Athletics

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's sweep of defending AL champs

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's sweep of defending AL champs

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND — As their roster continued to undergo drastic changes Sunday, the A’s found a way to keep things rolling on the field.

They completed their first home sweep of the Cleveland Indians in nearly five years, ringing up a 7-3 victory that gave them three consecutive victories coming out of the All-Star break.

The morning began with players arriving to the Coliseum and finding out that veteran relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson had been traded to Washington. Then the A’s went out and hung four runs on Indians starter Trevor Bauer, chasing the right-hander from the game before the first inning even ended.

Sean Manaea (8-5) made that early lead stand with seven strong innings, and the A’s got the second half started right by sweeping the American League Central leaders, who are trying to gear up for another run at the World Series after finishing runners-up to the Cubs in 2016.

The A’s hadn’t swept a home series from Cleveland since Aug. 17-19, 2012.

Manaea continues his roll: The big left-hander has won seven of his past nine decisions. He went seven innings Sunday and held Cleveland to two runs, striking out eight and walking three. Over his past 11 starts, Manaea is 7-2 with a 2.92 ERA.

Rallying early: Bauer issued three walks to dig himself a hole in the bottom of the first, and the A’s made him pay. Ryon Healy and Jaycob Brugman each delivered two-run singles with two outs, and Indians manager Terry Francona had to go to his bullpen much earlier than he anticipated.

New-look late relief delivers: With Madson and Doolittle out of the picture, the A’s are going to have to mix and match their way through the late innings to transfer a lead to closer Santiago Casilla. Manager Bob Melvin identified lefty Daniel Coulombe and Liam Hendriks as two relievers who will have to take on more prominent roles. Those two combined on a scoreless eighth after Manaea left the game. After the A’s scored twice in the eighth to open up a 7-2 lead, Melvin stayed away from Casilla and let Simon Castro finish up. Castro was making his 2017 debut after being called up from Triple-A before the game. He gave up Abraham Almonte’s homer but eventually nailed down the victory.

Double digits for Jed: Another A’s trade candidate, second baseman Jed Lowrie, hit his 10th homer in the third inning, a solo shot to right-center. It’s the first season Lowrie has cracked double digits in homers since he had 15 in 2013.

Plan for Cotton: Starter Jharel Cotton, on the disabled list with a blister on his right thumb, will throw in a rehab outing Wednesday for Triple-A Nashville. If he comes out of that well, the A’s will decide where to slot him back in the rotation. That means Chris Smith will make a second start Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

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.