Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's starting second half with win

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's starting second half with win

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OAKLAND — Game time arrived at the Coliseum on Friday night, and Sonny Gray took the mound in an A’s uniform.

Then he showed exactly why he’s such a hyped-up trade target.

The right-hander continued a midseason hot streak on the mound, firing six scoreless innings as the A’s hung a 5-0 defeat on the Cleveland Indians to open up the season’s second half.

In the minds of many, the hourglass is running out fast on Gray’s time in green and gold. He’s been linked to several different pitching-hungry contenders, and the speculation only heated up after lefty Jose Quintana was dealt from the White Sox to the Cubs, leaving Gray as the best starting pitcher available who is team-controlled for the next two seasons.

A bogus report even surfaced Friday, about an hour before first pitch, that Gray had been scratched, fueling speculation that perhaps he had been dealt. It was quickly shot down by the A’s.

But his performance Friday only increases his attractiveness to buyers. Gray struck out five, walked one and allowed just two hits, lowering his ERA to 3.72. Over his past four starts, Gray is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA.

RETURN OF RAJAI: Rajai Davis, nearly a World Series hero for the Indians last fall after his Game 7 homer off Aroldis Chapman, went deep against his former club Friday. That was one of two homers the A’s hit in the fifth to open up a 4-0 lead. Yonder Alonso, fresh off his first All-Star appearance, hit his 21st of the season three batters later.

AGGRESSIVNESS ON THE BASES: Manager Bob Melvin talked before the All-Star break of the need for Oakland to show better base running. He got it Friday. In the third, Matt Joyce doubled and Davis scored all the way from first. Joyce took the opportunity to break for third on the throw, and that aggressiveness put him in position to score on Marcus Semien’s sacrifice fly. In the sevneth, Matt Chapman stole another run for the A’s by scoring on a wild pitch that didn’t skip very far away from Indians catcher Yan Gomes.

FOLLOWING THE BLUEPRINT: By jumping out to an early lead, and with Gray’s strong six-inning outing, it set up the A’s late-inning bullpen combo of Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle and Santiago Casilla. They blanked the Indians over the final three innings, and the A’s opened the second half with a shutout.

NO FACTOR: Melvin talked before the game about Cleveland’s dominant bullpen. But by getting to starter Carlos Carrasco for five runs over 6 1/3 innings, the A’s didn’t let the Tribe’s bullpen play a role in this one.

HELP ON THE WAY?: There was encouraging news on the injury front for the A’s as the second half gets underway. Utility man Chad Pinder is scheduled to run the bases Saturday at the Coliseum to test his strained left hamstring. If that goes well, he’ll likely begin a minor league rehab assignment right after that.

The A’s have been without reliever Ryan Dull for nearly two months due to a strained right knee, but he’s scheduled to throw a simulated game Saturday, and he too seems close to a rehab assignment. Dull’s goal is to be back by the end of July.

Cano's extra-inning homer lifts American League past National League at ASG

Cano's extra-inning homer lifts American League past National League at ASG

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MIAMI  — A new-look All-Star Game ended with an old-time score.

Robinson Cano homered off Cubs closer Wade Davis leading off the 10th inning and the American League beat the National League 2-1 Tuesday night in an All-Star Game dominated by this era's flame-throwers, rather than its standout sluggers.

Craig Kimbrel wiggled out of a jam in the ninth and right fielder Justin Upton made a lunging catch in the 10th to help the AL win its fifth in a row. And for the first time since 1964, the rivalry is all even — 43 wins apiece with two ties, and each side has scored exactly 361 runs.

Miguel Sano put the AL ahead in the fifth with a bloop RBI single off Alex Wood. Yadier Molina tied it in the sixth with a home run against Ervin Santana.

Molina had just entered behind the plate in the top half and snapped off an All-Star first — Nelson Cruz pulled a phone out of his uniform pants and asked the catcher to snap a photo of him with umpire Joe West.

Davis wasn't with the Cubs last fall when they won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. He was acquired in a trade from Kansas City to fortify the bullpen, and was the only Cubs player in this showcase. Chicago has struggled this season, going into the break at 43-45.

Cano, the game's MVP, sent a hanging curve off the back wall of the right-field bullpen, then blew a bubble with his gum when rounding the bases.

Cano's homer came exactly 50 years after the previous All-Star Game to end 2-1 in extra innings, when Tony Perez hit a tiebreaking 15th-inning homer off Catfish Hunter in the NL's 2-1 win at Anaheim, California. Perez, now a Marlins executive, was among eight Latin-born Hall of Famers who threw out ceremonial first pitches.

Alonso's All-Star Game goal: Avoid trade chatter, gain knowledge from Votto

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Alonso's All-Star Game goal: Avoid trade chatter, gain knowledge from Votto

SEATTLE — Yonder Alonso plans to take full advantage of his All-Star Game experience, regardless of whether his name even appears in the box score.

It’s a homecoming for the Miami resident, who estimates he’ll have about 50 tickets lined up for every day of festivities at Marlins Park, beginning with Monday’s Home Run Derby.

There’s also another payoff for the A’s first baseman — the opportunity to soak up knowledge from the best baseball players on the planet during the one time of the year they all gather in the same place.

“My brain’s gonna be turned on completely,” Alonso said.

The eight-year veteran is an All-Star for the first time, and his storybook season continued Saturday night when he connected for his 20th homer in the A’s 4-3 win over the Mariners. He has more than doubled his previous career high of nine coming into this season.

On Sunday night, Alonso and his family will share a chartered plane with Mariners outfielder (and fellow All-Star) Nelson Cruz for the long flight from Seattle to Miami. Once there, Alonso has a list of players he wants to chat with.

One is Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who was busy putting together an N.L. MVP season in 2010 when Alonso made his major league debut that year with Cincinnati. The Reds would trade Alonso to the Padres before the 2012 season.

“I just understood the work ethic that he brought every single day, the focus he brought every day,” Alonso said of Votto. “I just wanna talk to him and see how he’s handling different things.”

Specifically, Alonso wants to compare notes with left-handed hitters like himself. He plans to link up with Toronto’s Justin Smoak and the Mariners’ Robinson Cano, a division opponent that Alonso doesn’t get to fraternize with much during the regular season.

“He’s one of my favorite hitters of all time,” Alonso said of Cano. “He has a knowledge for hitting, for approaches, and he’s a really smart player. he knows how to make adjustments.”

But the week will be about more than baseball for Alonso, whose compelling family story is well-documented. When he was a young boy, his family defected from Cuba and settled in the Miami area. His parents, Luis and Damarys, held down multiple jobs to support Yonder and his younger sister, and Alonso himself would work alongside his father even after he began playing baseball collegiately for the University of Miami.

Now Alonso looks forward to reuniting with family and friends, and relishes the chance to share the All-Star experience with his father.

One thing Alonso won’t spend the All-Star break pondering are the trade rumors that surround him. Considering his big numbers this year and the fact he’s due to become a free agent after this season, Alonso is a logical trade candidate as the last-place A’s will be sellers at the July 31 trade deadline. The Yankees are one team that’s been linked to Alonso.

“I really don’t even process it to be honest with you,” he said. “I’ve seen guys stress about it for two or three weeks, then nothing happens. And I’ve seen guys not really care about it and go about their business and play the game. That’s the approach that I wanna take. Obviously I’m aware of what’s happening. But I understand I have a job to do, and that’s play baseball every single day an the rest is out of my control.”