Strikeouts not stopping sarcastic A's

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Strikeouts not stopping sarcastic A's

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ARLINGTON -- The A's performance on Wednesday was one for the record books. They clobbered the Texas Rangers 9-3, reduced their magic number to clinch a spot in the Wild Card game to six, and pulled within three games of the American League West-leading Rangers. For a team that has played five consecutive one-run games, the laughter of a decision was much needed. All good things but not quite historical.

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With 11 whiffs on the night Oakland blew past the previous American League record for most single-season strikeouts, expanding their ongoing franchise-worst mark to 1,333 and passing the 2007 Tampa Bay Rays, who previously held the record with 1,324 punchouts."I think at this point in time it kind of just comes with the territory," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "I was counting up the strikeouts after six and you're going 'Here we go again.' but at least we're not hitting into double plays." The thing about the A's and their egregious strikeout total is that it hasn't stopped them from scoring. They have scored the second most runs in the A.L. since the All-Star break. When they swing, they swing for the fences and it seems to work. It was no different on this evening as Oakland's offense exploded for five runs on six hits as they sent nine batters to the plate and knocked Rangers' starting pitcher Martin Perez out of the game with two outs in the first inning."There was some padding but with that team you never feel that secure," Melvin said. Jarrod Parker tossed six innings of three-run ball and got his 12th win of the season. He is now tied with fellow rookie Tommy Milone for the team lead in wins. Parker has received one run or fewer in 14 of his 29 starts. He got so much run support on Wednesday that it seemed to knock him off his game. He gave up a run and threw 30 pitches in the first inning. Then in the second inning he loaded the bases with no outs and gave up two more runs. He escaped the inning by only allowing the runs to score on a force out and a sacrifice fly. "I've had long waits like that and I'll take five runs and 35 minutes anytime," Parker said (not that he's counting). "You learn to figure out what you need and I was able to get loose and battle through that."Parker is 12-0 in 17 starts in which he gets two or more runs of support. He dialed in after the early issues and pitched four consecutive scoreless innings. "Our bullpen has had a lot of work lately and early on I was struggling a little bit," Parker said. "I came in after the second and third and Curt Young just said flush it, start all over. That was kind of the mentality I was able to take out there."The A's collected 16 hits, but one in particular was very important. Josh Reddick stroked a single in the seventh inning to snap his career-worst 0-for-30 slump. As the newly clean-shaven Reddick reached first base he looked relieved and motioned to the dugout, doing a "double air high-five" with Collin Cowgill. The guys on the bench jokingly asked for the game ball to commemorate the occasion. "We called for the ball and they actually threw it in," Parker said. "We were kind of joking but he actually threw it. There was a couple of jokes. We gave him a nice golf clap in the dugout." "Like a rookie getting his first hit in the big leagues," Reddick said showing off the ball. "They gave me all kinds of special writing on it. Got some stats, 10 broken bats and three broken helmets." He added a hit with a runner in scoring position in his next at-bat but Brandon Moss, who was on second after collecting his third hit, was held up at third. Maybe shaving his goatee and facial hair did indeed do the trick. Reddick said it was a spur of the moment decision right before the game. "I think everybody is relieved to see Reddick get a couple of hits," Melvin said. "He was grinding pretty hard on that. He means so much to us. It's all in fun now but we all felt it going through the struggle." One guy that hasn't been struggling for hits is Stephen Drew. He went 4-for-5 with two RBIs as the A's leadoff hitter. He smacked a bases-loaded single in the third inning to put the A's ahead 7-3. It was Drew's 11th career four-hit game, and his second four-hit effort this week. He is hitting .464 (13-for-28) during his current six-game hitting streak. "He's really starting to get his legs underneath him and it's really about the halfway point of the season for him," Melvin said. "Getting consistent at-bats against lefties, righties, he's a guy that can contribute on both sides of it. That was a nice pickup by Billy Beane." Moss collected three hits and scored twice and Derek Norris got in on the act by driving in a career high-tying three RBIs. The A's wins against the Rangers are keeping their hopes alive, as far as winning the division is concerned. They still have four more games remaining against the Rangers, three of which are at the Oakland Coliseum. "For us to come out here and get these guys is I think the biggest series of the road trip," Reddick said. "These are the guys we are trying to catch. A lot of people want to say we get the Wild Card, we're still trying to win this division."NOTES:-- Yoenis Cespedes smacked an RBI triple in the first inning and was greeted at third base by trainer Nick Paparesta and Bob Melvin. He remained in the game. Cespedes has been battling a bone bruise on the bottom of his right foot since the last home stand. "He's had a bone bruise for a while and he's playing hurt," Melvin said. "I might have to DH him tomorrow even if Coco Crisp isn't available, which at this point I'm probably doubting. For a guy used to playing 90 game seasons this is probably empty tank for him and now he's playing center field and dealing with an injury on top of it." -- Crisp hit in the cage each of the last two days. He has appeared in two games as a pinch runner since developing the eye issues but hasn't been able to hit in eight games.

A's lineup: Alonso returns, batting fifth vs Yankees

A's lineup: Alonso returns, batting fifth vs Yankees

The A's get a big back back in the lineup Sunday in New York as they look to win a series against the Yankees.

Oakland A's (22-26)

1. Mark Canha (R) CF
2. Stephen Vogt (L) DH
3. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
4. Khris Davis (R) LF
5. Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
6. Ryon Healy (R) 3B
7. Josh Phegley (R) C
8. Matt Joyce (L) RF
9. Adam Rosales (R) SS
Andrew Triggs -- RHP

New York Yankees (28-18)

1. Brett Gardner (L) LF
2. Gary Sanchez (R) C
3. Matt Holliday (R) DH
4. Starlin Castro (R) 2B
5. Aaron Judge (R) RF
6. Didi Gregorius (L) SS
7. Aaron Hicks (S) CF
8. Chris Carter (R) 1B
9. Ronald Torreyes (R) 3B
Michael Pineda -- RHP

Despite solid start, Cotton admits to thinking about no-hitter: "It just bit me'

Despite solid start, Cotton admits to thinking about no-hitter: "It just bit me'

NEW YORK — Keep peeling away the layers of Jharel Cotton’s start Saturday, and there are several different ways to view it.

The A’s rookie pitched into the sixth inning despite enduring big-time command issues and giving up a run in the first.

He took a no-hitter into the sixth despite not having the feel for his best pitch, the changeup.

He was on the verge of completing six mostly dominant innings before losing a handle on things in the sixth, allowing a two-out rally that culminated with Matt Holliday’s two-run homer. That blast wound up being the difference in Oakland’s 3-2 loss to the Yankees.

It was an eventful 5 2/3-inning outing for Cotton in his return from the minors. He admitted he was very aware he had a no-hitter going, though it also must have registered that with his pitch count at 88 entering the sixth, he wasn’t going to get a chance to complete history.

“I wanted to just go out there and get (through) the sixth inning with no hits,” Cotton said. “I guess I thought about it too much and it just bit me.”

Taking the mound for his first big league start since being optioned to Triple-A on May 11, Cotton was also making his first start at Yankee Stadium. He couldn’t find the strike zone in the first, allowing a walk, a hit batsman and a wild pitch that led to Starlin Castro’s sacrifice fly and an early lead for New York.

But then he settled down and found a groove, retiring 15 out of 16 hitters for a stretch from the first all the way until the sixth. That was all the more impressive given that Cotton did not have the effective changeup that’s usually the centerpiece to his game plan.

Catcher Josh Phegley said he was encouraged by Cotton’s effort in his first start back from Triple-A.

“He was kind of sporadic at the beginning, so I was just calling a lot of cutters because that was our strike pitch,” Phegley said. “You’d like to have the changeup because it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen. But he’s got the stuff to do without one of his pitches and still compete and put us in a good position.”

The game turned when Cotton couldn’t slam the door in the sixth after retiring the first two hitters. He walked Gary Sanchez and then caught too much plate with a 1-0 cutter to Holliday, who signed a one-year $13 million contract with New York in the offseason. He drilled a two-run homer to left-center, and Cotton was lifted after Castro singled on his next batter.

“I didn’t want to walk that guy,” Cotton said. “You don’t wanna put guys on base with free passes and I did that, and it came back to haunt me.”

With Cotton’s pitch count crossing 100 in the sixth, A’s manager Bob Melvin said he had no second thoughts about not going to his bullpen earlier. Cotton was charged with three runs on just two hits with three walks and five strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings.

“I was fine with him to get through the inning. That probably would have been it,” Melvin said. “You don’t take a guy out just because he’s got 100 pitches. He was pitching well.”

Cotton will be an important factor for the A’s moving forward given the injuries to starters Jesse Hahn and Kendall Graveman, with the former going on the 10-day disabled list Saturday and the latter expected to join him in the next day or two.