Anderson, Crisp guide A's to win over Team Italy
Opening Day starter tosses three scoreless innings; center fielder goes 3-for-3
PHOENIX -- While managing the D-backs, Bob Melvin traveled with the team to Tucson, Ariz., for an exhibition game against Team Mexico, then preparing for the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Melvin, now at the helm in Oakland, remembers it well.
"I was shocked at how big the crowd was, and it ended up feeling like a Caribbean Series game," he said. "I don't think that will be the case today, but I do like the formula of playing these teams."
Indeed, the crowd at Phoenix Municipal Stadium for Tuesday's contest between the host A's and Team Italy barely eclipsed the 2,000-mark. That was a generous estimate, but those who were in attendance were treated to home runs from Italy's Anthony Rizzo and Chris Colabello.
Still, their solo shots weren't enough to claim a victory over the A's, who walked away with a 4-3 win.
Led by lefty Brett Anderson, who pitched three shutout innings in his second spring start, the A's were just as productive at the plate, where the club tallied 12 hits, one day after collecting 15.
Center fielder Coco Crisp notched three hits, and Jed Lowrie and Yoenis Cespedes each picked up two.
Crisp led off the game against Italy right-hander John Mariotti with a base hit and, after advancing to third base on a single from Lowrie, scored on Josh Reddick's RBI groundout. Cespedes followed with a sacrifice fly to hand the A's an early two-run lead.
Anderson, meanwhile, kept Italy in check, allowing just one hit -- by former A's farmhand Chris Denorfia -- and one walk with three strikeouts, extending his spring scoreless streak to five innings.
"It was a little interesting facing someone representing their country, rather than just another Major League Baseball team, because for the most part, you usually have a pretty good idea of who you're going to face in the lineup," said Anderson, who will pitch four more times this spring. "It's a different dynamic facing these guys."
Anderson, Oakland's Opening Day starter, was generally pleased with the progress made Tuesday.
"Velocity's quite not there," he said, "but I thought my command was better than the last time out, something to build off of. The first outing, you're just happy to be out there, doing something different, and you just try to get through these next couple and hone in and lock in your last few starts and get ready for April 1."
Oakland added two runs in the third against left-hander Chris Cooper, with Lowrie tallying an RBI on a double and Cespedes doing more damage via an RBI single.
Italy got on the board in the next frame, with Rizzo leading off the fourth against right-hander Henry Rodriguez with a home run off the scoreboard. Even before then, it seems, the Cubs first baseman was enjoying the unique experience of playing with his Italian teammates.
"It was kind of cool hearing the Italian anthem and the national anthem," he said. "Once you get between the lines, it's just baseball and I'm playing the A's and I'm familiar with them."
Non-roster reliever Kyler Newby was responsible for the next home run surrendered to Italy in the seventh, this one by Colabello, a first baseman in the Twins organization.
Team Italy will play Mexico on Thursday and face Canada on Friday, followed by a game Saturday against the U.S. squad.
"They played hard," Melvin acknowledged. "Until you see a team a couple of times, it's really tough to tell what they're like. You know Rizzo is going to do some damage. There were four guys in the lineup we knew something about, the others not so much. It looks like a nice team."
Up next: Oakland will enjoy its first off-day of the spring Wednesday, before resuming action on Thursday against Seattle in Peoria at 12:05 p.m. PT. The game will available exclusively as a free audio webcast on athletics.com. Lefty Tommy Milone will make his second start for the A's, opposed by Mariners right-hander Brandon Maurer.