Verlander wowed by Giants' bats in Game 1

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Verlander wowed by Giants' bats in Game 1

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The reigning American League Cy Young and MVP doesn't often step off the mound looking completely confused. Yet, Justin Verlander seemed sort of shell-shocked after giving up five runs in four innings in his first postseason loss in 2012. It's safe to say no one expected the the Tigers' ace to be bewildered by the Giants' bats, but that's just exactly what happened as San Francisco stunned Detroit in an 8-3 victory in Game One of the World Series. Verlander had only allowed two runs while winning all three of his starts in this postseason. He quickly equaled that total on Wednesday night. Then doubled it. He struggled with his fastball command and seemed to be out of rhythm after being forced to take eight days off. Verlander last took the mound on Oct. 16, and defeated the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, but after Detroit swept New York they had to wait for the Giants and Cardinals to battle through a seven game National League Championship Series. The Giants squad looked in sync and the Tigers looked, well, rusty.RATTO: 'Rust' factor a myth
"Well, I think first of all you give the Giants hitters credit," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Then second of all, I think probably a little bit layoff, it's been quite a while since he's pitched." Pablo Sandoval struck first with a solo home run in the first inning. Then after back-to-back eight-pitch at-bats resulted in a tough-hop double and an RBI single, Verlander got a visit from Tigers' pitching coach Jeff Jones. As Jones walked to the mound Verlander could be seen mouthing the words, "Why are you here?" with a puzzled look on his face. "I just went out and talked to him about not trying to be too quick with a guy on first," Jones said. "I thought the first couple of pitches he threw the ball a little bit quick." The pep talk didn't work. Moments later Sandoval connected for a two-run homer on a 95-mph fastball and Jeff Jones, Sandoval, and Verlander were all trending nationwide on Twitter.Verlander mouthed the word, "Wow," as he watched the ball fly out of the park to give the Giants a 4-0 lead."I've seen enough balls off the bat now to know if somebody gets one and I definitely didn't think that was a homer off the bat," Verlander said. "I turned around and watched Delmon Young stand at the wall and that's kind of where the 'Wow' came from." Verlander had been unstoppable this postseason. He shouldn't however be completely floored by his struggles in the World Series. After Wednesday's loss he is now 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA in his first three starts in the Fall Classic. His four-inning performance is his shortest since Oct. 8, 2011, when he was held to four innings against Texas in the ALCS after two rain delays.
Verlander gave up six hits, walked one batter, and struck out four. He threw 98 pitches. "Normally when he doesn't have the typical game that he normally throws, it's fastball command more times than not," catcher Alex Avila said. "When he's able to locate his fastball, he's deadly."He had the velocity but clearly not the location. You knew things were going really bad for Verlander when Barry Zito got a hit off him in the fourth inning. Zito is just the fourth pitcher ever to record a hit against Verlander, and the first since Adam Eaton did it June 17, 2007. After Zito's single he retired Angel Pagan to end the fourth and never came back. "Is it disappointing? Yeah. Would you have liked to win Game 1? Absolutely," Verlander said while answering his own questions. "It's not the end of the world by any means." It may not be the end, but it doesn't look good statistically. The last eight home teams to win Game 1 have won the World Series.

Vogt's defensive cameo comes straight out of left field

Vogt's defensive cameo comes straight out of left field

OAKLAND — Stephen Vogt made an unexpected appearance in left field Wednesday night, and his performance got approval from a pretty good outfield authority.

Former A’s teammate Josh Reddick was watching from the Houston Astros’ dugout and thought the catcher-by-trade handled himself very well.

“I was talking to (Houston manager) A.J. (Hinch) and I said, ‘It’s gonna be interesting because you know at least one ball’s gonna get to him,’” Reddick said. “You start laughing because four of the five that were hit that inning were hit to him.”

With the A’s bench short-handed, manager Bob Melvin sent Vogt to left after he pinch-hit for Rajai Davis, and indeed Vogt got a workout throughout the top of the eighth. That added a bit of levity to a 5-1 loss that otherwise provided the A’s very little to cheer about.

They were bottled up by Astros right-hander Mike Fiers and four relievers as the Astros won their ninth in a row at the Coliseum and their third straight in this four-game series. A’s starter Sean Manaea was rolling through five scoreless innings before Houston blitzed him for three runs in the sixth. The Astros tacked on a couple more late runs against Oakland’s bullpen and that was enough on a night the A’s mustered just four hits total.

After Vogt delivered an RBI groundout that scored the A’s only run in the seventh, Melvin wanted to keep Vogt’s left-handed bat in the lineup, so he asked the veteran catcher if he could handle left.

“I said yeah, absolutely,” Vogt said.

It’s easy to forget that Vogt came up through the Tampa Bay Rays’ system playing a lot of outfield, and he played more than a dozen games in the outfield in 2014 for the A’s, mostly in right.

He sure got tested. The Astros’ first four hitters of the eighth all hit balls in Vogt’s direction. He got a routine fly from Brian McCann, a difficult low liner off the bat of Yuli Gurriel that he smothered for a single, a double from Alex Bregman that he did a good job cutting off and a sacrifice fly to the warning track from Jake Marisnick.

“I had the adrenaline shot run up and I was loose and ready to go,” Vogt said. “Obviously I was a little more focused than probably your average outfielder out there. I’m glad the first one came to me, otherwise I would have been sweatin’ it for a while.”

Vogt has lost time recently behind the plate against right-handers to Josh Phegley, who has done an effective job controlling the running game. And though you shouldn’t by any means expect to see Melvin running Vogt to the outfield often, you also shouldn’t assume it won’t happen at all.

At some point, the A’s figure to call up catcher Bruce Maxwell as part of the crop of young players they’re trying to give more time too. If the left-handed hitting Maxwell were to share catching duties with Phegley, and if the A’s were to trade Yonder Alonso (again, we’re talking ‘ifs’ here), it’s conceivable Vogt’s left-handed bat could be put to use at spots other than catcher, perhaps at first base or, in a pinch, even the outfield.

His old teammate thinks he could pull it off.

“I remember him playing in right in ’14 when I was (injured),” Reddick said. “He did a pretty good job out there, it’s not like he’s foreign to it. He knows what he’s doing.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's third straight loss to Astros

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's third straight loss to Astros

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OAKLAND — As swiftly as the A’s appeared to grab some momentum by sweeping the Yankees, it was snatched from their grasp.

The Houston Astros have taken the first three games of this mid-week four-gamer at the Coliseum, and the A’s will have to win Thursday afternoon’s finale to avoid being on the other end of a sweep.

They generated barely a whisper offensively in a 5-1 loss Wednesday night, advancing just one runner as far as third base. Mike Fiers (5-2), who’s come on strong for an Astros rotation that’s been decimated by injuries, held Oakland to three hits over six innings. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in four June starts.

Sean Manaea (6-4) was rolling along for the A’s until the sixth, when the Astros broke a scoreless tie with five hits and three runs off the lefty. Manaea wound up taking his first loss since May 15.

Striking quick: It was 0-0 when the Astros opened the sixth with three consecutive singles. Jose Altuve got things going, then Carlos Correa singled to center and advanced to second on Jaycob Brugman’s throw that went through to third, putting two runners in scoring position. Evan Gattis drove both home with a single to center, and he would score on Jake Marisnick’s single. That was all the offense Houston would need.

Alonso provides a spark: Yonder Alonso, in a fierce fight to win the All-Star vote and be the American League’s starting first baseman, doubled in the seventh and scored on Stephen Vogt’s groundout for the A’s only run.

Outfield arms: The A’s started Rajai Davis in left and Matt Joyce returned to the lineup in right after missing Tuesday with back tightness. Joyce did well to hold Brian McCann to a single in the fourth, retreaving his drive to the right field corner and firing it back to the infield. Davis kept a run from scoring in the third when he fielded Nori Aoki’s single and fired it back to the infield to keep Marisnick from scoring. That sequence was noteworthy given how often opponents have been taking the extra base on Khris Davis when he plays left.

Chapman still day-to-day: As the A’s look to avoid a four-game sweep Thursday, it’s unclear if they’ll have third baseman Matt Chapman back in the lineup. The rookie missed his third game in a row with an infection in his left knee. Manager Bob Melvin said the swelling in Chapman’s knee has gone down, but Melvin was non-specific on Chapman’s return.

“If it’s not tomorrow, hopefully it’s (the) Chicago (series this weekend).”

Stephen Vogt, Mr. Utility: The A’s were working with a two-man bench with Chapman out, which led to catcher Stephen Vogt making his first appearance in the outfield in three seasons. After pinch-hitting for left fielder Rajai Davis in the seventh, Vogt assumed left field duties in the top of the eighth and was immediately put through a workout. The first four Houston batters of the inning all hit balls toward left field, and Vogt more than held his own, including retreating to the warning track to haul in Jake Marisnick’s sacrifice fly and cutting off Alex Bregman’s double.