Floodgates open, A's tag M's with 9-1 loss


Floodgates open, A's tag M's with 9-1 loss


SEATTLE (AP) Cliff Pennington didn't wait for something better to come, taking advantage of a situation that has eluded Oakland during its recent scoring struggles.One pitch after a potential inning-ending diving catch became an RBI single for Kevin Kouzmanoff, Pennington hit a two-run homer, part of Oakland's season-high scoring output in a 9-1 win over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night.Kouzmanoff and Pennington - hitting eighth and ninth in the A's order - provided the big blows with each hitting homers in key moments."It's fun because we're next to each other the whole game," Pennington said. "When we're both getting hits, we talk to each other. When we're not, neither one of us want to talk."But the biggest breakthrough for Oakland came in the third when Coco Crisp ripped the first of his two RBI doubles that snapped a 20-inning scoreless streak for the A's.Crisp's two-out double into the right-center field gap off Seattle starter Jason Vargas (0-2) scored Mark Ellis with the A's first run since the ninth inning on Wednesday against Boston. The A's were shutout in the first two games of this series having to face Felix Hernandez and promising rookie Michael Pineda, the first time Oakland was held scoreless in consecutive games since May 2008 and prompting plenty of questions about an offense that was already lagging toward the bottom of the American League.There wasn't going to be a third straight shutout and plenty of support for Trevor Cahill (3-0) to remain undefeated."This is a good offense and we're going to score runs. It's just a week where we had everybody not swinging it well at the same time. Normally you have three or four guys hot and three or four guys not and we just kind of were not at the same time," Pennington said. "We're not too worried about it. Everybody is going to do what they do."Oakland didn't just sit on a 4-1 lead thanks to Pennington's first homer of the season in the fourth, a two-run shot into the A's bullpen in left field. Oakland added five in the sixth inning, knocking Vargas from the game. The A's sent 10 batters to the plate, highlighted by Kouzmanoff waiting on reliever Josh Lueke's 1-2 breaking ball and hitting it just over the hand-operated scoreboard down the left field line for his second homer of the season.Kouzmanoff finished with four RBIs - nearly doubling his season total entering the night. He got lucky in the fourth when his line drive to center field was misplayed on a diving attempt by Michael Saunders, who was in position on the dive to make an inning-ending grab, only to see the ball glance off the top of his mitt. It was ruled a single that scored Kurt Suzuki and Pennington made Seattle pay."Our energy level has been good, it just seems like when you're not getting hits or runs it looks down, but if you're in there it was pretty much the same," A's manager Bob Geren said. "The guys had more smiles because they were having some success, but the energy level has been good all year."Crisp added another RBI double in the sixth inning and finished with three hits, after going hitless in his previous nine at-bats, and Conor Jackson had an RBI single.That was more than Cahill needed, even though the right-hander wasn't at his best. Cahill escaped trouble in each of the first two innings, then settled down to retire 15 of his final 17 batters. He struck out two and walked only one.Cahill was helped by his defense early, no play bigger than Suzuki fielding a short-hop relay throw from Ellis and tagging out Chone Figgins trying to score on Adam Kennedy's double in the first."For a catcher, that is not an easy play to make," Geren said.Even after Figgins was cut down, Seattle had runners on second and third, but Cahill got Saunders to ground out to end the inning.Meanwhile, Vargas saw his losing streak extended to nine straight decisions dating back to Aug. 14, 2010."There needs to be a little more sense of urgency out there for me," Vargas said.NOTES: Oakland's starting pitching has allowed just 10 earned runs in the last 58 innings pitched - a span of nine starts. ... Seattle RF Ichiro Suzuki went 3-for-4 to move his average back above .300 (.304). ... Seattle closer David Aardsma is schedule to throw at least one more rehab outing with Triple-A Tacoma - scheduled for Sunday - before a decision is made on if he'll rejoin the club. Aardsma has been recovering from offseason hip surgery.

Jay Gruden anticipates Kirk Cousins returning to Washington

Jay Gruden anticipates Kirk Cousins returning to Washington

Quarterback Kirk Cousins is, perhaps, the top NFL player scheduled for unrestricted free agency in March.

But if Washington is unable to sign Cousins to a long-term contract before the start of the free-agent signing period, the club appears likely to place the franchise tag on him for the second year in a row.

Washington coach Jay Gruden appeared to confirm that suspicion on Tuesday while speaking to reporters at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

"We totally anticipate Kirk coming back to (Washington)," Gruden said via CSN Mid-Atlantic. "We're excited about parlaying two very good years as the starting quarterback with a third year and continue to watch him grow."

But does Gruden anticipate another team willing the pay the price it would take to acquire Cousins?

If Washington places the franchise tag on Cousins at approximately $24 million for one season, another team could sign him to an long-term offer sheet and pay the price of two first-round draft picks as compensation.

The 49ers – and presumptive head coach Kyle Shanahan -- are expected to be interested in acquiring Cousins. If the cost of two first-round draft picks is considered exorbitant, the 49ers could attempt to negotiate another deal with Washington.

Washington can end any possibility that the 49ers or any other team could acquire Cousins this offseason if they tag him as an exclusive franchise player at a cost expected to be slightly higher than $24 million.

Cousins, who turns 29 in August, started every game the past two seasons for Washington. In 2015, he completed 69.8 percent of his pass attempts while throwing 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for a passer rating of 101.6. Last season, he finished third in the NFL behind Drew Brees and Matt Ryan with 4,917 yards. He averaged 8.1 yards per attempt and had a rating of 97.2.

Falcons C Mack explains what makes Shanahan's offense so effective

Falcons C Mack explains what makes Shanahan's offense so effective

The Atlanta Falcons had the highest scoring offense during the 2016 regular season, averaging 33.8 points per game, and they racked up 6,653 total yards.

In two playoff games, they've scored a combined 80 points.

The architect of that high-powered offense is Kyle Shanahan, who is the presumptive head coach of the 49ers.

So what makes Shanahan's scheme so effective?

Falcons starting center and former Cal Bears star Alex Mack answered that on ESPN's Mike and Mike show on Tuesday.

"He does a really good job of just having a very balanced offense. We want to run outside schemes. we want to run outside zone, we want to be really effective at doing that. And when a team stops you from doing that, when they put people over there, or they slant out or whatever they do to stop that, he has the backup plan," Mack said.

"He knows exactly when they bring that safety down to make it really tough to run outside zone, well that's going to open up some throws later down the field. And then when they put someone out there on the throws, well, there's a bigger cutback lane, so he calls a different run for that. So our offense is really built around being balanced and having an answer for what the defense wants to do to stop us," Mack continued.

Mack, Shanahan and the Falcons are set to put their No. 1 scoring offense to the test against the Patriots' No. 1 scoring defense in Super Bowl 51 in Houston on Feb. 5, 2017.