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Angels best A's behind Cozart, Shoemaker

March 31, 2018

OAKLAND -- Zack Cozart's tenure as an Angel is all but three games old, but he's already showing why he figures to be so valuable for the club this season.Batting leadoff and starting at second base in place of the injured Ian Kinsler, Cozart finished 2-for-4 with a triple and

OAKLAND -- Zack Cozart's tenure as an Angel is all but three games old, but he's already showing why he figures to be so valuable for the club this season.
Batting leadoff and starting at second base in place of the injured Ian Kinsler, Cozart finished 2-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs, helping to set the table for a productive Saturday afternoon for the Angels' offense in their 8-3 win over the A's at the Coliseum.
Cozart is now batting .357 (5-for-14) and has already appeared at third and second base for the Angels after exclusively playing shortstop for the Reds in his first seven Major League seasons.
"It's a little different than my career," said Cozart, who signed a three-year, $38 million deal with the Angels in December. "Usually I just show up to the park and I know I'm playing shortstop. Now it's different, but I kind of knew what my role was going to be: starting third baseman, but just in case, second base, shortstop, whatever. It's just unfortunate that Kins got a little banged up and now I'm playing second for a little bit."
Michael Trout added three hits and two RBIs, while Jose Pujols drove in a pair of runs to help back a solid effort from right-hander Matthew Shoemaker, who gave up three runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings in his first regular-season start for the Angels since June 14, 2017. Shoemaker walked four and struck out four, improving to 5-0 with a 2.38 ERA in his last seven starts against Oakland.

The Angels capitalized on a number of defensive miscues from the A's, beginning with the first play of the game. Cozart led off the first inning by sending a sinking liner to right field that skipped past a diving Stephen Piscotty and allowed Cozart to come away with a triple. Cozart promptly scored on Trout's RBI double off right-hander Daniel Mengden, giving the Angels a quick 1-0 lead.

Cozart later added a two-run double in the sixth off Liam Hendriks that extended his club's lead to 6-0.
"He's swinging the bat great," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's getting some big hits for us, setting the table, and he's had a great spring for us. We need Kins, we need our lineup to get deep again, but having Zack be able to go over there and play second base is definitely something that's going to help."
The Angels took a 7-0 lead into the sixth inning before Shoemaker loaded the bases with two outs and surrendered a two-run single to Piscotty. Shoemaker was subsequently removed, and right-hander Cam Bedrosian yielded an RBI double to Matt Chapman before striking out Boog Powell to end the threat.

"In the sixth inning, I get two outs on three pitches and then I four-pitch walk a guy [Jed Lowrie] with two outs," Shoemaker said. "Being honest, that's atrocious. I've got to find a way to refocus in and bear down."
A's defense crumbles: The Angels received significant help in their two-run third inning, which began with a Rene Rivera line drive that got past left fielder Khris Davis for a double. Mengden buckled down and struck out Cozart, and he nearly retired Trout via the strikeout, too, except Bruce Maxwell struggled to block a swinging third strike and Trout reached first to put runners at the corners. Mengden was on the verge of escaping the mess unscathed, but shortstop Marcus Semien bobbled a potential inning-ending double-play ball while a run scored, and Pujols followed with an RBI single.

Critical K: Down 7-3, the A's threatened with two outs in the seventh, loading the bases for young slugger Matt Olson, who clubbed 24 home runs in 59 games as a rookie last year. But Olson, who homered on Opening Day, would be denied a game-tying grand slam, instead handcuffed by right-hander Jim Johnson. Olson fouled off a 2-2 fastball before staring down a called third strike on the outside corner.

With his triple in the first inning, Cozart technically hit for the cycle in his first four hits with the Angels, as he also homered, singled and doubled in Thursday's opener.
"I like that," Cozart said. "I like doing that."

Cozart was at the plate with two outs and two on in the sixth, when Jefry Marte found himself caught between second and third. Marte was initially ruled out on a throw at third base, but replay officials overturned the ruling to keep the inning going, and Cozart responded with a two-run double. Trout's RBI single capped the three-run inning.

Rule 5 Draft pick Luke Bard capped the win by working a scoreless ninth in his Major League debut. The 27-year-old right-hander gave up a leadoff single to Maxwell before striking out Matt Joyce and Lowrie and coaxing a flyout from Semien.
"I was so nervous," Bard said. "I don't know if I felt anything. It was kind of just a blur. It was so much fun. Dream come true. It really was."

Angels: Two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani will make his pitching debut in the Angels' series finale against the A's at 1:05 p.m. PT on Sunday at the Coliseum. Ohtani, who went 1-for-5 as the designated hitter on Opening Day, recorded a 2.52 ERA in 85 career outings for the Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan's Pacific League before signing with the Angels in December. The A's will counter with Daniel Gossett.
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Maria Guardado covers the Angels for Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.