Oakland A's MLN: Venditte Continues to Shine

Monday, April 20 featured a very full slate of games for Oakland A's affiliates. With the Midland RockHounds splitting a double-header, A's affiliates went 3-2 on the night. We review all of the day's action, as well as other news and notes from around the Oakland A's system.

Big Innings Pace Sounds

The Nashville Sounds posted two crooked numbers en route to an 11-5 victory over the Colorado Springs Sky Sox on Monday. The win earned Nashville its first series victory at their new ballpark.

Barry Zito got the start for the Sounds, but it was Nashville’s offense and bullpen that would grab the headlines. Zito allowed a run in the second and four in the fourth and finished with five runs allowed in 3.2 innings. He struck-out three, walked three and threw 49 strikes in 84 pitches.

The Sky Sox would not score again once Zito was lifted, thanks to a strong effort from Nashville relievers Pat Venditte, Brock Huntzinger and Chad Smith. Venditte extended his season-opening scoreless streak to 10 innings with 2.1 scoreless frames on Monday. The switch-pitcher allowed one hit and two walks and he struck-out one.

Huntzinger has also been impressive in the early going this season and he earned the win with a perfect seventh inning. Smith worked the final two innings of the game, scattering four hits and striking out one.

The Nashville offense made the most of their 10 hits and three walks, taking advantage of a couple of run-scoring wild pitches and an error by the Sky Sox’s Matt Clark. That error led to one unearned run. Billy Burns once again had a big game at the top of the Nashville order. He picked up two hits and a walk in four official at-bats. He stole his fifth base of the season and scored three runs. Through 12 games, Burns has 15 runs scored and he is batting .394.

Kent Matthes had a key three-run double and Niuman Romero picked up two hits and a walk in three official at-bats. With Max Muncy getting the night off, Anthony Aliotti got the start at first. He picked up a single and a walk in two official at-bats and raised his early season average to .353.

With the win, the Sounds move to 7-5 on the year. They welcome Oklahoma City next. Thus far, the Sounds have played only Colorado Springs and Oklahoma City this season.

RockHounds Split a Pair

It was a tale of two games for Midland on Monday, as the RockHounds were on the wrong end of a blow-out in Game One of a double-header, but then came back to post a shut-out win in Game Two.

Game One was a disaster from the start for Midland. Starter Chris Lamb was charged with eight runs (seven earned) in one inning. He was followed by reliever Jim Fuller, who coughed up five runs in one inning, putting the RockHounds down by a score of 13-0 after two frames. Kris Hall fared a little better, but he still allowed three more runs in two innings of work. Ryan Dull finally settled down the Arkansas Travelers with two scoreless innings. Midland’s offense would manage just two hits in the 16-0 drubbing.

As it turned out, Dull’s outing was a portend of things to come in Game Two. The Midland pitching staff – led by starter Zach Neal – did a complete 180 and posted a five-hit shut-out in Midland’s 3-0 win. Neal went six innings, allowing just four hits and a walk. He struck-out five and recorded eight outs on the ground. Bobby Wahl came on in the bottom of the seventh and worked a quick inning. He allowed a hit but still retired the side on just 11 pitches. Wahl earned his second save of the season. The hard-throwing right-hander has three scoreless appearances to start his season.

Midland could muster only five hits and three runs in Game Two, but it enough for the win. Matt Olson, Chad Pinder and Jaycob Brugman each picked up doubles. Brugman had two hits in Game Two and three overall for the day. Brugman came into Monday with only two hits in eight games.

With the double-header split, the RockHounds moved to 4-7 on the year.

Covey Solid but Ports Fall

After a rough second start of the season, Dylan Covey recovered to throw seven strong innings in his third start for the Stockton Ports. Unfortunately, Covey would be hung with the loss, as the Ports’ offense stalled in a 5-1 defeat to the Bakersfield Blaze.

Covey had his sinker working on Monday. The right-hander recorded 15 outs on the ground and only one in the air. He did allow a solo homerun, although the homerun would likely have been an out in many other stadiums. Covey struck-out just two, but he walked only one and threw an efficient 76 pitches, 52 for strikes.

Relievers Sam Roberts and Corey Walter allowed three runs combined over the final two innings of the game, although none of those runs were earned. The Ports committed five errors in the game, with two coming from shortstop Franklin Barreto.

The Ports managed just eight hits and couldn’t push a run across until the ninth inning. B.J. Boyd and Tyler Marincov accounted for half of the Ports’ offense with two hits each. Marincov had a triple, his second of the year. Branden Cogswell picked up a double, his first extra-base hit of the season.

The Ports are now 5-7 on the year.

Beloit Roars Back in Come-from-Behind Win

Up 3-0 in the second inning, the Beloit Snappers saw their lead disappear when the Clinton Lumber Kings scored four times in the third and once in the fourth off of Beloit starter Brett Graves. The Snappers fought back and used a four-run sixth to earn a 7-5 win.

The middle of the Beloit order had a big night, as number three hitter Max Kuhn had two hits and an RBI, number four hitter Sandber Pimentel collected his sixth double of the season and added a walk and an RBI, and number five hitter Shawn Duinkerk had a two-hit night. Left fielder Joe Bennie also added two hits and a walk.

Graves had a rough outing, allowing five runs on 11 hits in five innings. Five of those hits went for extra-bases, including one homerun. Graves did strike-out six, however, and he walked only one.

The Beloit bullpen bailed Graves out on Monday. Corey Miller threw two hitless innings, and he was followed by Rob Huber and Trevor Bayless, who each tossed a scoreless inning. Bayless has yet to allow a run in five innings this season. He has 10 strike-outs and just two walks and two hits allowed. He earned his first save of the season on Monday.

The Snappers moved their record to 4-8. They have won three-of-four after a seven-game losing streak.

Notes from Extended Spring Training

Report from Kimberly Contreras

Dustin Driver, Chris Kohler, Tyler Johnson, Cody Kurz, Tyler Painton and Travis Pitcher all pitched well on Monday. In rehab news, corner infielders Matt Chapman (knee) and Nate Freiman (back) got time in Monday’s game at DH. Renato Nunez (calf) played most of the game at third base. Josh Whitaker (shoulder) played in right field and is seeing the ball well at the plate.

Other Notes

-- The Stockton Ports will retire left-hander Dallas Braden’s number 50 on May 2. Braden, a Stockton native, pitched for the Ports in 2005 and then again on rehab assignments in 2006 and 2010. The left-hander spent five years with the A’s, throwing a perfect game in 2010 and finishing his big league career with a 4.16 ERA in 491.1 innings.

-- Former A’s top prospect Addison Russell is being promoted to the big leagues on Tuesday, according to CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. Russell is the first signed member of the A’s 2012 draft class to reach the big leagues. He is currently batting .318 with an 803 OPS in 11 games for Triple-A Iowa. Russell was traded to Chicago last July in the Jeff Samardzija deal.

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