Smith leads A's to 4-3 win over Cubs

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Smith leads A's to 4-3 win over Cubs

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PHOENIX -- Seth Smith's place on the Oakland Athletics' major league roster is as left-handed bat who can play in the outfield and be plugged in as a designated hitter.Acquired from Colorado in mid-January, Smith went 3 for 3 with two-run double in the first inning that helped the A's beat the Chicago Cubs 4-3 in a split-squad game."He's faced so many left-handed pitchers all spring and he's really starting to swing it better and better against them," Oakland bench coach Chip Hale said. "He's got a great approach at the plate. That's the reason why we went out and traded for him."

Former Oakland outfielder David DeJesus tripled to lead off the game and scored on a groundout off Travis Schlichting, who allowed two hits in three innings during his first start following three relief appearances."He's done nothing but impress us every time out," Hale said.Cubs starter Paul Maholm gave up three runs - none of the them earned - and two hits in three innings with three strikeouts and two walks. Manny Ramirez reached on a run-scoring error that tied the score, and Smith followed with his double on a hanging slider."It's good to have to battle through an inning," Maholm said. "It's a step in the process, having to get through that stuff and then bouncing back the next two innings and having some pretty quick innings."Oakland left fielder Jonny Gomes had a nice throw in the sixth when Geovany Soto doubled with Marlon Byrd on first. Gomes threw to shortstop Cliff Pennington, who relayed to catcher Anthony Recker.Recker and Byrd collided, but Recker stood up with the ball and took an extended look at Byrd as he headed for the dugout."Every day we're doing some kind of fundamental, and when we do it right, it's very nice to see," Hale said.NOTES: Oakland extended its spring training winning streak to eight games, but it ended Saturday with a split squad's loss to San Francisco in Scottsdale. ... Former World Series champions Bert Campaneris and Blue Moon Odom threw out ceremonial first pitches in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Athletics' World Series title ... Cubs reliever Esmailin Caridad came on in the bottom of the eighth inning and struck out the side in order, all looking, in his spring training debut. ... Soto homered on Ryan Cook's first pitch of the fourth.

Axford makes his 2017 debut; Doolittle takes step forward to return

Axford makes his 2017 debut; Doolittle takes step forward to return

OAKLAND — The A’s officially welcomed John Axford back into their bullpen fold Sunday, and they got some encouraging news about another reliever.

Sean Doolittle was expected to only throw a flat-ground session before the series finale against Boston, but he wound up throwing 15 pitches off the mound as well. That’s the first time Doolittle has thrown from the mound since joining the disabled list May 3 with a strained left shoulder. Next up is a 25-pitch session off the mound Wednesday.

The early indications are that Doolittle’s current shoulder woes aren’t as severe as the ailments that sidelined him for major portions of the past two seasons.

Axford was reinstated from the 10-day DL Saturday for his own shoulder strain, but his season debut came Sunday, when he handled the eighth inning and allowed one run. He was sidelined during the season-opening series against the Angels when he hurt his shoulder while warming up in the bullpen.

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All indications are that first baseman Yonder Alonso will be available to return to the lineup Tuesday for the opener of a two-game interleague series against the Miami Marlins. A’s manager Bob Melvin said before Sunday’s game that he considered Alonso as potentially being available off the bench. Given the A’s are off Monday, it’s reasonable to assume Alonso will be ready Tuesday when the Marlins start right-hander Jose Urena on the mound.

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The A’s are plenty familiar with Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland from his days with division rival Texas. But Moreland continues to do damage against Oakland even though he’s out of the AL West. Moreland’s two-run homer in the sixth off Andrew Triggs marked his third homer of the four-game series, and his 19th homer in 80 career games against the A’s. That’s his most homers against any major league club.

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The run Axford allowed in the eighth snapped a streak of 27 scoreless innings at home by the A’s bullpen. Josh Smith allowed five runs in the ninth.

A's denied sweep of Red Sox but still come away feeling good

A's denied sweep of Red Sox but still come away feeling good

OAKLAND — The A’s opted for the big-picture takeaway from their four-game series with the Boston Red Sox.

They won three of four from a team expected to be a major player for an American League postseason berth, though the weekend’s final chapter didn’t play out as planned.

Oakland surrendered 15 hits and committed three errors in a 12-3 drubbing by the Red Sox that prevented the A’s first four-game home sweep of Boston in 85 years.

If anything, Sunday’s rout proved how an aggressive base running team like Boston can exploit the A’s weaknesses when they play their ‘Mr. Hyde’ version of defense. The Sox stole four bases and gladly took an extra 90 feet whenever the opportunity presented itself.

The first three games of this series featured some nice defensive moments for the A’s, but Sunday they reverted to some bad habits, pushing their major league-high error total to 42.

“It gets you off to a slow start, and there’s a psychology to not playing good defense,” manager Bob Melvin said. “… It costs you when you don’t play good defense. It kind of permeates in the dugout and you know you’ve got some work to do offensively off a pretty tough pitcher.”

Boston lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (3-1), who carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning in a September game at the Coliseum, went eight innings Sunday and held the A’s to three runs, striking out eight.

Still, as the A’s broke for a rare day off in the middle of a homestand, Melvin wanted to make sure he delivered a message to his team:

“It was a good series,” he said. “Enjoy the off-day. Coming in here, if you say give us 3 out of 4 (against) them, you’ll take it. Granted, once you win three games you wanna get greedy and win the last game.”

Andrew Triggs (5-4) didn’t have his sharpest outing, allowing five earned runs and three walks over 5 1/3 innings, but he sure wasn’t helped in the field. The tone was set in the first, when Dustin Pedroia blooped a single to right field and Mark Canha’s throw back to the infield was wide of everybody. That allowed Mookie Betts to score all the way from first. In the fifth, Betts was running on the pitch, from first base, and motored all the way around to score on Pedroia’s perfectly executed hit-and-run.

That was the inning that Triggs said he regretted after the game. Chad Pinder’s two-run homer in the fourth had given the A’s a 3-2 lead, only to have Boston come right back the next inning and jump back ahead.

“It was a really good series,” Triggs said. “I’m just frustrated that I wasn’t able to put an exclamation point on it.”

The last time the A’s completed a four-game home series sweep of Boston came exactly 85 years ago Sunday. That was in 1932 — the year Babe Ruth “called his shot” against the Cubs in the World Series — when the A’s still played their home games at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park.