Bay Area Baseball

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June 28, 2013
Vogt ends hitless streak with a bang; Colon makes it 8 in a row

OAKLAND -- In his first at-bat Friday night, A's catcher Stephen Vogt drove a ball to the warning track in center field, only to see the Cardinals' Jon Jay track it down for an out. It extended Vogt's stretch of hitless at-bats to start his major-league career to 32, one shy of the longest by a non-pitcher since 1973.

It also encapsulated what Vogt had been saying about the streak since being called up by the A's earlier this week -- he was pleased with his at-bats in the big leagues, he was hitting balls hard, but none were falling in. John Jaso, who was playing for Tampa Bay last season when Vogt had his first call-ups with the Rays, described it this way: "It was almost like a champagne bottle, waiting for that cork to pop, and you keep shaking it."

Two innings later, the cork popped. Vogt got an 0-2 pitch up over the plate and hit it into the seats in right field for a slough of firsts -- first big-league hit, first big-league homer, first silent treatment in the dugout, which the A's were only too happy to give Vogt for several moments as he filled a cup of water before gleefully mobbing him.

"It's the greatest thing in the world getting the silent treatment," Vogt said. "It's neat to have this team kind of adopt me within three days. They've been treating me really well and it's been really special."

Vogt took questions about the hitless streak in stride both this week and earlier this spring in Sacramento, after the A's acquired him April 5 and sent him to Triple-A. Manager Bob Melvin said it still had to be "a load off" for the catcher, who was one out away from tying former A's player Chris Carter for the longest hitless streak by a non-pitcher to start a career since 1972, when Vic Harris snapped his own streak at 36.

"Even though most of it happened on another team it still kind of comes with you if you play a couple games and don't get that hit," Melvin said. As Melvin pointed out, the only drawback of homering for your first hit is you might not get the ball back. Vogt said he had signed a ball for whomever caught the home run ball, with the A's hoping to execute a trade, but that he didn't know if they'd been able to track down the fan.

"I would've taken a swinging bunt all the same," Vogt said, but he added of having the first hit be a home run: "Can't imagine anything better."

Jaso, who described Vogt as a highly likeable teammate and easy to root for, said he was "making sure I saw every at-bat of his" wanting to catch the first hit. When it happened, it was every bit as explosive as he anticipated.

"I knew it was going to happen with a homer or something," Jaso said.

* Another A's player who was happy for Vogt -- right-hander Bartolo Colon, who gave his Friday night catcher a hug in the dugout. Vogt got another hug from Colon after the eighth inning, when the 40-year-old headed for the clubhouse having held the Cardinals to one run while extending his winning streak to eight games, tying his career high.

Colon is now 11-2 and 8-0 with a 1.37 ERA in his last eight starts. He's the first A's pitcher to win eight consecutive starts since Barry Zito won eight in a row from June 28 to Aug. 4, 2005. All eight starts have come since Colon turned 40.

"I don't even know what I can say," Colon said.

Melvin didn't have much new to contribute either. "Eight innings, one run. Seems like we've seen that game a lot from him," Melvin said.

Vogt, who caught Colon for the first time, said Colon was locating his fastball to both sides of the plate -- typical when he's on -- but also mixing in changeups and sliders. Colon said he threw more breaking stuff than normal Friday night because of his familiarity with a few of the Cardinals hitters, most notably Carlos Beltran, who was hitless in three at-bats against Colon, and Yadier Molina, who struck out on three pitches in the first inning and grounded into two double plays.

Colon said he didn't feel the need to change his approach throwing to a new catcher in Vogt. Colon said Vogt "called a great game, and I believe he's a great catcher. Everybody says I'm a veteran guy and I try to use my pitch, but at the same time I follow him too."

Melvin said he didn't consider letting Colon start the ninth at 101 pitches -- "I need to get him through a full season. He's 40 years old and eight's enough." As Colon left the dugout in the middle of the eighth, he motioned Vogt over from the on-deck circle, gave the catcher a hug.

"He just said, 'Thanks, Papi.' That was about it," Vogt said. "He's a really nice guy."

"I'm always like that," Colon said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. "Every time I finish the game I hug every catcher, everybody, and say thank you for the way that we executed the game."

* Tomorrow's print story is on whether this is the year the A's break their streak of now nine seasons in a row without sending a position player to the All-Star Game. Third baseman Josh Donaldson, who reached base three times Friday night on two singles and a walk, would seem to have the strongest case, though Donaldson said if he was a fan he'd be piling on the votes for shortstop Jed Lowrie. Lowrie -- unlike Donaldson, who plays the same position in the same league as Miguel Cabrera -- is actually in a winnable race.

For the last nine years the A's representative (or representatives) has been a pitcher, and while Grant Balfour has built a convincing argument with a perfect save record this year and cases can be made for relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook, it's hard to ignore at this point what Colon is doing. He has 11 wins before the break for the first time since the 2005 season -- when he won the Cy Young Award.

"You can do the math," Melvin said. "He's on his way at this point, obviously, to having a nice season. He's put himself in a position to potentially be an All-Star candidate. I mean, he is an All-Star candidate -- potentially be in the game."

* Colon needed 42 pitches to get through the first four innings without allowing a runner. Cardinals starter Shelby Miller threw more in the second inning alone -- 51 -- and didn't get the third out, as seven of the nine hitters he faced in the second reached on five hits and two walks. The A's drove up Miller's pitch count with a series of full counts, and more often than not won those counts.

At one point in the inning, four of five A's hitters starting with Josh Reddick fell behind against Miller and worked the count back full. Reddick doubled to drive in a run. Two batters later, Eric Sogard drew one of his three walks. Coco Crisp worked a 1-2 count back to 3-2 and walked. Seth Smith then lined a full-count pitch up the middle to drive in two more and make it a four-run lead at that point.

"That's how you wear guys down ... and how you can frustrate pitchers," Melvin said. "When we're at our best that's what we're doing."

Sogard's line Friday was particularly indicative of that -- the A's No. 9 hitter saw 23 pitches, swung four times, put none of those pitches into play and reached base three of four times.

"It's not always the plan, but that's how it works sometimes," Sogard said. "(Miller was) trying to nibble, and we had some close calls that may have gone our way. But I think we earned those calls."

* Going back to Donaldson's All-Star candidacy, there's a reason why he's encouraging fans to funnel their votes toward Lowrie (and why the player, manager and coach voting that helps determines reserves is his best shot at being selected to the team).

With his two hits Friday night, Donaldson is now batting .359 (14-for-39) over his last 11 games and added to his team-leading RBI total, which now stands at 52, second-most for an A.L. third baseman.

Meanwhile, in Tampa Bay, the Tigers' Cabrera went 4-for-4 with two home runs and is now hitting .377 with 24 home runs and 81 RBIs -- and it's not even July.

* From the sound of things, Vogt will have plenty of time to soak in the afterglow of his streak-busting homer. Melvin said before the game that either John Jaso (if his left hand is feeling up to it) or Derek Norris will catch Saturday's 1:05 p.m. start. It's Jarrod Parker (6-6, 4.27 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (10-5, 2.31), and it's mere hours away.

-- 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.
Email: mkawahara@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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