Athletics

D'Backs tag Cain for five runs in 6th, win 5-2

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D'Backs tag Cain for five runs in 6th, win 5-2

August 1, 2011BOX SCORE GIANTS VIDEOMLB PAGE MLB SCOREBOARD
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Ian Kennedy watched Cody Ross' leadoff home run sail into the seats in left field and quickly told himself to regroup.After that, Arizona's ace dominated the defending champs.Kennedy struck out seven in eight innings to win his fifth straight start and the Diamondbacks beat the San Francisco Giants 5-2 on Monday night in a matchup of the NL West's top two teams.Kennedy (13-3) moved into a share of the NL lead for wins with Phillies ace Roy Halladay and Dodgers All-Star Clayton Kershaw. Kennedy's big night also helped Arizona pull within one game of the World Series champion Giants in the division race."I think this series is very important," Kennedy said. "You want to stay close. You don't want to let them creep away."The Giants, who dropped their fourth straight after being swept in Cincinnati over the weekend, have been alone in first place in the West since June 25. They couldn't do enough on an off night by All-Star Matt Cain (9-7).
Giants Insider gallery: 6th inning dooms Giants
Ross and Aubrey Huff each hit solo home runs for San Francisco, Ross leading off the first and Huff on an 11-pitch at-bat in the seventh, but Kennedy still has allowed three or fewer runs in seven of his eight career starts against San Francisco.Kennedy allowed six hits, two runs and walked one. After Ross' homer, he retired 10 straight and 17 of 19 before Carlos Beltran's sixth-inning triple. J.J. Putz pitched the ninth for his 25th save in 29 chances, getting pinch-hitter Aaron Rowand on a game-ending liner to right with two runners on."It was nice to come in and get Game 1," D-backs leadoff man Willie Bloomquist said. "Hopefully, it kind of sets the tone for the rest of the series that we beat one of their horses today and our guy pitched pretty dang good, too."Beltran, San Francisco's newly acquired slugger, went 2 for 4 in his home debut and received a warm standing ovation from the sellout crowd at AT&T Park when he batted in the first inning. Beltran grounded into an inning-ending double play in the eighth with two runners aboard and his team trailing by three runs. Beltran had gone 2 for 17 in his first four games since the New York Mets traded him last Thursday. The Giants are 1-4 since Beltran arrived.Shortstop Orlando Cabrera, another Giants newcomer, went 1 for 4.The Diamondbacks have high expectations for a new guy of their own - and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt quickly showed why.Hours after Arizona announced it had purchased the contract of the promising infielder from Double-A Mobile, he delivered a sharp single to right field in the second inning against Cain in his first major league at-bat.Goldschmidt, batting seventh in the lineup, will get the ball as a souvenir, too, after Beltran retrieved it and threw to the infield.The 23-year-old Goldschmidt batted .306 with 30 home runs and 94 RBIs in 103 games for Mobile. At the time of his promotion, he led all minor leaguers in home runs and RBIs and ranked third with 82 walks.Cain was tagged for five runs in the sixth inning, the first time he has given up five in an inning since doing so in the bottom of the first on Sept. 11, 2008, at San Diego. The right-hander has only allowed more than five runs once this year."We made some good pitches. We just didn't get those couple of groundballs to go at guys," Cain said.The Giants kicked off an important 10-game homestand with another tough loss for their second four-game losing streak of the year. Five games is the team's longest. San Francisco, outscored 20-5 while being swept by Cincinnati, has had three games trimmed off its lead in as many days. The Giants managed just a .184 batting average during their 2-4 trek through Philadelphia and Cincinnati.
RATTO: In the stretch run, Zito is an afterthought
Kennedy certainly kept them in check."He's been outstanding," manager Kirk Gibson said. "He did exactly what this club needed tonight and pretty much commanded the game."Arizona won for only the third time in the last 13 meetings between the rivals and is 3-7 in this year's series. The D-backs won at AT&T Park for the first time in four tries in 2011."They've owned us," Kennedy said. "We've got to keep this momentum."San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy is looking for someone to take hold of the leadoff spot, and Ross might be making his case after his first audition. He had two hits with the homer and scored a run. Ross started in center field in place of the struggling Andres Torres.NOTES: It was Ross' second career leadoff homer and first since 2008 with Florida. ... The Giants placed struggling LHP Barry Zito on the 15-day DL with a recurrence of his earlier right foot sprain that landed him on the DL previously. Zito lost his third straight start Sunday at Cincinnati. San Francisco needed to make room for the return of LHP Jonathan Sanchez, who will start Friday night against the Phillies. ... Giants LHP starter Madison Bumgarner celebrated his 22nd birthday.

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.