Athletics

A's blow five-run lead, watch Mets walk off with victory

A's blow five-run lead, watch Mets walk off with victory

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Wilmer Flores hit a solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the New York Mets rallied from an early five-run deficit to beat the Oakland Athletics 6-5 Saturday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Pinch-hitter Lucas Duda delivered a tying single with two outs in the eighth off left-hander Daniel CoulombeJay Bruce hit a two-run homer in the sixth to begin New York's comeback, and Jose Reyes tripled twice.

Flores connected on a 96 mph fastball from Simon Castro (0-1), sending a line drive to left field for the second game-ending homer of his career. That sent a frenzied crowd of 39,629 home happy - hours after fans lined up early in the heat outside Citi Field to get their Noah Syndergaard as Thor bobbleheads.

Matt Joyce hit a leadoff home run and Matt Chapman added a prodigious shot for Oakland, which scored four in the first off struggling Mets starter Zack Wheeler.

Sean Manaea took a shutout into the sixth but then wilted after throwing a career-high 115 pitches Sunday in his previous start, a win against Cleveland.

Hansel Robles (6-1) tossed a hitless inning to win for the second straight day.

MAN ON THE MOVE:
With Mets second baseman Neil Walker nearing a return from the disabled list, perhaps Monday in San Diego, Asdrubal Cabrera made his first major league start at third and played flawless defense after working out at the position once. Cabrera's only previous appearance at the hot corner came during his rookie season in 2007 with Cleveland. "He's a middle infielder who's going to play third base. Got great hands, great arm. He'll be fine," manager Terry Collins said. Cabrera initially balked at shifting from shortstop to second when he came off the DL about a month ago.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Athletics: Ryon Healy had a pinch-hit single after getting hit near the left temple by a bad-hop grounder Friday night. Healy went through the concussion protocol and was cleared, manager Bob Melvin said. ... Melvin said he would have news after the game regarding RHP Jharel Cotton, on the DL since July 4 with a blister on his right thumb. Cotton threw a bullpen Friday. Oakland needs a starter for Monday night at Toronto. ... INF-OF Chad Pinder (strained left hamstring) homered Friday on his rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville and could come off the DL when Oakland begins a homestand next weekend. "That's kind of the target area," Melvin said.

Mets: Walker (left hamstring) went 1 for 3 with Triple-A Las Vegas at Memphis in the first game of rehab assignment. The switch-hitter has been on the DL since June 15. ... LHP Josh Smoker threw a scoreless sixth in his first outing since coming off the disabled list Thursday. Smoker had been sidelined since June 14 with a strained left shoulder.

UP NEXT:
Oakland rookie right-hander Daniel Gossett (1-5, 5.79 ERA) makes his eighth career start in Sunday's series finale against RHP Rafael Montero (1-6, 5.40). Gossett has given up 10 homers in 37 1/3 innings after yielding only four in 60 2/3 innings at Triple-A.

A's lower strikeout rate should help improve situational hitting

A's lower strikeout rate should help improve situational hitting

OAKLAND – We're still early in the MLB season, but through 27 games, the A's have been striking out at a noticeably lower rate than last year.

As a team, the A's have struck out in just 18 percent of their plate appearances this season, the second-best mark in the majors. Last year, Oakland ranked 18th in the league, striking out at a rate of 22.1 percent.

A’s manager Bob Melvin admits it’s probably too early in the season to really focus on those numbers, but he does credit hitting coach Darren Bush for the improvement.

“It’s just probably Bushy preparing them like he does and knowing the league a little bit more,” Melvin said. “The emphasis on trying to put the ball in play and staying within your zones – probably all those things add up.”

As noted by Athletics Nation's Alex Hall, three players have keyed the team’s improved contact rate: Marcus Semien, Chad Pinder and Matt Chapman.

Semien has lowered his strikeout percentage from 18.6 percent last year to 11.2 percent this season. Pinder has gone from 26.4 percent to 15.2 percent. Chapman has taken the biggest step of all, dropping from 23.7 percent all the way down to 10.2 percent this year.

Not surprisingly, all three players are having career years at the plate.

Pinder leads the team with a .320 batting average and ranks third with an .848 OPS. Semien is slashing .311/.379/.505 and looks like an All-Star at shortstop.

And then there’s Chapman. The A’s third baseman looks like a legitimate MVP candidate, hitting .311/.407/.633 with eight home runs and 18 RBI, while only striking out 11 times all season. Chapman is also on pace to shatter his previous career high in walks.

[RELATED: Chad Pinder making strong case to be in A's everyday lineup]

To this point, the decrease in strikeouts has not led to an increase in run production, but it is certainly putting more pressure on opposing defenses. Over the course of the season, it should also help the A’s improve their situational hitting, such as driving in a runner from third with less than two outs.

Oakland is still hitting for plenty of power, which means it will likely succumb to its share of strikeouts. But the improved contact rate this season is certainly a noticeable and welcome development.

Ex-A's reliever Shawn Kelley has no hard feelings toward former team

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AP

Ex-A's reliever Shawn Kelley has no hard feelings toward former team

OAKLAND -- After Shawn Kelley's stellar stretch run with the A's last season, it seemed likely he would return to Oakland as a free agent.

The 34-year-old right-hander appeared in 19 games last August and September, registering a 2.16 ERA and 0.78 WHIP, with 18 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings. But while there was initially mutual interest in a reunion, the A's decided to go in a different direction and Kelley signed a one-year, $2.75 million contract with the Texas Rangers.

"We talked from the very end of (the season) about getting something done," Kelley told NBC Sports California. "I think when they got (Joakim) Soria and gave him that money (two years, $15 million), my agent called right away because we were kind of worried. We had been talking to (A's general manager David) Forst. Both sides were like, 'Yeah, let's get something done.' When Soria signed, we kind of saw the writing on the wall. And then (Forst) wished me luck in whatever decision I made. He said, 'We spent a little on a couple of guys and so we wish you the best and thanks for everything you did coming over, but we're out of money.'"

Kelley says he carries no hard feelings toward his former squad, as he understands the business side of baseball. He still has a great relationship with his old teammates and manager.

"I talked to all the guys when they came to Texas and I talked to them (Tuesday)," Kelley said. "I went over and gave BoMel a big hug and told him, 'Man, I'm sorry. I wanted to be here. It just didn't work out.' That's part of it. It wasn't for a lack of effort. There was obviously genuine interest from me and definitely some genuine interest from their side. Things just go different ways sometimes in free agency."

Kelley has carried last year's success into this season with the Rangers. He is already 3-0 with a save and a 1.80 ERA, as well as a 0.80 WHIP. He has notched nine strikeouts in 10 innings without issuing a single walk.

"It's been great," Kelley said. "It's a good group. It kind of reminds me of what we had over there last year (with the A's), as far as a good mix of young guys with some veterans, a lot of energy, and a lot of will to not give in and keep fighting. It's been a good experience."

Kelley is extremely thankful for the opportunity the A's gave him last season, especially after the Nationals let him go following his now infamous -- and probably overblown -- glove-slamming incident. He believes his time in Oakland rejuvenated his career.

[RELATED: Versatile Pinder forcing way into everyday starting role]

"I had fun when I went over there and saw a renewed energy and passion for just going out and having fun and enjoying it, and it not feeling like work every day," Kelley said. "It was a great experience. I loved it."

For now, Kelley is happy to be a Texas Ranger, although he doesn't rule out a return to Oakland down the road.

"Hey, you never know," he smiled. "One day, I may be back."