Athletics

Oakland's road warriors head home

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Oakland's road warriors head home

BOX SCORE

ARLINGTON -- The boys will be back in town. After a brutal stretch of games that featured 17 of 20 on the road, and a three-game pit stop in Oakland that felt more like a part of the road trip than a homestand, the most difficult stretch of the season is over. Oakland won 12 of the 20 games over the most critical juncture of the season. They head home with a chance to lock down their first postseason berth since 2006. "We do know that we've gotten to the end of a long tough trip and now we get to go home for the final six," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "That's encouraging for us that we did battle through this thing and we are still in a good position."The A's wouldn't end up heading home with a win after losing 9-7 to the Rangers, but the Angels' 9-4 loss against the Mariners did drop Oakland's magic number to clinch a spot in the American League Wild Card game to five. The first inning pretty much decided the game for the A's. Oakland got runners on the corners with one out but Chris Carter grounded into an inning-ending double play. Travis Blackley stepped on the mound and allowed a solo home run to Ian Kinsler on the second pitch he threw, and ended up allowing five runs to score on five hits in just one inning of work. It was the worst start of the season for Blackley. "Honestly I don't know what's going on," Blackley said. "I feel pretty good before the game I am hitting my spots and keeping it down, get out there and I'm just not finding it where I'm wanting it. Kind of running out of ideas on what to do." Blackley has allowed nine runs, seven earned, in his last two starts while lasting three innings. He was visibly frustrated with his performance and even took to Twitter after the game to issue an apology to the fans. "There's no excuses," Blackley said. "I am doing everything I can to be ready for a start between the start and I'm not sure what's going on." The A's bats did their best to get back in the game after falling behind by five runs. Oakland clubbed five home runs, three in the eighth inning, to get back into the game. The biggest homers of the day belonged to Josh Reddick, who snapped an 0-for-30 skid on Wednesday, then blasted his 30th and 31st home runs on Thursday. His second homer of the day made it a two-run game. "It's a great personal accomplishment," Reddick said. "Never did I think I'd do that this year, but the important thing is we're a team and where we are at right now is the big picture."Reddick's struggles were likely due to him pressing at the plate a bit as he tried to get to the 30-homer milestone. After hitting his 29th home run on Sept. 16, he hit .128 (5-for-39) with zero RBIs until smashing No. 30 a distance of 399 feet into the second deck in right field."That hadn't really been on my mind," Reddick said. "The big thing wasn't about hitting 30, it was obviously about helping the team win. I put that in the back of my mind and felt like if I don't think about it then it's going to happen eventually." "We thought get one out of the way, get 30 out of the way, and then he'd be off to the races," Melvin said. "Our group, it didn't look good early and to battle back like we did, you know every game we continue to battle like that. We are never out of a game." Brandon Moss hit his 20th homer of the season and Yoenis Cespedes hit No. 22 on the year. Moss' homer gave the A's three 20-home run hitters for the first time since 2006 when Frank Thomas (39), Nick Swisher (35) and Eric Chavez (22) accomplished the feat. Derek Norris also added a two-run homer in the fourth inning. It was only the fourth time in Oakland history the A's lost after hitting five home runs. "We do have a lot of power on the team, everybody one through nine has pop." Moss said. "We could easily have four or five 20-home run guys with Carter and Jonny Gomes right there at it too."The A's bullpen had to shoulder the innings load again on Thursday. Five pitchers combined for seven innings and allowed four runs. Jeremy Accardo made his A's debut and allowed two runs in the fourth inning, but pitched a scoreless fifth frame. He may have been a little rusty, seeing as how he just joined the team last weekend and hadn't pitched since Aug. 16 in Triple-A. Jesse Chavez had his first scoreless outing for the A's after allowing seven runs in his first three appearances. The A's have three games against the Mariners this weekend and then take on the Rangers for the final three games. With the win, Texas is back to four games ahead of Oakland in the American League West and their magic number to clinch the division is three. The Rangers have three games against the Angels, who are two games behind the A's in the standings, so there will be a considerable amount of scoreboard watching going on this weekend.

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

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AP

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

While expressing his happiness to be with his new team, Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna took a swipe at the A’s during a media function in St. Louis on Sunday.

Ozuna’s name, you’ll remember, swirled in trade rumors earlier this offseason that he might be dealt from the Miami Marlins to Oakland. Instead, the two-time All-Star was traded to St. Louis, making him one of several big-name players Miami has shipped off as it looks to slash payroll.

While attending the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up event to preview this season, Ozuna was asked what it was like being dealt to a team that’s more focused on winning right away as opposed to the rebuilding Marlins.

“I feel happy about that,” Ozuna responded. “First thing when I heard they were trying to trade me to the Oakland A’s, I say … (long pause) Well, I say ‘God, please leave me over here.’ Then I heard they trade me to the Cardinals, I say ‘OK, thanks.’”

Ouch.

Well, it’s not the first time such an insult has been hurled the A’s way, whether directly or indirectly. Last winter, it came out that Matt Holliday — who spent part of 2009 with Oakland — had a no-trade clause included in his contract with the Yankees that prohibited him from being traded only to the A’s.

Is it surprising to hear Ozuna volunteer his thoughts about the A’s in a public forum? Perhaps.

Is it a shock that he’d feel that way in the first place? Definitely not.

It’s no secret the A’s reputation is one of a team that’s always looking to trade its best veteran players rather than spend the money to sign them long term. It’s also common knowledge that they play in an outdated ballpark that’s considered the worst in the majors.

No question, those are the dominant thoughts of players on the other 29 teams when they think of the A’s. And there’s no quick fix to that. National perception is tough to alter.

“Why doesn’t ownership just start spending more money on payroll?” you might ask. “That’s the best way to change perception.”

No arguments there, but we know from the past that isn’t going to happen. Clearly, majority owner John Fisher isn’t going to spend more freely on payroll — especially with the A’s being cut off from MLB’s revenue sharing system — unless he sees the potential for other forms of revenue to stream in.

It all points back to the critical need for the A’s to identify a ballpark site and begin construction on a new home. That will send a message around the majors that a plan is in motion, that better days are ahead.

Until then, the A’s can expect to absorb the occasional jab like that delivered by Ozuna. On the bright side for Oakland fans, they might have just identified Public Enemy No. 2, a player who can slot in right behind Holliday as their favorite opponent to vilify.

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

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USATSI

A's, Khris Davis avoid arbitration, but is this a long-term union?

The A’s took care of a big piece of business with their top run producer, signing slugger Khris Davis to a one-year contract Wednesday and avoiding arbitration.

FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported the sides settled on a $10.5 million salary. That’s more than double the $5 million Davis made last season in his first trip through the arbitration process, but a huge raise was expected after Davis put up more monster numbers in his second year with Oakland.

His 43 home runs in 2017 ranked second in the American League and he was third in RBI with 110. Consider that Davis is the only major leaguer to crack the 40-homer mark in each of the past two seasons, and only Giancarlo Stanton has more total homers during that span (86 to Davis’ 85).

That obviously makes the 30-year-old Davis a valuable commodity.

“Back to back 40-homer years in this ballpark. You guys don’t talk about it enough,” A’s executive VP of baseball operations Billy Beane said in October. “When we acquired him (in a trade from Milwaukee) we knew we got a guy with a lot of power. I think we were thinking a 30-homer guy. The fact he’s gone 40 back-to-back is pretty amazing. He fits in perfectly here. I think having that big bat that Khris brings helps guys like (Matt) Olson and (Matt) Chapman.”

So it’s clear the A’s value Davis, and that’s why he hasn’t been traded thus far, as many around the game speculated he might be this winter. But where do things go moving forward?

He’ll be eligible for arbitration one more time next winter before he’s able to test free agency heading into the 2020 season. If you’re an A’s fan, you know where this is going. If July hits and the A’s are floundering in the standings, Davis no doubt will be a trade candidate. He’d have appeal as a proven slugger who would remain under team control for 2019.

But Davis is a rare breed. He loves playing in Oakland and doesn’t hide that fact. The pitcher-friendly Coliseum has done nothing to suppress his power. In fact, he’s thrived. His 26 home runs at the Coliseum in 2017 fell one short of Jason Giambi’s Oakland record for homers by a home player.

It would seem he’d be open to a long-term extension, and the sides reportedly have held past discussions about one. The A’s have designs on signing some of their younger core players to extensions. But you’d have to rank it as a surprise were they to actually complete an extension with Davis, given the money he would command.

More than likely, Beane and his staff will evaluate the team through the first half of the upcoming season, weigh the pros and cons of dealing him, and if he stays, enter through this arbitration process again next winter, knowing that he’ll command even more bucks on another one-year deal.

An ‘X’ factor is how Davis adjusts to his shift from left field to designated hitter. He told NBC Sports California in November that he prefers the outfield but will fill whatever role is best for the team.

The feeling here is that he’ll put up the same numbers that fans have grown accustomed to, and the ball will be in the A’s court as to how long he remains in green and gold.