Athletics

Pratt's Instant Replay: A's drop Game 1 in Detroit

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Pratt's Instant Replay: A's drop Game 1 in Detroit

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DETROIT -- The Oakland Athletics knew they had a tough task at hand while facing reigning American League MVP and Cy Young Award-winner Justin Verlander. He didn't disappoint. He struck out 11 A's batters, and allowed just three hits while hand delivering the Detroit Tigers a 3-1 victory in Game One of the American League Division Series.Arguably more impressive however was the performance of A's reliever Pat Neshek, who retired two batters just two days after his newborn son passed away.Starting Pitching ReportJarrod Parker looked poised out of the gate. He kept his pitch count low and worked his way out of a tough first inning situation. Austin Jackson hit a leadoff double that was bobbled by Cespedes in the outfield. With the infield drawn in to protect against the bunt, Berry ended up hitting a ball to third that Donaldson made a diving attempt on but couldn't come up with the ball. As the crown chanted M-V-P, Miguel Cabrera stepped to the plate with runners on the corners. Parker got him to ground into a double play which pushed across a run but minimized the damage.Parker only threw seven pitches in the second inning, making short work of the Tigers. In the third inning he ran into a some trouble again. The Tigers ended up scoring a run after Omar Infante hit a one-out double and Parker misplayed a slow rolling ground ball hit toward first base. He chased down the ball and scooped it up but it fell out of his glove as he reached first.Parker's only other mistake was a solo home run he allowed to Alex Avila in the fifth inning. The rookie battled through a tough Tigers lineup, and still turned in a quality start. He ended the night with six and one-third innings pitched, allowing seven hits, one walk, and struck out five. All things considered he pitched pretty well. He was just out-dueled by Verlander.Bullpen ReportThe A's were wearing black patches on the right sleeve of their jerseys with the initials "GJN," in memory of Gherig John Neshek, who passed away unexpectedly just 23 hours after he was born on Wednesday. Playing with a heavy heart, Neshek entered the game in the seventh inning in relief of Parker. He got Omar Infante to ground into a force out and then struck out Jackson to end the inning. Neshek must have been pitching on raw emotion.After he finished the inning he touched the patch on his right sleeve with his glove and looked to the sky. He exhaled deeply as he jogged off the mound, a touching moment on the field.At the PlateThe A's started the American League Division Series in style. Coco Crisp connected on a 2-1 pitch for a leadoff home run. Crisp's shot was the second in Major League history to lead off a postseason series. Former A's outfielder Jonny Damon did it while playing for the Yankees in the 2007 ALDS at Cleveland. Crisp joins Bert Campaneris (1973), Rickey Henderson (1989), and Ray Durham (2002) as the only A's to hit a leadoff homer in a playoff game.The A's employed a strategy to work up Verlander's pitch count and it worked. In his previous start against Oakland he tossed 122 pitches over six innings. Oakland got him to throw 26 pitches in the first and got him up to 61 pitches through three, and 105 through six. Problem is, Verlander hit 101 on the radar gun in the sixth inning as he struck out the side. He hit 99 MPH on his 105th pitch, a called third strike on Josh Donaldson to end the inning.
The A's hitters seemed to be upset about home plate umpire Jim Reynolds' strike zone. He called several strikes that were outside of the strike zone on both the game telecast and MLB PITCHfx. Verlander struck out a string of five A's hitters in a row at one point.
Verlander exited the game after the seventh inning. It was a difficult day for A's hitters. Josh Donaldson just missed hitting a home run to the deepest part of the park in the second inning. In any other ballpark he would have gone yard, but in Detroit center field is 402 feet deep. After Verlander left the game, Brandon Moss just missed hitting a game-tying homer on a deep fly ball to right field that Andy Dirks caught with his back up against the wall.In the FieldReddick made a slick diving catch toward the foul line. As the ball was hit someone in the press box muttered "double" and then Reddick leaped head first and caught it. After he landed he laid propped up on his side and held the his glove up for the umpire to see. He looked like he was striking a pose.AttendanceThe Tigers announced a sell-out crowd of 43,323. They were all waving their white rally towels.Up NextRookie pitcher Tommy Milone takes the mound against Doug Fister in Game Two of the ALDS. Milone will be making his postseason debut. He is one of 12 rookies on the A's playoff roster. Milone and Parker finished the season tied with 13 wins, and a share of an Oakland rookie record. Milone is 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA in two starts against the Tigers.Fister is a Merced native. He said on Friday that he is a Giants fan, but did admit to going to several A's games with his father and friends. The right-handed pitcher is 5-4 with a 2.45 ERA in his career against the A's.

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.