Athletics

Pratt's Instant Replay: Athletics 3, Rangers 1

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Pratt's Instant Replay: Athletics 3, Rangers 1

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- The Oakland Athletics were 13 games behind the Rangers on June 30. They are now tied atop the American League West with one game to play after defeating the Rangers 3-1. They A's are speeding toward the playoffs like they just stole something. At 93-68 they are a season-high 25 games over .500. If they can sweep the Rangers on Wednesday, the raucous celebration on Monday will look like a tea party. Starting Pitching ReportLast Thursday Travis Blackley got rocked by the Rangers for five runs and was pulled before the second inning. He came out on Tuesday and retired the top of Texas' order three up, three down, and finished the frame by striking out Josh Hamilton. Getting off to a strong start was paramount for the Australian-born starting pitcher. More important was how Blackley would face adversity. He gave up a leadoff double in the second inning and pitched his way out of trouble. The Rangers ended up stranding two runners as Blackley threw a big 12-6 curveball for a called third strike. Hamilton tagged Blackley for a run in the third inning with a double into the right-center gap to score Ian Kinsler, who drew a one-out walk. The A's might have had a shot at gunning down Kinsler but Josh Reddick slightly overthrew Stephen Drew, who ended up dropping the relay throw. Blackley faced the minimum for the next three innings as the A's turned two double plays behind him. He ended the night with six innings pitched and just one earned run on three hits, two walks and struck out five. Blackley stepped up his game when the A's needed him the most. Maybe shaving his beard really did make a difference. He earned his sixth win of the season. The A's kept their faith in Blackley even amid questions about if the team would try and skip him in the rotation after two very rough starts, in which he allowed nine runs in three innings. At the PlateThe A's were getting one-hit by Matt Harrison through four innings. They broke out in the fifth. Josh Donaldson doubled the A's hit total with a leadoff single. He moved to third when Brandon Moss smacked a double down the right field line. Derek Norris then cracked an RBI single to right field that was bobbled by Cruz, allowing Moss to score and giving the A's a 2-1 lead. Yoenis Cespedes reached on a one-out single in the sixth inning but got picked off. Had he been on base the A's would have had an extra run, because Jonny Gomes launched a ball into the left field bleachers moments later to give the A's a 3-1 lead. Gomes' 18th homer came on the day he was voted the Jim "Catfish" Hunter Award-winner.
Bullpen Report Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook took care of business in the seventh and eighth innings. They allowed one hit apiece but no runs. Grant Balfour entered the game for the fourth time in as many days. He retired the side in order for his 24th save. In the FieldJosh Donaldson had a rough day at the office. He made a couple high throws that Brandon Moss had to leap to catch. Then in the fourth inning he missed a ground ball hit directly to him as it took a funny hop. Blackley immediately picked up Donaldson by inducing a double play ball. Reddick dropped a foul fly ball in the corner in right field. He got a glove on it but couldn't make the catch. Blackley picked him up by striking out Elvis Andrus.Cliff Pennington made a slick backhanded play and throw to rob Hamilton of a hit to start the ninth inning. He has really taken to second base. AttendanceThe A's announced an attendance of 30,660. There was an estimated walk-up of 12,000. Looks like the bandwagon is starting to swing back around these parts. Dot RaceGold wins the dot race. The A's wore gold jerseys. Coincidence? I think not. Up NextThe A's will have a chance to win the American League West and celebrate like madmen with a win on Wednesday. It will be the final game of the regular season. A.J. Griffin (7-1, 2.71 ERA) will take the mound for his 15th start. Griffin is 3-0 with a 0.72 ERA in four starts against the American League West. Ryan Dempster (7-3, 4.64 ERA) will oppose Griffin. Dempster is 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in his last eight starts.

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.