Athletics

A's celebrate before it's back to business

902545.jpg

A's celebrate before it's back to business

BOX SCORE

Bob Melvin sat in his office, marinating in cheap champagne, dessert topping and the hugs of The Team That Money Would Never Have Thought Of Buying, reminiscing about ... well, reminiscing so fast that it was hard for him to collect them in a coherent sentence when it suddenly dawned on him:Hey, we have a game tomorrow.And a pretty important one, traveling secretary Mickey Morabito added.But when asked if the players in the clubhouse who were still in full revelry would suddenly have the same epiphany and clamp their joy, assistant general manager David Forst laughed and said, Theyve played through worse than this. And someone else chimed in, "You should see them at 10:30 in the morning some days."Of course you should, and of course they have. The Oakland Athletics took the record they were expected to have had in March and turned it on its head, finishing the job that couldnt be done by beating the Texas Rangers, 4-3.INSTANT REPLAY: A's are postseason bound
The win cemented a wild-card berth for the As, but with two more games to play, they can still win the AL West outright and skip the play-in madness entirely. In short, they celebrated like madmen with regular-season work still to do, one more unintended gift of the new playoff system.But Melvin had decreed, more or less, that the players could treat Monday and Tuesday as separate items, like they have all year. They dont think about tomorrow. They think about today.And after 92 fine todays, they are still playing the cigar-sotted and alcohol-drenched hand they dealt themselves Monday night.Because of the circumstances of the new jerryrigged playoff system, it is hard to write with historical sweep of the As first postseason berth in six years when theyve still got an aquariums worth of fish still to fry. When Melvin looked up and said, Weve got a game tomorrow, he seemed half surprised and half disappointed, even though he knew all along that this was the first scenario.And though the players, staff and owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff consented cheerfully to bathe in the joy of the moment, smiling and mugging for cameras as though this were the end of the road, the road they are headed toward has not yet begun and the one theyve been traveling hasnt reached its end yet.Travis Blackley, the veteran-turned-rookie, pitches Tuesday night in what is a must-win game for the As if they wish to evade the pitfalls of the one-and-done game. Avoiding a Friday game in Baltimore is the new job, and that requires that Blackley and then A.J. Griffin handle the Rangers as Jarrod Parker did Monday night.And when we say handle, we mean in the As sense, when they dont have to resort to the bottom of the ninth or beyond to win the game.I actually thought that was how it might play out, Melvin said. Thats how we do it, right?But the As didnt allow themselves that luxury. A seventh-inning homer by Mike Napoli brought the Rangers to within the final margin, but Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour got the final nine outs without incident five strikeouts, a routine grounder, a fly ball and a warning-track shot by Josh Hamilton in the eighth that had more hope than impetus behind it.There was no scrambling from behind, no jaw-slackening heroics, no unusual deeds and no surprises . . . save perhaps Melvin getting pied himself for the first time all year.I had no idea that was coming, I swear to you, he said, remnants of the event still stuck stubbornly to his ear. I expected the Gatorade (two tubs), but the pie ... not at all.Then again, who better to get the latest one but the man who guided this baffling team through more odd moments than a normal team should reasonably be asked to endure? Manny Ramirez . . . Bartolo Colon . . . Brandon McCarthy . . . changes and trades and relocations and reassemblies all required to go from 12th place on June 11th to tied for third on October 1. In that time, theyve gone 66-33, and in doing so reacquainted the clubhouse with the smell of throwin champagne and sweat-ranked uniforms.It was a festival of happy and shocked faces, and nobody was heard saying, You guys didnt believe in us, because while that was true, the players didnt believe either, not for a long while. Even Melvin said it took until the middle of June for things to start settling in his mind that this team had something to show us.I always believe we can win, every day, he said. But this ... this ... and then he laughed again.We have a game to play tomorrow, he said, and he wasnt saying it just for effect. The As do have a game to play, and it matters just as much as this one did.

Vallejo-native, free agent-to-be Sabathia after Yankees loss: 'This is my home'

sabathia-yankees-astros-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Vallejo-native, free agent-to-be Sabathia after Yankees loss: 'This is my home'

C.C. Sabathia couldn't save the Yankees' 2017 season. And now he has a decision to make.

After nine seasons in New York, the 37-year-old hits the free agent market this winter.

With career earnings nearing $250 million and a 2009 World Series ring already on his resume, would the Vallejo-native consider coming home to play for the A's? That's a question that was posed to NBCSportsBayArea.com Insider Joe Stiglich last week.

While it's a possibility, based on comments after Saturday's ALCS Game 7 loss to the Astros, it sounds like Sabathia doesn't want to leave The Bronx.

“I feel like this is a young team, and we will turn this into something great. This is my home, and I want to see this thing through," Sabathia told reporters, according to The Associated Press.

Astros win two straight vs Yankees, advance to take on Dodgers in World Series

astros.jpg
USATSI

Astros win two straight vs Yankees, advance to take on Dodgers in World Series

BOX SCORE

HOUSTON -- Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Houston Astros reached the World Series, blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Just four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees for two straight games after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will have plenty of rest before the matchup begins at Dodger Stadium.

Houston has never won even a single World Series game. The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Now, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first title, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston improved to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and became the fifth team in major league history to win a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four.

Combined, they throttled the wild-card Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

CC Sabathia entered the game 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double after snapping an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York struggled on the road this postseason, with this loss dropping the team to 1-6.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis off Sabathia which made it 1-0.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles after that before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who dropped Game 7 to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS 13 years ago today.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh inning.