Athletics

A's bats sleeping in Seattle; Mariners win 4-0

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A's bats sleeping in Seattle; Mariners win 4-0

April 22, 2011BOX SCORE A'S VIDEOMLB PAGE MLB SCOREBOARD
SEATTLE (AP) Not all rookies get a reigning Cy Young Award winner to copy.That's just what Seattle's Michael Pineda tried to do on Friday night.Pineda noticed a night earlier that Felix Hernandez had success against Oakland working both sides of the plate, so when Pineda took the mound the burly rookie tried to emulate what Hernandez did. REWIND: Hernandez blanks A's, Kennedy makes them pay
He nearly matched the Mariners ace.Pineda dazzled again, throwing six shutout innings for his third straight victory, and Adam Kennedy's two-run single was enough offense in the Mariners' 4-0 win over the Athletics.On the way to setting a little franchise history, Pineda overcame a high pitch-count in the early innings and some adversity in the sixth to become the first pitcher in Seattle history to begin his career with four consecutive quality starts."For a young man, he has a strong focus out there," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "He doesn't let things speed up on him and you have to keep pitching and I think that's the most important part of that."Pineda has gone at least six innings every time out, and gave up five hits, struck out five and walked only two. He became just the second rookie in club history to post three victories in April, joining Freddy Garcia, and has a chance to own the mark himself with one more scheduled start this time.Pineda's night was shortened only because of a rising pitch count. Most of those were racked up in the second inning where he threw 31 pitches and allowed consecutive walks to lead off before getting strikeouts of Mark Ellis and Kevin Kouzmanoff and a groundout by Cliff Pennington.The burly right-hander gave up just three hits in his first five innings and when Pineda (3-1) faced trouble in the sixth, he got Kurt Suzuki to line out to left field and a ground ball from Ellis to end the threat. Pineda felt his motion was too quick in the early innings and was opening his front shoulder too quickly. He made a change in the third and rolled until the sixth, helped along by a biting slider."My slider now, it's better," Pineda said. "In spring training, sometimes it was good, but now since I first started here my slider has been pretty good."Pineda also got great defense at times. Kouzmanoff led off the fifth with a single and stood at third with one out. Pineda came inside on Coco Crisp, forcing a grounder to first. Kennedy threw home to Miguel Olivo and got the tag on Kouzmanoff, who might have scored with a better slide.Wilson also started a key double play in the seventh with a sliding stop that was turned nicely by shortstop Brendan Ryan. Instead of using his backhand to start the double play, Wilson smothered the ball then shoveled to Ryan. It's another part of Wilson's transition to second base he's continuing to work on."It's definitely a back hand (play), but at this point, I did what I needed to do to get the job done," Wilson said.David Pauley and Aaron Laffey worked two innings of relief. Jamey Wright entered in the ninth and loaded the bases with one out before Brandon League got Conor Jackson to ground into a game-ending double play for his fifth save in five chances.Oakland has now gone 18 innings since last scoring and was shut out in consecutive games for the first time since May 2008.Seattle got just seven hits themselves, but took advantage of seven walks allowed by the A's. Kennedy scored on Wilson's two-out single in the second off Oakland starter Tyson Ross (1-2), then drove home a pair in the fifth, lining Jerry Blevins' breaking ball back up the middle to score Chone Figgins and Michael Saunders. GUTIERREZ: Ross own worst enemy in A's listless loss in Seattle
Ross lasted just 4 1-3 innings and threw just 31 of his 76 pitches for strikes."His fastball command wasn't as close to where it was this spring or remotely close to where it needs to be," Oakland manager Bob Geren said.NOTES: Seattle 1B Justin Smoak, on the bereavement list following the death of his father, is expected to rejoin the Mariners in Detroit on Tuesday. ... Friday was the birthday of Ross (24) and Oakland reliever David Purcey (29). Purcey threw 1 1-3 innings of relief and didn't allow a hit. ... Seattle LF Milton Bradley left in the third inning with lower back spasms. ... Seattle has pushed LHP Erik Bedard back and will have RHP Felix Hernandez start on normal rest Tuesday at Detroit. Bedard will now go on Wednesday.

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

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A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

OAKLAND — Matt Olson is aware of the company he’s keeping in the A’s record books.

His reaction is a mix of reverence and a shrug-of-the-shoulders type humbleness.

That’s the personality of the A’s rookie first baseman. Even as the conversation about him and his awe-inspiring home run pace grows louder, he remains the same steady, grounded presence.

“I’m happy for him,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “The guy’s worked his butt off. He’s the same today as was when he first got called up.”

Olson cleared the fences once again Friday night, his two-run homer off Nick Martinez in the second inning helping the A’s to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. At this point, it’s much more newsworthy when Olson doesn’t homer than when he does.

He’s crammed 24 homers into just 57 games this season. Taking into account his first call-up last September, and Olson’s 24 homers over the first 68 games of his career are the second-most in the history of major league baseball over that span to open a career. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger also hit 24 and only the White Sox’s Jose Abreu, with 25, hit more over his first 68.

Olson’s 13 homers in September are the most by any rookie in major league history for the month, and there’s still eight games left in it. But Olson’s hot streak dates back to Aug. 27. He’s hit a major league-best 16 homers in 23 games since then.

Among rookies in A’s history, only Mark McGwire (49) in 1987 and Jose Canseco (33) in 1986 have hit more than Olson’s 24. But neither Bash Brother, nor any other player in Oakland history, ever hit 15 homers in a 21-game span as Olson recently did.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Olson said before Friday’s game. “I grew up with a Mark McGwire poster on my wall. It’s a little surreal.”

Who saw this coming?

Olson went 2-for-21 without a single RBI in his first taste of the bigs last September. Then he shuttled five times between Triple-A and the majors this season before getting called up once again Aug. 8 and being told he’d get a shot as the A’s regular first baseman with Yonder Alonso having been traded. The constant shuttling took its toll, though Olson never let on about that publicly to reporters.

“You could see (the frustration),” said Ryan Christenson, his manager at Triple-A. “When he walks in and you tell him ‘You’re getting sent up,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, how many days is it for this time?’ He wouldn’t voice it necessarily, but you could sense it.”

Olson, with help from Bush and others, made an adjustment coming into this season. He began holding his hands out farther away from his body to begin his swing. With his 6-foot-5 frame, Olson had found himself getting jammed inside. Then in trying to adjust to that, he couldn’t square up pitches on the outer half.

“Now, his hands are firing from where he wants them to,” Bush said. “He doesn’t have to fight. You want your hands to have a clean path. Now he can stay in there, stay behind the ball, let his hands work for him.”

Olson, a 23-year-old from Lilburn, Ga., takes this sudden burst of success — and attention — in stride.

“I’ve been hit with so many stats here in the past week, I can’t even keep track of who’s done what, and honestly what I’ve done,” he said. “I kind of try to ignore all that.”

That’s OK. Others are taking plenty of notice.

 

As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

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As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

LOS ANGELES — The Giants left their dugout quickly after Friday’s loss, escaping a celebration on the mound and a fireworks show in the sky. As Dodger Stadium shook with cheers, Bruce Bochy sat in the visiting clubhouse and smiled. He nodded at his laptop, which earlier had been used to pull up highlights of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani. 

“He’s good,” Bochy said, laughing. “I absolutely would play him every day.”

Earlier in the week, when it became known that Bobby Evans and Jeremy Shelley were headed to Japan to scout Otani, Bochy said he couldn’t imagine a player pitching and then moving to the outfield between starts. What changed? 

Perhaps it was the tape Bochy saw. Otani throws 100 mph and hits homers with ease. Or perhaps it was the game he watched Friday. The Giants lost for the 94th time, with the big blow coming from a 22-year-old Dodgers star. Cody Bellinger’s blast was the difference in a 4-2 win, and the Giants don’t have a Bellinger, or anything close. Otani, 23, is a long shot for a team that very well could finish with the worst record in baseball. Still, he’s the kind of talent that could help pull the Giants closer in a hurry. He’s the  kind of talent they haven’t developed in years, and Bochy certainly sounded a bit wistful as he talked of the power Bellinger has put on display. 

“You call up a guy and he does that — that just doesn’t happen,” he said. “It’s a rare deal.”

The ninth inning of the Dodgers’ clincher reinforced that point for the Giants. They got a homer from Pablo Sandoval, but he’s playing only because Christian Arroyo — the Giants’ best prospect bet this year — is hurt. Ryder Jones, their 23-year-old prospect, struck out to end the night, dropping his average to .180. 

That set off a celebration for Bellinger and the Dodgers. They have won five straight NL West titles, with three of the last four clinched against the Giants. 

“Congrats to them,” Bochy said. “They’ve had a tremendous year across the board, and they’ve played great baseball. They brought some guys up that really did a great job for them. It’s well deserved.”

Bochy said it was not difficult to watch this one. The division has been wrapped up for months, with only a September slide keeping the Dodgers from clinching earlier. 

“We knew what we were facing here,” Bochy said. 

The Giants have two more against the Dodgers and then six more before a long winter. The Dodgers, on the other hand, will host an NLDS series here at Dodger Stadium. Both Bochy and starter Jeff Samardzija made the same observation, that the Dodgers will have a hard time cutting their deep roster down to 25 postseason players. 

That’s a nice problem to have. It’s a foreign one right now for the Giants, who have a serious talent gap and no clear solutions internally. It’s no wonder, then, that Bochy has all of a sudden become so intrigued by a wondrous talent overseas.