Braden, Buerhle bring perfection to A's-Sox opener

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Braden, Buerhle bring perfection to A's-Sox opener

April 11, 2011

A's (4-5) vs.
CHICAGO (6-3)

Coverage begins at 4:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

CHICAGO (APCSN) -- The A's have been slumping on offense, but emerged with a decent hitting performance in their last game.

Seeing Mark Buehrle on the mound for the Chicago White Sox may help them sustain that momentum.

Buehrle hopes to end his struggles against Oakland as the teams begin a three-game set Monday in Chicago.

REWIND: Braden throws perfect game, A's top Rays 4-0

He'll face Dallas Braden, his partner in perfect game lore. The matchup will mark the first time the pitchers have faced each other since Bradens perfect game and only the 21st time in major league history that two pitchers with perfect games on their ledger will oppose each other.

Buehrle defeated the Tampa Bay Rays on July 23, 2009, becoming the 18th pitcher in history to throw a perfect game. Braden matched him, against the Rays as well, on May 9, 2010.

The Athletics (4-5) have won three of four overall thanks largely to strong pitching, but they had totaled four runs in their three games prior to Sunday's series finale at Minnesota. The bats then awakened in a 5-3 victory. Hideki Matsui hit his first homer in the fourth inning, and Josh Willingham added a solo shot in Oakland's four-run sixth.

"It was good that the offense came together," said Matsui, who entered Sunday batting .160 with three RBIs. "The starting pitching has been pitching well, but they weren't quite getting the offensive support."

The A's have long done just enough to win against Buehrle (1-0, 7.36 ERA). The left-hander has a respectable 3.90 lifetime ERA versus Oakland, but only a 4-13 record to show for it due to a run support average of less than three.

CSNCHICAGO: Dunn close to return following appendectomy

Buehrle's support has run the gamut from extraordinary to non-existent in his two starts this season. After getting credit for a 15-10 victory at Cleveland on opening day, he received no support at all while in the game at Kansas City on Wednesday. Buehrle allowed five runs in five innings, but didn't get a decision as the White Sox (6-3) rallied to win 10-7 in 12 innings.

If Paul Konerko and the top of the White Sox's order continue hitting the way they did Sunday, Buehrle stands a good chance of overcoming the Athletics.

Konerko hit two solo home runs in Chicago's 6-1 victory against Tampa Bay. Leadoff man Juan Pierre drove in a run and No. 2 hitter Gordon Beckham added his second homer of the season in the first inning. Beckham didn't hit his second home run of 2010 until June 25.

"They've been getting on base, having quality at-bats and they've been tough on the other team," Konerko said of Pierre and Beckham. "That makes it easier for the guys in the middle."

Konerko is enjoying a sizzling start to 2011. He's batting .400 with at least one hit in each game, and has three homers and 11 RBIs. However, he is 0 for 13 with four strikeouts in his last four games against the A's.

Braden (0-1, 6.43) had an underwhelming season debut Wednesday at Toronto, allowing five runs and 10 hits through seven innings of Oakland's 5-3 loss.

Braden is 2-0 with a 3.22 ERA in three career starts against the White Sox, with both victories coming within six days of each other last season. He beat them 6-4 on July 25, then pitched a complete game and gave up two runs in a 6-2 win July 31.

Konerko is 2 for 8 off Braden, though both hits were doubles.

Report: Melancon rubbed Giants teammates wrong way early in season

Report: Melancon rubbed Giants teammates wrong way early in season

This past offseason, the Giants overhauled the back of their bullpen. Out went mainstays Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez. In came prized free agent Mark Melancon.

It was supposed to be a seamless transition for one of the most reliable closers in baseball.

But nearly three months in, Melancon is one of many Giants players struggling while the team flounders in last place in the NL West with a 27-51 record.

And it appears Melancon's relationship with his new teammates didn't get off to a great start.

Melancon "rubbed some teammates the wrong way early in the season" by canceling a longstanding pregame stretching session with the other relievers that was implemented long before he joined the team, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.

That's not the only stretching-related issue to impact the Giants. Manager Bruce Bochy had to get involved when several veterans were reportedly late on multiple occasions for the team stretching session.

“I dropped the ball. I’ve been doing this so long, you take for granted that they know what I want. These guys were used to doing it how they’ve done it — ‘I have my own routine. I’m not going to stretch.’ But we do stretch as a team here. They all have to be out there,” Bochy said.

Closers are known to have unique routines and Bochy addressed that as well.

“Sometimes other relievers … maybe they get a little taken aback by it. I don’t know what (closer) doesn’t have a routine like that,” Bochy said.

General Manager Bobby Evans addressed the claim that Melancon is rubbing teammates the wrong way and defended his closer's role in the clubhouse.

“To whatever degree it hasn’t manifested itself or to the extent it’s manifested itself in the perception of some negatively, I can assure you that was not Mark’s intention. Mark is a team guy,” Evans said.

Melancon, who has a 4.58 ERA and 11 saves in 15 chances this season, has three years and $53 million left on his contract with the Giants.

Forecasting who should and will win 2017 NBA awards

Forecasting who should and will win 2017 NBA awards

The private jets have arrived, most of the swank parties are on and the red carpet has been laid. The NBA is set to announce from New York the winners of its individual awards Monday night at 6 p.m. on TNT.

Rapper Drake, a very public fan of the NBA, will serve as the host. Among the presenters are actors Nick Cannon, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jesse Williams, as well as athletes Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce. In addition, Nicki Minaj is scheduled as the music guest.

The NBA clearly wants to make a splash in its inaugural show.

Here is our forecast for the six major awards to be presented:

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER:
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks: Rare combination of defensive skill, offensive tools and superior athleticism. Began the season as a Top-50 player, ended it in Top 15.

Rudy Gobert, Jazz: Still raw offensively, arguably the best rim protector in the NBA made appreciable improvement on defense. He’s what Dwight Howard used to be.

Nikola Jokic, Nuggets: Improved enough to be mentioned among best European centers ever to reach the NBA. He’s only 22 and bound to get even better.

Should win: Antetokounmpo.

Will win: Antetokounmpo.

SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR:
Eric Gordon, Rockets: Improved conditioning and revived his career after offseason trade from Pelicans. He finished No. 2 among NBA bench scorers.

Andre Iguodala, Warriors: WD-40 for whatever the league’s best team needs, whether it’s offense or defense or leadership. Not among the top 15 bench scorers.

Lou Williams, Rockets: Ace shooter split season between woeful Lakers and playoff-bound Rockets. Led all bench scorers in scoring. Plays no defense.

Should win: Iguodala.

Will win: Gordon.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Rudy Gobert, Jazz: See above.

Draymond Green, Warriors: Best team defender in the league, finished second in the balloting the past two seasons. Got better, making several game-saving defensive plays.

Kawhi Leonard, Spurs: Best on-ball defender in the league. Won the award in each of the past two seasons. Defensive numbers dropped a bit this season.

Should win: Green.

Will win: Green.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:
Malcolm Brogdon, Bucks: Second-round draft pick evolved to become starting PG on playoff team. Showed respectable two-way ability and the savvy of a veteran.

Joel Embiid, Sixers: Hands down, most impressive rookie in the league and future franchise player. Played only 31 of 82 games, though. Does that constitute a season?

Dario Saric, Sixers: Impressive, multi-skilled forward with a smooth touch and a nice feel for the game. Two-time Rookie of the month. Played 81 games.

Should win: Saric.

Will win: Saric.

COACH OF THE YEAR:
Mike D’Antoni, Rockets: Took over a dramatically revamped team, implemented his style and far exceeded reasonable expectations. Co-winner in a vote of coaches.

Gregg Popovich, Spurs: Still the league’s gold standard and once again got the most of his team while simultaneously phasing out the old and installing the new.

Erik Spoelstra, Heat: 30-11 second half among best recoveries in NBA history, pulling bottom-five team into the playoff race until final day. Co-winner in vote of coaches.

Should win: D’Antoni.

Will win: D’Antoni.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:
James Harden, Rockets: Officially became PG for the first time and led league in assists while operating a new offense without sacrificing scoring. Improved on defense, from abysmal to almost satisfactory.

Kawhi Leonard, Spurs: Probably the best two-way player in the league moved into leadership role and hardly skipped a beat. Does it all without flash, practically undercover. A treasure.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder: Most scintillating player in the league, constantly in overdrive. Set record for most triple-double in a season, while averaging a triple-double for the season.

Should win: Harden.

Will win: Westbrook.