A's pregame notes: A's contingency plans, Scherzer limited?


A's pregame notes: A's contingency plans, Scherzer limited?

OAKLAND -- The first question asked of A's manager Bob Melvin in Wednesday's pregame press conference was about his plan for Justin Verlander in Game Five. "We'll have to get there first," Melvin quickly replied. First the A's have to contend with Max Scherzer, who at times this season has been a better pitcher than Verlander. Scherzer might be slightly limited on the mound in Oakland on Wednesday. Last time he faced the A's he left after two innings with right shoulder fatigue. He also sprained his right ankle celebrating the Tigers American League Central title. He only threw 75 pitches in his final start of the season. If he is on a pitch count the A's could run up his pitch total and possibly get into the Tigers bullpen early. "If you go in trying to forecast something and it doesn't happen that way then you get surprised," Melvin said. "So I think we are just going to go out there with the mindset that he's going to be out there as long as he normally is." On Tuesday, Scherzer assured everyone in his press conference that he was 100 percent healthy. Jim Leyland reiterated that point on Wednesday. Usually when you have to assure the media that you are 100 percent -- it means you aren't. When you already have contingency plans going in it just confirms that assumption. "We've got Drew Smiley to go if something happens to Scherzer," Leyland said. "We'll be prepared for anything."Smiley is a lefty. If he enters the game then righties Jonny Gomes and Chris Carter may finally see some ALDS action. Of course, if Scherzer is indeed healthy, then none of this becomes a factor.

The A's have a contingency plan too. A.J. Griffin has been struggling lately and if he gets into trouble early Melvin won't hesitate to go with left-handed pitcher Travis Blackley, or right-handed pitcher Evan Scribner.
When Griffin left after just two and two-thirds innings in his final start of the season, Scribner came in and pitched three innings of scoreless relief and the A's ended up beating the Rangers and winning the AL West. "Our bullpen is in pretty good shape," Melvin said. "Scribner has done a nice job for us coming in and shutting some stuff down at times and moving us farther in the game." Griffin is 7-1 with a 3.06 ERA but is 1-1 with a 7.27 ERA in his last four starts. His only loss was against the Tigers and he allowed a career-high five runs on a career-high tying eight hits in that start.
The A's will be the only team in Major League history to start three rookie starting pitchers in a playoff series when Griffin takes the mound. The A's young pitchers have taken a mature approach to their preparation and it has worked so far. Every starting pitcher in this series so far has thrown a quality start."We're a young staff and we try to bounce as many things off of each other as we can," Game One and potential Game Five starting pitcher Jarrod Parker said."We try to learn from each other and try to do as much as we can to learn and take the knowledge that we have, one guy throws a game and does something, I'm going to ask him what he's doing to get this guy out and vice versa."
The A's have done a good job limiting the damage done by the Tigers' big hitters in this series. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are a combined .185 (5 for 27) in the first three games of the postseason. The A's defense made a ding in their collective batting average on Tuesday. Fielder was robbed of a home run in the second inning, robbed of a hit up the middle by Stephen Drew, and robbed of a hit in the seventh when Yoenis Cespedes made a diving catch. The A's fielders aren't treating him like a prince.
"I think it more gets into a poor hitter's head when he gets hits taken away from him rather than a good hitter," Melvin said. "I don't think it's going to effect Prince Fielder. A guy like me, if I had a chance to get three hits and they were taken from me it would put me in a rubber room somewhere." Melvin also said he is crazy about what Cespedes has been doing in this playoff series. "We've seen Yoenis make huge strides in left field, now all of a sudden he is just a plus left fielder," Melvin said. "Before it was a struggle for him both mentally and physically. We're reaping some serious rewards with what he is doing right now."
The A's snapped their six-game postseason losing streak on Tuesday with the 2-0 win over the Tigers. Coincidentally all six of their losses were at the hands of Detroit. The Tigers swept the A's in the 2006 American League Championship Series and won the first two games of the ALDS. If the A's can win on Wednesday the series will be all evened up with a win-or-go-home Game Five taking place at the Oakland Coliseum.
Oakland native and WBCWBA Super Middleweight Champion Andre Ward will throw out tonight's ceremonial first pitch

Vallejo-native, free agent-to-be Sabathia after Yankees loss: 'This is my home'


Vallejo-native, free agent-to-be Sabathia after Yankees loss: 'This is my home'

C.C. Sabathia couldn't save the Yankees' 2017 season. And now he has a decision to make.

After nine seasons in New York, the 37-year-old hits the free agent market this winter.

With career earnings nearing $250 million and a 2009 World Series ring already on his resume, would the Vallejo-native consider coming home to play for the A's? That's a question that was posed to Insider Joe Stiglich last week.

While it's a possibility, based on comments after Saturday's ALCS Game 7 loss to the Astros, it sounds like Sabathia doesn't want to leave The Bronx.

“I feel like this is a young team, and we will turn this into something great. This is my home, and I want to see this thing through," Sabathia told reporters, according to The Associated Press.

Astros win two straight vs Yankees, advance to take on Dodgers in World Series


Astros win two straight vs Yankees, advance to take on Dodgers in World Series


HOUSTON -- Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Houston Astros reached the World Series, blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Just four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees for two straight games after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will have plenty of rest before the matchup begins at Dodger Stadium.

Houston has never won even a single World Series game. The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Now, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first title, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston improved to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and became the fifth team in major league history to win a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four.

Combined, they throttled the wild-card Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

CC Sabathia entered the game 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double after snapping an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York struggled on the road this postseason, with this loss dropping the team to 1-6.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis off Sabathia which made it 1-0.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles after that before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who dropped Game 7 to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS 13 years ago today.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh inning.