Plouffe, A's showing some power potential in the early going

Plouffe, A's showing some power potential in the early going

OAKLAND — The individual honor belonged to Trevor Plouffe on Friday night, and he had the keepsake to prove it.

The ball he hit for career homer No. 100 was safely in his possession following the A’s 3-1 victory over Seattle that extended their winning streak to four.

However, what the A’s are doing as a team in the power department is the big-picture takeaway, after a game in which Oakland mustered just six hits but had Plouffe and Yonder Alonso clear the fence to help provide Sean Manaea his first win of the season.

“I really don’t take a whole lot of stock in personal stats, especially during the year,” Plouffe said. “But 100 is cool. It was nice that it helped us win this game.”

Last year, Khris Davis hit 42 homers and Marcus Semien 27 to lead the A’s. But the team finished 12th in the American League with 169 long balls on the season. That contributed to the A’s finishing dead last in the league in runs, as did a dreadful showing in on-base percentage.

It’s dangerous to put too much trust in April numbers. But their 22 home runs are currently tied for third in the AL, and that’s important for a team that has just one player, Davis, who can be classified as a pure slugger.

“We’ve talked about, when we’re good, and what we feel is good offensively for us, is the length of the lineup,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Multiple guys can hit homers.”

Granted, this doesn’t look like a lineup that will light up the scoreboard. The A’s are going to win more games by 3-2 scores than 9-8. But so far they’ve shown themselves to be a team that can get contributions up and down the order.

One of those players lately is Plouffe, who has homered four times in his past seven games. In his first year with the A’s after signing a one-year deal this winter, Plouffe has had a rough go of it outside of his recent power surge. He’s hitting .222 and has struck out 22 times in 16 games. That includes a three-strikeout game Thursday, though he capped that night with a three-run homer in the A’s 9-6 win.

“I’m definitely not where I want it to be,” he said. “I’m still swinging and missing too much. I’ve been able to put some good swings on the ball. I’m happy I stuck with it. I’ve had some 3 strikeout (games but) gotten some late hits. I’m happy with that because I’m not packing it in and calling it a day. When you’re struggling, it can be easy to give away at-bats.”

Consider Plouffe a key man for the A’s, especially with Semien expected to miss two-plus months with a fractured wrist. The A’s need a group effort in the power department to support Davis, who is tied for the league lead with seven homers. Plouffe, 30, is an eight-year veteran with two 20-plus homer season under his belt. That track record suggests he can be counted on for power — if he stays healthy. He played in just 84 games last year due to injuries to his ribs, oblique and hamstring.

Looking to avoid the disabled list, he put an emphasis on flexibility last winter.

“That was a major part of my offseason, was making sure I corrected a lot of things that plagued me last year,” Plouffe said.

On Friday night, he got to celebrate the A’s fourth straight victory as well as his own milestone homer.

“It’s a nice round number,” Plouffe said. “Ninety-nine looks cool, but 100 looks better.”

Instant Replay: Manaea earns first win with six solid innings vs Mariners

Instant Replay: Manaea earns first win with six solid innings vs Mariners

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND – Minus their top two starting pitchers, the A’s rotation is keeping it together well in the season’s opening month.

Sean Manaea delivered his best outing so far and the A’s beat the Seattle Mariners 3-1 on Friday to run their winning streak to four. Oakland also has won four consecutive home games for the first time since a six-game streak that bridged last May and June.

The A’s biggest concern coming out of spring training was the injury that landed Sonny Gray on the disabled list. They recently lost Kendall Graveman for a turn through the rotation due to a shoulder strain. In their absence, an young and inexperienced rotation is holding its own.

Manaea (1-1), who didn’t allow a hit in his previous start but walked five, showed better command Friday and held Seattle to one run over six innings. He struck out six and walked three. A’s starters have now allowed two runs or fewer in seven of the last 10 games and are 5-2 with a 2.40 ERA over that span.

Trevor Plouffe homered for the second straight night to tie the game in the fifth and Yonder Alonso went deep an inning later to put the A’s ahead 2-1. They tacked on another run that inning on Stephen Vogt’s sacrifice fly.

Starting pitching report

Manaea allowed his only run in the third, a two-out rally in which Guillermo Heredia singled and Mitch Haniger tripled down the left-field line to drive him in. The lefty came up big in the second. With two runners aboard, he coaxed a 5-4-3 double play from Taylor Motter and then struck out former teammate Danny Valencia looking, with Valencia slamming his helmet down in frustration.

Bullpen report

The A’s late-inning relief combo has worked well over this winning streak. Manager Bob Melvin has settled on Santiago Casilla as his closer for now, and Casilla notched his second save in the past three nights, giving him three on the season.

Asked if Casilla was officially his closer, Melvin gave a light chuckle and responded: “He is a closer, he’s been a closer. He continues to be one. It doesn’t mean we only have one.”

Doolittle will get save opportunities when the opponent has a string of lefties due up in that inning. But the setup situation also is fluid, with Doolittle and Ryan Madson alternating handling the eighth over the past two nights.

At the plate

The long ball continues to be a strength for the A’s, who entered the night tied for third in the AL with homers at 20. Plouffe’s homer was his fourth of the season and No. 100 for his career. And it’s always good when the A’s tack on an extra run, as Vogt did with his sacrifice fly.

In the field

The A’s turned in their third consecutive errorless game after an 11-game streak with at least one. In the ninth, left fielder Khris Davis made a terrific leaping catch on the warning track to back Casilla.

Attendance

The announced turnout was 15,255.

Up next

Jharel Cotton (1-2, 5.40) leads American League rookies with 13 strikeouts. He’ll take the mound Saturday afternoon, opposed by lefty Ariel Miranda (1-1, 3.06). First pitch is 1:05 p.m.

Instant Replay: A's slug their way past Mariners in series opener

Instant Replay: A's slug their way past Mariners in series opener

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND – On many a night last year, a tough left-hander such as James Paxton meant trouble for the A’s.

They instead flipped that script Thursday, chasing Paxton in the fifth inning and hitting their way to a 9-6 victory over the Seattle Mariners to open a four-game series at the Coliseum.

Paxton, who hadn’t allowed a single run over his first three starts of 2017, got touched for five runs and left after Ryon Healy’s RBI single in the bottom of the fifth. It figured the A’s would have to bring the offense with Cesar Valdez making his first big league start on the mound in seven years. They responded with an 11-hit attack and their second consecutive game scoring nine runs. In doing so, they ran their winning streak to season-high three games and got back to the .500 mark at 8-8.

The A’s scored an American League-low 166 runs off lefties last season and had the lowest on-base percentage (.298). But they’ve now beaten lefty starters each of the past two days. On Wednesday they scored four runs in the first and made it a quick day for the Rangers’ Martin Perez.

Paxton entered the night on a roll, not having allowed a run over 21 innings in his first three starts. That made him jus the 10th pitcher since 1900 to begin the season with three consecutive starts of at least six scoreless innings. But after Seattle jumped out to a 3-0 lead, the A’s battled back.

They led 6-5 when Trevor Plouffe, who struck out in his first three at-bats, drilled a three-run homer in the seventh to give the A’s some cushion.

On a down note for Oakland, Rajai Davis was replaced in center field for the ninth after he had trouble making it down the first-base line on a grounder in the previous inning.

Starting pitching report

The night started out rough for Valdez in his first major league start since 2010. The Mariners knocked him around for three runs on five hits over the first two innings, but that was it off the 32-year-old journeyman, who was called up for the start with Kendall Graveman on the disabled list. Valdez was pulled after just four innings and 76 pitches, but he kept the A’s in the game and didn’t force Bob Melvin to blow through his entire bullpen.

Bullpen report

Taylor Motter tied the game with a two-run homer off Frankie Montas in the sixth. Otherwise, it was stellar work from the A’s relief corps. Ryan Dull (1-1) picked up the victory, Sean Doolittle retired Robinson Cano for a key out in the seventh and Ryan Madson and Santiago Casilla closed it out.

At the plate

It’s good news for the A’s to see Ryon Healy regaining his stroke. He finished 3-for-3 with two RBI and a walk, and is now 7-for-9 over his past four games. Plouffe’s three-run homer was a liner to left that had to feel good after his three strikeouts before that. The A’s capitalized on Seattle’s defensive mistakes and got contributions up and down the order.

In the field

The A’s played their second consecutive errorless game and turned in a couple of excellent plays in the infield. Jed Lowrie, fielded Mitch Haniger’s broken-bat bloop near second base, stepped on the bag and threw to first to complete a double play that got Valdez out of the second. Healy made a nifty backhand stop on Jarrod Dyson’s chopper, keeping the Mariners’ most dangerous runner off the bases in the seventh. Conversely, the Mariners shot themselves in the foot at the wrong time. Center fielder Leonys Martin let Rajai Davis get by him for a two-base error, and Davis wound up scoring on Adam Rosales’ sacrifice fly in the fifth.

Attendance

Just 10,707 were on hand at the Coliseum.

Up next

Sean Manaea (0-1, 5.51) matches up against Hisashi Iwakuma (0-1, 5.40) on Friday night at 7:05 p.m. The A’s lefty is holding opponents to a .138 batting average, third-best in the American League. But he has walked nine in 16 1/3 innings and has hit four batters, most in the majors.