Athletics

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's walk-off win vs Indians

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's walk-off win vs Indians

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OAKLAND — The long ball reigned supreme once again for the A’s on Saturday night.

Rookie Matt Chapman homered twice and Khris Davis lined a two-run walk-off shot in the ninth inning as the A’s notched a thrilling 5-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

The bottom of the ninth began with dominant Indians closer Andrew Miller on the mound. Miller entered for the eighth and left after walking Yonder Alonso to lead off the ninth. Bryan Shaw entered and Davis connected for one of his patented opposite-field shots that sent a crowd of 33,021 into a frenzy on Rickey Henderson Night at the Coliseum.

It was the second walk-off homer of Davis’ career.

Chapman, in a 3-for-27 rut entering the night, connected for the first two homers of his career. Both came off Corey Kluber, who struck out 12 and allowed just five hits over 7 1/3 innings. Chapman hit a frozen rope to left-center in the third, then unloaded on a 455-foot blast to straightaway center in the eighth to tie it 3-3.

KD DELIVERS: Davis had struck out in two of his first three at-bats, but he connected off Shaw for his 25th homer of the season, raising his arms in celebration as he rounded first. It was the A’s seventh walk-off win of the season.

TRADE RUMOR OF THE DAY: It’s no surprise at all to see the Washington Nationals targeting the A’s bullpen for possible upgrades. But MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday that the Nats want both Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle. Washington is leading the National League East by a mile, but the Nats’ bullpen remains a glaring weakness, so they’re expected to aggressively pursue relievers. Madson threw a scoreless inning Saturday.

SOLID START: Rookie Paul Blackburn delivered his third quality start in as many outings in the bigs, though he wasn’t as dialed in as the first two. Blackburn walked four after issuing just two free passes combined over his first two outings. Two of those batters wound up scoring, with Edwin Encarcion’s two-run homer in the fourth the most damaging blow. Still, Blackburn gave the A’s every chance to win with his effort. He held the Indians to three runs over six innings, giving up five hits and striking out four.

GRAVEMAN SETS HIS GOAL: Sidelined since late May with a shoulder strain, Kendall Graveman sounded upbeat before the game about his recovery. The right-hander is scheduled to throw off the mound Sunday. If that goes well, his first rehab start will come Wednesday, possibly with Triple-A Nashville. That would most likely be a three inning/45-pitch outing. As he builds up his pitch count, Graveman estimates he’d make three starts in the minors if all according to plan, meaning the A’s could get their Opening Night starter back in early August.

ANOTHER RETURN COMING?: Chad Pinder ran the bases before the game to test his left hamstring. He’s likely to stick with the A’s for a couple more days of baseball activity and then begin his own rehab assignment.

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.