If you had told me that the Oakland Athletics would be sitting atop the American League West division come Monday morning, I'd probably think you were crazy or something -- especially with the recent emergence of the Houston Astros in 2015 and the always threatening Texas Rangers, hoping to win consecutive division titles for the first time since the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
But, here we are...
Over the weekend we witnessed several outstanding performances from the A's pitching staff, highlighted by Rich Hill's miraculous six-inning turnaround on Saturday, along with Chris Bassit's seven solid frames against the Mariners, as he out-dueled "King" Felix Hernandez by allowing just three hits and one-run over 97 pitches, before being lifted in the eighth for Ryan Madson.
Coco Crisp's clutch home run in the 10th inning and Sean Doolittle's first save of the 2016 campaign, assured the green and gold their first sweep of the season, a feat they had not accomplished on the road since June 23 - June 25, 2015 when the A's swept the Texas Rangers in Arlington.
Sonny Gray (1-0, 1.29 ERA) looks to extend the A's winning-streak to four games after being diagnosed with food poisoning prior to his scheduled Opening Night start against the Chicago White Sox last Monday. Nonetheless, Gray tossed seven spectacular frames of one-run ball with five strikeouts; albeit the four free passes might be a cause for concern, I think the A's pitching staff would take another outing like this from their ace -- despite not feeling one hundred percent, physically.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim southpaw Andrew Heaney was scheduled to make today's start for the Halos' -- unfortunately, the 24-year-old was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 8 due to a left flexor muscle strain. Nick Tropeano (0-0, 0.00) will make the spot-start for the Angels and if all goes well, he could be become a mainstay in the Halos' rotation -- despite having a 4-5 record and 4.10 ERA in 11 major league starts.
Without further ado, here are tonight's starting lineups for the A's and Angels:
|LOS ANGELES ANGELS||OAKLAND A'S|
|Yunel Escobar - 3B||Coco Crisp - CF|
|Daniel Nava - LF||Chris Coghlan - DH|
|Mike Trout - CF||Josh Reddick - RF|
|Albert Pujols - 1B||Danny Valencia - 3B|
|Kole Calhoun - RF||Stephen Vogt - C|
|C.J. Cron - DH||Jed Lowrie - 2B|
|Andrelton Simmons - SS||Khris Davis - LF|
|Carlos Perez - C||Yonder Alonso - 1B|
|Cliff Pennington - 2B||Marcus Semien - SS|
|Nick Tropeano - RHP||Sonny Gray - RHP|
Hot off the press:
The A's announced this afternoon that left-handed pitcher Felix Doubront was diagnosed with a torn UCL and will have season-ending Tommy John surgery on Tuesday in Cincinnati. Doubront, who had a strong Cactus League showing, was destined to crack the A's 25-man roster up until he was removed from his final Spring Training start (in the first inning) on April 2 against the San Francisco Giants.
Fortunately, the A's have a reasonable amount of pitching-depth to cover for this loss; Eric Surkamp has slotted nicely in the rotation and free agent acquisition Henderson Alvarez is on track to return to the big leagues in May, after undergoing arthroscopic surgery last summer to repair a right shoulder tear.
Jesse Hahn sounds like an obvious choice, after throwing six scoreless innings for Triple-A Nashville last Friday; however, Doubront would need to be moved to the 60-day disabled list to make a 40-man roster spot available.
MLB.com has created a new series called MLB Bullpen of the Week, where major league relief corps' are ranked based on a formula, similar to Bill James' Game Score metric -- in terms of outs, strikeouts and saves, but are penalized for surrendering hits, runs, walks, blown saves, etc. With the first week of the 2016 campaign in the books; the A's revamped bullpen has found them atop these standings, with an overall score of 103. Rightfully so, the green and gold's relief corps' has been top-notch: surrendering just five runs in 26 1/3 innings with an impressive 21:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and has recorded all three save opportunities presented to themselves this season.
Coco Crisp's 2015 campaign was cut short after a series of nagging injuries, one of which included a chronic neck issue -- that has bothered the Los Angeles native for the majority of his career. The 36-year-old appeared in 44 games for the A's last season and recorded just 22 hits in 126 at-bats (.175/.252/.222/.474) and physically looked over-matched at the plate.
There's no question that Crisp's better days are behind him; but he's surprisingly been a force to reckon with in the field, and most importantly at the dish -- as demonstrated by his clutch solo home run in yesterday's extra-innings game against the Mariners.
According to Lee and her sources, Crisp has put in an extensive amount of time and effort in his off-season and Spring Training workouts' and his efforts have translated thus far, early in the season demonstrated by his health and confidence as the A's lead-off man.
You can watch today's game on CSN California, MLB.TV or tune into the radio broadcast at 95.7 The Game beginning at 7:05 PM PT.