A's look to get off the deck vs. ex-mate Haren


A's look to get off the deck vs. ex-mate Haren

May 24, 2011

A'S (22-26) vs.
LA ANGELS (25-24)

Coverage begins at 6:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

ANAHEIM (AP) -- When Dan Haren earned his fourth win of the season April 17, he moved into a tie with Los Angeles Angels teammate Jered Weaver for the major league lead.

He's been unable to add to that total since, though he isn't entirely to blame.

Having been backed by minimal offensive support, Haren hopes the Angels lineup can take advantage of facing minor league call-up Guillermo Moscoso, who will make his first major league start for the visiting Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.

Haren (4-2, 1.84 ERA) got off to a superb start to 2011, going 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA through his first five appearances. Although the three-time All-Star's performance has fallen off just a tad since then, his 2.34 ERA over six starts would typically be good enough to garner at least another couple of victories.

Los Angeles' offense, however, hasn't given Haren much of a chance.

Haren has received seven total runs of support in his last six starts, making for an AL-worst 1.49 run-support average in that span.

Against Seattle on Thursday, the right-hander allowed one run, three hits and four walks and exited after eight innings with the score tied at one. The Angels (25-24) went on to lose 2-1.

"Of course I want to be winning games," Haren told the Angels' official website. "I'm not going to stand here and say that winning doesn't matter. But the team winning is the No. 1 priority. Pitching good and the team losing - you don't get anything good from it."

Haren faced Oakland (22-26) once during his drought stretch, permitting one unearned run and three hits in seven innings of a 2-1, 10-inning loss April 27 in Anaheim. Haren, who won 43 games in three seasons with the A's and represented Oakland in the 2007 All-Star Game, is 2-0 with a 2.67 ERA in four starts against his former team.

Los Angeles' offense struggled through most of Monday's series opener, before breaking open a tie game with a three-run rally in the eighth and going on to win 4-1.

Torii Hunter's second double of the game brought home the tiebreaking run, one inning after he threw out the potential go-ahead run at the plate. Hunter is batting .467 with six RBIs in his last four games after hitting .042 with one RBI in his previous seven.

The four-time All-Star will look to continue his surge and spoil Moscoso's season debut.

Moscoso is expected to take the rotation spot vacated by the injured Tyson Ross after going 3-2 with a 4.02 ERA in eight games - seven starts - for Triple-A Sacramento. In his final outing for the River Cats last Tuesday against Nashville, Moscoso was tagged for five runs, six hits and three walks in three innings.

"He's throwing strikes, and he's ready to go," manager Bob Geren told the Athletics' official website. "He has a good breaking ball, and when he throws it at the right speed, it's pretty good."

The right-hander made one relief appearance last season for Texas after appearing in 10 games out of the bullpen for the Rangers as a rookie in 2009.

While the Angels are hoping to make things difficult for Moscoso, Haren could be poised for another strong outing against the light-hitting Athletics.

Oakland has plated 10 runs and batted .200 while losing its last six games.

Catcher Kurt Suzuki is 3 for 7 lifetime versus Haren, but is batting .150 with no RBIs during the losing streak for the A's, who haven't dropped seven straight since Sept. 27-Oct. 4, 2009.

Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots


Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders cornerback David Amerson didn’t practice all week, but ran just well enough to be considered “doubtful” for Sunday’s game against New England.

Translation: Outlook for Sunday is not good, but Jack Del Rio’s fingers remained crossed real, real tight. The Raiders hope there’s a way he can be active against Tom Brady’s buzz saw attack, because their cover men are beat up.

Amerson has missed two straight with a foot injury, and has dealt with injury all year. Gareon Conley’s season officially ended Monday, when he was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Antonio Hamilton and Demetrius McCray were already there.

Reggie McKenzie hasn’t reached out for reinforcements. That leaves TJ Carrie, Dexter McDonald and Sean Smith to play cornerback. Carrie’s been the rock, a sure tackler who hasn’t made spectacular plays but doesn’t give them up. McDonald has been forced into action, with holes let in his game.

Smith should be the No. 1 guy in this group, the steadying presence on the outside. That hasn’t been the case this year, where he lost a starting job in training camp and sub-package snaps during the season, only to have injuries to Conley and Amerson bring him in the fray.

He’s also been dealing with felony assault and battery charges in Los Angeles stemming from a July 4 incident in Pasadena.

Smith has been a lightning rod for fan criticism, a byproduct of his $9.5 million salary this year and explosive plays allowed early in the year.

If there’s an anvil weighing on his mind, teammates insist you’d never know.

“We’re human at the end of the day,” Amerson said. “You feel it, but you have to find a way to remain even keel and professional and do your job well.”

Smith will be counted on heavily Sunday against New England, especially if Amerson can’t play as expected. He has proven vulnerable to speed without help and proper disruption at the line of scrimmage, though that hasn’t been an issue lately because the Utah alum has recovered well after a rough start.

He got pulled after struggling against Vernon Davis in Washington. He didn’t play against the Chargers after giving up two huge plays to Baltimore the week before.

Amerson originally sprained his foot in Week 7 against Kansas City – he hasn’t played since – and Smith was called upon to respond. He wasn’t targeted in that game, and has been strong in coverage ever since.

Smith has allowed three catches for 12 yards in four targets over the last two games. The ninth-year veteran insists he wasn’t doing anything markedly different, and had zero interest in patting himself on the back for recent jobs well done.

“I’m not,” Smith said. “I’m out there doing my job, man, the best way I can.”

Smith says the off-field distractions during a roller-coaster season, one of his career’s most trying yet, haven’t impacted him much

“Nope. Not at all,” Smith said. “As long as I wake up a Raider, I’m all right. I’ll deal with whatever happens. I’ll always be there for my guys, and I’ll do whatever it takes to help our team win.”

Raiders defensive backs laud Smith’s locker room presence, saying he’s an excellent teammate. Cornerbacks in general must have a short memory when things go bad, to refocus and prevent that from happening again. Smith apparently has that in spades.

“I know how things go, especially when you have a target on your back,” Amerson said. “Sometimes you get hit with the perfect pass and you give up some plays. You can’t do anything about that but take advantage of the next opportunity. Sean’s a good player, and he definitely has that mindset.”

Smith will lend experience to this big game, something the Raiders need after suffering so many injuries.

"It sucks that so many of us have gone down,” Smith said. "You want to have all your guys out there, but that’s the NFL. Injuries happen. As long as everybody comes to work and acts like a pro, we’ll be all right. We all have a job to do. We all would like to start, but you have to be ready when your number’s called.”

Gameday: Kings go for home-and-home sweep of Blazers sans sharpshooter


Gameday: Kings go for home-and-home sweep of Blazers sans sharpshooter

Rinse and repeat. After shocking the Portland Trail Blazers Friday evening at Golden 1 Center, the Sacramento Kings hopped on a plane where they’ll face the same team on the second night of a home-and-home back-to-back.

Dave Joerger shook up his lineup on Friday, installing De’Aaron Fox and Skal Labissiere for Bogdan Bogdanovic and Willie Cauley-Stein. The Kings responded with their best defensive effort of the season. Cauley-Stein went off for 22 points and 10 rebounds with the second unit and his defensive effort was next level.

The Blazers have become a two-man wrecking crew. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum score the bulk of the team’s points on a nightly basis, but coach Terry Stotts is still searching someone who is ready to step up and help. Jusuf Nurkic is part of the puzzle, but the Blazers need more consistency from the other 12 players on the roster.

Blazers by 12

De’Aaron Fox vs. Damian Lillard -- Fox put on a defensive show against Portland at Golden 1 Center. The rookie came into the league with high-end potential as a two-way player and he showed it against Lillard, holding the All-Star point guard to 29 points, but on 9-of-25 shooting. Lillard loves to hoist up shots. If Fox can't provide the same pressure, the Kings will struggle to keep up with the Blazers.

Kings: 4-11, fifth place in Pacific

Trail Blazers: 8-7, third place in Northwest

Kings: SG Buddy Hield (sprained ankle) out, F Vince Carter (kidney stones) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out until January.

Trail Blazers: F Al Farouq Aminu (ankle) out, G C.J. Wilcox (knee) out, PG Wade Baldwin (thumb) out.

CONSISTENCY -- You can’t show flashes of brilliance and then take a step back. The Kings defensive effort and overall intensity won the game on Friday night. It’s a place to build from.

FINDING A ROLE -- Joerger shook up everything when he turned to Fox and Labissiere. Offensively, both players struggled, as did Bogdanovic off the bench. This group of young players needs to find a role and figure out a way to help the team, even when the shots aren’t falling.

GET DEFENSIVE -- Portland didn’t know what hit them Friday evening, but they’ll have a few hours to make adjustments. Sacramento’s bigs showed on every high screen and roll. The guard and wing play was aggressive and spot on. The Kings are young and energetic. If they can focus that energy on the defensive end night in and night out, they might have a chance to build something.

Sacramento leads the season series 1-0 after Friday night’s win. The Blazers lead the all-time series 129-78 and they own the Kings during the Sacramento-era 88-47.

"Whether you think the sky is falling or not, we are 3-3 in our last 6 games." - Dave Joerger