From Comcast SportsNetANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- At the start of spring training, Oakland manager Bob Melvin didn't know who A.J. Griffin was. Things have changed quite dramatically since then.Griffin threw eight scoreless innings, becoming the second Athletics pitcher in 85 years to start his career with six straight wins, and Oakland beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-1 on Wednesday night."He's on my radar now, put it that way," Melvin said. "We didn't see him at all in the spring. But once the season started, we were watching pretty intently because he was pitching well in the minors."We've seen a lot of good games out of him. But against that lineup, here at this place, that's probably as good as we've seen him. He's got a lot of confidence and he's been fun to watch."Oakland, the AL wild-card leader, stayed three games behind first-place Texas in the AL West. But the surprising A's have a five-game cushion with 20 to play in the race for the league's final postseason spot.Griffin (6-0) allowed six hits, struck out six and walked none in the longest of his 11 major league starts. The 24-year-old right-hander, one of four rookies in the A's rotation along with Jarrod Parker, Dan Straily and Tommy Milone, lowered his ERA to 1.94 in his third start off the disabled list."Someone's got to go out there and pitch, so why not me? That's kind of the way I look at it," said Griffin, promoted from Triple-A Sacramento on June 24. "You just go out there and try to do the best you can and give the team a chance to win. It's just worked out in my favor to be 6-0. Tonight I had pretty good command of all four of my pitches, and I just tried to go after guys and get ahead."The only other A's pitcher since 1927 to win his first six decisions as a big leaguer was Jim Nash, who was 7-0 over his first nine starts in 1966."I just try to detach myself from that kind of stuff," Griffin said. "But you've got to go out there with confidence. I mean, I don't want to sound like, Yeah, I thought I was going to be this good.' But I thought that I would do well if I just kept to my game plan -- keep throwing strikes, getting ahead of guys and keeping them off balance. It's pretty much the same game up here. They just don't miss as much when you make a mistake."Rookie pitchers have 40 wins for the A's, four shy of the Oakland record set in 2009."We've put a lot of stock in these guys and we've given them opportunities," Melvin said. "If we didn't feel like they had the makeup to be able to do this, we couldn't. But every single one of them has responded."I think they feed off each other," he added. "I mean, we're talking about a group now where you're looking at Milone and Parker as veterans, based on the fact that they've pitched the whole season. Straily wasn't on our radar either this spring, so (general manager) Billy Beane and the front office have done a great job targeting these guys when they're ready to come up and perform."Sean Doolittle gave up a leadoff homer in the ninth by Albert Pujols before Ryan Cook got the final out for his 14th save. Pujols, a three-time NL MVP, became the first player in history with 30 homers in each of his first 12 seasons. He also tied Stan Musial and Willie Stargell for 28th place on the career list with No. 475.The Athletics, who can sweep the four-game series by beating Angels ace Jered Weaver on Thursday, have won 15 of 18 and are 22 games over .500 (82-60) for the first time since the 2006 club finished 93-69.The A's won their 12th consecutive road game, matching the 1971 squad for the longest streak since the club relocated from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968. The franchise record is 14 in a row set in May 1931, when the team was in Philadelphia.Oakland's road winning streak is the longest in the majors since 2003, when Seattle won 13 straight away from Safeco Field.Ervin Santana (8-12) was charged with two runs -- one earned -- and four hits over six innings. He struck out six. It was the eighth time this season that his teammates didn't score while he was in the game -- including five straight starts by Santana in which the Angels were shut out."Those guys have been pitching great all year, and this series they matched up well against us and are doing a good job," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "A week ago we were playing great baseball, and right now we've hit a little bump in the road. It takes one good game to get you on track, and one good inning. Unfortunately, we haven't swung the bats early in the games against Oakland in this series to give us a chance to do some things."The Angels got a scare in the fourth when Santana was struck on the right wrist by a line drive off Josh Donaldson's bat. He scrambled after the ball in time to get the force at second base on Brandon Moss, then was allowed to take a few practice pitches to test his arm after Scioscia and trainer Adam Nevala went out to check on him.Oakland got an unearned run in the first when Josh Reddick doubled with two outs and scored on an error by shortstop Erick Aybar. Yoenis Cespedes made it 2-0 with his 18th homer leading off the sixth, ending a career-worst 22-game homerless drought. The A's tacked on two runs in the eighth with Derek Norris' RBI double and an RBI single by Coco Crisp.NOTES:Santana has given up a major league-worst 35 homers, the most in his eight-year career. He is five shy of the franchise record. ... A's starters have walked three batters or fewer in 41 consecutive games, tying the Oakland record set in 2001. ... The Angels haven't been swept in a four-game set by Oakland since the final series of the 2001 season, when they finished the schedule with a 2-19 thud. ... Pujols, relegated to DH duty the past 15 games because of a sore right calf, is hitting .317 with two homers and 10 RBIs during that stretch. ... Aybar's error was his 13th, matching last season's total when he won his first Gold Glove.
Over the last few weeks, the Nationals have finally started to get healthy. Slowly but surely, they’ve added stars like Juan Soto, Trea Turner, and Anthony Rendon back to their everyday lineup, and the wins have followed.
If everything goes according to plan, they could be close to adding yet another potential impact bat. This time, it’s Ryan Zimmerman.
The first baseman, who has been on the Injured List since April 28 while dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, could begin his rehab assignment as soon as this weekend, according to his manager.
Zimmerman is getting closer to full health but is still experiencing discomfort while running. During batting practice Thursday, Zimmerman resumed baseball activities, and the plan is for him to run the bases before his minor-league assignment.
"If you're going to be out there playing, you've got to be able at least score on a normal base hit if you're on second, go first to third,” Zimmerman said Thursday. “You might not have to be 100 percent on all that, but you have to do normal, everyday activities, or you're not really helping the team.”
The priority in the minors will be playing nine full innings.
"I think the biggest thing with the rehab games is just getting on your feet for nine innings so the first time you're out there for nine innings isn't here, and you can play some games and make sure it doesn't act up,” the longtime National told reporters. “Because once you're activated and once you're between those white lines, it's game on. It's more I think for Davey [Martinez]. You don't want to put him in a bad spot. If he is managing without knowing if I have restrictions or without knowing what's going to happen, that puts him in a bad spot. That's not what you want to do."
Davey Martinez has rarely had his full complement of players in 2019. Zimmerman himself has already missed 47 games.
Of course, once he returns, the Nationals will have more decisions to make. Not only do the Nationals need to find a roster spot for Zimmerman (Gerardo Parra is a candidate to be the odd man out, despite some flashes in his time in Washington), but they also need to figure out the playing time.
Matt Adams has hit with a lot of power this season, and without the DH in the National League, is limited to first base, same as Zimmerman. Howie Kendrick has been the Nationals’ second-best hitter in 2019 and is one of the best surprises in baseball, but is also limited defensively. Kendrick has more versatility, but with Brian Dozier’s recent surge (and superior defense), the Nats will likely want to keep him there. And, of course, Rendon and Turner are entrenched on the left side of the infield.
It’s something Martinez will have to figure out, he’s already begun speaking with players about what the arrangement will look like.
For right now, it’s a problem for another day, but if Zimmerman’s rehab goes well that won’t be the case much longer.
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De'Andre Hunter is a Los Angeles Laker...for now.
The Virginia star and reigning ACC Defensive of the Year was selected by the Lakers with the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft Thursday night. However, the Lakers will send that pick to the Pelicans in the agreed-to trade for Anthony Davis, New Orleans in turn reportedly trading it to the Hawks. Thus, Hunter likely ends up in Atlanta.
If the trade goes through, Hunter will join a talented young Hawks core which already includes Trae Young and John Collins. He would bring a championship pedigree to the team, having just won an NCAA title with UVA this past season.
"Coming off a national championship, there's no better way to try to go into the NBA," Hunter told NBC Sports Washington during an interview for the I Am The Prospect series.
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