Nick Punto, Billy Burns in the house for first A’s-Dodgers Cactus League meeting of 2014.

Nick Punto

Nick Punto’s contract with the A’s nearly doubled his $1.5 million salary from 2013. (Getty Images)


The first Cactus League meeting between the Dodgers and Oakland A’s contains a few interesting subplots (none of which have anything do with the 1988 World Series, but if you’re feeling nostalgic it’s there for you).

Nick Punto is starting at shortstop for the A’s. The 36-year-old utilityman batted .255/.328/.327 last year in 335 plate appearances (116 games) for the Dodgers.

Punto turned that into a one-year deal with an option for a second year that guarantees $3 million. He is the A’s ninth-highest paid player. The Dodgers’ ninth-highest paid players this year are Dan Haren and Brian Wilson ($10 million each).

Dee Gordon gets the start at second base and leads off for the Dodgers. Billy Burns is leading off for the A’s. Gordon and Burns rank 1-2 among all spring training players in stolen bases. Gordon is 8-for-8 and Burns, who finished last season with the Washington Nationals’ Double-A affiliate, is 7-for-9.

Gordon is batting .208/.296/.375 in 12 spring games.

Zack Greinke threw a bullpen session this morning with Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis two days after a two-inning simulated game.

Here are both lineups for the game at Camelback Ranch:
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A’s 3, Dodgers 3. Update.

The Dodgers and A’s were tied at 3 apiece after the top of the ninth inning at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Wednesday, when everyone agreed to go home. [box score]

“Four veteran umpires out there,” manager Don Mattingly quipped after the Dodgers “moved” (to borrow a common hockey phrase) to 1-1-1.

Most of the Dodgers’ starting position players were given the day off, but it was the first live-game action for starting pitcher Aaron Harang and relievers Kenley Jansen, Scott Elbert and Javy Guerra, all of whom are expected to play important roles out of the bullpen this season.

Harang had an awful four-batter stretch in the first inning, allowing two doubles, two singles and two earned runs –all with two outs. Otherwise he was perfect, but left with the Dodgers trailing 2-0.

“That’s why we throw 5 or 6 starts throughout the spring,” said Harang. The left-hander had been dealing with foot soreness earlier in the spring but he said that was not an issue today.

Jansen, Elbert and Guerra all threw scoreless innings, though it was a bit of a struggle for Elbert and Guerra.

Elbert allowed a walk and a single with two outs in his lone inning, the sixth, then struck out the A’s Cedric Hunter with runners on first and third. Guerra allowed a pair of walks in the seventh but was bailed out by a double play when he struck out Josh Reddick, and Eric Sogard was caught stealing third base, to end the inning.

Cory Sullivan, getting his first Cactus League start in left field, went 3-for-4. The rest of the Dodgers lineup went 1 for 25.

A few more notes:
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Dodgers win the game, 3-2, and the series

All three games of the Oakland-LA series ended with one-run margins of victory, and the Dodgers managed to take two of them. Chalk this one up to clutch hitting and clutch pitching, as Mark Loretta knocked a big single to left in the seventh to score James Loney from first — his first hit in his last 15 pinch-hit at-bats — and Ronald Belisario and Ramon Troncoso were near-perfect in the eighth and ninth to clinch the 3-2 win.

So despite an awful decision by Rafael Furcal to direct a Juan Pierre throw to second in the top half of the seventh — it allowed Rajai Davis to score from first on a single by Nomar — the Dodgers managed to record their 44th W of the season.

Despite pitching six one-run innings, Randy Wolf got his 10th no decision of 2009. The Dodgers are still 10-5 in his 15 starts this year.

Russell Martin broke out a bit, going 1-for-2 and reaching base twice, and Orlando Hudson — hitting .220 in June coming into Thursday’s game — hit a solo home run in the third.

With the win, Joe Torre breaks a tie with Sparky Anderson and moves into sole possession of fifth place for the most managerial wins in history, with 2,195.

Ace vs. Ace tomorrow, as Chad Billingsley and Joe Saunders square off in the Freeway Series in Anaheim.

6/18: A’s at Dodgers

Randy Wolf will start tonight for the Dodgers despite the news that he has been suffering from a persistent cough for the last six weeks. He underwent tests yesterday. Obviously, the cough hasn’t been affecting his performance too much, as the 32-year-old lefthander has recorded a 3.41 ERA — which would be his second-best effort of his career over a full season — thus far.

Vin Mazzaro will be making his fourth career start for the A’s; his first three resulted in a 2-1 record and 1.37 ERA. From what I’ve read about him, he’s a young sinkerballer with a developing plus-curveball. He pitches to contact, and if his control is on, he is a real innings-eater.

Russell Martin announced today that he will be donating $600,00 over the next 10 years to the One Drop Foundation in an effort to provide higher access to clean water among the poor. Martin will also serve as the foundation’s spokesman. Check out the foundation’s site here. It’s in French, by the way.

Dodgers
Pierre, LF
Furcal, SS
Hudson, 2B
Blake, 3B
Ethier, RF
Kemp, CF
Loney, 1B
Martin, C
Wolf, P

Athletics
Kennedy, 2B
Suzuki, C
Cust, RF
Holliday, LF
Giambi, 1B
Cabrera, SS
Crosby, 3B
Davis, CF
Mazzaro, P

A’s turn it around on Dodgers, win 5-4

So the score was 5-4 again tonight, the second such score in a row, but the A’s took home the victory this time. Hiroki Kuroda — winless since Opening Day — was mediocre in his six innings of work, and the Dodgers produced only one run not aided by Oakland’s three errors.

Oakland starter Trevor Cahill wasn’t brilliant, struggling a bit with his control and reminding some of Chad Billingsley circa 2006 in his 5 1/3 innings.

The Dodgers had a chance to come back in the ninth, with Rafael Furcal at first and no out with A’s closer Andrew Bailey on the mound, but Orlando Hudson and James Loney quickly popped out and Casey Blake grounded into a force play.

Russell Martin’s slide has continued, as the 26-year-old catcher has slumped to a .236 with zero home runs and a .625 OPS. His .278 slugging percentage is the third worst of any major leaguer with at least 200 at-bats, and although his .347 OBP is still better than the league average, the extreme lack of power is a bit worrisome.

Matt Kemp went 1-for-3 and stole two bases off the Cahill-Kurt Suzuki battery. The Dodgers’ Randy Wolf and A’s phenom Vin Mazzaro start tomorrow. Mazzaro had pitched 17 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings to begin his career before the Giants scored three runs off of him last Friday. Still, the 22-year-old righthander has a 1.37 ERA and a 2-1 record thus far.

6/17: A’s at Dodgers

Hiroki Kuroda takes the mound tonight for the Dodgers, hoping to rebound off a subpar outing and extend LA’s winning streak to four. Hoping to do just the opposite is Oakland righthander Trevor Cahill, a 21-year-old with outstanding stuff. Typically, the Dodgers do well against these types of guys. And don’t look now, but Matt Kemp is hitting the cover off the ball, OPSing .873 with 14 stolen bases.

With a win, the Dodgers would move to 44-22, a .667 winning percentage (meaning they literally win two out of every three games they play.)

Dodgers
Pierre, LF
Furcal, SS
Hudson, 2B
Loney, 1B
Blake, 3B
Ethier, RF
Kemp, CF
Martin, C
Kuroda, P

Kemp delivers again

The Dodgers took this one 5-4 on a big walk-off single by Matt Kemp in the bottom of the tenth inning off of Oakland reliever Brad Ziegler. Kemp’s hit came just two pitches after a questionable call at first base on a James Loney grounder.

With runners on second and first, Loney hit a ball on the ground to A’s second baseman Adam Kennedy. Kennedy stepped on second, but his throw took Jason Giambi off the bag at first — or so it seemed. Loney was ruled safe immediately by first-base umpire Adrian Johnson, but Oakland manager Bob Geren came out to protest, the four umpires conferred, and the call was reversed and Loney was ruled out.

This brought Dodgers manager Joe Torre out of the dugout but to no avail, and play went on. Kemp stepped to the plate, took the first pitch for a ball, then knocked the next pitch into right field to break a 4-4 and score Orlando Hudson from third.

The Dodgers put the first runs of the game on the board in the sixth with consecutive RBI doubles from Casey Blake and Loney, but usually-dominant reliever Ramon Troncoso gave up two home runs in the eighth to give the A’s a 4-2 lead.

An RBI single by Blake and an RBI groundout from Andre Ethier tied the score in the eighth, and the score held into the tenth inning.

The win makes the Dodgers 43-22 and 8.5 games ahead of the Giants in the NL West, and moves Oakland to 27-36.

21-year-old A’s righthander Trevor Cahill faces Dodgers righty Hiroki Kuroda tomorrow.

6/16: A’s at Dodgers (The Return of Nomar)

Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw versus Oakland lefty Dallas Braden tonight. Braden’s been solid so far this year for the A’s, going 5-5 in 13 starts and recording a 3.33 ERA. After Braden’s last start, in which he went seven innings and gave up two runs, The San Francisco Chronicle reported that he felt shoulder stiffness. Kershaw’s last start was a dud, a 2 2/3 inning clunker in which he gave up three runs and couldn’t find the strike zone.

Of course, former Dodger Nomar Garciaparra now plays for the A’s, but the 35-year-old is currently hobbling with a strained calf and is limited to pinch-hit duties.

Dodgers
Pierre, LF
Furcal, SS
Hudson, 2B
Blake, 3B
Loney, 1B
Kemp, CF
Ethier, RF
Martin, C
Kershaw, P