Punchless A’s get shutout for 11th time in 53 games

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It was Francisco Liriano on Thursday. Felipe Paulino did it Friday. And now Kansas City’s Vin Mazzaro is the latest pitcher to shut down the A’s, throwing six scoreless innings Sunday as the A’s were shut out for the 11th time this season.

No team since 1918 had ever been shut out 11 times in its first 53 games, as the A’s have. The 2005 Astros were the last of the 12 teams since 1918 to have gotten shut out 10 times through 53 games.

Mazzaro, a former A’s pitcher who was traded to the Royals for David DeJesus prior to the 2011 season, entered the day with a 5.12 ERA in 40 starts and 10 relief appearances as a major leaguer.

14 Athletics players have amassed at least 60 at-bats this season. Six of those 14 guys are hitting under .200. Josh Reddick and Collin Cowgill are the only ones hitting even .250, and Cowgill, with one extra-base base hit in 61 at-bats, has a .279 slugging percentage to go along with his .262 average. Seven of the 14 players are slugging less than .300.

Shortstop Cliff Pennington went 0-for-3 today, extending his hitless skid to 29 at-bats.

Today’s result must have made Luke Hochevar feel all the worse. The former No. 1 overall pick gave up six runs to the A’s on Saturday in what turned out to be a 9-3 loss for the Royals. Excluding that one, the A’s have scored a total of eight runs in their last seven games.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.