A's take series in K.C. with 5-2 win over Royals


A's take series in K.C. with 5-2 win over Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) When Oakland right-hander Tyson Ross took the mound against Kansas City on Sunday, he had no idea he would be called upon to execute a defensive play he'd never even seen before, let alone practiced.In the second inning of what turned into a 5-2 victory for the Athletics, Jeff Francoeur singled and headed for second when Eric Hosmer hit a hard grounder to second baseman Mark Ellis. He knocked the ball down and tried to scoop it to shortstop Cliff Pennington for the force at second, but the ball sailed into no man's land between second and third.Francoeur hesitated for a couple of seconds, then kept going as third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff ran down the ball.That left third base uncovered. But Ross alertly bolted for the bag and got there just in time to stretch out his 6-foot-6 frame and make the tag for a highly unusual 4-5-1 putout."I did everything in my power to get over there," Ross said. "It was a foot race and I'm not too fast. I saw Kouz get the ball. Him and Francoeur kind of looked at each other and I looked and realized I've got to bust my tail over there. Kouz gave me a good feed and I'm just lucky I'm tall and was able to cut him off short."It wasn't the sort of play a guy can practice."I've never even seen that play before," Ross said. "Kouz threw it right where I needed it to be."Using his length, Ross barely got to Francoeur in time to make the tag."I don't know any other pitcher who can make that play," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "He closed like a horse in a horse race. I had a feeling he was going to get the out, but I was just hoping he didn't hurt himself. It's a dangerous play for a pitcher, but the athleticism kicks in."Kouzmanoff and Kurt Suzuki each homered and Conor Jackson had three hits to help Ross earn his first win in four starts.Ross (2-2), who moved into the rotation last month when Dallas Braden went on the disabled list, went six innings and gave up two runs on six hits, with three walks and four strikeouts. He has not allowed a home run in 28 2-3 innings."I thought he pounded the zone really well the first half of the game for sure," Geren said. "He had good movement. He makes for a tough at-bat for the opposition."Brian Fuentes pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his ninth save in 11 opportunities as the A's took the series two games to one."He's darn good," Royals manager Ned Yost said about Ross. "That kid threw strikes, banged strikes with quality stuff. He had a nasty slider, fastball up to 96 (mph) with some tail and some sink to it. Their pitching staff is pretty formidable."The A's grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first after third baseman Wilson Betemit's throwing error let Coco Crisp reach base to start the game. Daric Barton followed with a double. Jackson's RBI single made it 1-0 and then Josh Willingham brought home Barton with a fielder's choice grounder.Kouzmanoff's home run off winless starter Jeff Francis with two outs in the sixth put the A's on top 3-0. Suzuki added a solo shot in the ninth off Louis Coleman.Francis (0-4) was charged with three runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings. He walked one and struck out one."Francis threw the ball real well," Yost said. "He struggled a little bit in the first inning, but we didn't help his cause defensively."Ross took a 3-0 lead into the sixth but got in trouble with a throwing error when he tried to scoop Melky Cabrera's infield single to first.Cabrera wound up on second and scored on Eric Hosmer's two-out double, the rookie first baseman's first major league RBI. Betemit walked and then, on a bang-bang play, Hosmer raced home on a single by Mitch Maier and scored a split-second before Betemit was tagged out at second on a strong throw from right fielder David DeJesus.Blake Wood gave up a single to Ellis and walked Pennington before Tim Collins came out of the bullpen and gave up an RBI single to Crisp with his first pitch in the eighth, making it 4-2.Hosmer's double was a line drive that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center.For a second, it looked as though the heralded rookie slugger was going to get his first major league homer."I thought it had a chance," he said. "But the wind was blowing pretty hard right-to-left. I'm just glad we got the run in and started to make a little comeback there."It was the first home series loss of the year for the Royals, who had three runners thrown out on the bases.NOTES: It was the 43rd anniversary of Catfish Hunter's perfect game for Oakland. Only 6,298 fans were on hand to see Hunter beat the Twins 4-0 with the AL's first perfect game in 46 years. ... Braden, on the DL with a sore left shoulder, is scheduled to meet with specialists in Florida and New York this week. ... After committing 27 errors in their first 29 games, the A's were spotless in five straight until Ross' bad scoop in the sixth. ... Ross has not allowed a home run since June 20, 2010. ... Kansas City DH Billy Butler got his first day off this season.

A's spring training Day 41: Maxwell's two-HR day can't stave off bad news

A's spring training Day 41: Maxwell's two-HR day can't stave off bad news

PHOENIX — Bruce Maxwell homered twice against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, and his reward was a demotion to the minors.

Awkward timing, for sure. But the news itself wasn’t much of a shock to the A’s catcher, who knew he was the odd man out in a three-man roster battle. The A’s like the left-right platoon behind the plate. Stephen Vogt, who like Maxwell hits left-handed, wasn’t going anywhere. Josh Phegley is back healthy after knee surgery and has the advantage of being a right-handed hitter.

“I mean, I could have come out here and hit 1.000 and I probably still would have been in the same situation,” Maxwell said. “I can’t really do much about it. I try not to worry about it. At the end of the day everybody wants to play in the big leagues, but if the opportunity is not there you can’t stress about it.”

Manager Bob Melvin gave Maxwell the news in the dugout after he exited Oakland’s 11-1 victory, and Melvin certainly couldn’t give Maxwell a justifiable reason for the demotion except that the roster math doesn’t add up.

“Great day to have to do that,” Melvin said sarcastically. “But, he’ll be here at some point. We saw his progression last year, he did a great job for us. There’s nothing he did to suggest he needed to be sent down. It’s just a numbers game for him right now.”

The A’s batted around in a five-run third, knocking Brewers starter Matt Garza from the game after he recorded just seven outs. They tacked on four more in the fourth, with Maxwell going deep to left-center for a two-run homer off Jhan Marinez. In the sixth, he hit a solo shot off Corey Knebel to right-center and also added a run-scoring single to complete his four-RBI day.

Melvin has spoken often of the improving power shown by the 26-year-old Maxwell, who hit .283 with a homer and 14 RBI in 33 games with Oakland last season in his first major league call-up.

“If you look at the power numbers over the years, he’s getting better and better,” Melvin said. “He’s got the chance to be a 20-home run guy in the big leagues.”

NOTEWORTHY: Jharel Cotton held Milwaukee to just a run on four hits over 5 2/3 innings. He bounced back from a wobbly start against Seattle in which he walked five. On Sunday, his toughest challenge was staying loose as the A’s offense put up two time-consuming rallies. Twice, Cotton had to play catch while his teammates paraded around the bases.

But it sure didn’t affect him, as he struck out seven and walked one in his second-to-last spring training start.

“This one, I was more on the attack, using my fastball more so I can set up my changeup and off-speed pitches,” Cotton said. “I know everybody raves about the changeup, but I need my fastball to be there so I can throw that pitch off the fastball.”

He had an entertaining ongoing battle with six-time All-Star Ryan Braun. He struck out Braun on a cutter in the first, gave up a homer to left in the fourth, then battled back from a 3-0 count to get Braun swinging through a fastball in the sixth.

“I got him twice, he got me once,” Cotton said. “I think I won that battle today.”

HEALTH UPDATE: Daniel Mengden, who has missed all of spring with a broken right foot, is scheduled to get his walking boot removed Monday. Mengden said he’ll stay in Arizona for anywhere from two to four weeks, taking part in extended spring training. The good news for the right-hander: He’s been able to play catch while wearing the boot, so that’s a bit of a head-start for him once he gets full mobility with his foot. There’s no timetable yet for his return.

ODDS AND ENDS: The A’s knocked out 16 hits and recorded double-digit runs for the fifth time this spring. They improved to 16-12. … Alejandro De Aza, fighting for an outfield roster spot, went 2-for-3 with an RBI to raise his average to .300. … With few regulars making the trip to Maryvale Baseball Park, second baseman Max Schrock came over from minor league camp and once again made an impact, going 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI. … John Axford threw a scoreless inning of relief. Frankie Montas handled the final two innings, allowing one hit with two strikeouts and a walk. The hard-throwing prospect is a candidate for the bullpen as a multi-inning guy.

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

The Sharks dropped their sixth straight game Saturday in Nashville against the Predators. To make matters worse, center Logan Couture left the ice to an ugly scene after taking a puck straight to the mouth. 

Directly after the game, Couture was taken to a local Nashville hospital. On Sunday, his father Chet could not provide specific details but called what his son is going through "an ugly injury sadly." 

Couture was set up just outside the crease when a Brent Burns point shot late in the second period hit a stick before squarely smacking into the 27-year-old’s mouth. Replays showed Couture appeared to lose at least one tooth, and he quickly skated to the dressing room under his own power with just 14 seconds before the intermission.

"You can't replace him, so it would be really tough,” Patrick Marleau said after Saturday's loss. “But if that is the case, then guys are going to have to pull up the slack. Definitely we hope he's back sooner.”

Couture flew back with the team Sunday morning, but Insider Kevin Kurz is hearing the injury is certainly a bad one.