Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A's Dominate Tigers with Long Balls and Tommy Milone

After a streaky road trip, the Athletics returned to Oakland on Sunday, having dropped four games straight, the most consecutive losses for the team this season. Set amongst the backdrop of AstroTurf woes and a tough travel schedule, the A’s came home to face the Detroit Tigers, the very same team that knocked them out of the ALDS in 2012 and 2013.

A sell-out crowd was there to meet the green and gold as they took the field on Memorial Day, after a memorable rendition of the National Anthem performed on violin by Dr. Peter Wilson. Tommy Milone dealt 6 2/3 sparkling shut out innings, earning his third win of the year. Milone was backed up in style by the A’s offense which went yard twice in the second (Moss, Blanks) twice in the fourth (Donaldson, Cespedes) and capped off the day’s scoring with a grand slam in the eighth (Norris). When all was said and done, the A’s routed the Tigers by a final score of 10-0.

The Athletics have three more games in the set against Detroit. While they won’t see formidable ace Justin Verlander in this series, there are still great pitching matchups to look forward to – Gray vs. Scherzer, Kazmir vs. Sanchez. Following the Tigers series the A’s will be hosting division rivals, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who currently trail Oakland by two and a half games in the AL West.

Posted by Emilia Ortega

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Well, The Prospects Looked Good . . .

Baseball fans are often heard to say that this or that matchup “looks good on paper” -- which means, commonly, that one team's superior record (or starting lineup or game-day pitcher) suggests that it will likely defeat an opponent. That's what I feel (sadly) every time the A's face the Mariners' Felix Hernandez: on paper, Seattle has a great chance of prevailing.

But, as another sports cliche goes, “that's why they play the game.” Because what happens in reality, what transpires on the field, often doesn't go according to expectations, let alone well-informed predictions. And of course that's part of what makes baseball, or really any sport, so interesting.

Take the Oakland Athletics. Last Wednesday A's fans had every right to be giddy. The Athletics had just won their eleventh game in twelve contests, and the immediate future looked bright: the club's three best starters were scheduled to pitch the next three games. Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, and Jesse Chavez had a combined win-loss record of 14-3, and the A's had gone a freakish 23-4 in games they pitched.

So on paper things looked good – nay, great – for the A's. And then:

Wham. On Thursday Gray goes eight strong but the Tampa Bay Rays walk off with a win in the 11th.

Bam. The A's score just two runs on Friday in support of Kazmir, while the Blue Jays plate three.

Ouch. Jesse Chavez leaves Saturday's game after just five and a third innings and the A's go on to lose 5-2 to Toronto.

So much for “on paper.” The A's have come crashing down to earth. (They lost their fourth straight game today.) Reality trumps and transcends all number-crunching prognostications. Thinking ahead, while it may be tempting, is a dangerous sport.

Posted by C.S. Soong

Monday, May 12, 2014

Norris, Kazmir propel A's to fourth series sweep.

With the O.Co Coliseum awash in pink and white, the Oakland Athletics gave their fans plenty to cheer about in their 9-1 victory over the Washington Nationals yesterday, completing their fourth sweep of the year, most in the major leagues. Scott Kazmir turned in a dominant performance on the mound, pitching seven shutout innings and earning his fifth win in six decisions this year. Kazmir exited Sunday’s game with an ERA of 2.28, elevating him to fourth ranked in the AL.

Derek Norris was the offensive star of the day, crushing two nearly identical three-run home runs to left field in the first and second innings, in the first multi-home run game of his career. Norris, who maintains the highest batting average on the team at .385, was acquired by Oakland in the 2011 off-season trade with the Nats for Gio Gonzalez, who also started yesterday’s game. Norris spoke earlier in the week about his motivation to perform well against his former club.

"On my end, you want to show them what they're missing. Not in a drastic, blatant manner, but showing them this is what you could have had."

Photo: Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images

The Athletics also continued their Mother’s Day home game tradition of a pink-and-white soaked Breast Cancer Awareness event. The club raised $70,635 to benefit the American Cancer Society. The pre-game ceremony included 350 breast cancer survivors releasing white doves and pink balloons into the air amidst a mishmash of seventies you-go-girl themed disco tracks.

Oakland heads into their final series of this home stand against the Chicago White Sox tonight with a record of 23-15, the best team ERA in the American League (2.91), and a three game lead over the Angels in the AL West.

Posted by Emilia Ortega

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Are the A's One Team, or Two?

The Oakland Athletics are 19-12 after squeaking by the Boston Red Sox today at Fenway. That's really impressive, especially given that two pitchers in what the A's expected to be their starting rotation, Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, are out for the year following Tommy John surgery. Scott Kazmir, acquired by Oakland in the off-season to replace Bartolo Colon, has exceeded expectations: the 30-year-old left-hander is 4-0 with an ERA of 2.11. And Jesse Chavez, who became a starter only when Parker went down, has been even better; he's given up more than one earned run in only one of his six starts.

And I haven't even mentioned the A's young phenom Sonny Gray (4-1, 1.91).

But what about the other two-fifths of the A's rotation? There the situation is different, so much so that the A's are arguably two clubs -- one when Gray, Kazmir, or Chavez takes the hill, and a very different one when Tommy Milone or Dan Straily draws the start.

In games in which one of what might called the current Big Three takes the mound, the A's are an eye-popping 17-2. They're world-beaters. But in contests started by Straily or Milone, the team has gone a dismal 2-9. That's not so surprising; each pitcher has struggled with his command, and each has an ERA over 5. And while it's true that Milone hasn't gotten a lot of run support, the fact remains that the A's are winless in Milone's five starts.

So what we've got are three hurlers who are lights out and two who are scuffling. The drop-off in performance is dramatic. Will that situation change? Will Milone or Straily find his groove? Will the Athletics eventually demote one or both of them, and should GM Billy Beane pull off a trade for a proven starting pitcher? Questions to ponder as the season continues.

Posted by C.S. Soong