Bay Area Baseball

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June 15, 2013
A good night for Young in leadoff spot, though A's lose 3-2

OAKLAND -- The A's tried a few tactics Friday to combat the effects of their 18-inning win over the Yankees the day before. Players were allowed to report to the field later and the A's canceled on-field batting practice. Many were at the Coliseum early anyway.

"A lot of guys were able to do some recovery work and get their legs back under them," said outfielder Chris Young.

Young looked fresh, recording his first multi-hit game since June 1 and reaching base all four times batting in the leadoff spot for the first time this season. The rest of the lineup was not so invigorated in a 3-2 loss to the Mariners that ended Oakland's home winning streak at 11 games -- the third-longest in Oakland history.

Manager Bob Melvin said he didn't see a noticeable dip in energy level and attributed the lethargy of the bats mostly to Mariners starter Joe Saunders. Saunders, who doesn't throw very hard anyway, lulled the A's into one run over seven innings -- and that scored on a two-out Eric Sogard pop-up to shallow right that should have been caught, but turned into a double when Jason Bay and Nick Franklin ran into each other going for the ball.

Young singled leading off the first, doubled with two outs in the third and walked in the fifth but was stranded each time. He drove himself in with a monster home run in his final at-bat in the eighth off right-hander Danny Farquhar, on a 1-2 fastball over the heart of the plate.

"I think that invigorated him a little bit being back in the one-spot," Melvin said.

Young said leading off "definitely sparked me up a little bit." He came in 4-for-49 in his last 14 games and batting .169 for the season, so it was an encouraging night for the one-time All Star. But the issue for Young this year has been consistency -- both in playing time and results.

When Young has had good days, for the most part they've been really good -- Friday was his sixth multi-hit game since April 29. The thing is, 16 of his 17 hits since that date have come in those six games. During that stretch he has one game with one hit and 16 games with no hits.

Young said he has been making mechanical adjustments "to feel more comfortable in the box and give myself a little more time to recognize pitches." He's also trying to get on top of pitches after a recent spate of fly-ball outs.

"I felt good today," Young said. "Just been working. No matter where I'm at in the lineup I'm just trying to produce and make the necessary adjustments to have some success."

Melvin has been adamant that Young will come around, citing the veteran's track record. It's the first time in his career Young hasn't been an everyday player, and the irregular playing time has been a challenge. Melvin said he believes Young simply needs to string a few of these games together to get going, so the A's will wait and see -- again -- if this is the start of such a stretch.

* Saunders has now allowed two runs in 13 1/3 innings in his last two starts against the A's, both wins. Friday he faced an A's lineup missing arguably its two most productive bats in Coco Crisp (heel) and Josh Donaldson (hamstring), but still held the A's to only one inning with multiple hits -- and that yielded no runs.

Nate Freiman doubled with one out in the second. Derek Norris then lined a single up the middle behind Freiman, who froze before going to third, which ended up costing the A's when Michael Saunders bobbled the ball in center. Third base coach Mike Gallego, who had given Freiman the stop sign, abruptly waved Freiman home and Freiman was thrown out at the plate.

"Guys misplay balls and it's part of the game," Freiman said. "The difference between safe and out wasn't coming around third, it was my read off the bat. Next time I need to do a better job of knowing where the middle infielders are."

Melvin said he saw the same thing -- "The ball's up the middle, he's got to know if it's behind him where the infielders are. ... (Saunders) doesn't come up with the ball and (Gallego) tried to wave him, and he didn't have enough momentum to score."

It still took an athletic tag by catcher Mike Zunino to swipe Freiman on the shoulder as he slid by. Zunino later hit his first career big-league home run off Tommy Milone in the seventh to break a 1-1 tie. Not a bad game for the catcher, who made his major-league debut on Wednesday.

* Milone gave up a run in the second inning and allowed seven baserunners over the first four innings, but Zunino's homer was the first hit he had allowed since Brendan Ryan's leadoff double in the third. Milone said the 1-1 pitch that Zunino hit to straightway center was a changeup that caught too much plate.

"Just trying to get weak contact but left it up and he barreled it," Milone said.

The A's weren't working with too much of a scouting report on Zunino. Milone said the only video they had of him consisted of four at-bats against right-handed pitching.

"I knew that he was aggressive," Milone said. "That's about it."

Milone fell to 6-6, but had a successful outing in one regard -- he threw 113 pitches and lasted 6 2/3 innings, giving the depleted bullpen a break. Melvin was able to finish out the game with Dan Otero, fresh up from Triple-A, and Sean Doolittle, who as the only reliever off-limits Thursday was fresh.

* Otero got his A's career off to a good start, striking out Jason Bay to end the seventh inning after Milone departed. He gave up a run in the eighth, though, on three singles -- all to left-handed hitters. The three righties Otero faced were hitless with two strikeouts. The four lefties were 3-for-4, including Raul Ibanez's RBI single, a sharply hit ball that short-hopped Freiman at first base.

"I thought he threw the ball well," Melvin said. "Looks like he has pretty good sink, he has command of both sides, he's got a nice little short slider."

The A's scouting report on Otero in Triple-A was that he can get both lefties and righties out. On the first two singles off him, by Nick Franklin and Kyle Seager, each went to left field following the movement of Otero's pitches. So it certainly looked like the Mariners had a better report on Otero than the A's had on Zunino.

* The Mariners are apparently having closer troubles, so Friday night they handed the ninth inning to -- Oliver Perez, the former starter with the Mets and Pirates who didn't have a save in his 11-season career. Perez allowed a two-out single to Josh Reddick but got Adam Rosales to fly out to shallow right to end the game.

* Melvin said there's a chance Crisp and Donaldson could be back in the lineup tomorrow against Felix Hernandez, but "you also have to think in the long term."

Not that either has had much career success against Hernandez, the perpetual thorn in the A's collective side. Hernandez will be making his 15th career start at the Coliseum, where he is 7-2 with a 2.96 ERA and has thrown three complete games. A.J. Griffin takes the mound for the A's.

-- 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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