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Spring Training Game #13: Prospects keep hitting, Oakland A’s win fifth straight

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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s kept rolling on Friday, as their young hitters kept pounding the ball and their pitching staff mostly took care of business. Their 11-7 victory over the Royals is their fifth in a row this spring, and seventh out of their last eight games. The A’s have now scored 51 runs in their last four games.

*** Click here to revisit today’s Game Thread! ***

Cotton’s brilliant start sets tone

While the final score makes this one look like a balanced slugfest, most of the runs on both sides came in the last couple innings of garbage time. Jharel Cotton started the game by retiring the first nine batters in order, and a walk leading off the 4th was his only imperfection. His final line: 3⅓ ip, 1 run, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 0 hits.

Simon Castro, Ryan Dull, and Daniel Coulombe followed in relief, and by the end of six innings the A’s were leading a tight 2-1 affair. That’s the part that matters as far as judging the upcoming 2017 MLB season.

And then the minor league portion of the game arrived and the runs began pouring in. The A’s struck harder and held their lead throughout, but Oakland’s pitchers had their troubles too. Kansas City stole a cheap run off Coulombe in the 7th (cleaned up quickly by Sam Bragg), then they went to town on Paul Blackburn for five more over the final two frames — including a pair of homers, and a triple by Billy Burns. Lou Trivino squashed the final rally in the 9th to end it.

The important takeaway here is that Cotton was brilliant. He might be opening the season as the No. 3 starter now that Sonny Gray is out, so another positive day from him is a sight for eyes so sore they’re stuck on the disabled list too.

Lineup comes to play, again

The A’s only scored in three different innings, but they made it count with some crooked numbers. The highlights mostly belonged to the top prospects, with help along the way from some sloppy Royals defense.

Matt Olson got the party started against Jason Hammel by literally hitting the ball out of the park. Not just over the outfield wall, but what appears to be past the stands and into the street beyond the stadium.

Jaff Decker added an RBI double later in the frame, but that was it until the 7th. Decker was later involved in a collision at first base with Royals infielder Raul Mondesi and left the game early, but Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle reports that he’s fine. (Mondesi is day-to-day.)

The pitcher’s duel came to an abrupt end in that 7th inning. The A’s strung a few hits together, and then Chad Pinder capped off the rally by launching a three-run dinger to left. These were the second homers of the spring for both Olson and Pinder.

Oakland kept rolling in the 8th. The first four batters reached base, including an RBI double by Bruce Maxwell, and between an error by the Royals and a homer by Andrew Lambo the A’s tacked another five runs on the board. That onslaught was too much for Kansas City to overcome.

To get a better idea of this one, here are the lines of some key A’s prospects:

Matt Olson, 1B: 1-for-3, HR, no Ks
Chad Pinder, 2B: 1-for-3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 Ks
Renato Nunez, 3B: 2-for-3, run, SB
Matt Chapman, 3B: 2 BB, run
Bruce Maxwell, C: 1-for-1, BB, 2B, RBI, 2 runs

Depth veterans Decker, Lambo, and Matt McBride also chipped in with big hits.

It’s only spring training, but dang, it’s fun to see these prospects get hot all at once. It’s like glimpsing into the future we’ve been dreaming about for the last couple years. Hopefully it’s not an Arizona mirage.

The A’s go for six straight against the Rangers on Saturday!