Stumbling A's move on to Baltimore


Stumbling A's move on to Baltimore

June 6, 2011

A's (27-33) vs.

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

BALTIMORE (AP) -- After getting swept in consecutive series by AL East heavyweights, the Oakland Athletics are no doubt happy to face an opponent from that division that they know they can beat.

The Athletics will try to avoid a season-high seventh straight loss Monday night when they begin a three-game road series against the Baltimore Orioles - the last team Oakland has defeated.

Oakland (27-33) swept three games from Baltimore (26-31) from May 27-29, but was outscored 19-5 in a three-game sweep by the New York Yankees in its next series. The Athletics then began this 10-game trip by being swept by Boston over the weekend.

REWIND: A's swept out of Boston as losing streak reaches six

The series in Fenway Park was more competitive, with Oakland blowing leads in the first two games and totaling 17 runs.

"We swung the bats better this series," second baseman Mark Ellis said. "We ran into a couple of good teams and they beat us up pretty good."

That's been the case for Orioles when they have faced the Athletics, who have won 20 of the last 24 meetings. Oakland's pitching made the difference in the recent sweep of Baltimore, which scored eight runs and managed one extra-base hit.

The A's have won all three games Gio Gonzalez (5-3, 2.49 ERA) has started against the Orioles. Gonzalez, 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in those contests, didn't get a decision in a 6-2 victory May 27 after allowing two runs over five innings.

The left-hander suffered his first loss since April 25 when he gave up four runs over 6 1-3 innings of a 4-2 defeat to the Yankees on Wednesday.

Gonzalez will be opposed by Brian Matusz (0-0, 1.59), making his second start of the season since being activated off the disabled list. He pitched 5 2-3 innings and yielded one run in a 2-1 victory at Seattle on Wednesday.

"As the game went on I was able to kind of feel myself, and get a good feel, to get myself back on track," Matusz said. "Not trying to think about mechanics at all, just feeling my groove and slow it down a bit and not be so jumpy."

The left-hander has gone 1-2 with a 6.11 ERA in three career starts against the A's, and 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA in two at home.

Matusz will be facing an Oakland team that has hit a major league-low 33 homers. Josh Willingham, however, had two of those in last month's series against the Orioles.

First baseman Daric Barton went 6 for 12 in the series in Boston. He has a .387 average during a nine-game hitting streak against Baltimore.

A's manager Bob Geren rested slumping designated hitter Hideki Matsui on Sunday. Matsui snapped a career-worst 0-for-19 slump with an 11th-inning single Saturday.

The series in Oakland started a stretch in which Baltimore has dropped seven of nine. The Orioles, who have scored an AL-low 28 runs since May 27, lost 7-4 to Toronto on Sunday.

"I think we hit three line drives at them that we didn't get much to show for," manager Buck Showalter told the team's official website. "That was frustrating."

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

SAN FRANCISCO — Denard Span has played enough center field at AT&T Park that he knew not to assume anything when Jarrett Parker crushed a ball to dead center. Span, standing on second, held up for a second to make sure the ball got over Nick Williams. Hunter Pence, standing on first, had a better view, and he took off with the crack of the bat. As Pence approached Span, he tried to yell over the crowd. 

“Go!” Pence yelled.

Span didn’t hear him. 

“I just felt him,” he said later, smiling. 

Span raced around third and Pence roared up on his back like the third sprinter in a 4x100 relay trying to hand off a baton. Span crossed first and Pence was inches behind him, stretching the lead to three runs. 

“It’s one of those plays that’s a little weird but it worked out,” Pence said. 

Jeff Samardzija, the pitcher of record in a 5-4 win over the Phillies, said Pence “was on a mission.” Span said simply, “That’s Hunter being Hunter.”

“I knew he was right on my heels,” he said. “I was trying to run as fast as I could. In my defense, he had a running start. It was fun, though, it was fun. I’ve never had anyone chasing me like that on the bases.”

The moment brought some levity to a season that’s been lacking it. Span laughed as he crossed the plate and the dugout was full of smiles and jokes as the two returned. But on a grander scale, it was a reminder of what Pence has been and what the Giants need him to be if they are to recover from this season. Pence is signed for 2018 at a hefty price. The odds are good that he'll be in right field, so it’s been a relief for coaches and team officials to see Pence pick it up in recent weeks. 

Pence had a hit and two walks on Thursday, scoring two runs and driving in another. He is batting .346 in August. 

“He has just been making more consistent contact and staying in the strike zone more,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

That has led to better results at the plate, and Pence has provided reminders that the physical skills are still there. After going 0-for-AT&T Park in the first half he hit a couple of homers on the last homestand. Statcast’s Sprint Speed shows that Pence is actually running faster at his top speed than in the past couple of years, when he battled injuries. Pence is at 28.2 feet per second this year, a tick up from 28.1 each of the past two seasons. 

“Baseball goes in waves,” he said. “I’ve had some tough stretches, but right now I’m in a stretch where I’m going better and I’m still trying to improve.”

On Thursday, he pushed a teammate to run just a little faster. But perhaps Pence’s good friend deserves some credit for Span’s speed, too. After stealing his fifth base a few days back, Buster Posey started needling Span. The leadoff hitter has three stolen bases in seven games since that point, getting to eight for the year. 

“He was just talking too much trash,” Span said of Posey. 

Span said Posey mentioned their equal stolen base totals two or three times. He didn’t respond because he couldn’t. Now, he has bragging rights again, and he’s enjoying it. 

“Check the tapes,” Span said as reporters started to walk away from his locker. “I think I’ve got a stolen base off of him.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants fight off Phillies for victory

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants fight off Phillies for victory


SAN FRANCISCO — In a battle of the National League’s two worst teams, the Giants struck first. 

The lineup jumped out to an early lead and the new-look bullpen took it home in a 5-4 win over the visiting Phillies. The Giants scored five runs off budding ace Aaron Nola, and Mark Melancon, Hunter Strickland and Sam Dyson shut it down in the final three innings, in that (new) order. 

What a recipe for a victory. They should try that more often, in my opinion. Anyway, here are five things you should know … 

—- Hunter Pence and Denard Span combined for a funny moment in the three-run fifth. Span held up on Jarrett Parker’s ball off the wall and then took off from second; Pence had been on first, and he ran right up Span’s back as they approached the plate. Span heard him coming. He was laughing as he scored. 

—- With those runs, the Giants became the first team since June 16 to score more than two runs off Nola. The 2017 Giants are weird. 

—- Span stole second before scoring in the fifth. He has three stolen bases in seven games since Buster Posey’s mini run-of-speed. Posey had been talking trash to the leadoff hitter. 

—- Jeff Samardzija got the win, but this wasn’t one he’ll remember fondly. He needed a slick Tomlinson-Crawford double play to help get through the sixth. Samardzija was charged with four earned on eight hits.

—- Cameron Rupp flipped his bat when he hit a rocket off Samardzija in the fifth. It for sure looked like a premature bat-flip, but the ball kept carrying and landed in the arcade section above Triples Alley. Cameron Rupp is right-handed. That’s an absolute blast for a right-hander in a night game at AT&T Park. I don’t know where he would play but the Giants should trade for him.