OAKLAND — Yoenis Cespedes is not in the starting lineup tonight as the A’s get their first look this season at Rangers ace Yu Darvish. Cespedes has been bothered off-and-on by a bruised right heel, and manager Bob Melvin said he felt he was "best-served to give (Cespedes) a day." The heel bothers Cespedes when running, but Melvin said Cespedes is a potential option off the bench tonight.
That leaves the A’s with only one right-handed hitter (Josh Donaldson) in the lineup -- one reason Melvin decided to bump John Jaso up to the No. 2 spot tonight, ahead of Jed Lowrie and Donaldson. There’s also the fact Jaso has some good career numbers against Darvish: He’s 4-for-13 with two home runs and two walks.
In fact, no team has had the success against Darvish that the A’s have since the Japanese right-hander entered the league. Darvish is 1-6 with a 4.30 ERA in seven starts against the A’s, including 0-4 last season with a 4.13 ERA. Part of the reason: The Rangers have scored two runs or less in five of his six losses to the A’s.
Asked what’s behind the success against Darvish, Melvin said: "That’s a good question. We do have a way about making pitchers work, sometimes throw a lot of pitches, get a few guys on and then maybe we get a good pitch to hit. Other times we’ve stayed with him a little bit, gotten him out of the game and done a little better off the bullpen.
"But really no recipe. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, and his numbers would indicate that. We’ve just been lucky enough to do fairly well."
Darvish in three starts this season has allowed two runs in 22 innings for a 0.82 ERA, while striking out 23 hitters and walking four. So if the A’s do get to him tonight, they’ll be the first team on the year to do so. Here’s the lineup they’ll send out against him:
And the Rangers’ lineup against A’s right-hander Dan Straily:
Melvin said the defensive struggles may be as much mental as anything. "Kind of like any hitter that’s in a slump, we just need to get a few games back to back together, put it aside, so we’re not hearing about it all the time and I’m not addressing it," he said. Still, he said the pre-game defensive drills will probably be a regular occurrence.
Rangers manager Ron Washington before the game called Kouzmanoff, who played for the A’s in 2010 and 2011, a "godsend. … I don’t know where we’d be without him."
"This is the team you judge yourselves by," Washington said of the A’s. "Right now they’re the leaders.
"It’s certainly not going to make or break our season if it doesn’t go our way. … But excitement is in the air."