Earthquakes

A stunning win streak for the Oakland Athletics

880875.jpg

A stunning win streak for the Oakland Athletics

From Comcast SportsNetANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- At the start of spring training, Oakland manager Bob Melvin didn't know who A.J. Griffin was. Things have changed quite dramatically since then.Griffin threw eight scoreless innings, becoming the second Athletics pitcher in 85 years to start his career with six straight wins, and Oakland beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-1 on Wednesday night."He's on my radar now, put it that way," Melvin said. "We didn't see him at all in the spring. But once the season started, we were watching pretty intently because he was pitching well in the minors."We've seen a lot of good games out of him. But against that lineup, here at this place, that's probably as good as we've seen him. He's got a lot of confidence and he's been fun to watch."Oakland, the AL wild-card leader, stayed three games behind first-place Texas in the AL West. But the surprising A's have a five-game cushion with 20 to play in the race for the league's final postseason spot.Griffin (6-0) allowed six hits, struck out six and walked none in the longest of his 11 major league starts. The 24-year-old right-hander, one of four rookies in the A's rotation along with Jarrod Parker, Dan Straily and Tommy Milone, lowered his ERA to 1.94 in his third start off the disabled list."Someone's got to go out there and pitch, so why not me? That's kind of the way I look at it," said Griffin, promoted from Triple-A Sacramento on June 24. "You just go out there and try to do the best you can and give the team a chance to win. It's just worked out in my favor to be 6-0. Tonight I had pretty good command of all four of my pitches, and I just tried to go after guys and get ahead."The only other A's pitcher since 1927 to win his first six decisions as a big leaguer was Jim Nash, who was 7-0 over his first nine starts in 1966."I just try to detach myself from that kind of stuff," Griffin said. "But you've got to go out there with confidence. I mean, I don't want to sound like, Yeah, I thought I was going to be this good.' But I thought that I would do well if I just kept to my game plan -- keep throwing strikes, getting ahead of guys and keeping them off balance. It's pretty much the same game up here. They just don't miss as much when you make a mistake."Rookie pitchers have 40 wins for the A's, four shy of the Oakland record set in 2009."We've put a lot of stock in these guys and we've given them opportunities," Melvin said. "If we didn't feel like they had the makeup to be able to do this, we couldn't. But every single one of them has responded."I think they feed off each other," he added. "I mean, we're talking about a group now where you're looking at Milone and Parker as veterans, based on the fact that they've pitched the whole season. Straily wasn't on our radar either this spring, so (general manager) Billy Beane and the front office have done a great job targeting these guys when they're ready to come up and perform."Sean Doolittle gave up a leadoff homer in the ninth by Albert Pujols before Ryan Cook got the final out for his 14th save. Pujols, a three-time NL MVP, became the first player in history with 30 homers in each of his first 12 seasons. He also tied Stan Musial and Willie Stargell for 28th place on the career list with No. 475.The Athletics, who can sweep the four-game series by beating Angels ace Jered Weaver on Thursday, have won 15 of 18 and are 22 games over .500 (82-60) for the first time since the 2006 club finished 93-69.The A's won their 12th consecutive road game, matching the 1971 squad for the longest streak since the club relocated from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968. The franchise record is 14 in a row set in May 1931, when the team was in Philadelphia.Oakland's road winning streak is the longest in the majors since 2003, when Seattle won 13 straight away from Safeco Field.Ervin Santana (8-12) was charged with two runs -- one earned -- and four hits over six innings. He struck out six. It was the eighth time this season that his teammates didn't score while he was in the game -- including five straight starts by Santana in which the Angels were shut out."Those guys have been pitching great all year, and this series they matched up well against us and are doing a good job," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "A week ago we were playing great baseball, and right now we've hit a little bump in the road. It takes one good game to get you on track, and one good inning. Unfortunately, we haven't swung the bats early in the games against Oakland in this series to give us a chance to do some things."The Angels got a scare in the fourth when Santana was struck on the right wrist by a line drive off Josh Donaldson's bat. He scrambled after the ball in time to get the force at second base on Brandon Moss, then was allowed to take a few practice pitches to test his arm after Scioscia and trainer Adam Nevala went out to check on him.Oakland got an unearned run in the first when Josh Reddick doubled with two outs and scored on an error by shortstop Erick Aybar. Yoenis Cespedes made it 2-0 with his 18th homer leading off the sixth, ending a career-worst 22-game homerless drought. The A's tacked on two runs in the eighth with Derek Norris' RBI double and an RBI single by Coco Crisp.NOTES:Santana has given up a major league-worst 35 homers, the most in his eight-year career. He is five shy of the franchise record. ... A's starters have walked three batters or fewer in 41 consecutive games, tying the Oakland record set in 2001. ... The Angels haven't been swept in a four-game set by Oakland since the final series of the 2001 season, when they finished the schedule with a 2-19 thud. ... Pujols, relegated to DH duty the past 15 games because of a sore right calf, is hitting .317 with two homers and 10 RBIs during that stretch. ... Aybar's error was his 13th, matching last season's total when he won his first Gold Glove.

Earthquakes routed as Real Salt Lake inches closer in standings

realsaltlake.jpg
USATSI

Earthquakes routed as Real Salt Lake inches closer in standings

BOX SCORE

SANDY, Utah -- Jefferson Savarino, Albert Rusnak and Yura Movsisyan scored in the second half to help Real Salt Lake beat the 10-man San Jose Earthquakes 4-0 on Wednesday night.

Luis Silva opened the scoring for Real Salt Lake (9-13-5) in the 29th minute. He raced down Rusnak's long pass on a counter attack and split the legs of Andrew Tarbell from the corner of the 6-yard box. Savarino made it 2-0 in the 68th minute when he curled in a shot from the edge of the 18-yard box.

Rusnak redirected Joao Plata's cross in the 80th minute for his sixth goal of the season and Movsisyan scored on a breakaway in stoppage time.

San Jose (9-11-6) has lost six straight games away from home, going 2-10-1 on the road this season.

The Earthquakes' Anibal Godoy received his second yellow card in the 61st minute for an open hand to the face of Rusnak.

Tough luck: Rich Hill throws nine no-hit innings, loses on walk-off HR in 10th

richhill01-ap.jpg
AP

Tough luck: Rich Hill throws nine no-hit innings, loses on walk-off HR in 10th

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- Dodgers lefty Rich Hill lost his perfect game on an error in the ninth inning, then lost his no-hitter on a leadoff home run in the 10th by Josh Harrison that sent the Pittsburgh Pirates over Los Angeles 1-0 Wednesday night.

Hill became the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1995 to take a no-hit try into extra innings.

The Pirates didn't have a runner until Jordy Mercer led off the ninth with a sharp grounder that smacked off third baseman Logan Forsythe's glove for an error. Hill retired the next three batters.

Hill (9-5) came back out for the 10th and Harrison sent his 99th pitch of the night into the first row of seats in left field, just out of the reach of Los Angeles leftfielder Curtis Granderson. Hill struck out 10 without a walk.

Juan Nicasio (2-5) picked up the win after working the top of the 10th.

After Mercer reached in the ninth, Hill quickly retired the next three batters. Chris Stewart laid down a sacrifice bunt, Jose Osuna grounded out to Forsythe and when shortstop Corey Seager gobbled up a grounder by Starling Marte, Hill held the Pirates hitless for nine innings.

But to get official credit for a no-hitter under Major League Baseball rules, a pitcher must complete the game - going nine innings isn't enough if it goes into extras. Back in 1959, a Pirates pitcher had perhaps the most famous near-miss of all when Harvey Haddix lost his perfect game and the game itself in the 13th at Milwaukee.

In what's been a charmed season for the Dodgers, a 37-year-old journeyman received an ovation from the Pirates crowd at PNC Park as he walked off the mound after the ninth. A large mass of fans clad in Dodger blue sitting behind the Los Angeles dugout rose to its feet after taking in the latest remarkable night in a season full of them for the team chasing the best regular season record in major-league history.

Rather than go to the best bullpen in the majors, Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts sent Hill back out to see if he could keep the no-hitter going.

The appearance of his No. 44 jersey sent a jolt through the crowd of 19,859. It also proved to be one inning too many.

One batter, in fact. Hill could only watch the ball sail over the fence and, without expression, walked to the dugout.

"We knew we had a chance to win with one hit," Harrison said later.

Harrison broke up a no-hit bid by Detroit's Justin Verlander with two outs in the ninth in 2012. That game ended in a Pittsburgh loss. This one ended with Harrison sprinting toward a mob of teammates at home plate while Hill left as the losing pitcher following the best game of his career.

Hill raced through eight innings thanks in part to impeccable control and some spectacular defense behind him, most notably a diving grab by second baseman Chase Utley on a liner by Josh Bell leading off the eighth.

Bell was ruled safe on a close play at first in the second inning, but the call was overturned when replay showed Hill tagged him just before his foot hit the bag. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez also made a sliding grab on a bunt attempt by Harrison in the fourth but otherwise, Hill was in firm command.

Hill had come close to perfection in the past. Last Sept. 10, he retired all 21 batters at Miami before Roberts pulled him after seven innings and 89 pitches because of a recurrence of blisters on his pitching hand. He also was dealing with a groin injury.

In December, Hill re-signed as a free agent with the Dodgers, getting a three-year deal worth $48 million. The contract was quite a reward for a former journeyman who, as recently as 2015, was pitching for the Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League.

Hill began this night with a 47-32 record in a career that began in 2005 and took him from the Chicago Cubs to Baltimore, then to Boston, Cleveland, the Angels, the Yankees, Oakland and the Dodgers. Hill has overcome serious injuries during his career, including a torn labrum in 2009 and elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2011.

Trevor Williams matched Hill out for out, if not pitch for pitch. The Pirates rookie kept Los Angeles off the board for eight innings, letting Hill to line out in the fourth to leave the bases loaded in the fourth, using a pair of double plays in the fifth and sixth and getting Forsythe to line out after a nine-pitch at bat with two on and two outs in the eighth.

The Pirates have been no-hit nine teams in team history. For nine innings it looked like they were on their way to a 10th. One swing from Harrison changed all that.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Dodgers: LHP Clayton Kershaw (lower back strain) will make a rehab start for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday. Roberts said the team considered having Kershaw return directly to the majors on Saturday but decided to exercise caution with such a large lead in the division. ... RHP Yu Darvish (lower back tightness) will be activated off the disabled list on Sunday and start against Milwaukee.

Pirates: Trainer Todd Tomczyk is "optimistic" RF Gregory Polanco will return from a strained left hamstring before the end of the season. Polanco is currently on the 10-day disabled list for a third time this season because of hamstring trouble. ... C Francisco Cervelli (left wrist inflammation) is eligible to come off the disabled list on Thursday and could return to the lineup.

UP NEXT:
Dodgers: Hyun-Jin Riu (4-6, 3.45 ERA) is undefeated in his last eight starts, going 2-0 with a 2.22 ERA since June 17.

Pirates: Chad Kuhl (6-8, 4.52) will try to bounce back from his worst start of the season on Thursday. Kuhl gave up eight runs in three-plus innings last week against St. Louis.