What strikes me first about the newly renovated Hohokam stadium is a bejeweled left field scoreboard. The largest HD screen in the Cactus League is crowned by the Athletics logo and features a High Definition screen undiminished in the glaring Arizona sun. This digital accoutrement to Hohokam communicates with it's attendees far better than any Coliseum scoreboard that I can remember, but that will hopefully change with the ongoing improvements taking place at the Coliseum for the 2015 season. On this day, however, the A's Spring Training facility surpasses it's regular season home both technically and aesthetically. But enough with signage because what happens on the field is what really matters.
Today Jesse Chavez made his case why he should be part of the 2015 starting rotation as he pitched into the 5th inning, but he didn't make it easy on himself. The Giants led off the game with two singles before Casey McGhee came to bat with one out. With two strikes Chavez delivered what he, and most of Hohokam, thought was strike three. The home plate umpire disagreed, however, and after two foul balls McGhee doubled down the right field line plating two runs. Chavez retired the inning, but he was fuming as he jawed at the umpire walking off the field.
Those two runs would be the only runs the Giants could scrap together against Chavez, though, as he settled down after the first. Chavez allowed base runners in the next two innings, but induced Ishikawa into a double play before striking out McGhee to end the third. He then worked a 1-2-3 fourth before retiring the first batter in the fifth to finish his day. Final line: 4.1 IP, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 Ks. He bounced back well after the first for the Win.
On the opposite side of the frames the A's offense didn't explode like the first two Giants games this spring, but were able to chase Matt Cain in the second inning. Billy Burns led off the game with a single before advancing to third on a hit-and-run single by Sogard. Ben Zobrist then grounded into a force to score the speedy Burns from third.
The second inning saw the A's put three on the board mostly due to misplays by shortstop Matt Duffy. The young Giants infielder allowed a hard hit Andy Parrino single to eat him up and the potential third out to pop out of his glove. Nuiman Romero hit a hard liner up the middle that Duffy had a glove on, but the ball popped out at just at the last moment to allow Parrino to score. What followed was a bonafide two-out rally as Burns and Sogard yet again hit back-to-back singles. With Zobrist coming to the plate Bochy pulled Cain for Braulio Lara who promptly gave up a two-run double to Zobrist down the left field line. The A's survived Chavez's early struggles to be up 4-2 after two.
Both offenses went quiet the next four innings, including a fine bottom of the sixth by Giants pitcher Jeremy Affedlt who had a lot of movement on his breaking pitches. Burns led off the seventh with an exciting triple down the right field line. The diminutive Matt Angle then singled him home with the power-hitting Billy Butler coming to the plate. Strangely, Angle attempted to steal. He was called out on a close play, but with Butler at the plate perhaps staying on first is the better choice. Either way, Butler had been hitting the ball hard all day and followed Angle's failed attempt with a double in the left-center gap. Bryan Anderson, the A's DH today, couldn't bring Butler home, ending the offense for the day.
The A's won with a final score of 5-2 with Chavez earning the win. We didn't get the offensive explosion like we saw the first two times the club played the Giants, but Burns and Sogard went a combined 5 for 8 as a promising 1-2 punch at the top of the order. More importantly, Chavez pitched well into the fifth inning making his bid to be a starter this season all the more likely.
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