Athletics

Straily gets another chance to prove he belongs

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Straily gets another chance to prove he belongs

ARLINGTON -- Dan Straily has never faced the Texas Rangers and he'll get a chance to do so in the biggest game of his career. Well, until the next time he takes the mound this season.

Straily, a right-handed pitcher, was supposed to take the mound in New York on Saturday but the A's decided to go with southpaw Travis Blackley instead. The Yankees have more left-handed hitters and a dangerous short porch in right field. The Rangers are stacked with righties and the team decided they would be better suited playing the match ups. The decision to swap Blackley in for Straily came prior to the game on Wednesday in which Brett Anderson was lost for the rest of the regular season with a right oblique strain.
Straily is now starting in Anderson's turn in the rotation. With starting pitchers Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon, and Anderson all lost for the remainder of the regular season he has an opportunity to prove he belongs in the rotation.
"It's all about winning and it's not my job to decide when to pitch," Straily said on Saturday. "The Rangers have a righty heavy lineup and it's one of those deals that I have no control over. Whenever I get the ball I am going to go out there and compete." Straily, a rookie, is equally eager to take the mound in Texas as he would have been in New York. Both teams have explosive offenses, homer friendly ballparks and are tough to beat at home. A true test for a young pitcher either way. "It makes no difference to me," Straily said. "I love competing and I hate not getting a chance to go out there. They saw the match ups, it's been working all year and why change what's been working." Straily hasn't pitched since September 16 against Baltimore. He allowed four runs, two homers, and five walks in that start. The A's had won in each of his five prior starts, and he was saddled with his first career loss.
He also gave up two home runs in his previous start in Anaheim against the Angels, but struck out eight batters and got the win. Straily went 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in his first three starts with the A's but was sent to Triple-A on August 20 when Anderson came off the disabled list.
After getting sent down he pitched on extra rest and was held to a strict pitch count to keep his arm fresh. Pitching on extra rest is an adjustment for him and he will take the mound against Texas on eight days of rest. "I think it's something I am getting used to and just approach coming up to a start differently," Straily said. "I felt in Anaheim that I had to shake the rust off a little bit. This game is all about adversity and that is just another aspect of it." After struggling in his last start he says he had a really good side session while in Detroit and feels like he ironed things out. He hopes the results will show in Texas. If it doesn't it won't be for a lack of preparation."I've been watching video and taking notes, I spent the last couple of days doing that," Straily said. "It's down to me and the catcher executing pitches because that is something I failed to do in the last outing. I was up in the zone or I was way out of the zone and so it's something I've focused on."Fellow rookie Jarrod Parker, also 23, took the mound in the Bronx and lasted eight innings of one-run ball against the Yankees vaunted lineup on Friday, a performance that Straily said he was inspired by. Parker was born on November 24, 1985. Straily's birthday is December 1. "It's good to see," Straily said. "You can't get much closer on the team in age. It's good to see another guy just go out there and be as successful as anyone else." With Parker's poise as an example, good friend and fellow rotation-mate A.J. Griffin to keep him loose, and the expert guidance of pitching coach Curt Young, Straily could have a winning recipe on Monday. It'll just come down to execution.

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

BOX SCORE

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.