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8:03AM

One day, but a day of homers and brilliance for the A’s

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — Sometimes you have to take a day out of context, have to appreciate what happened in those few innings or few hours, forget about what it means in the great scheme of things, the standings, the record book, and revel in what happened.

At the Coliseum on maybe the warmest Saturday of the season — the temperature hit 80 — and for the Oakland Athletics unquestionably the most exciting, seemingly everything happened, from a ton of home runs to an 8-3 victory over the Red Sox that all but silenced all those expatriate New Englanders.

Fine pitching? Absolutely. From Oakland starter Sean Manea, who went five innings, allowed three runs and got the win (he’s now 2-3), and relievers Frankie Montas and Josh Smith, who extended the A’s bullpen streak of scoreless innings at home to 25.

Power hitting? Certainly. Four Oakland home runs, including one to dead center in the fifth by Chad Pinder that landed in the seats of the plaza level, some 460 feet away. He joins Mark McGwire, Larry Walker and Jarrett Parker to have landed balls there in the lower region of Mt. Davis since the area opened in 1996.

Consternation? Indeed. A’s manager Bob Melvin was angry after a ruling in the second on a ball that was thrown by Boston catcher Christian Vazquez (for an error) into the right field visitors bullpen. Everyone believed that Melvin argued because he wanted an extra base, but he said after being ejected by crew chief Mike Winters that he had another issue.

The A’s are last in the American League West. Boston is in the middle of the AL East. So this one didn’t exactly quite change the standings. But it was wonderful for entertainment, and isn’t that what we most demand of sports?

The Red Sox fans who once filled the Coliseum are not quite what they used to be, in numbers or voice. Game one of this four-game series Thursday night drew only around 14,000 people — a number that you might expect for the Rangers. The gate was 24,378 Friday night, but Saturday, as fine an afternoon as one could imagine, there were only 20,235. Did Red Sox Nation shrink?

Oakland had home runs by Jed Lowrie, Khris Davis, Mark Canha and that monster by Pinder. Well, shrugged Melvin, when the A’s are hitting, that’s their game. Especially when the weather is hot. Over the years, the cold nights in Oakland cost Reggie Jackson, Jose Canseco and McGwire so many chances on balls that were hit hard. But on a day like Saturday, everything takes off — as Melvin agreed.

”Everybody just sat up and watched,” said Manea. “We had a good time in the dugout. Never seen a ball hit as far as Pinder hit. He’s really built.”

Melvin said Pinder is no surprise, although he hardly expected that sort of shot. “Everybody raved about him,” Melvin said. “We just have to find a position for him.” On Saturday Pinder was the designated hitter — emphasis on the word hitter.

Pinder’s homer followed those of Canha and Khris Davis in a five-run A’s fifth. There were some walks and a single in the mix. What do we call these guys, the Lash Brothers?

"Day games, the ball carries a little more, but I don't know if any of them would have been affected," said Melvin. "It seems like they got longer and longer. Canha crushed that ball. K.D. (Khris Davis not Kevin Durant, Warriors fans), we've seen it, and the Pinder one, I don't even know how to explain that.

Neither does Pinder, but he doesn’t need to. "It's one of those swings where you kind of just black out," Pinder said. "You see it and you hit it, and you don't know what happens after."

What happens is the ball goes forever, and people who have seen it grab their head in disbelief. Including Khris Davis, who now has 13 homers himself.

"That was amazing," Davis said of the Pinder bomb. "He's got a great swing. That was impressive."

So, on this warm day of excitement and long balls, were the Oakland A’s.

10:02PM

Bochy on the Giants: ‘I like to think this was a start’

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — Still learning. “That’s the goal,” said Buster Posey, "to learn.” About the Giants, and himself. To learn how to improve, and even for a former MVP, a World Series hero, the education never stops.

For Buster. For manager Bruce Bochy. For the fans, after a week of successful baseball that finally arrived after too many weeks of failing baseball.

They learned, and we learned, that for a few games at least the Giants were able to combine pitching and hitting, play as they once played, play — yes — as they were supposed to be playing.

They won five in a row, five out of seven on a home stand that concluded Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Park with a defeat, not surprising since the other team was the Dodgers and the other pitcher was Clayton Kershaw.

“He was his usual good self,” said Bochy, an understatement of sorts. Pitched the first seven innings. Didn’t allow a run. Impossible to win if you don’t score, although the Giants finally did, on an Eduardo Nunez bases-empty home run off of ex-Giant Sergio Romo in the ninth. It was a bit of face-saving in a 6-1 defeat.

In effect, the game was over in the first when Yasmani Grandal doubled in two runs off of Johnny Cueto. Kershaw with a 2-0 lead before two innings had been played? “Very tough,” said Bochy.

Two words that apply to the Giants' road trip, which starts Friday at St. Louis and then goes to Chicago. The Cardinals are in first in the National League Central. The Cubs are World Series Champions. Posey will learn something about the Giants.

“I like to think this was a start,” said Bochy of the home stand. “We lost the opener (falling 12 games below .500), and everyone is thinking we’re out of it.

“The thing I liked is we played Giants baseball. We were in games, got quality pitching, which gave us a chance.”

In the previous few games, at Cincinnati and New York, they barely had a chance, losing 13-3, 14-2 and 6-1. The return to San Francisco, to AT&T, a pitcher’s park, changed scores and perhaps attitudes.

“We kept people away from the big inning,” said Bochy. “The thing I like about this team is there’s a sense of confidence. We just have to keep playing the way we have been.

What appeared to be a reminder of the historic Dodgers-Giants rivalry popped up — in a manner of speaking — in the third. Cueto, possibly upset with himself after giving up the first-inning hits on two-strike counts, yelled at Grandal in the third for stealing signs from Posey after the first-inning double. An inside pitch, and like that both dugouts and bullpens emptied. And that was it.

In fact, Kershaw walked through the three dozen or so players from both teams that, as is the situation in most baseball confrontations, were just grabbing or yelling and marched to the mound to take his warm-ups for the bottom of the inning.

After the game, Grandal and Cueto (now 4-3) apologized to each other. No ejections, no fines and, for the usual sellout crowd at AT&T Park, no real excitement.

“It caught me by surprise,” Grandal said of the Cueto pitch, and no, he wouldn’t dare steal a sign and relay it to a batter, one of the many unwritten rules of a sport that has many.

“We talked about it,” said Grandal, the Dodgers' catcher. “We apologized, so we’re on good terms, I guess. Let’s not make it a larger deal than it really is.”

Everything between the Giants and Dodgers is large. San Francisco fans have forever chanted “Beat L.A.” Dodgers fans, and, wow, were there great numbers at AT&T, many of them hoisting a blue banner that covered much of the right centerfield bleachers, shouted “Let’s go, Dodgers.”

On Wednesday, after losing Monday and Tuesday, the Dodgers went. It’s obvious they’re a very good team. The Giants? We, and they, still are learning.

9:29AM

Warriors in a rout — but remember the Memorial Day Massacre

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — It was known as the Memorial Day Massacre. The Boston Celtics, at home, crushed the Los Angeles Lakers, 148-114, on Memorial Day 1985 in the opening game of the NBA finals.

What a rout. What a flop by the Lakers, who once more seemed destined to fail.

But it was only one game. And in basketball, as they say, the next one begins 0-0. And the Lakers won that game, and the third game, and defying tradition won the title in six games, the ultimate victory coming at the “massacre” site, Boston Garden.

Thirty-two years ago, of course, but as current as today, a reminder that nothing is certain, not even if you beat the Lakers by 34 points. Or if you whip the San Antonio Spurs by 36 points, 136-100, as the Warriors did on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference finals.

Sure, the Warriors, up two games to none, are in control. Or it would seem that way. The Spurs, after squandering a 25-point lead Sunday and being edged, were helpless Tuesday night. They were behind 33-16 after a quarter, and it got worse. A mismatch. Yet it was just one game.

Now the series moves to San Antonio for Game 3 on Saturday, and maybe Kawhi Leonard returns for the Spurs. And maybe the intensity and spirit return as well. At home and obviously in desperation, the Spurs will be a factor instead of a disaster.

“It’s a good team,” acting Warriors coach Mike Brown said of San Antonio. “I think they went on the road and beat Houston in a Game 6 (of the conference semis) where they didn’t have Kawhi.”

After that tentative warning, Brown pointed out that for the Warriors, with seven men scoring in double figures, with a defense that kept the Spurs to 37 percent, with a relentlessness evident from start to finish, “This was a good game.””

Not because the Dubs pushed the lead to 41 points near the end. Not because they made 18 of 37 three-pointers (yes, Steph Curry was the main man with 8 of 13 and 29 points, but Kevin Durant had 6 of 10 and 16 points). Rather, because of how they played, as compared to what they did.

“It doesn’t matter how many points you win by,” said Brown, who before the game was able to confer on site with the recovering Steve Kerr, for whom he is subbing.

“Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you lose because sometimes things can just fall the other team’s way, but you do things the right way. So more than anything, yes, we want to win. But it’s how you play, too ... The score doesn’t really matter. It’s how we got to the score. It’s how we played defensively to the Spurs.“

They were missing Leonard, who re-injured his ankle stepping on the foot of the Warriors' Zaza Pachulia on Sunday. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said it was a dirty play by Pachulia. Maybe fate was listening. Pachulia left Tuesday’s game after roughly seven minutes because of a heel bruise.

Still more than Kawhi, Popovich suggested, the Spurs were missing their fire.

Tonight was not what I expected,” he said. “I’m disappointed. The only way I can process this is, I think, it’s not about X’s and O’s or rebounds or turnovers or anything like that. I think maybe we felt (Leonard’s absence) too much, Kawhi being gone, in the sense that, as I watched, I don’t think they believed. 

“And you have to believe. I don’t think as a group they really did, which means probably feeling sorry for themselves psychologically, subconsciously, whatever psycho-babble word you want to use ... I don’t think they started the game with a belief ... When you’re playing a team that’s as good as Golden State, you’re going to get embarrassed if that’s the way you come out. And we did. We didn’t come to play.”

The Warriors came, and they played, and they looked like the best team in the league, never mind the best team on the floor. It was the Warriors, flowing, racing, dominating, winning by 36 points.

But it was just one game.

10:18AM

S.F. Examiner: Is it Dirty Zaza or Unlucky Kawhi? Depends on who you support

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

OAKLAND — The issue deals with laundry, more specifically uniforms, such as which ones are the bad guys wearing. Well, “bad guys” is over the top, or in this case, under the shoes. Let’s go with “opposition.”

By the Bay, that’s the Spurs. Deep in the heart of San Antonio it would be the Warriors and Zaza Pachulia.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner

9:33AM

S.F. Examiner: After finally winning three straight, maybe the Giants are on to something

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

AT&T PARK — Maybe. That’s the only appropriate word. Maybe the Giants are about to play as everyone thought, as their manager Bruce Bochy conceded, to expectations. Maybe the breakout — their first three-game win streak of this so-far rotten season — is an indication.

Or maybe it’s just a tease.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner