Raiders

Braden, Buerhle bring perfection to A's-Sox opener

442286.jpg

Braden, Buerhle bring perfection to A's-Sox opener

April 11, 2011

A's (4-5) vs.
CHICAGO (6-3)

Coverage begins at 4:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

CHICAGO (APCSN) -- The A's have been slumping on offense, but emerged with a decent hitting performance in their last game.

Seeing Mark Buehrle on the mound for the Chicago White Sox may help them sustain that momentum.

Buehrle hopes to end his struggles against Oakland as the teams begin a three-game set Monday in Chicago.

REWIND: Braden throws perfect game, A's top Rays 4-0

He'll face Dallas Braden, his partner in perfect game lore. The matchup will mark the first time the pitchers have faced each other since Bradens perfect game and only the 21st time in major league history that two pitchers with perfect games on their ledger will oppose each other.

Buehrle defeated the Tampa Bay Rays on July 23, 2009, becoming the 18th pitcher in history to throw a perfect game. Braden matched him, against the Rays as well, on May 9, 2010.

The Athletics (4-5) have won three of four overall thanks largely to strong pitching, but they had totaled four runs in their three games prior to Sunday's series finale at Minnesota. The bats then awakened in a 5-3 victory. Hideki Matsui hit his first homer in the fourth inning, and Josh Willingham added a solo shot in Oakland's four-run sixth.

"It was good that the offense came together," said Matsui, who entered Sunday batting .160 with three RBIs. "The starting pitching has been pitching well, but they weren't quite getting the offensive support."

The A's have long done just enough to win against Buehrle (1-0, 7.36 ERA). The left-hander has a respectable 3.90 lifetime ERA versus Oakland, but only a 4-13 record to show for it due to a run support average of less than three.

CSNCHICAGO: Dunn close to return following appendectomy

Buehrle's support has run the gamut from extraordinary to non-existent in his two starts this season. After getting credit for a 15-10 victory at Cleveland on opening day, he received no support at all while in the game at Kansas City on Wednesday. Buehrle allowed five runs in five innings, but didn't get a decision as the White Sox (6-3) rallied to win 10-7 in 12 innings.

If Paul Konerko and the top of the White Sox's order continue hitting the way they did Sunday, Buehrle stands a good chance of overcoming the Athletics.

Konerko hit two solo home runs in Chicago's 6-1 victory against Tampa Bay. Leadoff man Juan Pierre drove in a run and No. 2 hitter Gordon Beckham added his second homer of the season in the first inning. Beckham didn't hit his second home run of 2010 until June 25.

"They've been getting on base, having quality at-bats and they've been tough on the other team," Konerko said of Pierre and Beckham. "That makes it easier for the guys in the middle."

Konerko is enjoying a sizzling start to 2011. He's batting .400 with at least one hit in each game, and has three homers and 11 RBIs. However, he is 0 for 13 with four strikeouts in his last four games against the A's.

Braden (0-1, 6.43) had an underwhelming season debut Wednesday at Toronto, allowing five runs and 10 hits through seven innings of Oakland's 5-3 loss.

Braden is 2-0 with a 3.22 ERA in three career starts against the White Sox, with both victories coming within six days of each other last season. He beat them 6-4 on July 25, then pitched a complete game and gave up two runs in a 6-2 win July 31.

Konerko is 2 for 8 off Braden, though both hits were doubles.

Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the Patriots

seth-us.jpg
USATSI

Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the Patriots

MEXICO CITY – Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City:

1. So you’re saying there’s a chance?

The Raiders aren’t stacking wins as they’d like. Nobody in the AFC West is, either. The Chiefs lost another one, meaning the AFC West crown remains within reach. They’re two games back in the division and one back in the wild card race.

That, above all else, will keep the Raiders motivated after a disastrous loss to New England.

“We're professionals and to me, so long as you have hope, you keep your hope, you keep hope alive,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “So, we'll continue to scratch and claw and fight for everything we can.”

The Raiders can harken Lloyd Christmas from “Dumb and Dumber.” So you’re saying there’s a chance?

The Raiders will only stay in it if they start a prolonged winning streak. There’s a chance do that on an upcoming two-game home stand. They play Denver and the New York Giants, respectively, in Oakland over the next fortnight. Those teams have five wins between them.

Wins can’t be assumed with the Raiders. With their inconsistency and mistake-prone play, they can lose to anyone.

Fight remains in this group. They’ll continue to push, especially with a 9-7 record being a legitimate playoff contender. They haven’t played worthy of such consideration, but remain hopeful a switch gets flipped.

“We are who we are, we're not going to turn on each other, we're not going to turn on anything about what we do,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “Obviously, we know that our culture and everything that we do works, because we have seen it work.”

2. Receiver corps becoming a weak spot

The Raiders have a talented group of receivers lacking consistency and production. That was the case on Sunday, when pass catchers hindered offensive flow and scoring opportunities.

Seth Roberts was the biggest offender. He had a drop, a false start and lost a fumble near the goal line with the Patriots up 14-0 late in the first half. Roberts had 12 yards in his pocket but held the ball one-handed, away from his body fighting for more. Marquis Flowers knocked it free and Patrick Chung recovered.

That was the turning point, a true 10-point swing. The Raiders lost a chance to reach the end zone, and allowed New England to get a field goal as the half expired.

“That was a major turn of events,” Del Rio said.

The slot receiver wasn’t the only receiver who stalled the Raiders offense. That group had five drops, according to Pro Football Focus, including two from Michael Crabtree. Johnny Holton wasn’t credited with a drop, but he had a perfectly thrown deep ball clang off his helmet and shoulder pads.

It’s a bad night in a bad year for the Raiders receivers, who haven’t been producing.

3. Lopsided score keeps Marshawn from going Beast Mode

Running back Marshawn Lynch was the only player who had a good Sunday. The bruising back ran roughshod over New England’s front seven, right from the start. He totaled 67 yards on 11 carries, and seemed primed for a big day and a higher-than-usual carry volume.

He and the Raiders run blocking was consistent, allowing him to reach the second level on several occasions.

The lopsided score, however, meant the Raiders had to abandon the ground game.

“I thought we ran the ball well early,” Del Rio said. “I would like to have ended up with 30-plus rush attempts in the ball game, but you got to stay within reasonable amount of the score in order to stick with the run.”

The Raiders were down two touchdowns in a flash, and were three scores behind at the half. That forced Derek Carr to chuck it towards an unreliable receiver corps. That method proved inefficient and never created the big moments.

Lynch has run well since returning from a one-game suspension. He has 25 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games. If there’s a positive to take from Sunday’s beat down, Lynch’s efficiency might be it.

Del Rio calls out NFL for Raiders losing home games to go abroad

jack-ap.jpg
AP

Del Rio calls out NFL for Raiders losing home games to go abroad

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders have played in Mexico City the last two years, and have given up a home game to do it.

You already know head coach Jack Del Rio’s stance on the matter. He doesn’t like it. Not one bit.

The NFL announced Sunday morning that Mexico City will host games annually through 2021. The Raiders will be on the short list to return during that span.

“They’ve done a nice job for us over the last two years,” Del Rio said. “If it was a road game, I’d enjoy it. If they stop making (international contests) our home games, we’ll be fine.”

Hate to be the bearer of bad news Jack, but the Raiders will keep giving home games away. That’s expected each year until the Raiders formally move to Las Vegas.

The Raiders might not come back to Mexico for a third straight season, but could host a game in London next year. The NFL sent four games to the United Kingdom this year.

The Raiders have a massive fan base in England and Mexico, which makes them an attractive option to play abroad.

It might make financial sense for the team and the league to expand its base beyond borders, but the football people don’t find it fun.

The Raiders had more fans watching Sunday’s 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots at Estadio Azteca, but it’s no substitute for playing in Oakland.

“I think the crowd down here is pretty excited for the Raiders, so we appreciate that,” Del Rio said. “When you travel four-and-a-half hours, you’re not at home. We appreciate the hospitality and the good people who came out and supported us, but it’s hard to call it a home game.”

This one, especially. The Raiders had overwhelming support last year’s game against Houston, but Patriots fans were a large and vocal minority. They had plenty to cheer, as the Patriots waxed the Silver and Black over four quarters.

It’s hard to say the Raiders had a home crowd this time around, with plenty of noise when they were on offense.

“You know what, traveling down here, I think it was like four hours or something like that, and getting here, I think that hospitality was great, but it really wasn't, it wasn't the Coliseum,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “It didn’t have that feel. Now, we loved playing here, we loved coming down here and playing, but it felt more neutral.”