Bay Area Baseball

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April 17, 2013
Melvin: A's 'hitting on all cylinders' as they hit the road

OAKLAND -- The A's, it's fair to say, are rolling right now, as they depart for their first East Coast road trip owners of the American League's best record at 12-4 and winners of 12 of their last 14 games.

Of course, six of those wins have come against the Houston Astros, whom many pundits have picked to lose 100 games -- at least -- in their first season in the American League West. The A's finished off their second three-game sweep already this year of the Astros with a 7-5 win on Wednesday in which they knocked Houston's opening day starter, Bud Norris, out of the game with six runs in the first inning.

So, it was asked of manager Bob Melvin, what to make of the A's early record? Is it more a reflection of their play or their early schedule?

"You certainly would hate to think that," Melvin said. "We've done well against (the Astros), and they've beaten Seattle two out of three and they gave Anaheim a run for their money and almost won two out of three there.

"I don't discount anything about a particular team. Again, they pushed us to the brink today. So a big-league team is a big-league team, and a win's a win. The way the schedule is right now, we've played them six times, but that doesn't mean anything to me other than getting six good games under our belt."

The A's have outscored the Astros by a total of 45-19 in their six games, just under half their total of 96 runs on the season. They entered Wednesday leading the majors in runs, doubles, walks and extra-base hits, and also ranked third in hits and home runs before adding another 11 hits in the series finale.

They still needed Grant Balfour to come in and notch his third save, though, as Houston chipped away at their lead in the late innings. The Astros scored three runs off reliever Chris Resop in the seventh, then added one more when Rick Ankiel hit a pinch-hit homer off Balfour leading off the ninth. Balfour then allowed a single before getting a fielder's choice and double play to end the game.

Seth Smith had three singles, including two off left-handers, and is now hitting .447. Jed Lowrie went 2-for-3 with an RBI from the cleanup spot and is hitting .373. Josh Reddick showed signs he might be working out of his early-season funk, clubbing a bases-loaded double to right field in the A's six-run first inning and drawing a walk later in the game.

"It doesn't matter what team it is," Lowrie said. "But yeah, they're in a rebuilding phase. So we came in, we took care of business, and that's what it takes. You've got to beat the people you're supposed to beat."

The same likely wouldn't be said about the upcoming trip, with series at Tampa Bay and Boston. The Rays are 4-9, but Lowrie cautioned that doesn't mean much this early. The Red Sox are 9-4 and in first place in the A.L. East.

Still, the A's, it's fair to say, are rolling right now. Asked after Wednesday's game what's working right now for his team, Melvin said: "Well, I think to an extent everything.

"Our pitching's been really good at times," he said. "Offense is off the charts at this point as far as the numbers go. Certainly some games are better than others. But we're running the bases pretty well and playing pretty good defense. So there's a reason we're 12-4.

"We're hitting on all cylinders at this point."

* After giving up a run in the first inning, Bartolo Colon scattered two singles over his final five innings to improve to 2-0 and still hasn't walked a batter this season in 19 innings. Melvin noted that Colon's velocity was in the high 80s early in the game, but that he seemed to ramp up to the low 90s as the game went on.

"He's got a good feel for pitching," Melvin said.

Colon said he simply felt better as the game went along, which manifested itself on the radar gun. He threw 69 of 97 pitches for strikes and allowed four hits, all singles.

"I feel good," Colon said. "I feel healthy. That's the important thing."

* Not feeling so good after the game was catcher Derek Norris, who took a foul ball off the face mask that caught him in the jaw late in the game. Norris came out in the eighth and underwent X-rays, which Melvin said came back negative.

"But it was bothering him," Melvin said. "He was having trouble closing his mouth there toward the end."

Norris was still in some pain after the game and had a little trouble talking. He said he wasn't sure exactly where the ball caught him, but it was somewhere on the left side of his face.

"Figured I'd better get it checked out before something too serious happened," he said.

Norris said the day off Thursday should help. Asked if he thinks he'll be available Friday for the series opener at Tampa Bay, he answered: "I'll always be ready to play."

* The A's expect to have Brandon Moss back at first base on Friday after Moss left to be with his wife for the birth of their child Tuesday afternoon. That leaves Shane Peterson in line for a return to Triple-A Sacramento.

Peterson's stay was short -- two games -- but eventful. He made a diving catch in his big-league debut Tuesday that loomed large in the A's win. Wednesday, he collected his first hit -- a fourth-inning single to center off Xavier Cedeno -- and his first RBI on a bases-loaded walk in the first inning.

"I was rounding first base (after the hit) and I felt like I hit a grand slam, even though it was a single up the middle," Peterson said. "It was exciting."

Though he has spent most of his time in the minors playing in the outfield, and had made just one start at first base at Triple-A this season, Peterson played solid defense at first in these two games and left "a very good impression" on Melvin.

"He made a great play again today, and faced numerous left-handers here and had good at-bats against them," Melvin said. "This kid, he's ready to play in the big leagues. It's just not his time right at this minute."

* The A's lineup should look more familiar -- if that's possible -- when they resume play Friday, with Moss back and Coco Crisp in after a scheduled day off today. They'll return home April 23, to begin a four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles. Until then, this blog will monitor them from afar while shifting over to the Giants, who get home Friday for the start of a six-game homestand against N.L. West opponents, the Padres and the Diamondbacks. Thanks for keeping up, and don't forget your questions and comments, via email, Twitter or the space below, are always welcome.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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