Athletics

Frankie Montas turning into the pitcher the A's hoped he would become

Frankie Montas turning into the pitcher the A's hoped he would become

OAKLAND – Frankie Montas has always had the potential to be a frontline starting pitcher at the major league level. Now, at the age of 26, he's converting that potential into reality.

Montas spun 6 1/3 sparkling innings Wednesday night, limiting the red-hot Astros to a single run on just three hits, with six strikeouts. The talented right-hander improved to 3-1 as the A's snapped Houston's 10-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory at the Coliseum.

"You can see his confidence grow every time he goes out there," A's manager Bob Melvin said after the game. "It's starting to be dominant stuff at times."

"I feel like I'm throwing more strikes and having more command of my fastball in and out of the zone," Montas added. "The splitter really helped me a lot too."

That splitter is a new addition to Montas' arsenal, a pitch he sort of stumbled upon this spring.

"Honestly, I kind of just started playing with it in spring training," he said. "I was not really serious about it, but I saw that I could throw it and get good results. I was just trying to get something else for hitters."

Melvin highlighted the importance of the new pitch.

"It's been the key," Melvin said. "It's a true third pitch. His slider was really good too. Sometimes it's tough to tell the difference between the slider and the split. But a mix of pitches like that...he's a tough guy to hit when he's ahead in the count and feeling pretty good."

In four starts this season, Montas has allowed a total of seven earned runs in 23 1/3 innings for an ERA of 2.70. His 0.94 WHIP ranks first among A's starters as does his .190 opponents' batting average.

This is the pitcher the A's were hoping to someday see when they acquired him from the Dodgers in 2016. Early in his career, Montas suffered injury setbacks to his knee and later his ribs, but the ability never went away.

[RELATED: A's place Estrada on IL]

"There was a point in his career where he was on the path to do this," Melvin said. "The injuries sidelined him a little bit and he ended up being a reliever. He got humbled a little bit in relief and had to find a different way to do it, and he did. We saw it all spring and we've seen it all season."

Now fully healthy and brimming with confidence, Montas appears ready to fulfill his destiny as a big-league ace.
 

How the A's are earning and rediscovering their home run prowess

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AP

How the A's are earning and rediscovering their home run prowess

OAKLAND -- Last year, the A's launched an incredible 227 home runs, the third-most of any team in baseball. However, Oakland experienced a bit of a power outage early this season.

Between April 15 and May 12, a span of 23 games, the A's hit just 15 homers, the second-fewest in the majors over that stretch. But on their most recent road trip, Oakland found its power once again, belting 21 home runs in nine games.

So what changed?

"We started to have more competitive at-bats," said A's hitting coach Darren Bush. "We were driving them up starters' pitch counts. Guys were fouling off pitches and getting better pitches to hit, one through nine. Once you start doing that, they have to make more pitches and they're going to make mistakes, and we were taking advantage of them."

Catcher Josh Phegley agreed with Bush's assessment, reiterating the importance of patience at the plate.

"I think you see those power numbers start to go up when we're a little more patient and make pitchers work," he said. "I felt like we saw some guys who threw some breakers, but we laid off of them off the plate and made them come to us in hitter's counts and got some fastballs to hit."

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the A's road power surge was that they did it with an injured Khris Davis. Oakland's top slugger did account for two of the 21 home runs while battling a left hip/oblique contusion, but it was Mark Canha who led the way with five.

"Canha basically did what KD does for us," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "It kind of felt like having KD there, even though we're obviously going to miss him. But we've seen Mark Canha do this in the past where he gets an opportunity and he produces, and you get him consistent at-bats and he hits home runs."

Canha has caught fire since returning from a sprained right wrist, tallying five homers and 10 RBI in just eight games.

"It's nice to see the results and the homers," he said. "It's a fun way to play. It's kind of counterintuitive, I think. I think that you have to approach it backward. We got back to having good approaches, swinging at strikes, working counts and stuff like that, and the home runs just showed up."

[RELATED: Davis land on IL, Bolt recalled]

Oakland now has nine different players with at least five home runs, and that doesn't even include Matt Olson, who has four since returning from a hand injury. Clearly, there are no easy outs in the A's lineup, something Bush takes great pride in.

"You've got to get in there and fight for every pitch," he said. "If they make pitches, you have to find a way to battle and fight them off because they will make mistakes. But they're not just going to give in. You have to earn it."

A's vs. Mariners lineups: Mark Canha fills in for the injured Khris Davis

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USATSI

A's vs. Mariners lineups: Mark Canha fills in for the injured Khris Davis

OAKLAND — After a successful road trip, the A's return home Friday night to open a three-game series with the last-place Seattle Mariners.

Oakland has won a season-high six straight games to even its record at 25-25. Seattle, meanwhile, has lost three in a row and six of its last seven.

Prior to Friday's game, the A's officially placed slugger Khris Davis on the 10-day IL with a left hip/oblique contusion. Mark Canha will fill in as Oakland's designated hitter and bat sixth in the lineup. Canha has hit five home runs in his last eight games since returning from a sprained wrist.

Chad Pinder will start in left field and bat second against Mariners left-hander Wade LeBlanc. Right-fielder Stephen Piscotty moves up to the cleanup spot and Nick Hundley will give Josh Phegley a day off behind the plate and bat ninth.

LeBlanc is 3-0 with a 3.31 ERA in seven career appearances against the A's, including five starts. Oakland will counter with right-hander Daniel Mengden, who is 1-1 with a 3.65 ERA in two starts this season. Mengden has struggled against the Mariners in his career, going 0-2 with a 5.89 ERA in four games, including three starts.

Here are the full lineups for the A's-Mariners game, which will be broadcast on NBC Sports California and the MyTeams app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. PT, with first pitch at 7:07.

Seattle Mariners (23-29)

Mitch Haniger, CF
Daniel Vogelbach, DH
Edwin Encarnación, 1B 
Omar Narváez, C
Domingo Santana, LF
J.P. Crawford, SS
Tim Beckham, 3B
Shed Long, 2B
Mallex Smith, CF

Wade LeBlanc, LHP (2-1, 7.36 ERA)

Oakland A's (25-25)

Marcus Semien, SS
Chad Pinder, LF
Matt Chapman, 3B
Stephen Piscotty, RF
Matt Olson, 1B
Mark Canha, DH
Jurickson Profar, 2B 
Ramón Laureano, CF 
Nick Hundley, C

Daniel Mengden, RHP (1-1, 3.65 ERA)