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Series 5/52: Houston (4-8) @ Oakland (9-4)

Game 1:

LHP Erik Bedard (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.56 WHIP)
RHP Tom Milone (2-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)

In game one of their second series in as many weeks, the A’s would face Erik Bedard; Oakland swept the Astros in Houston last week, but have yet to Bedard, who comes in having thrown solidly in two previous outings – the first coming out of the bullpen to pitch 3.1 innings in relief (and receiving a save for his effort), and once as a starter in a ND that resulted in another Houston win. In 7.1 innings of work, Bedard previously had a WHIP of 0.56 in those two outings thanks to giving up just a combined 2 hits and 2 walks (0 runs) with an opponent batting average of just .083.

Thus, the fact that the veteran left-hander was only able to retire 1 of Oakland’s first 7 batters was shocking. It would be the only 7 batters he would face in the game.

Bottom of the 1st inning:
1. Coco Crisp walks (3-2)
2. Derek Norris walks (3-1)
3. Chris Young walks to load the bases (3-1)
4. Jed Lowrie strikes out
– Wild pitch scores Crisp. 1-0 Oakland.
5. Josh Donaldson walks to re-load the bases (3-2)
6. Brandon Moss (0-for-16 slump) RBI single scores Norris and Young. 3-0 Oakland.
7. Nate Freiman (2-for-13) homers to left, scoring Donaldson, Moss, and himself. 6-0 Oakland.

/Bedard. 0.1 IP, 2 hits, 4 walks, 1 strikeout, 6 earned runs (162.00 ERA, 18.00 WHIP)

- Nate Freiman’s 1st-inning 3-run home run was his 3rd major league hit and his first career home run.

- Coco Crisp extends his hitting streak to 10-games with a 4th inning double.

- With injury woes to the A’s lineup, infamous, if not bewildering prospect, Mike Taylor (0-for-1), receives his first start of the season and hits 8th; he went 0-for-4.

- Tommy Milone becomes Oakland’s first 3-win pitcher with his third in as many starts; he has won five straight decisions dating to last season and hasn’t lost since Sept. 3, 2012.

Astros 2, Athletics 11
W: Milone (3-0); L: Bedard (0-1)

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Game 2:

RHP Brad Peacock (1-1, 4.82 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)
RHP A.J. Griffin (2-0, 1.93 ERA, 1.07 WHIP)

Brad Peacock might end up being the best piece Houston received in the Jed Lowrie deal afterall. In all of his three starts, he’s looked pretty proficient. His downfall thus far is he hasn’t been able to get out of the 5th inning twice, but he’s giving Houston a shot each start.

On a night when A.J. Griffin didn’t have his best stuff – walking a career-high four hitters in the first 3 innings, Peacock would again give the Astros a chance to win as he pitched into the 5th inning with a tie game, allowing just 4 hits.

Griffin would settle down and retire his final 11 batters while Oakland’s offense would finally get to Peacock and eventually Rhiner Cruz to take a 3-2 lead. Doolittle would spoil Griffin’s bid for a win by giving up a game-tying solo home run to Carlos Pena in the 8th inning. In the bottom half of that same inning, however, Josh Donaldson would place a ball perfectly down the right-field line past a diving Rick Ankiel to lock in Oakland’s 3rd triple of the night, scoring Josh Reddick from 1st.

- With Brandon Moss again on paternity leave to be with his wife (I think it’s for real this time), rookie Shane Peterson gets his second call up (his first being when Moss went on paternity leave in Houston last week). This time, though, Peterson will get his first start, hitting 9th and playing 1st base. It won’t go down in the box score, but with the bases loaded and 2-outs in the 3rd inning and Houston already up 2-0, Rick Ankiel hits a liner down the first base line only to be robbed by the outstretched glove of Peterson as dives toward the line and saves Oakland from going down at least 4-0. It’s debatable that Carlos Pena would have scored from first base to make it 5-0 despite the large confines of the Coliseum with Josh Reddick’s canon of an arm in right field. 50/50. Regardless, it was huge. (Video: OAK: Top Plays | HOU@OAK: Peterson’s diving grab gets A’s out of third – Video | oaklandathletics.com: Multimedia)

Peterson, offensively, wasn’t as impressive in his debut. A former 2nd round pick by the Cardinals (and included in the Matt Holliday trade of 2009), Peterson, 25, hit above .400 in both AAA (.410) and Spring Training (.408) this season. He’s a natural first basemen (as we saw), but lacks some of the power you’d expect from a first basemen, and thus may be more suited offensively to the corner-outfield spots, where he started at in AAA Sacramento. Part of his modus operandi appears to be a strong eye at the plate, though he didn’t show it tonight – swinging wildly at a few pitches off the plate or down in the zone. Peterson will get one more start tomorrow with Moss not scheduled to re-join the team until Friday in Tampa.

- Coco Crisp extends his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI triple in the 5th inning. The A’s would tie a franchise record with 3 triples on the evening (Sogard, Crisp, Donaldson). Part of the problem for Houston was the odd defensive formation manager Bo Porter had with Jason Maxwell playing so far into left-center, which lead directly to Sogard’s triple into right-center. Maxwell, for much of the series, played significantly shifted to left-center, almost regardless of who the hitter was.

- The A’s have now won 10 straight games against teams from the AL West, the club’s longest single-season stretch since a 13-game streak in 1994.

Astros 3, Athletics 4
W: Doolittle (1-0); L: Cruz (0-1)

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Game 3: 

RHP Bud Norris (2-1, 1.93 ERA, 1.09 WHIP)
RHP Bartolo Colon (1-0, 4.15 ERA, 1.23 WHIP)

It has been said that the 2013 AL West belongs to the team that is able to dominate the Houston Astros. So far, it’s dead-on. Oakland is the only team that hasn’t lost to Houston (6-0) this season and has the best record in both the AL West and the American League as a whole.

Coming off 7 shutout innings against the Angels in which he would lower his ERA to 1.93 and earn his 2nd victory, Bud Norris lasted all of 2 outs of the 1st inning. For the second time in 3 games, Astros’ starters were unable to get out of the first inning; Bedard and Norris combined for 12 runs and 1 inning pitched. In 3 games, Houston starting pitching would combine to pitch a total of just 5.1 IP.

The A’s struck for 6 runs in the first inning on RBIs by Young, Sogard, Reddick, Peterson, and Jaso. Lowrie would finish off the A’s scoring with an RBI in the 4th.

- For his part, Bartolo Colon was tremendous. He went 6 innings, giving up just the 1st inning RBI by Chris Carter, 4 hits while striking out 3. In his 3 starts and 19 innings of work, Colon has yet to issue a walk. In the top of the 5th inning with 2 outs and facing Matt Dominguez, he faced his first 3-0 count of the day, putting the streak on the line but elected to move from his off-speed pitches to straight fastballs and ended up fighting back to 3-2 before yielding a single (cue my applause). After finishing off Marwin Gonzalez to end the 5th and retiring Houston in order in the 6th, Colon’s day was done having retired 10 of his final 11 batters.

- Shane Peterson, who made his MLB debut last night, picked up his first RBI (1st inning, walk), first hit (4th inning, Xavier Cedeno), and first run scored (4th inning, RBI Lowrie)

- Coco Crisp was given a day off for rest and will attempt to extend his hitting streak to 12 games on Friday vs Alex Cobb.

- Oakland heads for Tampa tied with Atlanta for the most wins in baseball (12), with baseball’s highest totals for runs (96), doubles (40), walks (70), stolen bases (15), second in OBP (.354), and second in OPS (.818).

Astros 5, Athletics 7
W: Colon (2-0), L: Parker (0-2)

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Pitching Matchups:

Game 1:

LHP Brett Anderson (1-2, 4.34 ERA, 1.39 WHIP)

Of the nine earned runs Anderson has allowed, seven came in his last start, a loss to the Tigers. Anderson said his slider was the worst it has been since he’s been in the big leagues. He gave up three home runs, matching his career high.

RHP Alex Cobb (1-1, 1.93 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)

Cobb struggled with command in Boston, but managed to limit the damage in a four-run, 6 2/3-inning outing that resulted in his first loss of ’13. He is 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA in three career starts vs. the A’s, and 8-7 with a 3.45 ERA in 18 home starts.

Game 2:

RHP Jarrod Parker (0-2, 10.80 ERA, 2.26 WHIP)

Parker lost after allowing eight runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings on Sunday vs. the Tigers. He’s lasted just 3 1/3 innings in each of his past two starts and has fanned just four with eight walks in 11 2/3 frames this year.

RHP Jeremy Hellickson (0-1, 4.91 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)

The Rays right-hander gave the Rays a quality start Monday against the Red Sox, but took a no-decision despite allowing just two runs and striking out nine in seven innings. He is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in four career starts against the Athletics.

Game 3:

LHP Tom Milone (3-0, 3.86 ERA, 1.23 WHIP)

Milone allowed two runs on eight hits and no walks with six strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings to earn the win against the Astros on Monday night, and the lefty is carrying around a five-game win streak dating back to September.

RHP Fausto Carmona / Roberto Hernandez (0-3, 5.79, 1.39 WHIP)

He made his third start for the Rays on Tuesday, allowing three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against the O’s to take his third loss. He is 4-7 in 13 career appearances against Oakland and is 2-2 with a 5.04 ERA in six career appearances at the Trop.

Series 4/52: Detroit (5-4) @ Oakland (8-2)

Game 1:

RHP Max Scherzer (1-0, 7.20 ERA)
RHP Bartolo Colon (1-0, 4.50 ERA)

In virtually identical fashion as in his first start of the season, Colon’s only mistake would come on 1-pitch: a 3-run home run. This time, it came off the bat of Prince Fielder in the first inning. As in his 2013 debut, he wouldn’t give up anything else (7IP, 8H, 3R, 0BBs, 5Ks).

The story, though, as always, is Oakland’s come-from-behind victory to win their MLB-leading 9th game in a row. It’s Oakland’s best 11-game start in club history since their 9-2 start in 1990 and their 11-0 start in 1981.

The A’s would chip away at the lead with a run in the 3rd (Sogard), a run in the 6th (RBI Reddick), and a Coco Crisp RBI single in the 7th that extended his hitting streak to 9 games.

The game-winner that broke the 3-3 tie came in the 12th inning (Oakland’s first extra-inning affair of the young season) on an opposite-field solo home run by Josh Donaldson.

The A’s, coming off a 6-0 road trip through Houston and Anaheim, accomplished the 14th winning streak of nine games or more in Oakland history. They also have the second-longest winning streak in Oakland history during the month of April.

With 8 hits tonight, it’s the first time during the 9-game winning streak that Oakland would fail to have 10 hits or more in a game.

Another perfect outing for Resop, who also picks up the win.

Tigers 3, Athletics 4 – F/12
W: Resop (1-0); L: Villareal (0-2)

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Game 2:

RHP Justin Verlander (1-1, 1.93 ERA)
LHP Brett Anderson (0-1, 1.93 ERA)

The sold-out Coliseum crowd found themselves disappointed pretty early on in this one despite the elite pitching matchup. Brett Anderson turned in his worst performance of the season, giving up 3 home runs and all 7 runs.

Coco Crisp’s 9-game hitting streak gets placed on hold as he sits with a strained left groin. Yoenis Cespedes was also placed on the 15-day DL.

The only bright spot in this ballgame was Neshek’s 2.1IP of shutout relief work, allowing just 1 walk and dropping his ERA for the season to 5.40.

Tigers 7, Athletics 3
W: Verlander (2-1); Anderson (1-2)

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Game 3: 

RHP Anibel Sanchez (1-0, 1.75 ERA)
RHP Jarrod Parker (0-1, 7.20 ERA)

There isn’t much to say when the A’s are held to just 3 hits and find themselves down 8-0 by the 4th inning.

The real story here is the ineptitude of one of the bright young pitching stars in the game, Jarrod Parker. He gives up 8 runs today in 3.1 IP and is removed after having thrown just 76 pitches, failing now to get out of the 4th inning in 2 of his 3 starts. He didn’t just give up runs today, though, he got absolutely shellacked. In the little bit of the game I was able to stomach, even his outs were loud. Granted, Detroit has a murderer’s row of a lineup, but Parker just has no command of his fastball right now and no one is swinging at his out-pitch (change-up) when it’s out of the zone.

4/2 vs SEA: 5.0IP, 5H, 3BB, 1K, 4ER
4/9 vs LAA: 3.1IP, 9H, 3BB, 1K, 2ER
4/14 vs DET: 3.1IP, 9H, 2BB, 2K, 8ER

I don’t think it’s yet time to pull the panic switch (some in Oakland are wondering about sending Parker down to AAA Sacramento and calling up Straily until he figures it out). On the bright side, Parker has faced an improved Seattle lineup when Morse was killing everyone, and the Angels and Tigers, two of the better lineups in all of baseball. Parker’s next start will be coming up against light-hitting Tampa and should give us a pretty good indication if Parker is simply off or the start to his season was an aberration. As it stands now, he’s 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA and a 2.66 WHIP in just 11.2 innings of work.

Tigers 10, Athletics 1
W: Sanchez (2-0), L: Parker (0-2)

Series 3/52: Oakland (5-2) @ Anaheim (2-4)

Game 1:

RHP Jared Parker (0-1, 7.20 ERA, 1.60 WHIP)
LHP CJ Wilson (0-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)

The good, the bad, and the ugly really sums up tonight’s opener in Anaheim.

The bad: Jarod Parker was miserable tonight. Don’t be fooled by him only giving up two runs; he was absolutely miserable. It just so happened that the Angels were also miserable at not being able to hit the ball w/RISP. The Angels, as a team, hit 2-for-14 tonight w/RISP and left 13 men aboard. Josh Hamilton was 0-for-3 w/RISP and left 8 aboard all by himself.

The ugly: I found myself angry for the first time this season. Who drew my ire? Chris Young. I’m okay with Young going 0-for-5 with 2 strikeouts. What I wasn’t okay with his futility in right field tonight, most notably dropping a sure-out on a Brendan Harris sacrifice fly to score Mike Trout. Instead, it’s E9 with Harris ending up on 2nd base. Harris, of course, ends up scoring on a Josh Hamilton sacrifice fly to center that ties the game.

The really ugly: With two outs in the same inning, Young plays Howie Kendrick rather unnecessarily shallow in right field despite a slow-running Mark Trumbo at first base. Kendrick slams one into right field; it takes both a combination of Young’s shallow play along with a ridiculously poor angle at the ball that allows it to reach all the way into the corner accompanied by a long run by Young to retrieve it. The result is that Trumbo scored from first, and Kendrick is safe with a 2-out RBI triple. It won’t show up in the box score as an error, but Young absolutely coughed up the lead for Pat Neshek, who should have/could have ended this inning at 4-2 or 4-3 Oakland. Instead, the Angels take their first lead at 5-4.

The good: Scott Sizemore re-injuring his knee after misplaying a ball in the 4th inning. Okay, I’m not being completely serious, but the fact is that Sizemore is still an entirely unknown entity on this ballclub (since he injured the exact same knee before the 2012 season). This much is assured, though: save for Hiro Nakajima, Sizemore is the worst of the potential A’s second basemen defensively. Of the group, Eric Sogard is by far the best option defensively with Andy Parrino and Jemile Weeks both equipped with better gloves and reactions at second base. I’m entirely unsure what to expect out of Nakajima if he gets the opportunity to play second, so it’s unfair to say either way.

If that’s the good, then here’s the really good:

- Coco Crisp extends his hitting streak to six games with another solo home run in the second inning to make it 4-0 Oakland. Crisp becomes the first A’s lead-off hitter to homer in four consecutive games.

- Chris Resop comes on to relieve Parker in the 4th inning with the bases loaded, 1 out, and Josh Hamilton at the plate dying to make a good impression in front of his new fanbase. In three appearances this season, Resop has only given up 1 infield single in 2.1 innings of work. Hamilton chops one right back to the mound where Resop underhand tosses it to Norris just in time to get a sliding Bourjos for the second out. Resop then gets Trumbo to ground out to third, ending the inning and mess that Parker got him in to. Resop, my new favorite reliever, retires the Angels in the 5th inning, surrendering just in infield hit. 4.0 IP, 0 R, 2 H (0.50 WHIP) on the season.

- After Chris Young seemingly cost the A’s the ballgame in the bottom of the 6th inning, the A’s find right-handed reliever Kevin Jepsen on the mound with Coco on 1st base and 2-outs in the inning. Crisp moves into scoring position by narrowly stealing second base. Jepsen ends up walking Yoenis Cespedes with Derek Norris on deck. Going back to the season opener when Bob Melvin used Norris as a pinch hitter to face a lefty out of Seattle’s pen, he sticks to the platoon and gives John Jaso the at-bat. Result? A 3-run go-ahead bomb that clears the short wall in right field. (Picture me jumping up and down in my living room). Chris Young owes Jaso and Melvin soooo many beers. The A’s would continue demoralizing Jepsen and the Angels’ fans, effectively ruining their home opener, with a 2-run no-doubter by Brandon Moss (3-for-4, HR, 4 RBIs) two hitters later.

Athletics 9, Angels 5
W: Cook (1-0); L: Jepsen (0-1)

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Game 2:

LHP Tom Milone (1-0, 2.57 ERA, 0.71 WHIP)
RHP Joe Blanton (0-1, 7.20 ERA, 1.60 WHIP)

I was on the road for much of the next five games, so bear with my observations.

- Crisp extends his hitting streak to 7 games with a leadoff single in the 1st, though his home run streak ended at 4. The A’s record for most consecutive home runs will remain held by Frank Thomas (2006) with 6.

- Oakland has now won its first 5 road games of the season for the second time in 22 seasons. The last was 2008.

- Brandon Moss is 6-for-8, 2 BB, and 9 RBIs in the series.

- The Angels put runners in scoring position in 8 of their 9 innings at the plate. Much like last night, this wasn’t an easy one to sit through. I’m scared to see how good Oakland can be if their starting pitching can settle down.

- It’s not like anyone thought his was a prudent signing or anything, but Joe Blanton is really bad. 5 IP and 6 runs on 10 hits and 2 walks.

Athletics 11, Anaheim 5
W: Milone (2-0); Blanton (0-2)

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Game 3: 

RHP AJ Griffin (1-0, 3.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)
LHP Jason Vargas (0-0, 1.59 ERA, 1.76 WHIP)

- A.J. Griffin was superb tonight, delivering a WHIP under 1 with 8 innings of work, allowing just 5 hits and 1 walk. ERA in 2 starts: 1.93.

- Derek Norris stole a base off of Jason Vargas tonight. Two issues with this: 1. Derek Norris is a slow, fat catcher. 2. Jason Vegas is a left-hander. How does this happen?

- Coco Crisp extends his hitting streak to 8 games with a 5th inning lead-off single.

- Yoenis Cespedes (.211 / .279) has the lowest batting average of any every day starter in the A’s lineup, and the second-lowest OBP (Donaldson, .268). He did hit his 3rd home run of the season tonight, though.

- This was the first time Oakland swept the Angels in the first head-to-head series of a season since 2003, and the first time the Athletics swept their first series at the “Big A” since 1996.

- The A’s outscored the Angels 28-11 and were retired in order in only three of the 27 innings in the series.

Athletics 8, Angels 1
W: Griffin (2-0), L: Vargas (0-1)

Series 2/52: Oakland (2-2) @ Houston (1-2)

Game 1:

RHP Dan Straily (2012: 2-1, 3.89 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)
RHP Brad Peacock (2012 AA: 12-9, 6.01 ERA, 1.58 WHIP)

Oakland lineup vs RHP
1. CF Crisp
2. SS Lowrie
3. RF Reddick
4. LF Cespedes
5. C Jaso
6. DH Young
7. 3B Donaldson
8. 2B Sogard
9. 1B Freiman

With Brandon Moss not making the trip to Houston, rookie Nate Freiman will get his 2nd start of the season at first base. Seth Smith was a late scratch from the lineup in favor of Chris Young (reasons partially unknown). It’s hard to pass judgement early on, but Smith hit really well in the opener off Hernandez and has yet to get a start since. In Young’s defense, he has been equally terrific.

Plenty of oddities surround this game, as Dan Straily faces off against former A’s prospect, Brad Peacock. Straily and Bartolo Colon are in a battle for the A’s 5th spot in the rotation. As of now, the A’s have a 6-man rotation with Colon set to get his start on Saturday – the first day that he is eligible to make a start following his PED suspension. Short of Straily pitching a perfect game today, he’ll be sent to AAA Sacramento following today’s game to make room for Colon.

20% of the Astros’ 25-man roster are composed of ex-A’s players (Peacock, Carter, Wallace, Pena, Blackley)

Coco Crisp leads off the game with a home run down the right field line (1-0 A’s).

Dan Straily strikes out 7 of Houston’s first 9 potential outs en route to striking out 11 in 6.2 IP.

Much like Oakland’s matchup with Seattle’s Brandon Maurer when he gave up a couple of first-inning home runs, Peacock settles down and doesn’t give up another run until the 5th inning, where he retires his 8th straight batter.

And then the bottom fell out for the Astros.

Coco Crisp doubles to right field, knocking Peacock from the game.
Enter LHP Xavier Cedeno.
Jed Lowrie walks on 4 pitches.
Josh Reddick walks on 5 pitches to load the bases.
Yoenis Cespedes hits a hard grounder off the glove of the shortstop, allowing 2 runs to score to make it 3-0. If fielded cleanly, it’s a double play ball and Houston is out of the inning.
Instead, John Jaso puts down the best bunt I’ve ever seen a catcher put down – a safety squeeze that scores Reddick from 3rd, 4-0 A’s.
Chris Young fouls off what seemed like 10 pitches before drawing a walk, reloading the bases.
Josh Donaldson lines a single into right field, scoring Cespedes from 3rd. Jaso blows through Mike Gallego’s stop sign at 3rd base, but because Brett Wallace inexplicably cuts off Rick Ankiel’s throw from right, Jaso also scores, making it 6-0 A’s.
Just as Xavier Cedeno appears to finally find the strike zone, he hits Eric Sogard square in the back with a 2-2 pitch, reloading the bases for the 3rd time in the inning.
Cue Bo Porter walking to the mound, relieving Cedeno of his duties.
His line: 0.0 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 6 R, 3 ER. His ERA jumps from 27.00 to 108.00 following his appearance, which was capped off with a Coco Crisp RBI double making it 8-0 (both runs charged to Cedeno post-exit).

Jed Lowrie walked twice in the 5th inning alone.

Newly-acquired reliever Chris Resop came in to bail Neshek out of a jam in the 7th, getting the final out of the inning with 3 pitches. Outside of a dinky infield-hit given up in his debut in the opener vs the Mariners, Resop has been perfect in 3 appearances. 2.1 IP, 3ks. 0.00 ERA, 0.42 WHIP.

Following Straily’s win, he was indeed optioned to AAA to make room for Bartolo Colon, who will start tomorrow evening.

Athletics 8, Astros 3
W: Dan Straily (1-0), L: Peacock (0-1)

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Game 2:

RHP Bartolo Colon (2012: 10-9, 3.43 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
LHP Erik Bedard (2012: 7-14, 5.01 ERA, 1.47 WHIP)

Bartolo Colon is slated to pitch in his first game since August 22nd of last season. Since he was only able to serve 45 games of his 50-game suspension in 2012, he was forced to sit the first 5 games of 2013.
Apparently, since Colon was unable to be in the clubhouse during A’s games while serving his suspension, he was stuck in the team hotel in downtown Houston during Friday’s game. His attempt to watch Friday’s broadcast on CSN Houston (the Astros’ new network) and prepare for his start today failed because it is still unavailable to about 60% of the area’s cable subscribers. He claimed after the game that the only Astros’ player he had ever heard of was Carlos Pena.

I’m not sure if Colon was taking a shot at Chris Carter or not, or if he’s just as aloof as he appears. Carter, of course, is Houston’s #3 hitter in the lineup, who was also a teammate of Colon’s last season in Oakland, playing in 67 games for the A’s.

For the second straight game, Coco Crisp would get the A’s on the board first with a solo shot in the 4th inning that put Oakland up 1-0.

Colon looked surprisingly sharp against Houston today, retiring 11 of Houston’s first 12 batters to start the game. His one trouble spot came in the 4th inning when he gave up 4 consecutive hits, including a 3-run home run that barely clears the fence to get into to the Crawford boxes (read: an obviously cheap home run) by Jason Castro to give Houston its first lead in the series (3-1). The bright spot for Colon is that Castro’s home run would have undoubtedly resulted in a fly-out in any other park in baseball. All and all, Colon goes 6 innings giving up 8 hits and 3 earned runs while walking none and striking out two. One should consider his 4.50 ERA a bit high for his performance (WHIP: 1.33), but also wonder how it was possible for Colon to only strike out two Houston Astros batters?

The Astros, though, were again susceptible to the big inning; this time, the A’s would score 4 runs to take a 5-3 lead in the 6th inning with a Jed Lowrie lead-off home run, and three consecutive RBI singles with 2-outs by Josh Donaldson, Derek Norris, and Eric Sogard.

Yoenis Cespedes went 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts. On one particular strikeout in the ballgame, Yoenis swung violently at a pitch and winced in pain as he dropped his bat at home plate. I’m sure with the way that both Seth Smith (who would later homer to make it 6-3 Oakland) and Chris Young are playing, a day off for Cespedes wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Athletics 6, Astros 3
W: Bartolo Colon (1-0), L: Norris (0-1)

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Game 3: 

LHP Brett Anderson (0-1, 2.57 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)
RHP Bud Norris (1-0, 3.18 ERA, 1.41 WHIP)

Wincing and grimacing on swings, striking out at higher-than-YC rates, Yoenis Cespedes really needed a day off. Despite Bob Melvin saying there’s nothing wrong with his elbow or wrist and that he just needed rest, I think we all know better. Though Seth Smith (1 for 4, 2 RBIs, BB) took his spot in the lineup, Cespedes was forced to enter the game in the 5th inning when Josh Reddick (0-for-3) was hurt going for a ball in foul territory (X-rays were negative, he’s listed as day-to-day with a sprain).

Brandon Moss returns to the lineup (2-for-3, 1 RBI, 2 BBs).

Jed Lowrie continued his superb hitting against his former team, going 3-for-5, with his second home run in as many games. He went 8-for-13 in the series with 2 home runs.

With Coco Crisp’s 4th inning home run, he has now hit a home run in each of the three games in this series.

Oakland pitching struck out 14 more Houston hitters, bringing the Astros’ season total to 74 (12.33 per game). Houston hitters have now reached double-digit strikeouts in five of their first 6 games. All but one starting pitcher (Colon) the Astros have faced have either set or tied a career high for strikeouts against them.

The previous record for most strikeouts by a team in a season is held by Oakland with 1,387 (2012). For Oakland, it was more of a team effort and not necessarily one player involved in overwhelming futility. Three players struck out 100+ times that season: Reddick (151 in 156 games), Gomes (104 in 98 games), and Cespedes (102 in 129 games).

Houston, on the other hand, is on pace to strike out 1,998 times this season with Brett Wallace (1st in MLB in SO), Chris Carter (2nd), and Rick Ankiel (5th) looking to set fire to those numbers. For example, Brett Wallace has struck out 13 times in 17ABs (5 games) for an average of 2.6 strikeouts per game. Hypothetically, if Wallace were to play in all 162 games (he won’t), he would strike out as many as 421 times, shattering the all-time record currently held by Mark Reynolds with 223 (2009).

The A’s will head to Orange County having swept the Astros and look to build off their 5-game winning streak.

Athletics 9, Astros 3
W: Anderson (1-1); L: Harrell (0-2)

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Offseason Additions:

Jed Lowrie: 13 for 26, .500 / .567 – 3 HR, 4 2B, 6 RBI
Chris Young: 4 for 13, .308 / .500 – 2 HR, 4 RBI
John Jaso: 6 for 17, .353 / .389 – 2 RBI
Nate Freiman: 2 for 8, .250 – 2 RBIs
Chris Resop: 2.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.43 WHIP, 3 Ks

AL West Standings:

1. Oakland, 5-2
2. Texas, 4-2
3. Seattle, 3-4
4. Anaheim, 2-4
5. Houston, 1-5

——————————————-

Series 3/52: Oakland (5-2) @ Anaheim (2-4)

Game 1:

RHP Jared Parker (0-1, 7.20 ERA, 1.60 WHIP)
LHP CJ Wilson (0-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)

Game 2:

LHP Tom Milone (1-0, 2.57 ERA, 0.71 WHIP)
RHP Joe Blanton (0-1, 7.20 ERA, 1.60 WHIP)

Game 3: 

RHP AJ Griffin (1-0, 3.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)
LHP Jason Vargas (0-0, 1.59 ERA, 1.76 WHIP)

008
009
015
018
021

Series 1/52: Seattle (0-0) vs Oakland (0-0)

Game 1:

RHP Felix Hernandez (2012: 13-9, 3.06 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)
LHP Brett Anderson (2012: 4-2, 2.57 ERA, 1.03 WHIP)

Coming off a magical season in which they set so many records, it was only fitting that the A’s would set another AL record by losing for the 9th consecutive time on Opening Night. It hasn’t so much been futility as it is having to face Felix Hernandez on Opening Night four of the last five seasons and five times in all. Hernandez is 4-0, 1.25 ERA in the previous five Opening Night starts.

The first 2013 lineup features an odd Melvinian twist that has the hero of Game 4 of the ALDS, Seth Smith, hitting 8th in between Josh Donaldson and Eric Sogard while newcomers John Jaso and Jed Lowrie will hit 2nd and 5th (vs RHPs) respectively.

Oakland lineup vs RHP
1. CF Crisp
2. C Jaso
3. RF Reddick
4. LF Cespedes
5. SS Lowrie
6. 1B Moss
7. 3B Donaldson
8. DH Smith
9. 2B Sogard

Hernandez was terrific again today, allowing just 3 hits in 7.2 IP. If one recalls, it was former Mariners’ catcher John Jaso that caught his perfect game late last season. Today, it would be Jaso, A’s newly-acquired catcher, that would break up his perfect game with a 1-out double in the 4th inning.

In the top half of Seattle’s 5th inning, Dustin Ackley draws a 1-out walk followed by a Brendan Ryan single to right that gives us our first truly crucial moment in the game as Josh Reddick decides to throw to Donaldson at 3rd base in an attempt to cut down Ackley on Ryan’s single. Ackley narrowly beats the tag and Ryan advances to 2nd on the throw. I won’t question Reddick’s decision to try to gun down Ackley given that Reddick has one of the best arms in baseball and did it so well last season (15 assists, first A’s outfielder to win a gold glove since Dwayne Murphy in 1985), but the end result leads to Seattle having two runners in scoring position instead of one. Seattle’s only runs would come off the bat of the very next batter, Franklin Gutierrez, who singles in to center field (3-2 pitch), scoring both runners and giving Hernandez the only run support he’d need to solidify the win. It’s hard to say with any determination if Michael Saunders’ 1-out grounder to first (Result: FC) would have scored Brendan Ryan had he still been on the base-paths at 3rd, but I tend to think that with Moss having fielded the ball so cleanly at first, Ryan would have either held up and stayed at third or been thrown out at home if he attempted to score. If the A’s could replay the inning (including Anderson’s poor 3-2 breaking pitch to Gutierrez), I think they get out of that inning down just 1-0, but alas, that’s just the way things went tonight for the A’s.

The other defining moment for me came in the bottom half of the 8th inning with the A’s one real substantial chance to get on the board tonight. The inning started just like quite a few others – 2 up, 2 down, but Seth Smith’s 2-out double down the right field line followed by a Sogard walk knocks King Felix from the game (7.2IP, 3H, 1BB, 8Ks, 0ER). The lefty, Charlie Furbush, comes on to face Coco Crisp and immediately walks him on four pitches to load the bases.

Melvin’s next decision helps seal the A’s fate, as he pinch hits Derek Norris for Jaso to avoid Jaso facing the lefty Furbush. Instead, he opts for the right-handed Norris which provokes Seattle manager Eric Wedge to go to the pen in favor of his righty, Stephen Pryor (3-1, 3.91 ERA, 1.52 WHIP in 2012). Norris, though, is a career .198 / .282 split vs RHPs and going into the at-bat, is 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts as a pinch hitter. Having also used Norris as a pinch hitter in a pivotal moment in the ALDS, it appears Melvin likes him in the role.

Issue #1: Perhaps Jaso (.164 / .302 vs LHP) isn’t strong against leftiest at all, but he is the better hitter between he and Norris. Secondly, Furbush had trouble locating the strike zone vs Crisp and I may have opted for this option over the still-unfavorable righty vs righty with Norris.

Issue #2: If I am going to platoon and pinch hit in this situation, it would appear to me to use newly-acquired Chris Young (.228 / .299 vs RHP) to face Pryor instead of Norris.

In going with Norris, though, I felt Melvin chose the least desirable of the three options.

Result: Norris grounds out on a 2-1 pitch, killing the rally and giving Seattle another win on Opening Night. I suppose the reigning AL Manager of the Year is allowed some of these curious decisions every once in a while.

Oakland’s last win to start the season came against the Texas Rangers (Kenny Rogers v. Tim Hudson) on April 5, 2004.

Mariners 2, Athletics 0
W: Hernandez (1-0), L: Anderson (0-1)

———————————————————

Game 2:

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (2012: 9-5, 3.16 ERA, 1.28 WHIP)
RHP Jarrod Parker (2012: 13-8, 3.47 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)

Oakland rolls out the same lineup versus Hisashi Iwakuma that they did versus Hernandez in Game 1, and unfortunately, had similar offensive production. For the second night in a row, the A’s only get 3 hits off of Mariners’ pitching. 3 hits off of Felix Hernandez (7.2IP) = understandable; 2 hits off Hisashi Iwakuma (6.0IP) = more than a little disappointing.

The one bright spot for the A’s tonight was Yoenis Cespedes getting his first hit of the season in the 2nd inning with a home run to center field.

Unfortunately, Jarrod Parker wasn’t sharp, walking three and giving up 5 hits en route to 4 earned runs in just 5 innings.

Also unfortunate for the A’s was Seattle’s offseason acquisition of Michael Morse, who looks to be just the middle-of-the-lineup hitter they’ve been looking for. He goes yard twice (3rd inning off Parker, 9th inning off Balfour) and is hitting .375 / .444 / 1.125 early on for the Mariners.

Whoops moments:
1. An A’s fan sitting down in the first row of the 3rd baseline goes Bartman, reaching out for a foul ball and obstructing Donaldson from making a catch in the 1st inning. Don’t they know where they’re sitting?
2. CSN shows a graphic that lists Hisashi Iwakuma as an 18 year old (he’s 31).

Mariners 7, Athletics 1
W: Iwakuma (1-0), L: Parker (0-1)

———————————————

Game 3:

LHP Joe Saunders (2012: 9-13, 4.07 ERA, 1.42 WHIP)
LHP Tom Milone (2012: 13-10, 3.74 ERA, 1.28 WHIP)

In the first two games of the season, we saw the A’s field two lineups designed to face RHPs. Tonight is the first night we see Melvin’s lineup versus a lefty in veteran Joe Saunders. Without regard to player feelings (and often times performance), you’ll see Melvin go to the platooning lineups with religious zeal. This lineup is no different.

Oakland lineup vs LHP
1. DH Crisp
2. SS Lowrie
3. CF Young
4. LF Cespedes
5. 3B Donaldson
6. C Norris
7. RF Reddick
8. 1B Freiman
9. 2B Sizemore

Of the three games, this was the one that looked like Oakland would have trouble with the most from the outset. Franklin Gutierrez leads off the game with a solo shot to the left field bleachers followed by Michael Morse, who rocks a 2-out solo home run over the wall in center field to make it 2-0 Seattle early; it also brought boos from the Coliseum crowd. Thats Morse’s 3rd home run to start the season.

On a side note, it’s amazing to me just how big Michael Morse looks up close. He’s listed at 6’5”, 245lbs but this guy looks every bit of it.

Tonight the A’s will unveil similarly-gigantic rookie Nate Freiman, listed at an even-larger 6’8”, 250lbs. Freiman is a relative unknown at 25-years old (making him a perfect fit in Oakland, I’m sure), having played 4 years in the minor leagues – never above AA and never eclipsing a .300 batting average. Freiman is a Rule-5 player, meaning the A’s will have to keep him up in the big leagues for the entirety of the 2013 season or offer him back to San Diego. Freiman shows good power and a good eye at the plate; he will platoon with Moss at 1st base much the same way that the departed Chris Carter did vs LHP in 2012.

In his first major league at-bat, Freiman singles up the middle past a lunging Brendan Ryan for his first major league hit and his major league RBI, scoring Donaldson to get the A’s on the board (2-1 Mariners). In Freiman’s 2nd major league at-bat, he places a single into shallow right field between a couple of Mariners’ defenders, becoming the first A’s rookie since Daric Barton to get two hits in his rookie debut (2007). On his 3rd and final at-bat, Freiman made solid contact and lifted a ball to the warning track. Oddly enough and going back to Barton, Barton was DFA in order for Freiman to get the last roster spot on the team this season.

Jason Bay made his Seattle debut in the top of the 2nd inning for the Mariners after signing him to a 1-year, $1m deal in the offseason. Bay’s last year in New York saw him play in 70 games, hitting .165 / .237 for the Mets and essentially being paid to leave the club. In his first at-bat with the Mariners, Bay (0-for-2, BB) draws a walk.

As bad as Milone looked early, he would settle down and yield just 4-hits and 2-earned runs to the Mariners over 7 innings while the A’s offense finally showed up.

Jed Lowrie had the best night of the bunch going 3 for 3 with a walk, double, home run and 3 RBIs – falling just a triple short of the cycle. His solo home-run to lead off the bottom half of the 7th inning was followed up by Chris Young’s home run to the stairwell in left field for his first home run in his Oakland debut.

Mariners 2, Athletics 6
W: Milone (1-0), L: Saunders (0-1)

——————————————

Game 4: 

RHP Brandon Maurer
RHP AJ Griffin (2012: 7-1, 3.06 ERA, 1.13 WHIP)

Today’s early afternoon start also comes with a deviation in the lineup versus Seattle’s rookie RHP. Lowrie’s big game in Game 3 provokes Melvin to keep him hitting 2nd in the order behind Crisp; Chris Young gets the nod in LF in his first start against RHP which gives Cespedes the DH role and the day off from the outfield.

Oakland lineup vs RHP
1. CF Crisp
2. SS Lowrie
3. RF Reddick
4. DH Cespedes
5. 1B Moss
6. LF Young
7. C Jaso
8. 3B Donaldson
9. 2B Sogard

This is Oakland’s first game of the season where it looks like they have the distinct pitching advantage as they send A.J. Griffin to the hill against rookie Brandon Maurer. Maurer, a 23rd round pick from the 2008 draft, is a tall (6’6”), lumbering right hander who can break into the mid-90s on his fastball, with a slider and curve. He was Seattle’s minor league pitcher of the year, starting 24 AA games last season and delivering a 9-2 record with a 3.20 ERA, and a 1.31 WHIP. What propelled Maurer into the rotation, though, was a strong spring training in which he threw 20 innings with a 0.90 ERA and a 22K/6BB ratio.

Griffin, on the other hand, faced off against the likes of Matt Cain, David Price, Felix Hernandez, et al. last season en route to a rookie campaign where he started 6-0 with a 1.94 ERA in his first 11 starts. A times, he was Oakland’s best pitcher last season while Anderson spent his stint on the DL. Griffin comes in slated as Oakland’s #4 starter.

Maurer’s debut began by giving up a lead-off single to Crisp, who would be driven in on a towering 2-run blast by Josh Reddick (previously 0-for-10), his first hit of the young season. Maurer would settle down, though, and looked like he had quite a bit of poise. Often times, it seems that when a young pitcher gives up an early home run on a pitch left in the strike zone, he is susceptible to poor control as he avoids making the same mistake and instead runs into high early pitch counts and higher walk rates. Outside of a HBP (Chris Young), though, Maurer kept it in the strike zone much of the afternoon, allowing just one base runner until the 5th inning (incidentally, a lead-off double to the aforementioned Chris Young, later driven in by Reddick on an RBI single) and kept his pitch count to 59 through 5 innings of work. The low-pitch count is what likely provoked Eric Wedge into leaving Maurer in for the 6th inning, resulting in the game getting out of hand. As predicted by the friend of mine that was also watching the game, A’s hitters picked up his pitches the 3rd time through the order and crushed him in his final inning – including a Josh Reddick RBI double followed by a Yoenis Cespedes 2-run shot. Maurer’s finished the night with 6 IP, 6 ER on 8 hits, 0 walks, and 1 strikeout. All and all, about C for his debut from me. Wedge left him in 1 inning too long and A’s hitters made him pay for it.

If Seattle wonders if they got themselves a legitimate cleanup hitter in the middle of their order, Morse may have answered that question again today with another home run to left field, his 4th in as many games. He joins Ken Griffey Jr. (1997) as the only Mariner to homer four times in the first four games.

In the 8th inning with Oakland leading 6-2, Brandon Moss left the game early to be with his wife who had gone into labor during the game, giving Nate Freiman another opportunity for a late-game at-bat. He delivered with a sac-fly, scoring Lowrie, and giving him 2 RBIs in his first 2 games.

In all four games in the series, the starting pitchers have also been the pitchers of record in each contest.

Mariners 2, Athletics 8
W: Griffin (1-0), L: Maurer (0-1)

—————————————-

Offseason Additions:

Jed Lowrie: 6 for 13, .462 / .533 – 1 HR, 4 2B, 3 RBI
Chris Young: 2 for 6, .333 / .500 – 1 HR, 1 RBI
John Jaso: 2 for 9, .222 / .222 – 1 RBI
Nate Freiman: 2 for 3, .667 – 2 RBIs
Chris Resop: 2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 3 Ks

AL West Standings:

1. Texas, 2-1
2. Seattle, 2-2
3. Oakland, 2-2
4. Houston, 1-2
5. Anaheim, 1-2

——————————————-

Series 2/52: Oakland (2-2) @ Houston (1-2)

Game 1:

RHP Dan Straily (2012: 2-1, 3.89 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)
RHP Brad Peacock (2012 AA: 12-9, 6.01 ERA, 1.58 WHIP)

Game 2:

RHP Bartolo Colon (2012: 10-9, 3.43 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
LHP Erik Bedard (2012: 7-14, 5.01 ERA, 1.47 WHIP)

Game 3: 

LHP Brett Anderson (0-1, 2.57 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)
RHP Bud Norris (1-0, 3.18 ERA, 1.41 WHIP)

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