Cotton gets 1st MLB win, Alonso has 3 hits for A's
By Justin Wise and Rick Eymer
OAKLAND -- Four different A's batters recorded run-scoring base knocks and Jharel Cotton worked 6 1/ 3 shutdown innings as Oakland earned a series win over the Angels with a 4-1 victory at the Coliseum on Wednesday afternoon.
Making his Major League debut, the moment never seemed too grand for Cotton while he seamlessly dispatched Los Angeles batters for the majority of his outing. The 24-year old didn't surrender a hit until the fourth inning and didn't allow an extra-base hit until C.J. Cron blasted a solo home run off him in the 7th. But one blemish aside, Cotton appeared like a viable option for the A's in the final weeks of the season.
"He made it look easy early on," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Cotton. "You expect maybe a walk, couple of baserunners, have to pitch out of a jam early on before you get settled. That never happened. The most impressive thing was that he went right after them, used all his pitches and really didn't have any trouble spots early in the game."
Trouble spots were almost nonexistent during Cotton's outing and he earned his first Major League win thanks to the result. He also earned a warm reception from both his teammates and the Oakland fans upon exiting the game. "That was pretty special," said Cotton. "I saw everyone come in to congratulate me and that was a fun feeling."
Cotton's performance was a welcome sign for an A's lineup that entered Wednesday's rubber game struggling with consistency. But the group found its rhythm at the plate and scored two runs as part of a three-hit fourth inning. Yonder Alonso added one more after singling with the bases loaded in the fifth before Ryon Healy highlighted the performance with a solo home run in the seventh, helping Oakland win a series over an American League West foe for the first time since late July.
Angels starter Alex Meyer allowed just one run and one hit, but struggled with his command throughout his outing. He surrendered five walks in 3 1/ 3 innings before exiting the game.
"Two four-pitch walks, you can't have that," Meyer said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Breaking out: The A's entered the series finale having been no-hit through the first five innings in three of their last four games. And it took the club until the bottom of the fourth to muster a base knock Wednesday, after Alonso doubled to open the inning. But a snowball effect followed, as Max Muncy and Brett Eibner recorded consecutive RBI hits to give the A's a 2-0 lead.
"We want to get guys on base and get opportunities," Melvin said. "We just haven't been getting guys on, so they had a good approach up and down the lineup today. We had some deep counts, we had some walks. I thought our at-bats as a whole today were much better."
Mishandled throw: Alonso was going to be out by several feet at the plate trying to score on Muncy's single. That is, until catcher Jett Bandy was unable to cleanly handle the throw from left fielder Nick Buss. Alfonso's double leading off the fourth was the only hit allowed by Meyer, making his Angels debut. Reliever Jose Alvarez came in and gave up RBI hits to the first two batters he faced.
Setting the tone: Cotton was perfect over his first three innings to begin his Major League career. But that wouldn't have been the case if not for Jake Smolinski's diving grab in left field in the first. It initially appeared that Kole Calhoun had lined a single. But Smolinski got a bead on it and cradled the ball between his glove and his chest while falling to the turf. The Angels challenged Smolinski's catch of Calhoun's sinking liner and the call was upheld. The Angels would rarely threaten offensively Wednesday after that.
"I was kind of nervous, but I think I got all of my jitters out in the bullpen," said Cotton. "Great catch by Smolinski, got me hyped up. So after that catch, I was good from there."
Going deep: Cron got the Angels' second hit of the game and it was a blast. The first baseman crushed a 3-2 pitch to straightaway center to put the Angels on the scoreboard. Cron was batting third in the order for just the second time all year. Normally the kingdom of Albert Pujols or Mike Trout -- both out of the lineup -- Cron was trying to uphold the mighty offensive reputation of the Angels' duo. Pujols and Trout represent 56 home runs, 198 RBIs, 46 doubles and 169 runs scored. The next three best Angel run producers (Cron, Calhoun and Jefry Marte) have a combined 44 home runs, 164 RBIs and 129 runs scored. More >
"You can't always know. It depends when a guy needs it. They've both been grinding. It's a good time to give them a day off." -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia before Wednesday's game, on Pujols and Trout both being out of the lineup.
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Cotton became the first A's starting pitcher to last longer than six innings and hold an opponent to two hits or fewer in his Major League debut since Porter Vaughan did it in 1940 for the Philadelphia A's.
WHAT'S NEXT Angels: Left-hander Tyler Skaggs takes the mound on Friday night when the Angels open a three-game series at home against the Rangers at 7:05 p.m. PT. Skaggs is on a two-game winning streak. He's 2-1 with a 7.90 ERA in three starts against the Rangers.
A's: Following an off-day, Daniel Mengden will take the ball when the A's and Mariners begin a three-game series at 7:05 p.m. on Friday at the Coliseum. The A's are 5-7 against Seattle this year. Mengden has never faced the Mariners.