A's MLN: Pennington Off And Running

It took a few games, but Oakland A's 2005 first round draft choice Cliff Pennington has started to hit – and run. The speedy shortstop from Texas A&M fits right in with a Cougar squad that has been running with frequency this season. We check in on the "Go-Go Cougars" to see how they did against Beloit on Wednesday night and how Pennington is fitting into the Cougars' line-up.

After collecting only three hits in his first five games of the season, Cliff Pennington earned his first multiple-hit game of his career with a 2-5 night on Tuesday. He picked up his first professional RBI and stole two bases. Pennington followed up that game with a 3-6, two RBI effort on Wednesday night, helping the Cougars beat Beloit by a score of 9-1.

Pennington was an effective base-stealer and top of the order presence throughout his collegiate career and he appears to be on his way to filling those same roles with the Cougars. Already Pennington has attempted five stolen bases in seven games. He was caught his first two times, but has been successful on his last three attempts.

As everyone who follows the Oakland A's organization is well aware, the A's do not generally run much. The same has generally held true for the A's minor league affiliates, as well. While the Sacramento, Midland, and Stockton squads have been relatively stagnant on the bases this year, Kane County and Vancouver have been thieving at a prolific rate.

The Cougars, in particular, has been consistently running. Earlier this season, we spoke with Kane County outfielder Nick Blasi about the Cougars' running ways:

"Last season [in Vancouver], they wouldn't let us steal, but this year they are encouraging us to steal and have been challenging me to get better at it," Blasi said. "I stole some in college, but I was never running as much as now. The coaches have been working with me to focus on what to look for when I steal a base, my footwork, etc., and I think I have been making improvements."

That work has paid off up and down the Kane County line-up. With Kevin Melillo swiping his tenth bag of the season on Wednesday, he joins Blasi and Javier Herrera as Cougars with ten or more stolen bases on the season. Herrera leads the team with 15 stolen bases in 16 attempts. And with Pennington having collected three in only seven games played, it seems only a matter of time before the Cougars have another ten stolen base player. As a team, the Cougars are on pace to steal 80 bases on the year.

Vancouver has also been busy on the bases in this early season. In only nine games this year, the Canadians have stolen 16 bases. Chris Tritle, who had been with Kane County earlier in the season, has been on a hot streak on the bases since arriving in Vancouver. He stole his sixth base on Wednesday night in Vancouver's 3-1 win. Tritle has yet to be caught.

Other Notes:

-- The Kane County Cougars moved over the .500 mark with a solid 9-1 win over Beloit. Starter Tony Evans has been a godsend in the Cougars' starting rotation since joining the team as a free agent at the beginning of June. He has made four starts and has won them all. On Wednesday, Evans allowed one run in seven innings. He struck out three and walked one. Evans now sports a 1.32 ERA for the season and he has 15 strikeouts against five walks over 27 innings pitched. Evans had plenty of run-support on Wednesday. Every Cougar had at least one hit. Pennington led the way with three hits and the Cougars' 1-2-3 batters (Melillo, Pennington and Myron Leslie) drove in six of the Cougars' nine runs. Leslie clubbed his fifth homerun of the year, a two-run shot in the fifth inning. Leslie has been scuffling a bit. The Midwest League All-Star has seen his batting average fall from .316 to .291.

-- A few familiar faces are working on their rehab assignments with the A's Rookie League team. Oakland reliever Chad Bradford made his third rehab appearance for the A's. He worked a scoreless inning and has now thrown three scoreless frames over the past ten days. Bradford should be in-line to return to the Oakland bullpen after the All-Star break. Starter Brad Sullivan made his first start in an official game this season on Tuesday. He allowed two runs in 3.2 innings on five hits. He struck out one and walked zero. Sullivan has been working his way back from a sore shoulder. Third baseman Brian Snyder, who was the A's top third base prospect coming into this season, has joined the Rookie squad to continue his rehab from an oblique strain suffered in spring training. He should see game action soon.

-- Bradford gave way to Anthony Rea and Rea turned in four strong innings to earn the win. He struck out four and walked one in those four scoreless frames. The A's gave Rea plenty of support, as the Rookie A's beat the Rookie Mariners by a score of 9-1. The Rookie A's collected 13 hits. Shortstop Benjamin Ingold led the way, going 2-4 with a double and three RBI. Leftfielder Ramon Alvarado also had two RBI. Catcher Pedro Maldonado reached base in all four of his plate appearances, collecting two hits and two walks. He also scored twice. Andre Piper-Jordan, the former collegiate wideout, went 2-5 in the lead-off spot. He collected his first triple of the season and he drove in a run.

-- Alex Santos is human after all. The Midland closer has been automatic all season, but he hit a bump in the road on Wednesday in the Rockhounds' 5-4 loss to Wichita. Santos came on in a tie game in the 9th inning, with the score knotted at 3-3. He worked a scoreless ninth but was touched for two runs in the top of the 10th. Midland scored one in the bottom of the 10th on Andre Ethier's 12th homerun of the year, but it wasn't enough. Santos was uncharacteristically wild on Wednesday, as he walked two. On the season, Santos has walked only 9 batters in 30.1 innings. The loss was Santos' first of the year. His ERA for Midland now sits at 1.11. Ethier went 3-5 with that homer and his 19th double. Vasili Spanos also doubled and drove in two runs.

-- Vancouver improved to 6-3 on the season with a 3-1 win over Tri-City. Starter Jeff Gray was outstanding, going seven innings. He allowed one run on three hits and didn't walk a batter. He struck out four. Chalon Tietje walked three times in the lead-off spot and scored a run. Chris Tritle and Haas Pratt also scored runs. The Canadians scored three runs but had only one RBI, as they managed to score on a wild pitch and a fielding error.

-- Sacramento had a much-needed day off. Freddie Bynum, who has been the River Cats' hottest hitter over the past month, rolled his ankle on Monday and will be out for at least a week. All-Star Matt Watson was hit by a pitch in Tuesday's game and was sent to the hospital for x-rays. On the plus side, the River Cats are 10 games over .500 for the first time this season.

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