Sogard lifts A's to 6-4 win over Rockies

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Sogard lifts A's to 6-4 win over Rockies

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SCOTTSDALE -- Juan Nicasio needs no reminders of the frightening line drive last summer that fractured his skull, broke his neck and nearly killed him.The Colorado Rockies' stocky right-hander got one anyway.In his first start since that game on Aug. 5, when Washington's Ian Desmond scorched a fastball off his right temple, Oakland's second hitter, Eric Sogard, sent a heater whizzing by Nicasio's head in the first inning of the Athletics' 6-4 win Friday."It was close. I said, Oh (shoot)!" Nicasio recounted. "Oh my God, it was close to me. But I don't think about it."After wiping his brow and taking a deep breath, Nicasio got back on the mound and seemed unfazed by the close call. He threw three impressive innings, scattering five singles, allowing one unearned run, walking none and striking out two.Nicasio threw in an intrasquad game earlier in the week, his first action without an "L" screen to protect him, and the Rockies were eager to see if he'd be shy Friday, recoiling or cutting off his follow through to protect himself because of what happened to him."I see no sign of that whatsoever," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "That's so encouraging to see."Tracy, himself, cringed at the comebacker, though."I can't really tell you how I felt about the baptism by fire, if you will, when I saw that one line drive go back through the middle. I mean, it didn't take very long for that to happen," Tracy said. "But, actually, maybe a good thing as we move forward. But I can tell you this, the ball was coming out of his hand big-time. The slider, it's there."RELATED: Cespedes to make A's debut on CSN California Saturday
He threw first-pitch strikes to 11 of the 13 batters he faced, and his fastball topped out at 94 mph.Nicasio, who went 4-4 with a 4.14 ERA and 58 strikeouts with 18 walks as a rookie last year before he got hurt, is trying to make the Rockies' rotation just eight months after the accident that landed him in the hospital for 11 days and had doctors - who usually see fractures of the C-1 vertebra in diving or auto accident patients - wondering if he'd ever walk again, much less pitch in the majors.Nicasio, who never lost consciousness when he got hurt last summer, said he had no flashbacks, even when Sogard sent the screamer whizzing past him."Yeah, I'm not thinking about what happened last year," Nicasio said. "I'm not thinking nothing about that. Now, it's a new season, you know? I don't think about last year."Everyone around him still does."I think I'm thinking about it way more than him," shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "It seems like he's past it and moved on. It is a good story. I mean, it's crazy to me.""It was amazing, it's nice to see that guy going back to the mound after all that stuff that he went through," slugger Carlos Gonzalez said. "This guy's a tough guy. It's not easy to do what he's doing right now. He's a competitor. He's unbelievable."Tulowitzki said he was awed by Nicasio even before the game."Today we started off with what we call rag-smash, it's basically pitchers fielding comebackers, and he made it to the finals," Tulowitzki said. "That was impressive to me. I was thinking for a guy to be last year on the field just laid out on the mound from a line-drive comebacker ... it speaks volumes about how fearless of a kid he really is."And then to see him take the mound today, there was some balls hit hard back up the middle. Just to see him attack the strike zone even after those things happened is pretty impressive," Tulowitzki added.Brandon McCarthy allowed two earned runs on four hits in 4 2-3 innings for Oakland, and Jerry Blevins picked up the win by retiring the only batter he faced.Tulowitzki hit two doubles and scored twice off McCarthy to put the Rockies ahead 2-1 before the Athletics rallied for four runs off Tyler Chatwood in three innings.Oakland manager Bob Melvin said Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes will make his first start Saturday against Cincinnati. He'll bat second and play center field in his spring training debut."We're just looking forward to seeing him out there and being part of the team and doing some things in the game," Melvin said. "That's all part of the camaraderie and chemistry. So, I think he's looking forward to that, too."Notes: DH Manny Ramirez will also return to the Athletics' lineup Saturday. ... This was the only meeting between Oakland and Colorado this spring. ... Rockies new closer Rafael Betancourt returned from a stiff neck that had sidelined him for a few days by throwing a 1-2-3 ninth.

A's lineup: Brand new spot for Pinder; Mengden makes first start of 2017

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USATI

A's lineup: Brand new spot for Pinder; Mengden makes first start of 2017

Bob Melvin and Terry Francona issued their lineups for today's series opener in Cleveland.

In addition, the A's placed Kendall Graveman on the 10-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain (retroactive to May 26) and recalled Daniel Mengden from Triple-A Nashville.

Mengden will make his first start of 2017 today.

A's (22-27)
1. Rajai Davis (R) CF
2. Chad Pinder (R) SS
3. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
4. Khris Davis (R) LF
5. Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
6. Ryon Healy (R) DH
7. Stephen Vogt (L) C
8. Trevor Plouffe (R) 3B
9. Matt Joyce (L) RF
P. Daniel Mengden RHP 

Indians (25-23)
1. Jason Kipnis (L) 2B
2. Francisco Lindor (S) SS
3. Michael Brantley (L) LF
4. Carlos Santana (S) 1B
5. Edwin Encarnacion (R) DH
6. Jose Ramirez (S) 3B
7. Yan Gomes (R) C
8. Bradley Zimmer (L) CF
9. Austin Jackson (R) RF
P. Carlos Carrasco RHP (4-2, 2.93 ERA)

Faltering defense continues to be A's unwanted storyline

Faltering defense continues to be A's unwanted storyline

NEW YORK — A weekend that began with promise instead wound up feeling like another lost opportunity for the A’s.

Their defense once again paved the way to their undoing Sunday, and there were plenty of players willing to accept responsibility for a 9-5 loss to the Yankees in the rubber match of a three-game series in the Bronx.

When right fielder Matt Joyce had a catchable fly ball pop out of his glove for a third-inning error that loaded the bases, it seemed inevitable the mistake would come back to haunt the A’s.

On cue, one-time Oakland draft pick Aaron Judge drilled an opposite-field grand slam off Andrew Triggs to a turn a 2-1 A’s lead into a 5-2 deficit. Joyce said he couldn’t stomach to watch the replay of his missed catch afterward.

“It just hit my glove and I dropped it,” Joyce said. “Obviously that’s pretty tough to swallow for me in that situation. For me, I think that’s an easy play. It’s a little embarrassing. It’s obviously really frustrating, especially with what it led to.”

The A’s (22-27) chalked up two more errors, giving them a staggering 49 in 49 games played. When play began Sunday, they had at least 10 more errors than every other big league club. It’s no surprise, therefore, that they also lead the majors with 35 unearned runs, after five of the nine runs they surrendered Sunday were unearned.

That kind of bumbling play in the field is making it difficult for the A’s to maintain leads when they claim one, and tough to mount comebacks when they fall behind. In a factoid that helps explain why the A’s likely find themselves looking at another summer of selling off veterans, they have won just one of the eight road series they’ve played in 2017. Their 7-17 record away from Oakland is second worst in the American League.

The A’s took Friday’s series opener 4-1 but dropped the final two to the AL East leaders.

“I’ve said often, there’s a psychology to it too,” manager Bob Melvin said. “You feel like you have a chance to battle and come back and score some runs, and when your defense is poor, sometimes mentally it’s tough to overcome or get past it. We just have to keep working on it.”

Leading 5-2, New York added to its lead in the fourth with help from a Josh Phegley throwing error on Aaron Hicks’ stolen base. Hicks wound up on third and came home on Chris Carter’s sacrifice fly. The A’s pulled to within 7-5 on Khris Davis’ 15th homer which in the eighth, a two-run shot. But the Yankees answered right back with two more off reliever John Axford, who hurt his cause with two walks.

There were other mishaps that didn’t cost the A’s runs, like Davis making a poor throw to third that allowed a Yankee runner to advance an extra base, and third baseman Ryon Healy losing a foul pop up in the sun.

Regardless of the defensive issues, A’s starter Andrew Triggs wasn’t looking to hand off blame. Just one of the six runs he allowed was earned over his six innings. But Triggs still had a chance to preserve a 2-1 lead in the third if he could have retired Judge with two outs and the bases loaded. Instead he left a 2-1 sinker over the plate and Judge mashed it over the right field wall.

“In my mind it was either sinker away or sinker in, and I thought away was better,” Triggs said. “But you gotta execute the pitch and I didn’t.”

It was the first career grand slam for Judge, who was drafted in the 31st round out of high school by Oakland in 2010 but opted to attend Fresno State. The Yankees took him in the first round in 2013, and in clubbing his 16th homer Sunday (tying him with Mike Trout for the league lead), Judge continued building his strong early case for the Rookie of the Year award.