Athletics

A's starting pitchers taming Tigers, rest of American League in May

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AP

A's starting pitchers taming Tigers, rest of American League in May

The A's weakness this season was supposed to be their rotation. Recently, they've bucked that notion.

Daniel Mengden is the latest A's starting pitcher to have a dominant outing. He went seven innings Saturday in Oakland's 4-1 win in Detroit, and only allowed one earned run while striking out five. 

"He's got good stuff, he can mix his pitches really well," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Mengden after the win. "He's a true four-pitch guy."

In the last month, the A's five-man mix of Mengden, Frankie Montas, Mike Fiers, Chris Bassitt and Brett Anderson has been among the best in the American League. 

Mengden followed a career first for Montas. On Friday, Montas pitched into the ninth inning for the first time in his career and struck out a career-high 10 batters. 

"We knew he had a lot of talent in him, but he's taking it to another level right now," Melvin told reporters Friday when asked about Montas' start.

Coming into their four-game road series with the Tigers, the A's had lost three in a row. They're now riding a three-game win streak, thanks to their starting arms. The trio of Bassitt, Montas and Mengden combined to throw 23 2/3 innings while allowing only three earned runs. They also struck out 22 batters and only walked four.

And the A's soon could have more help on the way.

[RELATED: Melvin raves about Montas after longest outing of his career]

Jharel Cotton pitched in his first rehab assignment in Class A for the Stockton Ports on Thursday. Sean Manaea quietly has been throwing bullpens, and top prospect Jesus Luzardo threw his first bullpen Tuesday, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday.

Oakland's starting pitchers' ERA now is just outside the top five in the American League. Though they're still in the bottom of the AL West, the A's are trending up, with reinforcements coming down the road.

How three clutch hits turned tide in A's bounce-back win vs. Twins

How three clutch hits turned tide in A's bounce-back win vs. Twins

Entering Friday's game in Minnesota, the A's were only batting .243 with two outs and runners in scoring position. They were tied for 16th in MLB, but that position and their average will go up following Oakland's 3-for-7 performance in such situations during their 5-3 win over the Twins.

Matt Olson, Khris Davis, and Chad Pinder all came through with clutch RBI singles, two of them with two outs, to help the A's rally back and even the series at a game apiece.

Olson came to the plate in the top of the fifth with two outs and the tying run on second base. The A's first baseman took three straight fastballs, two for balls and one for a strike, to inch ahead in the count 2-1.

Twins starter Jake Odorizzi then executed a well-placed splitter low and away, but Olson was able to reach out and stroke it into center field for a base hit to score Marcus Semien and tie the game at three.

The single extended Olson's career-high hitting streak to 14 games and revealed his tremendous growth as an all-around hitter. The 26-year-old can obviously still hit for plenty of power, as his 20 home runs in just 238 at-bats would suggest, but he also knows how and when to put the ball in play for a base hit.

The next inning, with the game still tied at three, Ramón Laureano led off with a double. That brought up Davis, whose recent struggles have been well-documented. However, the A's slugger displayed a terrific piece of hitting, waiting back on a 2-1 curveball and ripping it into left field for his second RBI single of the night to give the A's a 4-3 lead. 

Davis still hasn't homered in more than a month, but he put together three solid at-bats on Friday. In addition two his two RBI singles, he torched a ball at 107 mph in the fourth inning for a lineout to center. Davis appears to at least be making small strides at the plate.

Later in the sixth inning, with two outs and a runner on second, Pinder came to the plate with a chance to provide some insurance. He would fall behind in the count 1-2 before sitting back on a curveball and blistering it into left field for an RBI base hit to make it 5-3.

[RELATED: Women of 'Baseball for All' offer optimism, empowerment]

The A's finished the night 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position, good for a .364 average. When Oakland can manufacture runs with situational hitting on top of launching home runs (which Marcus Semien did on the third pitch of the night), it's a potent combination.

With the win, the A's improved to 56-42 on the season, a full game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays for the second AL wild-card spot. Oakland hasn't lost consecutive games since June 8.

A's vs. Twins lineups: Matt Chapman out again with ankle soreness

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USATSI

A's vs. Twins lineups: Matt Chapman out again with ankle soreness

Matt Chapman will miss his second straight game as the A's try to even their series with the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.

Oakland's All-Star third baseman left Wednesday's game against the Mariners after two innings with left ankle soreness and is considered day-to-day. Chad Pinder will once again fill in at third base and hit ninth in the order.

A's designated hitter Khris Davis will bat sixth for the third straight game, with right fielder Mark Canha in the cleanup position. Second baseman Jurickson Profar moves up to the number two spot after launching three home runs in his last two games.

Chris Herrmann gets the start at catcher and will bat eighth. Herrmann is off to a hot start since returning from a knee injury, hitting .300 (6-for-20) with a home run and six RBI.

Right-hander Chris Bassitt takes the hill for Oakland, seeking his seventh win of the season. The 30-year-old is 6-4 with a 3.98 ERA in 15 starts this year. In four career outings against the Twins, Bassitt is 0-0 with a 1.54 ERA.

Minnesota will counter with All-Star Jake Odorizzi. The right-hander enters with an 11-4 record and a 3.06 ERA in 18 starts this season. Odorizzi, 29, is 1-4 with a 3.86 ERA in seven career games against Oakland.

Here are the full lineups for the A's-Twins game, which will be broadcast on NBC Sports California and the MyTeams app. Coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. PT, with first pitch at 5:10.

Oakland A's (55-42)
Marcus Semien, SS
Jurickson Profar, 2B
Matt Olson, 1B
Mark Canha, RF
Ramón Laureano, CF
Khris Davis, DH
Robbie Grossman, LF 
Chris Herrmann, C
Chad Pinder, 3B

Chris Bassitt, RHP (6-4, 3.98 ERA)

Minnesota Twins (59-36)
Max Kepler, CF
Jorge Polanco, SS
Nelson Cruz, DH
Eddie Rosario, LF
C.J. Cron, 1B
Marwin Gonzalez, RF
Luis Arraez, 2B
Miguel Sanó, 3B
Jason Castro, C

Jake Odorizzi, RHP (11-4, 3.06 ERA)