Athletics

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's late-inning win over Mariners

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AP

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's late-inning win over Mariners

BOX SCORE

SEATTLE — Chris Smith’s teammates knew how to end his memorable night the right way.

Ryon Healy doubled home the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth Saturday and the A’s rang up a 4-3 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field. It was Oakland’s fourth win in its past five games, but the night undoubtedly belonged to Smith, the 36-year-old right-hander who became the oldest pitcher in franchise history to ever make his first major league start.

The journeyman more than his own, holding Seattle to three runs over six innings and allowing his team to position itself for the win late. He gave up six hits, struck out four and walked one, showing a nice ability to change speeds and keep the Mariners from barreling him up too often.

The bullpen did its job to lock this one down too, as Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle and Santiago Casilla combined for three scoreless innings to end it.***** Casilla allowed Mitch Haniger’s two-out double in the ninth that was just out of the reach of center fielder Rajai Davis, but he retired Jarrod Dyson — a thorn in the A’s side all night — on a fly ball to left to end it.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Smith became just the fourth pitcher over the last 55 years to make his first major league start at age 36 or greater.

Holding them in check: Smith kept the Mariners’ big boppers quiet. Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz went a combined 0-for-6 against the right-hander. Rather, it was the bottom and top of the order that got to him for three runs. Doubles from No. 8 hitter Dyson and leadoff man Jean Segura sparked a two-run rally in the third that tied the game 2-2. Then Dyson homered in the fifth to knot it up again, 3-3.

Nice round number: Yonder Alonso sent his 20th homer deep into the seats in right in the third. With 74 games left, the first-time All-Star has plenty of time to add to what is already a career season for him. Alonso joined Khris Davis as Oakland’s second 20-homer man of the season. Ryon Healy is right behind them with 19.

’D’ backs up Smith: The A’s issues defensively this season have been well-documented, but they made some strong plays in support of Smith. Marcus Semien made a nice back-handed play at short to get a force-out at second. Center fielder Jaycob Brugman ended the fifth with a terrific play, taking a twisting route to bring in Cruz’s liner that could have scored two.

Rajai rebounds: A night after he lost track of how many outs there were on a key play, Davis ignited the A’s go-ahead rally, beating out an infield single, stealing second and scoring on Healy’s double.

He’ll be back: Manager Bob Melvin said he had a good conversation with middle infielder Franklin Barreto as the A’s top prospect was optioned back to the minors Saturday.

“We know he’s gonna be a very impactful guy for us,” Melvin said before the game. “He knew what was going on. He knew he was the one going down today. The chore for him next time he’s up here is stay for good. My guess is that could be the case.”

If Jed Lowrie is dealt before the July 31 trade deadline, a strong likelihood, the A’s figure to bring Barreto back up and install him at second.

Here are three questions facing A's as 2019 season opens Vs. Mariners

Here are three questions facing A's as 2019 season opens Vs. Mariners

The A's and Mariners are officially just hours away from opening the MLB season in Japan. For those die-hard fans (and insomniacs) who plan to stay up all night to watch the game, here are four questions to keep an eye on:

Who bats third?

Jed Lowrie's departure leaves a huge hole in the middle of the A's lineup. Oakland has a few candidates to fill that void, including newly-acquired second baseman Jurickson Profar. However, Stephen Piscotty and Matt Olson are probably the best options at this point.

With the A's facing left-hander Marco Gonzales in the season opener, expect to see the right-handed hitting Piscotty batting third. If he performs well, it could be his job to lose, though Olson figures to get some opportunities against right-handed pitchers, at least early in the year.

Who starts at catcher?

The A's also lost their starting catcher from last season as Jonathan Lucroy signed with the rival Angels. With Chris Herrmann injured, the starting job will go to either Nick Hundley or Josh Phegley, both of whom performed well in spring training.

Hundley figures to have the edge to start the season due to his better offensive numbers over the years. The 35-year-old has a career OPS of .706, compared to Phegley's .635.

Is Mike Fiers ready to be a number one starter?  

Fiers gets the honor of starting on Opening Day. The 33-year-old is coming off the best season of his career, going 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA between Detroit and Oakland in 2018. He was rewarded with a two-year, $14.1 million contract this offseason.

Throughout his career, Fiers has primarily been a fourth or fifth starter. This year he finally has his chance to be an ace. The right-hander certainly has the right mindset to handle any added pressure, but the A's would like to see him get off to a good start.

A's players talk crushing sushi, baseballs in Japan for Opening Series

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USATSI

A's players talk crushing sushi, baseballs in Japan for Opening Series

What does a professional baseball team do when traveling to Japan?

It’s pretty simple for the Oakland A's, who are currently there to open up the 2019 regular season against the Seattle Mariners on March 20 and 21.

-Eat sushi
-Play baseball
-Eat more sushi

The A’s have already played two exhibition games against teams from Japan, and the Japanese crowds are loving the Green and Gold.

A “Let’s go Oakland!” chant even broke out in the middle of a game.

If you feel so inclined to cheer on the A's during their two regular season games in Japan, there will be a watch party (not so) bright and early for first pitch at 2:35 a.m. PT