A's Insider notes: Sluggers boost confidence in loss


A's Insider notes: Sluggers boost confidence in loss

June 4, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVEA's PAGE A's VIDEOPaul Gutierrez

A few observations from the A's come-from-ahead 8-6 loss to the Boston Red Sox Friday night at Fenway Park- Was intrigued and, I guess, pleasantly surprised by Bob Geren's lineup to start the A's 10-game roadie. After two days off, Daric Barton returned, but hit sixth for the first time this season, rather than his usual second. Plus, Hideki Matsui, who I've advocated should be the team's everyday designated hitter until he either breaks out of his slump or shows that he has absolutely nothing left, was also back after missing the previous two games against right-handed pitchers. He hit clean-up.- Matsui had an 0-for-5 night but, in what might serve as a confidence-builder, he drove in the A's first run of the night with a first-inning fielder's choice.- Barton, meanwhile, had a pair of two-out, run-scoring singles that no doubt will help his confidence. But he also committed his seventh error of the season, on J.D. Drew's bouncer between first and second, and he could have padded the A's slim lead in the seventh. With one out, Josh Willingham at second and Kurt Suzuki at first, Barton grounded into a rally-killing, inning-ending double play. It was only the second time all season he's had a multi-hit, multi-RBI game (May 15 against the Chicago White Sox).- There are few things in sports as deflating to a team as a pitcher, handed a four-run lead before he even takes the mound, giving it all back, plus one, before the end of the third inning. Welcome to Josh Outman's painful world. The left-hander lasting only 2 23 innings - the shortest non injury-related outing by an A's starter this season - and gave up five runs, four earned, in his third start of the season. His inability to get outs made it a battle of the bullpens.- To which Guillermo Moscoso answered the challenge, with 2 13 scoreless innings. Initially skipped in the rotation due to Thursday's off day, the right-hander got his work in anyways, and impressed in doing so. Especially after giving up lead-off singles to Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis in the fifth inning before getting out of it unscathed.- If Matsui does flame out and the A's have to part ways with him, Josh Willingham should be the D.H. and Ryan Sweeney should be the everyday left fielder. Willingham had trouble playing the Green Monster - as has every player not named Carl Yastrzemski - but had a great day at the plate with three hits, including two doubles.- While it might be fashionable to beat up on Brian Fuentes for giving up the hit that allowed the winning run, he made the pitch that had to be made, shattering Carl Crawford's bat in the process. The problem was, Fuentes fell behind, first 2-0 and then 3-1, so he had to serve up a strike rather than a slider to get Crawford to chase. The runs that scored on the flare to shallow center field ere charged to Joey Devine, the first runs he's allowed in 33 innings over 33 games, dating back to Sept. 4, 2008. Yes, he's coming back from Tommy John Surgery.

Bill King earns induction into Baseball Hall of Fame

Bill King earns induction into Baseball Hall of Fame

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Legendary A’s radio announcer Bill King was selected as the 2017 Ford C. Frick award winner, earning him induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The announcement came Wednesday morning at the winter meetings, and surely the news will be greeted enthusastically by legions of fans who identify King’s voice with so many of the Bay Area’s unforgettable sports moments.

King, who passed away in 2005, won the award in his sixth time as a finalist. Current A’s play-by-play man Ken Korach, who called games alongside King and wrote a book about his career and colorful personality, lobbied hard for his induction, even reaching out individually to Frick voters before this year’s election. Contacted Wednesday, Korach's voice cracked with emotion as he searched for words to describe his feelings.

“Honestly, I’m in tears. I really am,” Korach said. “It’s incredible. I’m just overwhelmed with joy, for his family, for his fans. What Bill meant to A’s fans and fans of the Bay Area in general is the reason that he’s in.”

King was passed over numerous times in previous Frick elections, with the assumed thought being that King’s terrific versatility behind the mic actually worked against him.

Because he was so well-known and identified with as a Raiders and Warriors announcer as well as A’s, some never viewed King as a pure baseball man. But baseball was nearest to King’s heart according to Korach, who plans to travel to Cooperstown with his wife Denise for King’s induction July 29.

“It was his first love, the game he enjoyed broadcasting the most.”

King’s call of the Raiders’ zany “Holy Roller” victory over the Chargers in 1978 is a staple of vintage NFL Films footage. He described the scene for Warriors fans as the team won its first NBA title in the Bay Area in 1975. And his trademark “Holy Toledo!” marked so many A’s victories over the years.

The other seven finalists for the Frick award were Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow, Gary Cohen, Jacques Doucet, Ken Harrelson, Pat Hughes, Ned Martin and Dewayne Staats.

“Bill King’s enthusiasm for every game he called carried through the airwaves and into the hearts of fans throughout Northern California for 25 incredible years with the Oakland Athletics,” said Hall of Fame president Jeff Idleson. “From his distinctive word choices in describing the action to his unabashed love of Oakland and the Bay Area, King crafted a career that became synonymous with the action at the Oakland Coliseum and throughout the sports world.”

Mack, Irvin feed off each other, form dynamic duo in Raiders pass rush

Mack, Irvin feed off each other, form dynamic duo in Raiders pass rush

The Buffalo Bills were running right through the Oakland Raiders early in Sunday’s contest, a never-ending assault that took its toll on defenders in silver and black.

That was the case for the most optimistic, steadfast member of that unit.

“We were giving up big plays, and I was frustrated,” star edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “Actually, I was pissed off.”

Bruce Irvin sensed a disturbance in the force. The veteran pass rusher knew how to fix it.  A little pep talk would get Mack going again.

“We feed off each other’s energy. … That dude pulls me up. I was feeling a little down towards the middle of the game, and he was like, ‘Come on. We need you. Come on. Let’s go. He pulled me up and kept pushing.”

That wasn’t the turning point in yet another comeback win. It wasn’t the only reason why defense locked Buffalo down during a run of 29 unanswered points.

It showed how strong a friendship Mack and Irvin have formed since the spring, one that helps get the best out of the other. Bonds formed from insatiable work ethic, one evident even in the offseason program.

“We’re both so hungry to be great that it just brought us together,” Irvin said. “When I got here, we talked right away. Khalil and (quarterback Derek Carr) were the first two guys I sat down with, and I told them I was coming over to play with Khalil, to help turn this thing around and become one of the top units in the league. Khalil and I just bonded quickly, and it was like we had been friends forever. It’s like whole thing was meant to be.”

It has turned out to be a productive pairing. There are 15 sacks, 94 other quarterback pressures and eight forced fumbles between Irvin and Mack this season.

Mack has the bulk of those numbers, especially during a second-half run where he has been outright dominant and jumped into the conversation for defensive player of the year. Mack has been involved in four turnovers the last two games, including game-sealing strip sacks while recovering his own fumble in consecutive weeks.

“You all don’t want to talk to Robin,” Irvin quipped. “Batman’s right over there.”

Irvin has used that line after two home victories in a row. The fifth-year pro is more than Mack’s sidekick. He’s on a roll himself, with sacks in three straight games. He uses speed and agility to create pressure off the strongside edge, dealing with left tackles on a consistent basis.

“I’m in a good groove right now,” Irvin said. “Mentality, physically, I’m in a very good place right now. It’s really showing on the field these past couple weeks.”

Irvin has been a productive defender either making plays on his side or driving traffic back towards Mack. It works both ways, with Mack drawing significant attention that often leaves Irvin in more favorable matchups.

The combination has been impactful, especially on a defense that doesn’t’ get pressure from other sources. They’ve been productive in the clutch as well, with six sacks coming in the fourth quarter. Mack has big plays the last two weeks, and Irvin has a big sack late in a victory over Houston in Mexico City.

The Raiders defense is improving, and having Irvin rushing strong recently helps Mack and the entire Raiders defense.

“He’s always been in a good groove, but there are things going well for this defense,” Mack said. “I’m on the other side, and you have coverage going well. (Opponents) try to do all the chipping and those things that play a factor in doing what we do. The fact that he’s rolling right now is not a surprise.”