OAKLAND -- Gold Glove voting is an imperfect science. The Major League managers and coaches who vote on the award don't often take the time to look at all the newfangled defensive metrics and statistics. It is an award commonly given based on reputation, and intangibles. Sometimes one highlight reel catch or play that is replayed over and over ad nauseam is enough to stick in the minds of the voters.Fortunately, for Josh Reddick, he made full-extension diving catches, full-speed sliding snags, crashed into walls with the reckless abandon of a Lucha Libre wrestler, and backed it all up with a high-caliber howitzer for an arm that delivered baseballs with laser precision all season long. Reddick is the 2012 Rawlings Gold Glove winner among American League right fielders. He becomes the first Oakland Athletics player to win the award since Eric Chavez in 2006. He beat out Royals right fielder Jeff Francouer, and Indians' right fielder Shin-Soo Choo for the honor. He didn't give them much of a choice. Francouer may have led all Major League outfielders with 19 assists -- Reddick had 15 -- but he never scaled a wall like Spider-Man to make a catch like Reddick did on July 25, in Toronto. He never knocked himself silly making a game-ending grab like Reddick did when he caught a ball against the Orioles July 27, in Camden Yards. Reddick led all American League right fielders with a 17.7 UZR, a stat that measures defensive range.He did it because he takes a WWE approach to defense. He will catch the ball by any means necessary, or get hurt trying. "It doesn't matter if there's a brick wall or a padded wall there," Reddick told me on September 12 in Anaheim. "As long as I catch it then it doesn't matter how much pain I'm going through."Reddick's 15 outfield assists tied him for third most in a single season in Oakland history, and ranked third in the AL. It may be called the 'Rawlings Gold Glove', but his golden arm was a huge weapon for the A's. To Reddick's disappointment, the league began to take notice of how deadly accurate and quick his right field rifle was, and they stopped running on him. That's why stats don't tell the whole story when it comes to defense. Reddick committed five errors in right field, more than Choo (2), and Francouer (4), and his .983 fielding percentage also ranked him below Choo (.993) and Francouer (.985). The fact that Reddick beat out the other two finalists shouldn't come as a huge surprise, though. Well before voting began Reddick had a groundswell of support. "I've said he is playing Gold Glove right field and he has all year," A's manager Bob Melvin told me back in September. "It's what we've seen all year," starting pitcher Tommy Milone said earlier this year. "He hustles to anything that's close to him. He lays out, gives it his full effort and usually he'll come up with the ball."Reddick's efforts meant a whole lot to a team that at times had five rookies in the starting rotation. Their faith in him to get to balls in right field helped them stay at ease and gave them the confidence to pitch to contact. His teammates often raved about how his defense remained consistent all season long no matter what was ailing him. Sometimes when a player goes into a slump they can take their troubles out onto the field as well. Reddick never did that, even when he was in his worst rut at the plate. There's a running joke that the best offensive player by position often gets the award. Reddick certainly didn't hurt his case with a career-high and AL-leading 32 home runs by a right fielder. He may not have gotten the World Series trophy he wanted, but this hardware will look pretty nifty on his mantle nonetheless. Reddick now gets to go to a Rawlings Gold Glove ceremony on November 9 in New York to pick up his award. The event will be hosted by Joe Piscopo and Jerry Seinfeld will be providing the entertainment for the evening. Not bad for a kid that came out of nowhere to emerge as one of the most talented players in the game. Also, if you don't think gold is enough for the A's right fielder, you can go to Rawlings.com to vote on a Rawlings Platinum Glove award that will be given to one of the Gold Glove winners.Brandon Inge won't be in the running. He was named a finalist for the Gold Glove at third base, but was beat out by Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre. It is the fourth time Beltre has won the award. Inge had an excellent defensive season at the hot corner, but he only played 76 games at third base. In a game on August 11, Inge made a diving attempt for a foul ball and dislocated his right shoulder. He popped it back in place and drove in the go-ahead run later in the game. That shoulder injury ended up ending his season. Inge is now a free agent.
HOUSTON — If the A’s eventually want to return to the American League West mountaintop, they got a good look at the team they’ll have to conquer.
The Astros boast one of the majors’ most talented and athletic rosters, with enough of a youthful core to suggest they’ll be battling for division supremacy for years to come. They took two of three from Oakland at Minute Maid Park, capped by Sunday’s 7-2 decision in which left-hander Dallas Keuchel held the A’s to just three hits over 7 2/3 innings.
The loss ended a season-opening stretch in which the A’s played 22 of their first 25 against AL West foes. They saw every team in the division at least once, going 9-13 in that stretch and 11-14 overall for the month of April.
It’s tough to glean too much from one month of play, but the Astros (16-9) so far are living up to the hype that stems from several notable offseason additions they made. They hold a three-game lead over the second-place Los Angeles Angels, with Oakland and Texas both five games back and Seattle 5 1/2 back.
Before the A’s bother worrying about who they have to knock off at the top, there are baby steps to conquer.
They need to generate some consistent offense, which has been lacking in their 1-5 start to this nine-game road trip. With that in mind, they’ll gladly welcome back center fielder Rajai Davis, who is expected to return from a strained left hamstring and rejoin the lineup Tuesday in Minnesota.
Also Tuesday, Sonny Gray will make his 2017 debut after missing the first four weeks with a strained lat muscle in his right side. One of the primary April storylines for the A’s involved the players they lost to injury. Now, they at least draw some optimism from the ones they’ll welcome back.
“We need to get these guys back,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ve been leaning on (backup center fielder) Jaff Decker a little harder than we need to. You get Raj back doing his thing at the top of the lineup and get your No. 1 pitcher back, hopefully this is a trend on an upward swing as far as getting players back, as opposed to losing them like we have been.”
Jesse Hahn, who took Sunday’s loss, could eventually be out of a rotation spot with Gray’s return. But that decision gets delayed with fellow starter Sean Manaea having just joined the 10-day disabled list with a strained shoulder.
Hahn was solid Sunday, going six innings and allowing four runs (two earned). But he got a taste of the diverse ways that Houston can beat a pitcher. The Astros have speed, as they showed in the first inning when George Springer beat out an infield single and scored all the way from first on Carlos Correa’s double.
They also have run producers up and down the batting order. Evan Gattis, who clubbed 32 homers last season, hit seventh Sunday and drove an RBI double to left that just missed being a two-run homer.
“One through nine, it’s a solid lineup over there,” Hahn said. “You can’t take any pitches off, any at-bats off. You’ve almost got to treat every guy the same or they can hurt you.”
Catcher Josh Phegley says the A’s have a good read on the rest of the division and the challenge that sits before him and his teammates.
“We’ve seen the teams we’re gonna face most of the year. We get a feel for their bullpen, some of the subs they make during the game,” he said. “I like the way our team stacks up against everyone else.”
But the A’s have their work cut out. Last year, they were 13-12 at the end of April, just 1 1/2 games out of first place before eventually finishing in the cellar. As they begin this May, they are three games under .500 and already five games out.
Help is on the way with the return of Gray and Davis. Now the A’s need to parlay that into some victories.
HOUSTON – The A’s got a sampling of what’s made Dallas Keuchel one of the majors’ top pitchers through the first month.
The Astros lefty pitched into the eighth and allowed just one Athletic to advance past first base as Oakland absorbed a 7-2 loss in the rubber game of this weekend series at Minute Maid Park.
After an off-year in 2016, Keuchel has regained his 2015 Cy Young-winning form, becoming the American League’s first five-game winner of 2017. He held the A’s to three hits over 7 2/3 innings, as the A’s fell to 1-5 so far on this three-city road trip. They’ve been held to two or fewer runs in five of their past seven games.
Jesse Hahn (1-2) turned in a quality start for the A’s, going six innings and giving up four runs (two earned) on eight hits. The Astros got a run off him in the first when George Springer beat out an infield hit and scored from first on Carlos Correa’s double down the left-field line. Evan Gattis’ double off the top of the left field wall scored another run in the fourth for a 2-0 lead.
Then a key play came in the fifth. Brian McCann hit a sharp bouncer toward first that took a big hop and got past Ryon Healy for a two-run single and a four-run cushion that Keuchel (5-0) wasn’t going to let slip away.
The A’s closed April with an 11-14 record and trail first-place Houston by five games
Starting pitching report
With Sonny Gray returning from the disabled list, Hahn is trying to prove he deserves to stick in the rotation moving forward. He was coming off an outstanding performance in Anaheim, when he held the Angels to one hit over eight innings. He wasn’t as sharp Sunday, but he wasn’t terrible either. The right-hander struck out six and didn’t issue a walk, but his command betrayed him a bit in the fourth. With one out, he hit Yuli Gurriel with a pitch and then advanced him to second with a wild pitch. Hahn fell behind Gattis 3-1 when the A’s killer hit a run-scoring double to left that fell just a few feet short of being a home run. The Astros’ two-run rally in the fifth was aided by Josh Reddick reaching base on yet another catchers’ interference play. Stephen Vogt was called for the infraction twice Friday night with Reddick hitting. Josh Phegley was behind the plate Sunday.
Any thoughts of an A’s ninth-inning comeback were dashed when Frankie Montas served up a three-run homer to Marwin Gonzalez in the bottom of the eighth. Oakland’s bullpen has surrendered 16 runs in 15 2/3 innings against the Astros this season for a 9.19 ERA.
At the plate
The A’s offense got cranking too little too late. Trailing 4-0 in the eighth, Adam Rosales singled and eventually came around to score on Ryon Healy’s two-out single. Rosales aided the rally with a steal of second base, which snapped a string of eight games without a stolen base for Oakland. They’re expecting to welcome Rajai Davis back from the disabled list Tuesday, and his speed is certainly needed with the offense scuffling. Down 7-1 in the ninth, Josh Phegley doubled and scored on Chad Pinder’s single. The A’s loaded the bases with two outs, prompting Astros manager A.J. Hinch to call on closer Ken Giles to retire Yonder Alonso for the final out.
In the field
Phegley’s catchers’ interference call went down as the game’s only error.
The turnout was 34,880.
The A’s wrap this nine-game road trip with three at Minnesota. They went 4-2 against the Twins last year. Sonny Gray will make his first start of the season in Tuesday’s 5:10 opener, opposed by Ervin Santana (4-0, 0.77). Wednesday — Kendall Graveman (2-1, 2.25) vs. lefty Hector Santiago (2-1, 2.43), 5:10 p.m. Thursday — Jharel Cotton (2-3, 5.00) vs. Kyle Gibson (0-3, 8.06), 10:10 a.m.