Athletics

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's starting second half with win

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's starting second half with win

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OAKLAND — Game time arrived at the Coliseum on Friday night, and Sonny Gray took the mound in an A’s uniform.

Then he showed exactly why he’s such a hyped-up trade target.

The right-hander continued a midseason hot streak on the mound, firing six scoreless innings as the A’s hung a 5-0 defeat on the Cleveland Indians to open up the season’s second half.

In the minds of many, the hourglass is running out fast on Gray’s time in green and gold. He’s been linked to several different pitching-hungry contenders, and the speculation only heated up after lefty Jose Quintana was dealt from the White Sox to the Cubs, leaving Gray as the best starting pitcher available who is team-controlled for the next two seasons.

A bogus report even surfaced Friday, about an hour before first pitch, that Gray had been scratched, fueling speculation that perhaps he had been dealt. It was quickly shot down by the A’s.

But his performance Friday only increases his attractiveness to buyers. Gray struck out five, walked one and allowed just two hits, lowering his ERA to 3.72. Over his past four starts, Gray is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA.

RETURN OF RAJAI: Rajai Davis, nearly a World Series hero for the Indians last fall after his Game 7 homer off Aroldis Chapman, went deep against his former club Friday. That was one of two homers the A’s hit in the fifth to open up a 4-0 lead. Yonder Alonso, fresh off his first All-Star appearance, hit his 21st of the season three batters later.

AGGRESSIVNESS ON THE BASES: Manager Bob Melvin talked before the All-Star break of the need for Oakland to show better base running. He got it Friday. In the third, Matt Joyce doubled and Davis scored all the way from first. Joyce took the opportunity to break for third on the throw, and that aggressiveness put him in position to score on Marcus Semien’s sacrifice fly. In the sevneth, Matt Chapman stole another run for the A’s by scoring on a wild pitch that didn’t skip very far away from Indians catcher Yan Gomes.

FOLLOWING THE BLUEPRINT: By jumping out to an early lead, and with Gray’s strong six-inning outing, it set up the A’s late-inning bullpen combo of Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle and Santiago Casilla. They blanked the Indians over the final three innings, and the A’s opened the second half with a shutout.

NO FACTOR: Melvin talked before the game about Cleveland’s dominant bullpen. But by getting to starter Carlos Carrasco for five runs over 6 1/3 innings, the A’s didn’t let the Tribe’s bullpen play a role in this one.

HELP ON THE WAY?: There was encouraging news on the injury front for the A’s as the second half gets underway. Utility man Chad Pinder is scheduled to run the bases Saturday at the Coliseum to test his strained left hamstring. If that goes well, he’ll likely begin a minor league rehab assignment right after that.

The A’s have been without reliever Ryan Dull for nearly two months due to a strained right knee, but he’s scheduled to throw a simulated game Saturday, and he too seems close to a rehab assignment. Dull’s goal is to be back by the end of July.

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

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AP

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

OAKLANDThe Oakland A’s named Matt Williams as third base coach on Bob Melvin’s coaching staff for the 2018 season, the club announced today.

Williams spent five seasons on the Arizona Diamondbacks coaching staff as first base coach (2010) and third base coach (2011-13, 16) and also managed the Washington Nationals for two seasons.  He was named National League Manager of the Year by the BBWAA in his first season as manager in 2014, guiding the Nationals to a 96-66 record and an NL East title.  He went 83-79 in 2015 for a 179-145 (.552) record in two seasons as manager.

Williams played 17 seasons in the majors with San Francisco (1987-96), Cleveland (1997) and Arizona (1998-2003).  He was a .268 career hitter with 378 home runs and 1218 RBI in 1866 games.  Williams was a five-time All-Star and won four Gold Gloves as a third baseman.

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Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

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AP

Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

The A’s wasted no time making their first major move of the offseason, and it has a domino effect on how their 2018 lineup will take shape.

The trade of young slugger Ryon Healy to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday paves the way for left fielder Khris Davis to start getting heavy at-bats as the designated hitter, the spot left vacant by Healy.

It also points to another move the A’s want to pull off — acquiring a right-handed hitting corner outfielder who presumably can eat up those defensive innings that Davis spends as the DH.

It’s a series of moves that isn’t all that surprising given the A’s roster makeup right now. Healy, who hit .282 with 38 homers in 221 games over his first two big league seasons, is capable of playing either first or third base. But Matt Olson and Matt Chapman secured those spots, respectively, with their solid showings as rookies last season.

“We’ve obviously talked a lot since the end of the season about adding to the bullpen,” A’s general manager David Forst said on a conference call Wednesday night. “At the same time, with the emergence of Matt and Matt, on the corners, maybe Ryon needed to be somebody we might have to move ...”

It makes sense for Oakland to find a way to shift Davis from being the everyday left fielder while still keeping his 40-homer bat in the lineup. Opponents have routinely taken extra bases the past two seasons on Davis’ throwing arm, and whether they add a newcomer to play left or shift Joyce or someone else there, chances are they can benefit from better defense in left.

The A’s also feel they got an important chip back from Seattle to help bolster a bullpen that ranked 13th in the American League last season with a 4.57 ERA. They received right-hander Emilio Pagan (along with minor league shortstop Alexander Campos), and figure that the 26-year-old Pagan is someone the A’s have pegged to be an immediate contributor in their ‘pen.

A 10th round draft pick in 2013, Pagan made his big league debut in 2017 and posted a 3.22 ERA over 34 games spread over four stints with Seattle. He endured a rocky first couple of outings but, after being called up for good in the second half, eventually worked his way into a late-inning setup role. Pagan struck out 56 and walked just eight in 50 1/3 innings, numbers that surely popped out to Oakland’s front office.

He’ll likely be called upon in middle relief to help set the table for Chris Hatcher and closer Blake Treinen, as the bullpen currently looks.

Campos, just 17, spent this past season in the Dominican Summer League, and Forst said the A’s were eyeing Campos last summer when they eventually traded Yonder Alonso to the Mariners. Oakland wound up getting center fielder Boog Powell back in that deal.

Did the A’s rake in enough for Healy? As with all trades, it will take time to judge. But it’s fair to say that Healy’s departure will be felt in a clubhouse that is characterized by the emergence of many young position players, and he was a part of that group. In fact, when Healy was called up in July 2016 — knocking Danny Valencia out as the regular third baseman — he became the first of several promising position-player prospects to establish himself in Oakland’s lineup.

He rented a house in the East Bay and eventually took in Chapman, Olson and Chad Pinder as roommates. There’s a fiery side to Healy’s on-field personality that was a positive for the A’s, and watching him play Oakland as a member of an AL West rival will make for entertaining theatre.

Another storyline is how Davis takes to being a regular DH. Forst praised Davis’ approach to his game and doesn’t anticipate any problems, adding that the A’s still want to get Davis some time in the outfield.