberto finished the night with 1.2 innings pitched, allowing two hits and striking out one batter. In the FieldIn the fourth inning, Elvis Andrus lead off with a double. He attempted to steal third but Kurt Suzuki gunned him down with a perfect strike to Inge at third. Inge committed his second error in as many nights, allowing Nelson Cruz to reach base to start the bottom of the fifth. Cruz was caught in a rundown when Yorvit Torrealba grounded into a fielder's choice. The next batter Craig Gentry hit a line drive that Brandon Hicks made a leaping catch on. He had to use every last inch of his 6'2" frame to catch the ball. Hicks later made an error bobbling a ball that would have ended the inning. That preceded the Hamilton home run. Up NextOn Sunday Travis Blackley (1-2, 3.05 ERA) takes on Yu Darvish (10-4, 3.57 ERA). Darvish is tied for the A.L. lead with 10 wins, but struggled in his last start against the A's. He is 1-1 with a 4.85 ERA in three starts against Oakland. Blackley has pitched well over his last three starts, but left his previous start in Seattle after seven innings with back tightness.

Melvin ponders where Semien fits best in A's batting order

Melvin ponders where Semien fits best in A's batting order

MESA, Ariz. — Marcus Semien provides the A’s a luxury as a shortstop with great home run power.

With that, an annual question surfaces:

Where is the best spot to hit him in the batting order?

Semien led American League shortstops, and finished second on the A’s, with 27 homers last season, yet he spent the majority of his time hitting seventh or ninth. Given Oakland finished last in the American League in runs last season, would it make sense to move him up higher?

The early indications are that manager Bob Melvin will keep Semien hitting in the bottom third of the order, even though Semien has bounced around in exhibitions so far.

“He and I were talking about that yesterday,” Melvin said Wednesday morning. “I hit him third yesterday. I’ll have him hit second, I think, tomorrow. But boy, it’s a nice little security blanket (hitting him down in the order). And it seems to be that the ‘7’ spot is where (he hits with) some guys on base. It’s nice to have a guy down in the lineup that is that productive.”

Expect Melvin to continue experimenting with different batting-order combos throughout spring training before honing in on a more steady look as late March rolls around. And where he bats Semien will be based, partly, on how Semien’s teammates are performing offensively.

The A’s signed Rajai Davis to be a speedy table-setter from the leadoff spot. They added Matt Joyce and Trevor Plouffe to add some punch through the middle of the lineup. If those three, plus cleanup man Khris Davis, Stephen Vogt, Jed Lowrie and Ryon Healy are producing, it makes more sense to save Semien as a lower-lineup headache for opposing pitchers to deal with. The shortstop’s nine home runs from the No. 9 spot tied for the major league lead in 2016.

And keep in mind, Semien is likely to bat higher against left-handers. He’s a .288 career hitter with a .493 slugging percentage against lefties, compared to .229 and .380 against right-handers. Last season, he made 24 starts in the No. 2 spot.

But where he hits has no bearing on his approach, Semien said.

“I don’t want to try and change what I do based on where I am in the lineup necessarily. I want to become a better hitter no matter what spot I’m in. There was power production from the ‘9’ hole (last season). I hit second a lot against lefties. Either way, whatever is the best chance to win with that lineup that day is what we’ve gotta do.”

A's spring training Day 15: Cotton, teammates pile up K's

A's spring training Day 15: Cotton, teammates pile up K's

MESA, Ariz. — Jharel Cotton took the mound to begin Tuesday’s game and promptly struck out the side in order.

It would establish a theme for the day, as first-round draft pick A.J. Puk also punched out the side in his first outing and Oakland pitchers rang up 14 strikeouts total in a 5-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Hohokam Stadium.

For Cotton, more important than putting up gaudy spring numbers is simply cementing his place in the A’s starting rotation. His first outing was a step in the right direction, though the Indians got to him for a run in his second and final inning when his command deserted him a bit.

“Cotton, I thought was really good,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Strikes the first four guys out. His command was off a little bit later with runners on base, but his stuff was really good.”

That fourth strikeout, to lead off the second, came with an asterisk. A third-strike wild pitch allowed Abraham Almonte to get all the way to second. Before long, Cotton had the bases loaded and no outs thanks to a walk and hit batter, but he got a big lift when first baseman Yonder Alonso made a diving stop to begin a 3-6-1 double play. The Indians would score only one run off him.

“I got in some trouble but I got out of it,” Cotton said. “I limited the damage so I was happy about that.”

PROSPECT WATCH: Puk said he felt first-game jitters while warming up, but he sure didn’t show it once he took the mound in the sixth. Showing command of his full repertoire, Puk struck out Erik Kratz, Lonnie Chisenhall and Almonte in order for a memorable first outing in big league camp.

“I was a little anxious in the bullpen to get going,” the 6-foot-7 lefty said. “Then I finally got my name called and got ready and just tried to throw strikes and see what happens.”

Puk was pleased to get a swing-and-miss with his curve, a pitch he’s getting reacquainted with for the first time since high school. But Melvin was most encouraged by his changeup. “It’s something we asked him to work on and he brings it right into a game,” Melvin said. “To do that and use a pitch he may not be as familiar with in his first time on the mound, it shows you he’s pretty coachable too.”

LIGHTER SIDE: Third baseman Trevor Plouffe’s first hit with the A’s ended up being a homer off vaunted Indians closer Andrew Miller. The towering blast easily cleared the left field wall and wound up ricocheting off a startled fan who was sprawled out on the grass, apparently trying to squeeze in a nap. The fan was OK and kept waving to everybody afterward just to prove he was awake.

Plouffe expressed relief that the fan was OK, adding with a smile: “As long as it’s not a kid. A grown man should be watching the game.”

FAMILIAR FACE: A’s center fielder Rajai Davis went 1-for-3 in his first game playing against the team he helped lead to the World Series last year. As he stepped to the plate for his first at-bat, he gestured toward the visitor’s dugout in respect.

“Just to be able to see them again, it’s like a family reunion,” Davis said.

ODDS AND ENDS: Marcus Semien connected for his first homer of the spring, showing opposite-field power with a two-run blast to right off Mike Clevinger in the first. … Minor league first baseman Rangel Ravelo broke a 4-4 tie in the eighth with the A’s third homer of the day, as Oakland evened its Cactus League record at 2-2. … Fifth-starter candidate Andrew Triggs went two innings and allowed an unearned run on two hits. He struck out three in a row to end the top of the fourth. … Matt Olson drew the start in right field and tripled to deep to center in the second, scoring on Josh Phegley’s sacrifice fly.