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.

Confidence flowing throughout A's lineup during three-game win streak

Confidence flowing throughout A's lineup during three-game win streak

OAKLAND — You have to go back nearly three years, to the days Yoenis Cespedes was still anchoring the batting order, to find the last time the A’s had a better two-game offensive stretch than their current one.

They scored nine runs for the second consecutive day in turning back the Seattle Mariners 9-6 on Thursday. It’s their first time scoring nine or more runs in back-to-back games since July 23-24, 2014, roughly a week before Cespedes was dealt to the Boston Red Sox.

For all of the offense Thursday night, it figures that the first player manager Bob Melvin mentioned in his postgame press conference was … a pitcher?

Melvin credited starter Cesar Valdez for not letting things spin out of control after a rough beginning to Valdez’s first start in the bigs since 2010.

Melvin could have just as easily singled out Ryon Healy for his three hits and two RBI, Trevor Plouffe for a three-run homer that gave the A’s breathing room or any number of relievers that took care of business on a night that Oakland had a lot of people chip in for the team’s third win in a row.

“We’ve got a lot of confident guys right now putting really good swings on the baseball,” center fielder Rajai Davis said. “We’re not missing mistakes, we’re hitting them.”

The one damper on the evening was the news of what Melvin called a mild left hamstring strain for Davis, who was replaced on defense for the top of the ninth. He won’t be in Friday’s lineup, Melvin said, and there should be a better read on his status when he shows up to the ballpark.

Davis said he felt his hamstring grab when he extended to the first-base bag while trying to beat out a sixth-inning grounder. He hobbled down the line in the eighth when he hit into a double play.

“I think I hit first base awkwardly, lunged for it,” Davis said. “I just grabbed it. I don’t think it’s too serious though.”

A better sign for the A’s is the revival of Healy at the plate. He’s 7-for-9 over the past four games and looks more comfortable at the plate after a 6-for-40 stretch that prompted Melvin to sit him for two games.

“It wasn’t a concern,” Melvin said. “Everybody goes through these things. Sometimes it’s a little harder for younger guys to go through them. But he swung the bat really well” Thursday.

Valdez, making a spot start in place of the injured Kendall Graveman, gave up three runs over the first two innings but then delivered two scoreless frames and left with the score tied 3-3.

“Valdez got it under control after giving up 3 quick runs,” Melvin said. “We’re in a tie game and he really does his job.”

The only previous big league experience for the 32-year-old Valdez came back in 2010, when he posted a 7.65 ERA over nine games (two starts) for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Since then he’s pitched in the Pirates’ and Astros’ organizations as well as for two teams in the Mexican League to go with a stint in the Venezuelan Winter League. He signed a minor league deal with the A’s this winter, and he had just finished a bullpen session earlier this week when Triple-A Nashville manager Ryan Christenson delivered the unexpected news of his promotion.

“It was something unbelievable, I couldn’t explain it,” Valdez said. “But for me it’s kind of been that road. Ever since my Dad passed away in 2015, I’ve kind of used that strength guiding me to keep moving forward. That has helped me channel all this energy to get to this level.”

**

The A’s received the unfortunate news that minor league right-hander Daulton Jefferies needs Tommy John surgery. Jefferies, who played at Cal, was a sandwich pick (No. 37 overall) between the first and second rounds of last summer’s draft, joining A.J. Puk and Logan Shore as part of a promising trio of college pitchers the A’s took high in the draft. Jefferies had made two appearances for Single-A Stockton this season, one starting and one in relief.

**

The A’s have a private workout scheduled with Cuban outfielder Luis Robert on Friday in the Dominican Republic. The 19-year-old Robert has been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and made eligible to sign with any club, according to a tweet Thursday from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. MLB.com reported that May 20 is the earliest Robert can sign.

Baseball America rated Robert one of the five top players coming out of Cuba back in January, and the White Sox also are among several teams expected to go after him. The A’s shelled out $3 million to sign another highly rated Cuban outfielder last summer in Lazaro Armenteros, but their farm system could use a further infusion of outfield talent. Since the A’s have spent more than their allotted bonus pool for signing international players for this signing period, and have already incurred the max penalties for that, they could feel inclined to make a run at Robert.