A’s Looking to Break out the Brooms, Trade Deadline is Looming

With the series finale at 12:35 PM of the three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays today, the A’s are eyeing their first series sweep of the year. Oakland is currently sitting at a 26-32 record and have Jharel Cotton taking the mound in today’s day game.

The Athletics’ bats are heating up and the bullpen as of late has been nailing the coffin when summoned by manager Bob Melvin. But this is nothing Oakland fans are not accustomed to; egregious road trips and satisfactory home stands. Reliever Daniel Coulombe yesterday in the A’s 4-1 win pitched two thirds of an inning, lowering his ERA to 2.41. Coulombe has been spectacular for the Athletics this year. Madson and Casilla both did their part with a shutout inning of their own and surprisingly, Casilla didn’t give the Oakland faithful any heart attacks, letting just one runner on base.

Ryon Healy has been on fire and has been the only piece in the A’s lineup who I can have the utmost confidence in. Healy a few days ago tied a franchise record with four extra base hits which happened to include his first career two-homer game. Healy this past week has a .346 average, four homeruns and ten ribbies.

Another member of that lineup who has been relatively productive is Jed Lowrie. It’s looking more and more likely that Lowrie will be dealt at the trade deadline with his .292 average and 20 RBIs. However, this isn’t all that bad. This opens room for the A’s shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto who has been tearing it up at Triple-A Nashville.

Barreto’s stats: .278 avg., 4 triples, 31 RBIs, .318 OBP

Opening eyes from Nashville as well is supposed “gold glove ready” third baseman, Matt Chapman. Members of the Oakland Athletics farm system and MLB Pipeline.com have critically acclaimed Chapman as a gold glove third baseman playing in the minors – I won’t believe it till I see it. Chapman the other day had his first multi-homer game. That’s odd… his bat is supposedly the only thing holding him back from being called up. I guess a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.

Chapman’s stats: .255 avg., 14 HRs, 26 RBIs, .335 OBP, .955 fielding percentage

Will the A’s cap of this brief home series against the Jays today? Time will only tell. But every time Oakland has taken two out of the first couple games of a series, they can never find a way to cap it off.

Update 6: The Swinging and Missing A’s (May 26 – June 1)

Record: 23-30 (2-5), 5th place in AL West, 14.5 games back of Houston

Please forgive me on not following up on last week’s update and my lateness to the update on this week. I’ve been very busy regarding my finals at school. But you have not missed much…

The road struggles continue for the Athletics as they still have not reached double digits when playing away from their home ballpark. It hasn’t been pretty at the plate these past couple of weeks. Strikeouts have been the theme for the Oakland lineup. In their four game series against Cleveland, the A’s set a franchise record striking out a total of 59 times. Oakland has the second worst strikeout rate in the majors with a percentage of 24.8. In game two of the Indians series, batters 1-4 struck out of a total of 13 friggin’ times and ended the day with 19 K’s.

I’m not even sure which aspect of the A’s is worse; the hitting or the defense. In Cotton’s start in the series finale with Cleveland he allowed five runs, only one earned. And in Triggs’ start against the Yankees it was even worse; five unearned runs.

And to put the cherry on top, the pitching has been performing subpar. With Hahn and Graveman both getting sent to the DL, the A’s had to make some roster moves. One of those moves was calling Daniel Mengden up to the bigs for his first stint in the MLB since his foot fracture in 2016. Mengden got rocked, allowing three homers and five runs and was sent to the locker room in just the fourth inning. Sonny didn’t look like the Sonny of old whatsoever in his sixth start of the year, allowing seven runs in only four and two thirds innings. There’s one bright spot to this: no team is going to want to trade for a guy with an ERA in the high fours at the trade deadline.

It’s time the Oakland front office take a good, hard look at Melvin’s future with the A’s. So far this season, he has not yet put out a duplicate lineup from a past game (i.e. not the same lineup once at all). His bullpen moves have been questionable to say the least – Casilla is not the answer for the 9 inning spot. Madson has performed very well with a sub two ERA this season and has experience in the ninth for multiple playoff teams. Why he hasn’t strongly considered moving him to the closer role is mind boggling.

In the A’s road stand this past week, they only mustered 2 wins again. Another 2-5 road trip… bleh.

No bright spots this week. Just shitty, shitty baseball. Also I’m strapped on time to go into extensive detail of A’s baseball this past week. I’ll be returning to my normal blogging routine and perhaps some more after finals week is over.

Next Up:

Luckily for the A’s, they’re returning to the comforts of home next week. First off for Oakland, they face Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals in an interleague matchup and the following three game series will be against the Toronto Blue Jays who are starting to wake up after a very slow start to the 2017 season.

Update 5: A’s Break Out the Bats (May 15 – May 21)

Record: 20-24 (4-3), 4th place in AL West, 9 games back of Houston

With the Rangers surging up in the standings with their 10 game win streak and Houston soaring high, it was obligatory of Melvin and Co. to pick up the pace a little bit.

Time flies when you’re playing mediocre baseball, we’re already a quarter of the way through the season (44 games played by the Oakland Athletics) and the A’s are not on pace to meet their season ending goal set by me: play  a little above .500 ball.

In order to meet that goal, you gotta beat up on teams in the cellar of your division. Dropping two out of three to the last place Mariners is absolutely unacceptable. They’ve made it obvious; the Oakland A’s are a totally different (terrible) team away from their comforts at home. Here’s the splits:

Home: 14-9

Road: 6-15

On the road, the A’s pitching staff gives up an average of five runs a game.

To start the week, the “Baby Giraffe”, Sean Manaea had another five inning start *surprise, surprise*, walked five batters  *surprise, surprise* and gave up four earned runs in the A’s 6-5 loss to the M’s. The A’ did rally however with a couple of Stephen Vogt and Khris Davis homers only to be let down by a bullpen appearance from Liam Hendriks who let up a two-run bomb. Liam Hendriks is also the guy who’s been quoted by A’s pre/postgame host Brodie Brazil by saying in response to his mindset on the mound, “I’m going to embarrass his (batter’s) family.” That’s problematic, Liam. In your past two relief outings, you’ve given up three runs. Triggs pitched in game two and put up another solid six innings for Manager Bob Melvin, only allowing one run. Triggs left the game with a 4-1 lead and was in line for the win but Ryan Dull and the rest of the bullpen was right on cue. Dull: two runs, Coulombe: one run, Madson: one run (with the blown save) and Casilla with a run to cap it off. Despite the bullpen collapse, the A’s won this game 9-6 in dramatic fashion. Oakland put up a five spot in the top of the ninth after trailing 5-4. Matt Joyce put the A’s up with a two run, go-ahead homer and Mark Canha shortly followed with a two-run bomb himself. Canha must have had a revelation down in Music City playing for the Sounds because since his time back up, Mark has been tearing the cover off the ball. The Mariners and no-name Christian Bergman shut down the A’s offensively in the last game of the series, holding Oakland to two hits in a shutout.

The Boston series took many, including me by surprise. Especially after the A’s were outscored 40-19 by the Red Sox last year. In probably the A’s best game all year, Sonny Gray shined despite letting up a two-run homer to Mitch Moreland. Moreland always kicks the A’s ass. He’s taken Sonny yard four times and has a career batting average of .300 against the Oakland ace. Gray threw 103 pitches over six innings and racked a season high eight K’s while earning his first win of the year. Sonny got a lot of support from the Oakland lineup for once, exiting the game with eight runs of support. Two of those runs coming off the bat of up and coming Oakland sensation Chad Pinder. There’s something about Pinder I like. Scratch something – there’s a lot I like about Pinder. One of those things being that he kinda looks like Christian Laettner but he isn’t an asshole. Pinder grinds out there on the field. Keep in mind when watching these A’s games that Pinder is not a right fielder but he’s very expendable, very Brock Holt-like. You put him anywhere, Pinder works his tail off, trying to earn his stripes in the Bigs. I’m calling it now, folks: Pinder is the next big face of the Oakland Athletics franchise. He displays a lot of pop in his bat (as you’ll see later), he’s a scrapper and whenever he comes up to bat or there’s a liner to right field, I’ve got my eyes glued to the TV screen, wondering what the youngster will do this time. I cannot be any higher on Pinder than I am now. If I could describe him in word it’d be: GRITTY. He’s the FUTURE. Keep doin’ your thing Pinder, green collar baseball is loving it. But anyways, Plouffe had a solid day with an RBI double and Davis is starting to enter a slugging streak again with another homerun in game one. A’s win 8-3 as the bullpen doesn’t allow a single run. In game two of the four game series, Graveman had another quality outing of six innings and two runs coming off of a – you guessed it – a Mitch Moreland homerun ball. But the A’s were able to oust the BoSox again in the run and hit category, putting up three on the day and one big run in extras. After a Khris Davis RBI double in the 6th, there wasn’t any scoring on either end till Mark Canha grabbed a bat in the bottom of the 10th. Already with a two-hit game, including a double and a RBI triple, Canha walked off the A’s with a line drive, rocket over the left field wall, sending the A’s faithful home happy. He ended the day a single short of hitting for the cycle. Game three of the series would decide if this was a successful homestand for the Athletics. Luckily for Manaea, there was a plethora of run support again and his five inning start was enough for the win. After Boston got out to a quick 2-0 lead in the second, the A’s bats were quick to change that and with a couple of hits, walks and a throwing error from the Boston catcher it was all knotted up. This was the first time all year I’ve had confidence when watching the A’s down on the scoreboard. Everytime this team takes the field at home, there’s an aura of confidence, believing that they’re going to take away a win from the opposing team when leaving the ballpark. The 5th inning was a doozy for the Red Sox. The inning consisted of three homers, each one going further than the last. The first by Canha, then Khris and Pinder with a 483 foot moonshot to cap it off. That 483 foot bomb is the longest so far this season and Pinder earned some airtime on ESPN as a result… good to get the name out there. Two of the homeruns sent in another run with them, putting the A’s up 7-3. Lowrie would tack on with another homerun of his own to give the A’s the final score of 8-3. But success can only last so long for these Oakland A’s and they were in for a blow out in the series finale. Triggs allowed a season-high six runs in the 12-3 loss to the Red Sox. Five runs were allowed by reliever Josh Smith in the ninth who was kept out there to just mop up the 9th inning but ended up making a bigger mess.

Positives:

Mark Canha: Canha’s been a man on a mission since returning from Triple-A Nashville. This last week, he’s hit six extra base hits, three of those homeruns and two of them doubles. He’s averaged a .368 batting average while discovering a credence at the plate. Good to see an option to the minors affect a player’s personality and mindset positively.

Chad Pinder: Pinder has been playing great baseball for the past two weeks now and I think it’s safe to say that he’ll be playing at the major league level for the remainder of the season. Over the last seven days, Pinder has sent three homers over the fence and has a .286 batting average on the year while playing some tenacious defense.

Trevor Plouffe: Plouffe was very hot coming into this week and has cooled off a bit but you can’t keep expecting a player like him to have game after game of two-hit, multi-RBI performances. Nonetheless, he’s hit for a .313 average since the beginning of the Seattle series and has been getting on base for his teammates to knock him in.

Khris Davis: After a little cold spell at the plate (which means not hitting homers), KD has put on a power show at the dish these past couple of days with a few bombs. He still needs to cut down on the strikeout total – seems like he either hits a ball 450 feet and trots 360 feet around the bases or walks 45 feet back to the dugout. Power hitters, especially him, tend to go on spurts of homeruns and it appears that he’s starting to enter into one as we speak.

Andrew Triggs: Although he gave up five earned in the Boston finale, Triggs is proving himself to be the best pitcher in the A’s rotation this year, coming out of nowhere. In Triggs last start against Boston, the Oakland defense of old returned with three errors. Despite those errors, Triggs was able to work out of multiple jams and get his team back into the dugout.

Negatives:

Yonder Alonso: Alonso missed the past four games with a bothersome knee. He should be back in the lineup for this upcoming Marlins series.

Sean Manaea: I know I’m expecting a lot from a guy in the bottom of our rotation in Sean Manaea but for his progression, he obviously needs to perform. So far this season, it’s been a miracle if he gets through the sixth inning. Start after start, it’s a five or five and a thirds inning game with three or four earned runs allowed. Knock the pitch count down, quit walking batters and get through those late innings and we’ve got something cookin’.

The Road: As you saw above, these A’s can’t play confidently when leaving Oakland. Playing .285 baseball anywhere is unacceptable and all good ball clubs obviously don’t perform like that on the road. If anything, I’d rather see better baseball on the road – it’s a challenge to get things done on lengthy road trips and plane rides.

Next Up:

The Marlins come to town for an interleague, two-game matchup which starts today, Tuesday, May 23. Don Mattingly and Co. will be facing the strongest part of the A’s rotation in Hahn and Gray. It’d be a sweet little treat to see the A’s take two from Donny Baseball. Oakland then starts a seven day road trip, going to New York to face the Yankees and then to Progressive Field to battle the reigning AL Champs.

Update 4: A Bullpen Implosion (May 8 – May 14)

Record: 16-21 (2-5), 5th place in AL West, 9.5 games back of Houston

Today, I’m sitting in front of my computer looking at the AL West standings, seeing that the A’s are 9.5 games back of first place and it’s just mid-May. Some would say that the most complicated mathematical equation is Goncharov’s polylogarithms which is a 17 page expression. I’d say it’s whatever the hell the Oakland A’s front office drew up on their whiteboard to build a sustainable bullpen and a lineup that is apt enough to put up more than two runs a game.

Turns out they still had one more walkoff in them, courtesy of a Jed Lowrie solo homer to right. The rest of the homestand was not too pretty, especially for Jharel Cotton. Cotton was sent down to Triple-A Nashville after giving up seven earned to the Angels’ lineup. Despite the lackluster performance from Cotton, Alonso tacked on another homerun to his season total which is taking everybody by surprise. One of my favorite players to watch this season is Andrew Triggs. It seems that every time he’s taken the mound this year, you can already etch in six innings and no more than three earned runs into the stat book. He did just that in the series finale with the Angels, turning in six innings, one earned and four strikeouts. Surprise, surprise, the Oakland relievers didn’t allow a single walk or run, helping Triggs to his fifth win of the year. Chad Pinder’s two-run home run was all Triggs needed to lift Oakland to its 16th win. A’s take two out of three from the Angels.

The story of the year for the A’s has been how terrible and gut-wrenching the bullpen has been on the road this year. I’m not sure what it is about Globe Life Park in Arlington but that jet stream going into the gaps of left and right-center field seem to be more accentuated whenever the green and gold take the field. The Oakland A’s starting pitchers all turned in three quality starts only to be let down, disappointed, off the hook for a possible win. The Oakland Athletics bullpen was responsible for this sweep by the Texas Rangers and it’s time that manager Bob Melvin start to take some heat for this. “We still like our guys (relievers), it was just a bad series for our bullpen… We used all our best guys and couldn’t come away with a win,” said BoMel. Well hell, BoMel. I could’ve done just as good as Casilla and Ryan Dull out there. You can’t be telling me that this is just a temporary thing. They’ve proved time and time again that they don’t have the stuff or the mental toughness to get out of those late inning jams. Jams? Wait, what jams? Ryan Dull came into relief for Jesse Hahn who just threw seven innings, allowing only one earned. Dull proceeded to hold the Rangers offense off, that is until the ninth inning. Casilla who was in for the save, looked like he had much more confident body language than in the past. But before you knew it, Casilla allowed the first two batters he faced on through two singles and after a Napoli sac-fly, it was all knotted up at 2-2. Another blown save. But Casilla wasn’t done imploding just yet. A moonshot from Texas slugger, Joey Gallo gave the Rangers a walk-off victory for the second straight night. But let’s be honest here, the A’s offense needs to produce more than two runs to allow their pitching staff some more breathing room. Joyce’s two run homer was not enough. A’s lose 5-2. You couldn’t of asked for more from Sonny Gray in just his third start of the year. He stuck it out for five innings and for what took many by surprise, Melvin sent him to the mound for one more inning. That inning was huge in Sonny’s progression back to stardom and towards his normal pitching self. Gray ended his day with 106 pitches in six innings, allowing only two earned. He was in line for the win with his team up 4-2 in the seventh. That is until Ryan Dull toed the rubber, looking for a hold. Dull gave up a four spot which included two walks and three hits while only completing a third of an inning. And just like that, the Rangers seized their opportunity and held control for the rest of the game. Alonso homers again in the A’s 6-5 loss. Another great start from Graveman came in the final game in the Rangers series. Graveman was sent to the showers in the seventh inning after nearly completing the inning. He was responsible for two runners that were left on base. Surely Ryan Madson could be Graveman’s savior and keep the A’s lead in tact? But, no. Right out the gate, Madson served up a big ole meatball right over the heart of the plate for a double to Elvis Andrus. Tie game 4-4. And just one batter later, the tie game was gone after Nomar Mazara knocked in Andrus. Texas sweeps the A’s after a 6-4 win.

At one point in each game of the Texas series, Oakland held a multi-run lead in either the sixth or seventh innings. You could say that the A’s should be a game over .500 right now and in sole position of second place. You need to capitalize on the performances from these starting pitchers, not pull a Sandy Alomar and spit in their faces. The Oakland faithful and its ball club are starting to lose their faith in one another. Good teams don’t allow go-ahead RBIs to Pete Kozma. Who the hell is Pete Kozma? It’s getting tougher and tougher to watch A’s baseball. This fan base doesn’t deserve this roster, this managerial execution and below .500 baseball.

 

Positives:

Sonny Gray: Inching back towards midseason form, Sonny is tacking on higher pitch counts in each outing, and that’s a good thing. In his start against the Rangers this week, Sonny worked himself into a few too many full counts but only gave up a few walks. To get back to being the Sonny we all know and love, he needs to have more stress-free innings. When Gray pitches at ease, there’s nothing more entertaining to watch. Keep on racking up those innings, Sonny. The strikeouts will come… maybe not the run or bullpen support, however.

Matt Joyce: This week, Joyce exhibited what he’s capable of. He ended the series with the Rangers with two home runs and was the only sign of life along with Yonder Alonso.

Yonder Alosno: Speaking of only signs of life, I don’t think Alonso has ever been more alive. The homerun he hit on his birthday a few weeks back must’ve been a sign of good luck for the rest of the year. He’s not pressured into a role of a power hitter like he was in San Diego and like I mentioned in my last article, he’s a lot more comfortable in the batters box. Alonso’s average is currently .297 accompanied by a career high 12 homers. Three of those homeruns coming this week. It’s looking like Alonso will be the only all-star in the A’s lineup this year.

Starting Pitching: The one thing that the A’s can hang their hat on this year is that their starting pitching has exceeded expectations. Andrew Triggs had to claw his way into the rotation and landed a spot in the back end due to injuries. So far this year, Triggs has a 5-2 record, a 2.21 ERA and has pitched 40 and two thirds innings while appearing to be the most confident Athletic whenever he’s on the field. Reliability is what Triggs has brought to the table at a potluck full of lazy bums. Jesse Hahn is a guy who profited through the failures of prospect Raul Alcantra. Hahn this year in six starts has put up a 2.74 ERA in 42 innings and has gone deeper into a game than any other A’s starter. Once, finishing eight shutout innings against the Angels and just this week, pitched seven stellar innings with only one earned. A couple of diamonds in the rough. Kendall Graveman has been no slouch either this year. Sure, he’s come back to earth after his brilliant start to 2017 but he is still putting up quality start after quality start whenever he goes out there. You know you got a shot with Kendall on the bump.

Negatives:

Bullpen: I don’t know if I can be any more clear about how unreliable this bullpen is. It’s time to send Dull and Casilla down to Nashville. They aren’t ready to pitch for a big league team. Casilla looks like a deer caught in the headlights in each outing and appears to always have the thought of another blown save in the back of his head. The only piece that I thought was solid was Ryan Madson and he laid an egg against Texas when in relief for Graveman, blowing his 4-2 lead. Bobby Wahl looks like he’s got some good stuff, throwing in the upper 90s but he’s very hittable with his 1.36 WHIP and ERA in the high 4s.

Khris Davis: KD has fell off the map. Homeruns do come in bunches but to have virtually no hitting from Davis is unacceptable. In these past seven days, Davis has a .050 average (only one hit in 20 at bats).

Hitting with RISP: With runners in scoring position, the A’s have the second worst average (.211). Can’t leave those opportunities out there, especially with our erroneous bullpen and when our lineup can only produce so many runs.

Next Up:

The A’s head up north to Seattle for their first away series against the Mariners. Then the Boston Red Sox and faithful will come to O.Co for a four game series.

Update 3: A Terrible Road-Trip Sweetened by a Couple of Walk-Offs (April 24 – May 7)

Record: 14-17 (4-9), 4th place in AL West, 6.5 games back of Houston

Listen, the A’s are making it really hard for me to bash them on their abysmal nine-game road stand they had to conclude their month of April after those 2012 season-like back-to-back walk-offs against Detroit.

Oakland faced the Angels and Astros for two series on their road trip. The A’s desperately needed to win at least half of those games in the series for it was a great opportunity  to make up some ground and stay in contention in the early portion of the season. But, instead they ended up shooting themselves in the foot.

In game one of the Angels series you could not of ask for more from righty Jesse Hahn. He pitched eight dazzling shutout innings, allowing only one hit and two walks. This starting pitching staff is doing much more than expected and it’s time for the lineup to pickup their end of the bargain. And of course, Santiago Casilla, the game blower, was right on cue, tensing up and blowing a save after a heroic go-ahead pinch-hit Josh Phegley solo homer in the top of the tenth. A’s drop game one 2-1. Game two gave the A’s another great opportunity to utilize the MLB’s new toy this year: the 10-day DL. Manaea left the game with some shoulder discomfort in the third inning – no timetable on his return. In his brief outing, Manaea gave up three earned runs and the bullpen collapsed as well. Specifically Ryan Dull. Fast forward to now – it seems that every time there’s a tie game, Dull trots to the mound and craps an egg each and every opportunity he gets. A’s lose game two 8-5. Our ace 2.0, Kendall Graveman pitched in the series finale. Surely he could salvage game three and give the A’s something to hold their head high about going into the red-hot Houston Astros series. Right……? No. Well, sort of. Graveman put forth another quality outing for the Athletics (6 IP, 2 ER and a helluva unassisted double play) but again, the run support became an issue and vacated him. Oakland again could muster up only one run off of an Alonso single. A’s get swept by the Angels of Anaheim after another 2-1 loss.

Khris Davis’ two-homer game in the ‘Stros series opener was not enough motivation for the A’s dugout or pitching staff for that matter. A’s lose 9-4 after Jharel Cotton served up ten hits accompanied by three errors from the Oakland infield. Andrew Triggs earned his fourth win of the year in another great start, going seven innings and striking out nine. Triggs was helped with another Davis homer (back-to-back games) and a Lowrie solo-shot. Casilla also notched his fourth save of the year. Get Triggy with it, Oakland. A’s take game two, 2-1. In the rubber match, I’d say Hahn pitched well for being a back-of-the-rotation guy. Jesse went six innings, allowing four runs, three of them earned. Flamethrower Frankie Montas threw the possibility of an A’s comeback out the window after serving a meatball to Marwin Gonzalez for a three-run homer. However, the A’s did strike for a run in the eighth with a Chad Pinder RBI single. Pinder has taken the call-up opportunity and ran with it. I really like what I’ve been seeing from the 25-year-old utility man. A’s lose 7-2.

He’s baaaAAAack. Sonny Gray, that is. Despite the fact that the A’s lost the opener against Minnesota in a 9-1 blowout, it’s great to have our ace back on the mound. In his outing, Sonny’s pitches were sharp, his curveball and slider both breaking and looking like the Sonny repertoire of old. His fastball maintained a steady velocity of between 92-94, touching 95 occasionally throughout the course of the ball game. Gray left some pitches up in the zone which were gobbled up for three home runs, one coming off the bat of the cuban slugger, Miguel Sano. Sonny finished the game with 88 pitches over six innings. Cesar Valdez came into relief for Gray and like his outing in Los Angeles, it was not pretty. In just one inning of work, Valdez gave up another three home runs. The A’s were able to tack on one measly run thanks to a Yonder Alonso homer. Alonso would take his bat and his power-hitting ju-ju into the rest of the week. A’s lose 9-1. Graveman toed the rubber for game two. Before this game, Graveman had allowed only five walks in his first four starts of the year. Kendall Graveman, you are now entering the Twilight Zone. He only pitched into the fourth inning while putting four runners on base via the walk in the process.  Graveman would see his ERA skyrocket after opening up the flood gates for six earned runs. The A’s would try to keep it close with a pair of doubles from Pinder and Matt Joyce and another Alonso big fly. Oakland and Jharel Cotton bounced back in game three. Cotton put up a quality start of six innings with three runs, two earned. Montas then proceeded to try to waste Cotton’s performance by serving up a two-run home run. Offensively, the A’s bats woke up from their deep slumber and struck for three doubles, a home run from the recently slumping Healy and a triple from none other than Stephen Vogt. Casilla closing games in the ninth is always nerve-racking to watch. Like standing on pins and needles. Casilla was able to load the bases with two walks and a hit by pitch before finally getting the monster Sano to go down swinging. A’s win 8-5.

You could say that Triggs was due for a poor outing after his amazing start to the 2017 season. Although he was not aided by two errors from Plouffe and Rosales, Triggs ended his day with five runs, three earned and five and a thirds innings pitched. The only runs, and you guessed it, came off of an Alonso two-RBI double. A’s lose 7-2. Now I get to the fun part of A’s baseball. After Montas came into the dugout once he concluded a scoreless top of the ninth, he was greeted by teammates saying, “We’re gonna get you your first major league win.” And who better to do it than Adam Rosales. I was in the rain at my local junior college on my nightly run listening to Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo call the bottom of the ninth. Already two outs in the inning, Bruce Maxwell worked a full count, A’s down to their final strike. Surely he was going to strike out on a ball in the dirt or swing at something eight inches outside the zone. But no, he gets a walk and we have the tying run on base. Maxwell isn’t the fastest guy but Melvin’s got no one in the dugout who can run. With no hesitation, Matt Joyce swings at a first pitch fastball and belts it down the right field line but Maxwell’s legs aren’t fast enough to pedal his way home. Runners on second and third, two-out rally still alive. The spark plug of the A’s lineup, Adam Rosales steps into the batters box and on a 0-1 count, singles to left field to knock in the tying and winning run in the bottom of the ninth. A’s win in dramatic walk-off fashion 6-5. End Scene. Side note: Alonso had the first two home run game of his career.

Next scene. Heralded closer Francisco Rodriguez makes his way to the mound looking to recuperate after a blown save last night. Tigers lead 6-5. Speedster Rajai Davis starts off the bottom of the ninth by working his way on base via a full-count walk. Jed Lowire lines one into the left-center alley and doubles home Rajai. TNT by ACDC is cued over the PA system and the Oakland faithful are on their feet. Tie game 6-6. We’ve got something cooking. After a Khris Davis line out, Ryon Healy is up to hit, much needing to get something to cheer about after his defensive struggles as of late. And he did just that. Healy popped a ball up to high left field, looking like a routing fly out but the Oakland wind kept carrying his ball into the left field bleachers. Healy celebrated is way to home plate and was trounced by his teammates. The only worries he has is getting lemon-meringue pie out of his nostrils and about the seagull he almost hit with his moonshot after the two-run walk off blast. A’s win 8-6. Side note: Alonso went deep again today.

So since my last article, the A’s have swapped a winning streak for a couple of losing streaks and then redeemed themselves with back-to-back walk offs to end the first month of May.

Positives:

Yonder Alonso: The most home runs Alonso has hit in a single season is nine. He’s at eight already, and it’s the seventh of May. Four of those home runs came this past week. Yonder has hit for a .421 average while knocking in eight RBI’s over the past seven days. Yonder looks so much more comfortable and relaxed at the plate than he did last year, he’s really coming into his own in 2017. I guess I’d feel good about myself too if I had a .311 batting average.

Ryon Healy: Healy has been pretty hit and miss this season, never really able to find his rhythm. It’s possible, and probably is due to his playing time in the field compared to his time spent in the DH position. You can tell in his body language and certainly in his postgame interview after his walk-off homer that it’s affecting his psyche. Hopefully the two-run homer will be a reversal of fortunes for the promising youngster. We can’t do it without him.

Chad Pinder: As I mentioned earlier, Pinder has been turning some head in the A’s clubhouse. Currently sporting a .308 average, Pinder doesn’t look at the scoreboard and clock out when he got up to the plate in blowout games. He’s take advantage of his time spent in the lineup and making it obvious he’s not wanting to go back down to Nashville. He looks like a real gritty player out there too, almost Dustin Predoia-like. I like his animosity and I look forward to seeing how and how much Melvin chooses to utilize him.

Sonny Gray: He may not be performing like he did a couple years ago but by the end of May, I expect Sonny to be back to regular mid-season form. You’ve got to admit, whenever Sonny takes the mound, it’s something all A’s fans can get excited about. Glad to have you back Sonny and keep the curveballs down.

Andrew Triggs: Forget his last start. Triggs has been absolutely dominant this year. His demeanor on the mound and his confident charisma really show whenever he’s on the bump. After he strikes someone out, he’s got a little strut he does and is like, “Yeah I sent your ass down on three pitches. And I’ll do it again.” You could argue that with Graveman, Triggs and Gray once he’s back to normal, the Oakland A’s have the best top-three starters in the AL West and Hahn’s no slouch either. Triggs this year posts a 2.34 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.

Negatives:

In my last article I was just talking about how the A’s have improved their sloppiness on defense. Well, they’ve reverted to old habits with several multi-error games that automatically hand-cuff their pitchers from the get-go and eliminate any possibility of a comeback. Over the past 12 games, Oakland has had 13 errors and has 28 for the whole year. With the amount of run production (or lack thereof) from the Oakland lineup, we can’t afford to be giving opposing teams free runs.

Bullpen: It’s always the bullpen… Montas, Dull and Casilla need to get their act together. Altogether, Oakland’s relievers have a 4.60 ERA and the only reliable arm for BoMel has been Ryan Madson although Casilla seems to be Melvin’s go-to in the ninth.

Next Up:

The A’s with their late-inning heroics will host the Angels in a three-game series for the second time this year and will then leave for a six-game AL West road trip, facing Texas and Seattle.

 

Update 2: Back Above .500 (April 17 – April 23)

Record: 10-9 (5-2), 2nd place in AL West, 3 games back of Houston

Bob Melvin can thank beloved Athletic Adam Rosales for the five-game winning streak this past week and for how well his team has been playing on both sides of the ball as of late.

After dropping the first game of the Texas series in which A.J. Griffin blanked the A’s through 6 innings on Monday, Oakland was able to recoup and salvage the remaining two games to kickstart a little win streak. Andrew Triggs continued his dominance on the mound in game two, keeping his perfect ERA and record of 3-0. The A’s were lifeless throughout much of the game, especially after Texas put up two runs in the top of the sixth. However an unlikely hero came up to the plate, a hero that got to showcase his renown, Adam Rosales homerun trot after hitting a two-run shot to left field which essentially put the A’s offense into a groove for the rest of the week. It wasn’t till game three that the Oakland bats really came alive, sending three balls over the fence. A four run first inning was just enough for the A’s and they didn’t look back once. A’s win 9-1 and take two out of three from the Rangers.

The A’s took that energy into the Seattle series the very next day. What I saw that most impressed me this week was watching Melvin and Co.’s will to not give up despite the balance of the game not being in their favor. Everyone seemed to pick up after each other if something went haywire. This was showcased in the series opener. The Mariners jumped out to a 3-0 lead but rather than throwing away any chance at winning the game, the A’s put together a rally with three consecutive singles (one from Rosie) and a double from Healy, knotting it up at 3-3. The Mariners came roaring back as well later on in the 6th to tie it up 5-5 but a Trevor Plouffe three-run jack put it out of reach, eventually winning 9-6. This constant fighting back reminded me a lot of the 2012-2014 teams. Those teams went to the ballpark every day expecting to win, not hoping and that is huge for any ballclub. Manaea had a much needed bounce-back performance in the second game of the series, allowing one earned in six innings. Getting through those six innings was huge in building up Manaea’s confidence according to Manager Bob Melvin. “Still a bit spotty with the command…” said BoMel when referring to Manaea’s three walks. Trevor Plouffe also achieved a nice little milestone as well: 100 career homeruns after his solo shot in the fifth. Manaea would earn his first win of the year as the A’s defeated the M’s 3-1. Cotton also improved on Saturday since his last outing in which he rendered five earned runs to Texas. Another quality start for the Virgin Islands native with six innings and two earned runs. Can’t ask for more than that. And just when the Mariners were getting into striking distance, Jed Lowrie was able to get into scoring position from another Healy double which allowed Khris Davis to knock the short-tempered second baseman into score. A’s win 4-3 in a nail biter. Triggs didn’t have the pinpoint command in the series finale in which we were accustomed to seeing in his first three games. Taylor Mother, the Mariners young shortstop with the flow of golden hair, dealt a heavy blow to Triggs with a grand salami in the third inning, extending the Mariners lead to 6-0 en route to a 11-1 blow out.

The winning streak was nice while it lasted. What can we take away from this third week of A’s baseball?

Positives:

The Defense: Before this week, the A’s were on pace to commit 198 errors. But thanks to a 45-inning errorless streak the Athletics have put together, the stat sheet doesn’t look so bad and we can put that to rest for now. Who woulda thought… when you don’t give up unearned runs and you don’t let your pitcher work out there for longer than he needs to, you win games? Yeah, you do. You can really see this play transition into the dugout as well. I noticed a lot more lively and happier faces.

Graveman and Sonny: Earlier this week Graveman was sent to the 10-day DL with a minor right shoulder strain but is on track to return to the rotation in Anaheim next week. “I felt great,” said Graveman after throwing a successful bullpen on Friday. And some even better news is that Sonny twirled a great game in his rehab outing for Single-A Stockton by throwing five shutout innings and striking out six. “I feel really good,” said Gray. “We got everything we wanted to get accomplished accomplished… It’s a good step forward for sure.” That step forward will be on Thursday when Gray toes the rubber for 75 pitches at Triple-A Nashville. I think Graveman wearing his jersey on Saturday was just the amount of luck Sonny needed. The 27-year-old ace and the solid 2-man, Graveman, should both be back in the A’s rotation by the end of next week to wreak havoc on the AL West.

XBH: Lots of doubles and home run balls for the A’s as of late. This week the A’s had 9 home runs (Rosales and Plouffe both had a couple of their own). The Athletics sit atop of the American League with 61 extra base hits and are third in home runs with 24.

The Closer: Without a fixed closer, it’s sometimes difficult to shut down close game in the ninth inning. During this week relievers have stepped up when it counted the most, 3 for 3 in save opportunities. Two of those saves came from Santiago Casilla which was just what he and the A’s needed; to get a little confidence under their belt for the veteran Dominican right-hander. Ryan Madson also continued his dominance so far in this young season, lowering his ERA to a minuscule 1.23.

Rosales: The spark plug of the A’s offense is what I’d like to call him. Not only did Rosie break his home run “trot” record this week but he also inspired the bats of his teammates. Rosales caught many off guard with his two homers this week… maybe this is a sign for more to come? Let’s go Pizza Boy.

Plouffe: Trevor has found himself this week, just crushing the ball. His .226 average doesn’t speak volumes but it seems that every time he’s came up to the plate he’s had longer at bats and has been more of a challenge for pitchers.  The home run stat may not be most important in determining Plouffe’s success for the rest of the year, but perhaps in how many games he ends up playing.

Lowrie: Every time that Lowrie has stepped up to the plate over the year, especially when he’s in a slump, he always takes exception to ball/strike calls and gets irritable. This week the hot head has really settled down and hasn’t been getting to amped up at the plate. Jed’s worked his way on base via the walk and has been hitting the ball more square, sporting a .276 average with two doubles over the last 10 days.

Healy: 6 RBIs, .524 average (11 for 21), 4 doubles, a couple of walks and a solo blast puts a big ole smile on the faces of A’s hopefuls. Ryon has been on a tear these past seven days and is getting into a groove both offensively and defensively. Watch out AL West, Ryon Healy is coming and only at the ripe age of 25. Does this guy have a nickname yet?…

Hahn: Jesse Hahn has turned Bob Melvin’s head this year at the bottom of the rotation. First by dealing out of the bullpen in a long relief outing. Then by having success in his first start of the year after filling in for Alcantra. And again by churning another quality start for the A’s and earning his first win of the year by allowing one run in six innings. It’s gonna be tough to kick him out once we get Sonny back…

Rooted in Oakland: Dave Kaval and the Oakland Athletics organization teased fans by announcing on Twitter that by the end of the year the A’s will announce a plan for a new ballpark site IN OAKLAND. As you can imagine, the rowdy members of the right field bleachers and fanatics such as myself are stoked to see what will be happening!

Negatives:

Long list of positives this week and hopefully that will be a recurring theme throughout the year.

The DL: Marcus Semien was sent to the 60-day DL after fracturing his wrist last week. It’ll be tough to make up for the offensive production he puts out but it looks like Rosie already has a head start on making his absence not as painful as it might’ve been.

Alcantra: This guy does not have it. I don’t know what else BoMel has to see to finally take in the fact that he is not big league ready. Alcantra was given the the priority to mop up some innings for the A’s in the final few innings of the M’s series finale but decided to go Rick James out there and shit out five runs in three innings.

“I’m Rick James, bitch.” – Raul Alcantra probably

My best bet is that they’ll send Alcantra and Cesar Valdez down to Nashville once Sonny and Graveman return.

Things are looking up Oaktown!

Next Up:

The A’s take to a nine-game road trip this next week and a half and will face off against Houston and Anaheim for the second time this year in two three-game series.

Update 1: Two Weeks of A’s Baseball in the Books (April 3 – April 16)

I’ll be doing two-week updates for the A’s throughout their 162-game season from here on out.

Record: 5-7 (5-7 past 2 weeks)

Oakland took on the Angels for their first three games of the year. For Opening Day, A’s starting pitcher Kendall Graveman powered through the Angel lineup to give the A’s their first W of the year behind two Khris Davis homeruns (4-2). In game two, Ryan Dull and the Athletics suffered a bullpen malfunction to put them to 1-1 on the year following a 7-6 loss. Hopefully not a sign of more to come. The Angels and A’s would end up splitting the series two games a piece, the other Oakland win coming from an unexpected stellar performance form Andrew Triggs.

The Rangers were the next AL West opponent to face the A’s. With faulty outings from rookies Jharel Cotton and Sean Manea, the Rangers would take two out of three games from the A’s. The other? Kendall Graveman pitched his heart out for seven innings, losing a no-hit bid in the 7th, giving the A’s their third win.

Further east, we go to Kansas City, Missouri for three games. Cotton had a bounce-back start, striking out six batters in seven innings to earn his first win of 2017 with help from a two-run bomb from none other than left fielder Khris Davis. Triggs twirled another gem in game two, shutting out the Royals’ bats for six innings. Triggs was helped by quite the offensive showing from his teammates including three RBIs from second baseman Jed Lowrie and a couple of hits from Rajai Davis for a 8-3 win. The A’s were later dominated in game three by Jason Vargas, losing 3-1 but took two out of three.

In game one, Kendall Graveman took the mound for what was a three-game series against Houston Astros. After blanking the ‘Stros for five innings, Graveman was forced to leave the game after “never really getting warmed up” according to Manager Bob Melvin. Plouffe’s two throwing errors and the A’s bullpen allowing 5 runs helped the Astros to a 7-2 win. Manaea went 5 innings, not allowing a hit but ran into trouble de to the amount of runners he put on base. The Oakland bullpen was never able to bail him out. Astros win 10-6. Game 3 was postponed to September 9th due to a rainout.

The A’s should be 7-5 right now but first let’s look at some bright spots that Manager Bob Melvin has had so far this young season.

Bright Spots:

Khris Davis: Emphasis on the second and third letters of his name. Davis picked up right where he left off from last season and has gotten off to an even better start than his 2016 campaign. Four players are currently tied for first in homeruns (6) and Davis is one of them. Two of which came on Opening Day on ESPN. Khris Davis leads the A’s in all major hitting statistics which includes a .340 batting average.

Kendall Graveman: Despite leaving his last outing in the 5th inning with some forearm discomfort, Graveman has lived up to expectations and much more. With Sonny Gray going down on the DL, someone had to fill in for the number one spot and be the team ace and boy-oh-boy did Kendall step up. On Opening Day Kendall showcased a lot, allowing only two earned runs over 6 innings, the runs coming off the bat of a Mike Trout 2-run bomb. Graveman would earn the win and take that into his next start against the Rangers. The only blemish on the stat sheet in Arlington came in the 7th inning which would be a solo homer which was also the first hit allowed in the game by Graveman. What’s impressed me about Kendall has been how much his velocity has improved from 2016. I remember watching him have a solid 92-94 mph fastball, occasionally hitting 95 but now he’s really pumping it in there, touching 98 at times and averaging 95-96. Graveman has an ERA of 2.00 and has struck out 12 in 18 innings. Keep it up buddy.

Jharel Cotton: So far in the battle of rookies Cotton has clearly taken the upper-hand. After his rough first outing of 2017, Cotton bounced back against the Royals and showed he is here to stay. Cotton blanked KC for seven innings, sending six batters back to the pine shaking their heads, getting his first win of the season in the process.

Sonny Gray: How great is this? Melvin earlier this week announced that they expect Gray to be back by the end of April, the very worst being May 1. On April 13 Gray threw a bullpen of 45-50 pitches and will be making his first Minor League Rehab Assignment soon. By the time he enters back into the rotation, he’ll be built up to throw at least 90 pitches.

Mark Mulder: So former member of the original “Big 3”, Mark Mulder is now in the booth with Glen Kuiper on Fosse’s many off days. Great move by NBC Sports California to get Shooty Babbit out of there. Mulder has offered some excellent pitching insight while not overstepping the air-time boundary of a color commentator.

Negatives:

Sean Manaea: Manaea’s problem has been his ability to locate his pitches. In his last outing against the Houston Astros, Manaea covered up the fact that he walked five batters by no-hitting them through five innings. Three of those walks coming in the 6th. Manaea currently has a 5.51 ERA and will look to knock that down against the Seattle Mariners next week.

Ryan Dull: Although Dull was not aided by Manaea walking the bases loaded in the 6th, you could say he is the reason why the A’s don’t have two more wins under their belt. Dull suffered a heartbreaker after giving up a three-run homer to Angels second baseman Danny Espinosa after the A’s lineup had already fought its way back to take the lead. Hopefully Dull will be returning to 2016 form sometime soon…

Ryon Healy: Healy hasn’t looked all that sharp through mid-April either. After getting his feathers ruffled by a high and inside heater from Kansas City starter Jason Vargas, Healy was sent down on strikes twice. This sparked an unfortunate trend for Healy, striking out twice or three times over the next couple of games. A.J. Griffin will be 60 feet 6 inches away from Healy who takes a .170 batting average into game one of a three-game series with the Texas Rangers. Find your groove Healy, find your groove.

Marcus Semien: Although not doing much more than Healy, shortstop Marcus Semien suffered a right wrist contusion and is now on the 10-day disabled list. Semien however did do his job by getting on base, currently second in the AL in walks. A fundamental piece of our infield will be replaced part time by Triple-A Nashville call-up Chad Pinder. In Spring Training Pinder was nothing special but he did make his MLB debut last season, ending the season with a .235 average in 22 games. The 25-year-old Pinder was sporting a .324 batting average in nine games with Nashville. Let’s see this trend continue. This is a good chance to see what Oakland has grooming in its farm system.

The Bullpen: Saturday’s game against the Astros was not pretty for anyone down the third base line. Liam Hendriks, Sean Doolittle, Frankie Montas and Santiago Casillas all gave up two earned runs each en route to the 10-6 Oakland loss to Houston. I think Casillas still has a bad taste in his mouth from his 2016 September. It’d be huge for him to put his best foot forward to put those negative memories behind him. The Athletics’ bullpen posts a 4.31 ERA.

Other Notable Highlights:

Jaff Decker made his 2017 debut, donning the green and gold for the first time. Decker worked hard all Spring Training and got the call up just a week and a half into the season to fulfill for the slumping and erroneous Mark Canha. Decker took advantage of the opportunity by delivering a three-hit day which included a triple, RBI and stolen base. Hopefully Decker will become a platoon fixture for Melvin.

Next Up:

The A’s will make up their rainout on September 9 in a double header. Oakland will be continung its 10-game home stand against the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners over the next couple of weeks.

24 games in the month of April have been or will be against AL West opponents which serves as a great opportunity for Oakland to get out in front of its divisional rivals early. Let’s see Oakland take advantage and at least go .500 over this stretch.

World Series 2017. Who Ya Got?

AMERICAN LEAGUE – CLEVELAND INDIANS 

AL EAST: Boston Red Sox

AL CENTRAL: Cleveland Indians

AL WEST: Seattle Mariners

Wild Card 1: Texas Rangers

Wild Card 2: Toronto Blue Jays

I’ve got the Red Sox meeting the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS. The Red Sox 1-2-3 punch with Rick Porcello, Chris Sale, and David Price is quite the culmination and too much to handle for all but one AL team.

The Sox’s highly touted, young outfield (Benintendi, Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts) is going to be fun to watch this year, blossoming into stars of the future. Oh, and don’t forget one of the top five most electric short stops in the league with the talents of Xander Bogaerts.

Cleveland made their unexpected and thrilling journey to Game 7 of the World Series without two of their top three starters of their pitching rotation: Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar.

If the Indians pitching staff is able to stay healthy, they will be one of the most complete teams in all of baseball. Kipnis, currently on the 15-day DL, ace Corey Kluber and bullpen anchor Andrew Miller will lead this team all the way to the World Series AGAIN.

A piece that the Indians were missing to the puzzle was a solid power hitter other than Napoli and they fulfilled that hole in their lineup and more. You can pretty much pencil in 40 home runs and 90 RBIs for the Dominican slugger, Edwin Encarnacion.

Indians beat Red Sox in 6, 4-2.

NATIONAL LEAGUE – CHICAGO CUBS

NL EAST: Washington Nationals

NL CENTRAL: Chicago Cubs

NL WEST: San Francisco Giants

Wild Card 1: New York Mets

Wild Card 2: St. Louis Cardinals

Who’s meeting in the NL Championship? Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets.

Cubs: The best team in baseball and perhaps will be the best of this decade. These next three years specifically, the Cubs have a chance to go on a run unlike any other. All facets of the Cubs game are impeccable this season. There was question about the bullpen – Theo answered that. Best front office, best starting five, best infield, best manager, best bench and the remarkable beer-league slow pitch softball player, Kyle Schwarber in left.

I just don’t see how the Cubs don’t make it back to the World Series this year. They’re playing with no pressure with the curse being alleviated, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are in the prime of the careers even at their young age and they have three Cy Young candidates. It’s gonna be a fun September and October.

As for the Mets, let’s hope Matt Harvey has a bounce back season for the sake of baseball lovers. This guy was so fun to watch and now it’s even better with the other young studs that around him. Syndergaard, now the ace of the staff, just put on a thrilling performance against the Marlins last night. I almost get a little upset when the batters he faces don’t go down on strikes.

*Groundball out* “You gotta be kidding’ me!”

Along with those two cemented aces is pitcher Jacob DeGrom who twirled a 3.04 ERA in 24 starts last season. The only thing up in the air is if Zach Wheeler and Steven Matz can keep off the DL hold up their end of the rotation.

The Mets bullpen scares me a little bit. Jerry Blevins seems to be the only solid piece in there.

The lineup for the Mets is aged, for sure. Bruce, Grandson, Cabrera, Duda, Wright, Reyes, and Neil Walker are all above age 30. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing once the Mets reach the postseason. Having Yoenis belt 30+ bombs a year will help Granderson put some pop into the Mets lineup.

Cubs beat the Mets handedly, 4-1 in five games.

WORLD SERIES – CUBS VS. INDIANS

I know I’m not alone, but I got a rematch for 2017 which won’t disappoint. The Indians adding that missing piece with Encarnacion will give ’em the edge. Let’s just hope that their starters will remain in tact. Time to sit back, relax in the recliner and watch a rematch for the ages.

Indians beat the Cubs in another Game 7. Advantage Tribe: 4-3.

 

 

 

Going Downtown

 

The Grossmont Griffins baseball team (17-1) has an excellent opportunity to extend its two-game lead in the Pacific Coast Conference Standings by going for their second consecutive sweep in a three-game series against bitter rival, San Diego City College (7-8).

Stepping up to the mound for Coach Abshier in game one was trusted arm, Tim Holdagrafer in his 10th start of the year. Holdagrafer currently posts an ERA of 2.86 with 52 strikeouts over 56 and two-thirds innings.

Looking to improve from his last start in which he allowed six runs in five innings against San Diego Mesa, Holdagrafer did that and more. The freshman put a smile on his coach’s face by pitching into the eighth inning and only allowing one runner to cross the plate for the City Knights. Holdagrafer would end up getting his fifth win of the year and sending six batters back to the dugout shaking their heads.

This series was unlike others for the Griffins in that there was not the normal blow-out win. Along with that, the Griffins weren’t as sure-handed as usual, having three errors in game one.

However a couple things happened right on cue. Noah Strohl was able to put the Griffins up early in the bottom of the first inning, sending a two-run rocket over the left field wall, his eighth of the year.

Second baseman Reece Hernandez did his job in the lineup, going 3-4 on the day while scoring twice. Trevor Beard also had a nice day himself with two hits and an RBI.

With help from reliever Hayden Shenefield who notched his first save of the year, the Griffins beat the San Diego City Knights 4-1 in game one.

Game two was quite the pitchers duel, perhaps one of the best outings of the year for the Griffins and Knights pitching staffs. Hayden Shenefield started his first game of the year for Grossmont while City Knight starting pitcher Garret Yocum met the Griffin batters 60 feet, six inches.

Hayden Shenefield was like fine wine, getting better as the innings passed. It turned out that Trevor Beard’s two-RBI single was just enough for the Griffins to have the advantage in game two.

Shenefield tossed a complete game, three-hit-shutout while striking out 16 batters, yes sixteen batters. To end the game, Shenefield struck out the side twice, five of the batters he faced were sent down looking and the other flailed on a fastball.

One of the most amazing aspects of Shenefield’s game was the fact that he didn’t allow a single walk in the 30 batters he faced.

Yocum was just as good for the Knights as well. It’s a shame that such a stunning performance was not aided by his hitters. Beard’s hit was one of his only flaws in his outing, going the distance for a complete game and giving up five hits.

The Griffins take game two of the series with a 2-0 win thanks to the remarkable performance of Hayden Shenefied with his third win of the year. I imagine that Abshier might use Shenefield later on in the season as a starter due to the eyebrows he raised.

Following up Shenefield was McCrystal’s stellar performance. For the second consecutive game, Abshier didn’t need to gesture toward his bullpen as McCrystal tossed a complete game.

The Griffins took the upper hand again in another pitchers duel. In inning one, Reece Hernandez was able to score after a throwing error by the Knight infield. Hernandez put his name in the stat book again in the second inning singling to left field with the bases loaded to score Michael Diffley.

The Griffins two runs was enough for McCrystal which was no surprise. Despite giving up a RBI double, it was smooth sailing for the UNLV commit. Sophomore McCrystal earned a win while striking out five batters over nine innings.

Starting pitcher Frank Lopez for the Knights was just as, if not more impressive. Lopez would end his day wth nine strikeout but his inconsistency seemed to be his achilles heel, walking five batters.

The Griffins with their second series sweep in a row after their 2-1 win now have a 17-1 conference record, firmly in first place in the PCAC with no signs of budging.

At home, the Grffins are nearly indestructible with a 10-1 record.

The next home contest for Abshier’s ball club is a non-league game against West LA on Tuesday, April 11 at 2 p.m.

A Greener Playing Field

 

When plodding through the turn-styles, you may notice that fans nowadays pull out their tickets by reaching into their pockets and with two swipes and couple taps of their smartphones they’d have their paperless ticket scanned. From that point, foam-finger toting fanatics will walk past and watch the latest big play on the energy-conserving LED lights of a giant screen while making their way to the tofu burger stand. From conserving water and increasing recycling to using solar and wind as a primary energy source, major professional sports organizations have made a concerted effort in the past years to become more eco-friendly.

“A single individual has a minimal impact on the Earth system. However, the collective actions of over 7 billion people over time can result in creating changes to those “natural” recycling processes that then have negative impacts upon our lives and our environment,” says Mark Goodman, Chairman of the Earth Sciences Department at Grossmont College. “Much is taking place today in the realm of alternative energy sources due to not only the concerns over fossil fuels and things like carbon dioxide but also because fossil fuels are a finite resource.”

The major incentive for the sports industry to consider an environmental means of running its organization are the effective cost-saving measures. “Reducing your energy costs, reducing your water costs, reducing your waste costs is a money saver as it is an environmental winner,” says Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist at the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Hershkowitz, ranked as one of the top 50 most influential people in sports by SportsBusiness, adds that sports has been a way to connect with people and their passions: “Only 13 percent of people follow science, but 71 percent of people follow sports.” This gives all sports fans a new-found sentiment and broadened awareness of environmental issues.

A major force behind the endeavors of sports programs to become environmentally aware is a non-profit, Pacific northwest-based group called the Green Sports Alliance (GSA) which works in coordination of the NRDC. The Washington-state sports teams are credited with being the first to win the GSA.  “The Green Sports Alliance leverages the cultural and market influence of sports to promote healthy, sustainable communities where we live and play,” states GreenSportsAlliance.org. The NRDC boasts, “Within two years of its founding, the GSA grew to include more than 100 teams in 13 leagues; today it boasts a membership of more than 300 teams and venues.” The Alliance is responsible for the removal of hundreds of millions of pounds of carbon-emission reductions, millions of saved gallons of water and millions of happy smiles on tree-huggers faces.

The National Football League in particular has been the guinea pig of the GSA and has taken some drastic steps in growing their green thumb. CenturyLink Field, home of the brainchild of the GSA, the Seattle Seahawks and Major League Soccer team, the Seattle Sounders, has 3,750 solar panels installed on its retractable roof.

A NFC West foe of the Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers has lended a hand as well with a new field in Santa Clara, Levi’s Stadium, that accommodates a “living roof”. The “living roof” is a canopy of green and flowering plants encompassing its eight-story tower of luxury suites to provide insulation. And on the field itself, the turf at Levi’s Stadium requires 50 percent less water than most other  NFL fields.

The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the “greenest” teams in the NFL and no, I’m not talking about their uniforms. Amanda MacMillan of NRDC wrote about the Lincoln Financial Field’s plans, “The team’s owners asked NRDC to help them figure out how to reduce the stadium’s carbon footprint, both during and after its initial build, and this changed the game for good.” Gary Mihoces of USA Today Sports said that since January of 2014, 11,000 solar panels and 14 wind turbines have been generating power at Lincoln Financial Field. “The team’s 10-year-old “Go Green” campaign also includes reduced water and electrical use, recycled paper products for all tissues, conversion of cooking oil into biodiesel fuel, a digital version of the cheerleaders calendar to spare trees and compostable packaging for the hot dogs and Philly cheese steaks.” Along with that, upon entering Lincoln Financial Stadium there are signs that plead “Recycle your beer here and your plastics outside.”

“The technology is such that wind-generated power is more cost effective than solar energy. This perhaps explains the explosion of wind farms throughout the part of the US for which I am most familiar and travel through,” stated Goodman.

Major League Baseball stadiums could be seen as giant metal and concrete structures consisting of jumbotrons that squander electricity, lavish troths that dilapidate millions of gallons of water and food stands that exhaust gas in the sake of Chicago Dogs and garlic fries. However, the MLB has made giant steps in decreasing their ecological footprint as well.

In one of the most ecological cities in America is the baseball team, the Seattle Mariners, a founding member of the Green Sports Alliance. “Since 2006 the team has reduced the use of natural gas by 40 percent, electricity by 25 percent and water use by 25 percent. (The savings amount to more than $1.75 million in electricity, natural gas, water and sewer charges)” wrote Michael Casey of CBS News. After a Tuesday home game last year against the Houston Astros, the Mariners organized a promotion in which first 5,000 fans exiting the Safeco Field gates would receive a bag of soil. Safeco Field was also the first MLB park to feature LED lighting to illuminate their field. According to Sepco-SolarLighting.com, LED lights are up to 80 percent more efficient that traditional lighting.

The Boston Red Sox, known for their famous Green Monster in left field, is not the only concept that’s green about them. The Red Sox have went ahead and used solar energy to power Fenway Park, the oldest stadium in the MLB. “Started in 2008, the Fenway Greening program has included the installation of enough solar panels to provide 37 percent of their energy,” said Casey. Toward the end of the Red Sox 2016 campaign, “a pregame ceremony featured many leaders and partners who are part of the city’s effort to reduce Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020,” writes Mark Newman of MLB.com.

In a conversation with Goodman, he stated that applying solar energy to large bases can yield great benefits for the environment.

Coming off one of the best, if not the best seasons in franchise history is the Cleveland Indians. But their success isn’t happening solely on the playing field. Home of the Indians, Progressive Field is the first of it’s kind to install an actual wind turbine. This is part of the “Our Tribe is Green” program ran by the Indians Organization.

One would assume that the state nicknamed the “Land of a Thousand Lakes” would relieve quite a bit of rainfall. Target Field, the home of the Minnesota Twins, receives that abundance of rainfall and puts it to use in washing down the stadium’s seats.

“Water is critical to life. We live in a semi-desert. There is not enough water locally to support the millions of people who live in our area,” said Goodman. “Much more should be done in our area to conserve water.” Goodman went on to say how pleased he is to see Grossmont College replacing grass with native vegetation. This act alone has resulted in substantial savings on water bills and water itself.

Onto the National League with the Pittsburgh Pirates who have quite the recycling program themselves. The Pirates Organization has effectively removed 65 percent of waste from their stadium, PNC Park, out of the waste stream according Casey.

The Colorado Rockies started feeling green as well last year with their Bike to the Game program to assist in eliminating carbon emissions.

And of course, the hometown Padres did their part with last year’s annual All-Star Game, lighting up the A.L. and N.L. all-stars with LED lighting that is estimated to save over 250,000 kWh per year, which is the equivalent of driving more than 410,000 miles or approximately 16.5 trips around the world.

Onto the asphalt. In attempt to compensate for the burning of fuel and rubber from tires, NASCAR has implemented a program called “NASCAR Green” which includes tire recycling and has vowed to plant 8,000 trees this year to offset carbon emissions. For solar power, the famous 2.5 mile-long Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania links its power to a solar farm which also fuels the electricity for 1,000 nearby houses, writes power-technology.com.

Perhaps more than any other sport, hockey is connected to the natural environment. Hockey requires cold climates and freshwater to preserve and develop its rinks. The National Hockey League is the first professional sports league to issue an environmental sustainability report that’s “goal is to address recent efforts and the challenges faced from an environmental perspective” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

The NHL is partaking in the movement as well with its NHL Green program. “Among the goals of NHL Green: to reduce the use of natural resources in business operations, to track and measure the environmental impact of the sport and to inspire fans and partners to commit to environmental stewardship,” according to NHL.com. “At the NHL, we recognize that we have great responsibility for the way we conduct our business, and we are uniquely positioned to promote the environmental message,” Bettman said.

Also in partnership with the NRDC is the NBA Green program which “generates awareness and funds for protecting the environment” says NBA.com. The NBA has 18 teams that are part of the GSA as well. Many NBA teams part of the NBA Green program donate prepared but unsold food to charities which eliminates landfilling valuable food that would release harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Among the steps inside the arena to eliminate surpluses of energy include team kitchens that use solely Energy Star equipment. Which produces 20-40 percent less energy than standard products.“The NBA’s commitment to reduce its ecological impact and to help educate basketball fans worldwide about the importance of environmental protection confirms why this league is regarded as one of the world’s most responsible sports organizations,” said Hershkowitz. Former NBA Commissioner David Stern said, ”The Seattle Storm and the Portland Trail Blazers are helping to lead the way on the greening of professional sports and the NBA and WNBA are grateful for their leadership. Their participation in the Green Sports Alliance holds the potential to further the greening of professional sports nationally’’.

Goodman advises all Grossmont College students to “plan one’s navigation across space using an automobile more efficiently would help. This means trying to use your car so you reduce the number of miles you put on it during a day while still getting everything you need to get done, done.”

For other tips to generate a better consciousness of the environmental threats and how to make a positive difference in the environment, visit NRDC.org.