Trevor Plouffe

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And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Pirates 10, Nationals 4: Adam Frazier had a heck of a game out of the leadoff spot for the Buccos, going 3-for-5 with four RBI. Tanner Roark started for the Nationals but gave up seven runs in five-plus frames. Roark finished 10th in NL Cy Young Voting last year with a 2.83 ERA, but he’s now sporting a 4.73 ERA this season over nine starts.

Rockies 5, Twins 1 (Game 1): Nolan Arenado hit a solo home run in the first inning to put the Rockies up early and they never looked back. Arenado also made a sweet backhand play in the bottom half of the first. While he hasn’t had an explosive month and a half the way Bryce Harper has, it still would not be surprising if he once again winds up in the NL MVP race.

Twins 2, Rockies 0 (Game 2): Jose Berrios pitched one of the best games of the year, blanking the Rockies on two hits and a walk with 11 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings. Berrios looked lost last year, when he put up an 8.02 ERA in 14 starts, but he’s been much better so far this season. He held the Indians to one run in 7 2/3 innings last Saturday. The Twins now have a slight first-place lead in the AL Central now. Who’dathunkit.

Cubs 9, Reds 5: Six losses in a row for the Reds now. Javier Baez gave the Cubs a large early cushion, crushing a grand slam in the first inning off of Amir Garrett. Kris Bryant also crushed a solo home run to center field in the fourth. Ian Happ collected two more hits to raise his average to .353 and his OPS to 1.324 since being called up.

Tigers 6, Orioles 5: J.D. Martinez stays red-hot as he blasted another homer, a three-run shot. He also drew three walks. In six games since making his season debut, Martinez has five homers and 11 RBI in 25 PA. Three Orioles homered: Chris Davis, Adam Jones, and Seth Smith. But the Tigers’ bullpen, surprisingly, was able to hold onto a narrow lead — something that has been a rarity this season.

Rangers 8, Phillies 4: Nine wins in a row for the Rangers now. To be fair, they’ve beaten up on the lowly Padres, Athletics, and Phillies, but still. Ryan Rua struck the big blow in this one, as his fifth-inning three-run home run capped off a five run inning. Martin Perez pitched well, holding the Phillies to two runs on five hits and no walks with eight strikeouts over seven innings.

Brewers 4, Padres 2: The first-place Brewers added to their lead in the NL Central as the Cardinals had the night off. Leadoff man Eric Sogard collected four hits and three RBI. Eric Thames finally made an appearance, but as a pinch-hitter and he made an out, stranding two runners. Zach Davies put up a quality start, yielding two runs in six innings. For the Padres, Hunter Renfroe went yard again, giving him three in his last five ballgames.

Blue Jays 9, Braves 0: After Wednesday’s fracas, the storyline going into Thursday’s game was centered around Jose Bautista, who flipped his bat after hitting a home run last night. Sure enough, Julio Teheran threw an inside fastball and hit Bautista on the thigh. Both benches were warned and nothing else happened. Thankfully, a better narrative emerged as catcher Luke Maile and starter Marcus Stroman hit back-to-back home runs, becoming the first American League battery to go back-to-back since May 9, 1970, per Sportsnet. That’s before the DH era began. As for the pitching, Stroman was solid but inefficient, lasting only 5 2/3 innings after throwing 103 pitches.

Royals 5, Yankees 1: Danny Duffy’s excellence continued, as he tossed seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts. Mike Moustakas gave the Royals plenty of breathing room with a three-run home run in the fifth.

Athletics 8, Red Sox 3: Red Sox starter Hector Velasquez got knocked around for six runs in five frames in his major league debut. The A’s hit three homers, including Khris Davis who now has 12 on the year. Trevor Plouffe collected three hits. Every regular in the Athletics’ lineup had a hit except Stephen Vogt.

Dodgers 7, Marlins 2: Hyun-Jin Ryu held the Marlins to two runs in 5 1/3 innings. Yasiel Puig crushed a two-run home run halfway up the bleachers in left field off of Edinson Volquez in the second inning. Statcast measured that one at 442 feet. Kenley Jansen turned in an immaculate inning in the ninth to close out the game. There were a total of three immaculate innings in 2015 and ’16 combined, but we’ve already had four this season: Drew Storen, Craig Kimbrel, Max Scherzer, and Jansen.

Mariners 5, White Sox 4: The Mariners picked up their fifth walk-off win of the season as Guillermo Heredia singled to bring in Jarrod Dyson in the bottom of the ninth inning. Jean Segura hit a three-run home run to extend his hitting streak to 17 games. He now has a .359 average and a .915 OPS.

2017 Preview: Oakland Athletics

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Oakland Athletics.

The A’s aren’t gonna be that great this year, you guys. Sorry about that, but it’s true. In this it will be much like last year.

But it will look a bit different than last year at least. The A’s signed Santiago CasillaMatt JoyceTrevor Plouffe and Rajai Davis to a combined $33.25 million in contracts. I don’t see how that makes them appreciably better, but they will be different.

Khris Davis is the biggest offensive weapon. He hit 42 homers last year. Marcus Semien hit 27. And despite those heroics, the A’s offense was dead last in the AL in 2016. Rajai Davis gives them a stolen base threat and Joyce had nice resurgence in a little under 300 plate appearances, but I’m not seeing how this crew is all that better than they were. I mean, I’m sure Trevor Plouffe is a nice young man, but he’s not an offensive difference maker. The biggest chance for improvement comes from a full season of Ryon Healy, who hit quite well in 72 games last year. He was also moved off of third base for Plouffe and into the DH role at the age of 25, so temper your expectations.

Turning to the rotation, Sonny Gray at the top of things looked great heading into last season, but then he regressed badly, posting an unsightly 5.69 ERA in 2016. The A’s don’t need him to be be third in the Cy Young voting again, but they certainly need him to be their ace, and last year he wasn’t that. He’ll get a late start to the season due to a back injury — he may miss the entire first month — so things are already starting off badly.

After Gray comes Sean Manaea, who debuted last year and improved as the season went along. Kendall Graveman was serviceable last year, but he doesn’t miss many bats and it’s hard to pitch well in this league when you’re striking out as few batters as Graveman does. Jharel Cotton is an intriguing fourth starter. He came over in the Rich Hill deal and continued his excellent work in the minors before a late season callup. He is homer-prone but doesn’t walk a ton of guys. Definitely a guy to watch for the future. Andrew Triggs is a swingman who was pressed into the rotation late in the year. The A’s liked what they saw, but he has been a reliever all through the minors. Organizations tend to do that to guys who they don’t think will be decent starters, so I’m not sure what a few starts at the end of a season really mean.

If Gray bounces back to 2015 form, Graveman continues to be lucky on batted balls and the other guys deliver on their small-sample-size promise, hey, things aren’t too bad! But when was the last time that kind of five-for-five gamble paid off? Odds are on a nice surprise here, some stasis there and some regression and/or growing pains mixed in to form a pretty meh rotation. And given that the A’s defense was terrible last year and doesn’t look all that better this year, look for a lot of unearned runs. And earned runs that should’ve been unearned.

The bullpen features some notable names — Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, John Axford and Santiago Casilla have all been closers in the past — with Ryan DullLiam Hendriks and Raul Alcantara providing more depth. Dull is anything but his name. His excellent K/BB ratio last year — 73/15 in 74.1 innings — is downright interesting. These guys will inherit a lot of deficits instead of leads, however, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the A’s trade off a one or two of the ~Proven Closers~ at the deadline as well.

The A’s won 69 games last year. There are three contenders in the division who are significantly better and an Angels team that employs some considerably more talented players despite its obvious flaws. The A’s have just as many flaws and top out with Khris Davis, a rebound candidate starting the year on the DL as their best starter and some interesting young arms. All of that adds up to a long, long summer from where I’m sitting.

Prediction: Fifth place, American League West.

Athletics sign Trevor Plouffe

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The Athletics have signed free agent third baseman Trevor Plouffe, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The deal is pending a physical. Financial details are not yet known.

Plouffe, 30, had an injury-shortened 2016 campaign, finishing with a .260/.303/.420 triple-slash line along with 12 home runs and 47 RBI in 344 plate appearances. He was limited to 84 games due to an intercostal strain and a fractured rib.

Plouffe, who hits right-handed, is likely to take the lion’s share of playing time at third base. Ryon Healy may shift across the diamond and share time at first base with Yonder Alonso. The club hasn’t announced anything officially yet, and spring training is likely to provide more clarity on that situation.