Triggs helps A's nail down eighth win in a row over Royals

Triggs helps A's nail down eighth win in a row over Royals

KANSAS CITY — Andrew Triggs talks matter-of-factly about his start to the season, spinning off team-first quotes and not making too much of his own exploits.

Through two starts, however, it can’t be downplayed what the right-hander has given the A’s. Triggs has won his first two starts in his first regular crack in a major league rotation, and he has yet to allow a single earned run.

The offense stole the show in Wednesday’s 8-3 victory over the Royals, but Triggs’ performance out of the gate has been one of the A’s under-the-radar success stories.

“There’s some pretty good left-handed hitters in the (Royals’) lineup,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “You expect him to maybe make some of the righties take some bad swings, but he had some of the lefties taking some bad swings. So he’s off to a great start.”

It means all the more considering Triggs didn’t exactly mow through hitters in the latter half of spring training. He surrendered 20 runs over his last four Cactus League starts. And although the A’s essentially had him written into the rotation by the time they reported to camp — meaning his exhibition results didn’t carry significant weight — surely team officials would have breathed a little easier had he taken some momentum into the regular season.

But Triggs has responded since the games started counting, firing 11 2/3 scoreless innings and giving up just eight hits. More so than in his first start against the Angels, Triggs’ fastball command was more dialed in and he was spotting to both sides of the plate with his cutter.

“Once the lights turn on and the real games begin is when you wanna perform,” Triggs said. “So I’m pretty pleased with the way things have gone. The biggest thing is to nail down a series win the second game in, so it’s exciting.”

Indeed, the A’s have taken two of the first three against the Royals, whom they’ve now beaten eight times in a row dating back to last season. That’s the second-longest winning streak against Kansas City in franchise history, trailing only a 10-gamer that bridged the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

Don’t underestimate what it means to Melvin. The 2014 Wild Card loss at Kauffman Stadium, when the A’s coughed up two different leads, still packs some sting. That was apparent when leading into the series, Melvin referred to the Royals as a team that always gives the A’s fits. Never mind that Oakland went 6-1 against Kansas City last season.

“I mean, there’s one game I remember, and a lot that I don’t,” Melvin admitted after Wednesday’s game. “It’s a tough team and it’s been a tough team for us.”

The Royals happen to be the team that drafted Triggs in the 19th round in 2012 after his senior season at USC (the Indians and Giants both drafted him in the previous two years but he didn’t sign). He made it as high as Triple-A with the Royals before being traded to Baltimore for cash in April 2015.

Triggs knows some of the current Royals. He played in the minors with Cheslor Cuthbert, who went 0-for-2 against him as the Royals’ DH. Reliever Scott Alexander, who threw 2 1/3 innings Wednesday, was his roommate.

“I still have some friends over there,” Triggs said. “… It’s fun to pitch against guys you know. But at the end of the day, you’re just trying to make pitches and give your team a chance to win.”

To this point, he’s doing that and more.

A's lineup: Joyce jumps to No. 2 against right-hander Nolasco

A's lineup: Joyce jumps to No. 2 against right-hander Nolasco

With the A's going up against the right-handed Ricky Nolasco Thursday night in LA, manager Bob Melvin is pushing his lefties up in the order.

Oakland A's (10-11)

1. Jaff Decker (L) CF
2. Matt Joyce (L) RF
3. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
4. Khris Davis (R) LF
5. Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
6. Ryon Healy (R) 3B
7. Trevor Plouffe (R) DH
8. Josh Phegley (R) C
9. Adam Rosales (R) SS
Kendall Graveman -- RHP

Los Angeles Angels (11-12)

1. Yunel Escobar (R) 3B
2. Kole Calhoun (L) RF
3. Mike Trout (R) CF
4. Albert Pujols (R) DH
5. C.J. Cron (R) 1B
6. Andrelton Simmons (R) SS
7. Ben Revere (L) LF
8. Cliff Pennington (S) 2B
9. Juan Graterol (R) C
Ricky Nolasco -- RHP

Alonso strikes a chord with fascinating account of Cuba defection

Alonso strikes a chord with fascinating account of Cuba defection

ANAHEIM — As Yonder Alonso was preparing for the 2017 season last winter, he was tackling another challenge too.

Over the course of three months, the A’s first baseman gathered his thoughts and pieced together a fascinating first-person account for The Players’ Tribune about his childhood experience defecting from Cuba with his parents and younger sister.

Alonso framed the article as him penning a letter to his 8-year-old self, describing the grueling struggle he and his family would go through while reassuring his younger self that it would all be worth it when he finally made it as a major leaguer. Alonso describes in vivid detail the hardships he went through, caring for his sister, Yainee, at night as they dined on meals of microwaved hot dogs and microwaved eggs, while his parents were away from home working multiple jobs to support their family.

Alonso goes on to describe how he would return from college baseball road trips, while he was attending the University of Miami, and immediately head to a night job to help his father clean warehouses and scrub bathrooms.

The story struck a chord within the A’s clubhouse but also among so many people from the Miami area, where Alonso’s family settled after they defected. Alonso said he’s received text messages from many of them.

“I think everybody in this locker room, or any locker room, they definitely have a story to tell,” Alonso said. “And I think it’s awesome when you see a guy just kind of open up a little bit. I’m (usually) not one to open up.”

Athletes are used to reporters peppering them with questions and trying to draw stories out of them. Seldom do athletes take to penning their own story.

Representatives from The Players’ Tribune, an online publication started by Derek Jeter in 2014, reached out to Alonso in early December about writing something. Alonso had a trip planned to Cuba for later that month, before any request for an article came, and his return visit to his native country helped persuade him to go through with it.

“I saw a lot of people,” he said. “For me it was very touching. For my wife as well.”

Alonso met with an editor from The Players’ Tribune during spring training, and they began hashing out ideas. Alonso said he wrote the story himself with assistance from the editor.

“We had ideas, different ways of going about it,” he said. “I think from day one I knew the way I wanted to write it and how I wanted it to come out, which is a letter to my younger self.”

Even after finishing the project three weeks ago, Alonso said he wasn’t sure he wanted to share it publicly. He showed the article to some friends and teammates, including A’s reliever Sean Doolittle and outfielder Matt Joyce. After reading the piece, Joyce strongly persuaded Alonso to carry through with it.

“I told him it was awesome,” Joyce said. “From my perspective, you don’t really get a good sense of what those guys go through, coming over to the States. You just see them later. So to kind of read it in his own words, it was a really cool perspective and a good story to see what a kid across the water, from a different country, goes through to get to this point. I think it’s a very powerful story and message.”

Alonso said his motivation was simple.

“Just letting my family know, and people in this world know, that if you want to strive for something, it can be tough at times. But there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.”