Bob Melvin

A's Cotton notches first big league victory in two months: 'He found out if...'

A's Cotton notches first big league victory in two months: 'He found out if...'

HOUSTON — No one questions the quality of stuff that Jharel Cotton takes to the mound.

According to A’s manager Bob Melvin, the key for his rookie starter is more an issue of mindset and aggressiveness.

Cotton was in attack mode Sunday after a wobbly first inning against the Houston Astros. The result was an encouraging six-inning outing that set the A’s on the path to a 3-2 victory that helped them avoid a three-game sweep at Minute Maid Park.

While the victory was important for his team’s overall psyche, Melvin also hopes it triggers some confidence for Cotton in how he can attack a dangerous lineup and have success.

“I think he found out if he throws the ball over the plate, it’s gonna allow him to stay in the game longer,” Melvin said. “He should take a lot out of this game, especially against a lineup like that. Knowing that if I’m throwing the ball over the plate, using a mix of pitches and I’m not afraid to use my fastball, that the results can be good. We’ve seen him pitch really good games because he’s got good stuff.”

Cotton (6-10) rang up his first major league victory since June 23 against the White Sox. That was before a blister on his thumb led to a stint on the disabled list. Since then, he’d struggled with walks, ill-timed homers, and generally enough turbulence to invite speculation on whether the A’s might skip him for a start or send him down.

He answered Sunday by holding the majors’ highest-scoring team to two runs on four hits over his six innings. That was after walking two in a 25-pitch first. Not since that scoreless outing against the White Sox back in June had Cotton surrendered less than four runs in a game.

A’s closer Blake Treinen, who recorded a six-out save and combined with fellow reliever Chris Hatcher to bring home the ‘W’ for Cotton, said watching Cotton tame the Astros lineup didn’t surprise him.

“I’d heard of him from before I was even (traded to the A’s), and I’ve seen his stuff. Sometimes as a young pitcher it just takes experience. When things are going really well, you don’t have to think.You just trust it.”

The A’s beat the Astros for just the third time in 15 games this season. On so many occasions, Houston has taken advantage of Oakland mistakes and forced the issue with aggressive baserunning. On Sunday, it was the A’s who dictated things in that fashion.

Center fielder Boog Powell, who went 3-for-4 with a walk from the leadoff spot, led the game off with a single against Brad Peacock (10-2). Then Marcus Semien grounded one toward the hole on the left side. With Powell racing hard into second, Astros shortstop Alex Bregman threw wildly into right field. Powell came around to score, and Semien — advancing all the way to third — came home on the play when Marwin Gonzalez made another throwing error.

Jed Lowrie scored on a passed ball in the sixth to push the A’s lead to 3-1, marking the first time in Oakland history the A’s scored three or more runs in a game without notching a single RBI.

Semien’s mad dash around the bases reminded him of a similar play as a Little Leaguer in El Cerrito, when he circled the bases in the same kind of way on his mother’s birthday. Afterward, she convinced him he’d hit a real homer.

“I got some texts from some old Little League friends about that one today,” Semien said.

It wasn’t conventional, and it didn’t matter. Over the first two games of this series, the A’s had scored one run total and advanced just one runner as far as third base.

Bochy, Melvin need to start giving us something out-of-the-box-y

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AP

Bochy, Melvin need to start giving us something out-of-the-box-y

These are difficult, which is to say battleship-gray dull, days for the Oaklandcisco Giletics. They go out, they lose three of every five times they play, they disappear again. It’s like watching Nerf whack-a-mole.
 
Which is why, in these final 40 games, both Bob Melvin and Bruce Bochy need to start giving us something out-of-the-box-y we can linger on, at least for a bit. The transition from the end of the Warriors season (and the subsequent fetishizing of everything they do) to the start of football training camp has been too easy, and baseball’s window to captivate the easily distracted has pretty much been closed.
 
And this is why we enjoyed Cincinnati second baseman Scooter Gennett, pitching in a lost-cause game Tuesday night (the Reds have given up double digits 20 times this year, so that’s not a big enough thing), referred to his speed gun rating in the mid-90s, which was corrected by reporters to the more accurate “68.”
 
Gennett’s response? “Yeah, I don’t believe that. I think the radar gun might be broken or something. That, Statcast, off-the-bat speed, all that’s fake news.”
 
Perfect, and perfectly timely, too.
 
Then there is manager Terry Collins of the injury ravaged New York Mets, who is so bereft of players that he had to play catcher Travis d’Arnaud at third base but also needed to find a way to avoid having the ball hit to him. So he had d’Arnaud switch with second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera every time a right-handed hitter came up for the Yankees. So you get a box score that looks like this.
 
This is also the game in which Aaron Judge hit a 457-foot home run AND set a record for consecutive games with a strikeout, with 33. His season has fallen into a chasm since the All-Star Break, thus making him the latest “face of baseball” to find out that this “face of baseball” thing isn’t such an easy gig after all.
 
Besides, the new face of baseball is Scooter Gennett, whom the Giants or A’s should absolutely pay Giancarlo Stanton money to get in 2018. I mean, this is a guy who gave a fake name to the cops because his mom brought him to a stationhouse once to scare him into wearing his seatbelt -- when he was still watching Muppet Babies.
 
If that’s not the true face of baseball, there is none at all. Billy, Bobby, make this happen, or resign.

Bob Melvin commends Khris Davis' 'courage' for addressing mental battle with throwing

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USATSI

Bob Melvin commends Khris Davis' 'courage' for addressing mental battle with throwing

OAKLAND — Rather than deny or ignore what’s an obvious weakness in his game, A’s slugger Khris Davis opened up about the years-long mental battle he’s had regarding his outfield throwing.

If you haven’t read his first-person story in The Players’ Tribune, it’s worth doing so. It’s an honest and very open account of how, Davis explains, he developed a sort of mental block about his throwing after first entering professional baseball in 2009 with the Brewers’ organization.

It’s something he still grapples with to this day, though he says he feels more confident and well-equipped to deal with the negative thoughts that often cloud his brain when he throws a ball back to the infield.

Davis said he catches lots of flak from fans about his throwing. He knows it’s a topic of conversation. So he confronted it head-on in written form.

“It is what it is,” Davis said Thursday. “I just felt like I needed to address the problem for the next player that has to deal with the same thing.”

To quickly recap, Davis wrote that he developed a fear of over-throwing the cut-off man while playing rookie ball with Milwaukee. After a while he was silently hoping that balls wouldn’t come his way at all. He refers to the negative mentality as The Creature.

“It’s a million negative thoughts — not even necessarily fully formed, but just present — that appear at the worst possible moment,” he wrote. “It saps all of your confidence when you’re about to do something that you know you’re fully capable of doing well.”

A’s manager Bob Melvin commended Davis for even addressing the issue in such a public manner.

“I’ve known about this for a while. For him to actually come out and do it takes some courage, and I think it gives you a little bit of insight into what he goes through,” Melvin said. “But he does not take it to the plate with him and he’s been consistent with us and he’s one of the premiere power hitters in the league.”

It’s undeniable that opponents often take an extra base against the A’s on balls hit to left field. They get more aggressive than they typically would.

What fans don’t see is the effort that Davis puts in trying to improve his throwing. He and A’s outfield coach Mike Aldrete spent lots of hours on the back field at Hohokam Stadium this past spring working on throwing drills. And Davis often does technique drills at the Coliseum right up until close to first pitch.

“We’re not looking for him to throw like Roberto Clemente,” Aldrete said during the spring. “What we’re really working on is trying to stop guys from taking extra bases. … To me, it’s a lot like speed. No one’s ever going to make me a 100-meter Olympic champion. But whatever I’ve got today, if I can work on it and be faster than I am today, that’s a good thing.”