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A’s Valdez gains symbolic win in major return

The Associated Press

Oakland Athletics starter Cesar Valdez fires a pitch against the Seattle Mariners during the second inning Thursday in Oakland.

The Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Cesar Valdez waited so long to step on a major league mound again, he can only hope his return all these years later might eventually lead to a long stay.

The second chance he has been so coveting. One to make his late father proud.

In the minds of many, Valdez earned a victory just by getting back at long last to pitch in the big leagues for the first time in nearly seven years during the Oakland Athletics’ 9-6 win against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday.

“I thank God first and I thank Oakland for the opportunity to return to the majors after seven years,” Valdez said. “It’s preparing me for the next opportunity, whenever the second chance comes.”

He allowed three runs and five hits in four innings, struck out four and walked two. This marked just the third start of his career at 32 and 10th appearance in all — and he is probably headed right back to the minors soon.

A right-hander from the Dominican Republic, he was called up from Triple-A Nashville to fill in for injured opening day starter Kendall Graveman. Valdez last pitched in the big leagues on June 10, 2010, with Arizona just more than a month after his previous start on May 8.

“Oh, that’s amazing right there,” teammate Rajai Davis said.

Valdez was traded to Pittsburgh that December to complete the trade that sent pitcher Zach Duke to the Diamondbacks, and his contract was bought by Florida in July 2011 and by Toronto later that month. He was released by Toronto after two days, played several years in Mexico, spent 2016 in Houston’s organization and signed with the A’s during the offseason.

“What a great story. It’s been a while since he’s been in the big leagues,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “You really feel good about guys that have persevered and hang around with the aspirations to get back to the big leagues. He performed well for us this spring, he’s done well early in the season in Triple-A so we’re rewarding him with a start and it’s great to see because very competitive guys like that don’t take no for an answer and end up coming back to the big leagues again you know they have some moxie.”

Trevor Plouffe hit a three-run homer in the seventh and Ryan Dull (1-1) pitched 1⅓ scoreless innings for the victory in Oakland’s third straight win.

Reliever Evan Scribner (0-2) took the loss against his former club.

Taylor Motter hit a two-run homer for Seattle in the sixth against Frankie Montas.

Adam Rosales had an RBI single and sacrifice fly and Ryon Healy added an RBI single among his three hits as Oakland erased an early 3-0 deficit then held on. Davis’ RBI groundout in the sixth was the go-ahead run.

Seattle starter James Paxton’s scoreless innings streak to begin the year ended at 23 when Oakland got on the board in the third. He struck out eight over 4⅓ innings.

Paxton allowed more than two runs in a road start against the AL West for only the fourth time in 12 outings.

“Just didn’t have it today. But I’ll be back out there next time,” he said.

Up next for the Mariners, Hisashi Iwakuma (0-1, 5.40 ERA) — a 16-game winner last year — tries again for his first win of the season in his fourth start of 2017.

Beltran blasts 1st HR of season

HOUSTON (AP) — Carlos Beltran hit his first home run this season and Jake Marisnick also homered to help the Houston Astros to a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday.

Beltran’s shot came with one out and the first inning off Matt Shoemaker (0-1), and Marisnick’s second homer this season made it 2-0 in the fifth.

Lance McCullers (2-0) scattered three hits and struck out eight over 6⅔ scoreless innings as Houston won for the seventh time in eight games. Chris Devenski allowed home run to Mike Trout starting the ninth inning and back-to-back singles with one out before fanning Cameron Maybin and Danny Espinosa for his first save.

Devenski, who pitched 2⅓ innings on Thursday, has struck out 25 in 13⅓ innings this season.

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