Athletics

Trade or no trade, Jed Lowrie keeps producing for A's

Trade or no trade, Jed Lowrie keeps producing for A's

OAKLAND — By this point in the season, it’s no surprise when Jed Lowrie sprays extra-base hits to all corners of the ballpark.

That he’s still doing it in an A’s uniform?

Few people could have predicted that.

The assumption leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline was that Lowrie would be shipped off to a contender in need of a versatile switch-hitter infielder. While pitchers Sonny Gray, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and, eventually, first baseman Yonder Alonso all got dealt, Lowrie remains in green and gold.

That’s been to the benefit of A’s manager Bob Melvin. Lowrie has been as steady a hitter as anyone for Oakland this season. He doubled twice Friday night and delivered the game-tying hit in the 5-4 comeback victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

“He’s been through it many times,” Melvin said of the trade speculation. “He just plays it day to day and prepares to win on a particular day. This is as healthy as he’s been. He’s able to go out there multiple days in a row and he’s been as consistent as anybody we’ve had all year.”

Lowrie is hitting a team-high .275 and now leads the entire major leagues with 37 doubles. His RBI total is a modest 40, but some of that has to be attributed to a lack of opportunities from the No. 3 spot in the order. A’s leadoff hitters rank 13th out of 15 American League teams in on-base percentage, and their No. 2 hitters are dead last. There just aren’t enough runners in scoring position when Lowrie steps to the plate.

It’s still possible he could be dealt this month if he passes through waivers unclaimed. Teams can acquire players up until Aug. 31 and have them be eligible for the postseason.

Whatever happens, Lowrie is at peace with things.

“I think before the non-(waiver) deadline it was a distraction, no doubt, because everybody’s talking about it,” Lowrie said. “It seems like after the trade deadline, if (he were to be traded) it just kind of happens. It’s just not a theme that everybody is talking about.

“I was happy when the deadline was over whether I was traded or not. That distraction kind of dissipated.”

It stands to reason that the only way the A’s will deal Lowrie this month is if they are ready to recall top prospect Franklin Barreto from the minors and install him at second. Whether Lowrie gets traded or not, Barreto figures to rejoin the A’s sometime after the Sept. 1 roster expansion.

Worth keeping in mind: If Lowrie sticks around, the A’s hold a $6 million club option on him for next season that they can either exercise or buy out for $1 million.

Coming off an injury-plagued season in 2016, he’s been very durable this year, and the way he goes about his business on a daily basis doesn’t go unnoticed by the A’s younger players.

“He’s so professional, that’s the only way I can describe it,” rookie first baseman Matt Olson said. “He knows how to go about his at-bats. He has a plan up there, clearly. He hits the mistakes that you need to in order to be successful in this game.”

With his gap-to-gap approach, it’s no surprise he’s racked up 37 doubles. He’s got a great chance at surpassing the career-high 45 he collected in 2013 with the A’s.

“That’s my game,” he said. “It’s not like I’m gunning to be the leader. I just want to go out and continue to do the same thing I’ve been doing all year.”

 

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.