Rangers leave impressed with A's brand of ball


Rangers leave impressed with A's brand of ball

OAKLAND -- The A's entered a pivotal six-game homestand against baseball's top two teams Tuesday, just a half-game out of the second A.L. Wild Card berth.

Trailing 3-1 late in Wednesday's game, the A's showed why this squad is different from years past by mounting a comeback and claiming their MLB-leading ninth walk-off win of the season.

RECAP: Hicks powers A's walk-off
The A's have to believe they'll be competitive down the stretch, and they do, according to Wednesday's starter.

"Don't sleep on us," Travis Blackley said before the win. "I feel good about the team. I reckon we're going to be in the hunt at the end."

But do the top players on the Rangers squad think the A's will be a playoff contending team? Not one player responded negatively.

Josh Hamilton:
"Of course they have talent. They have young guys. They have pitching. Guys are doing a good job stepping up. The key is for them to figure out the grind of the season, the whole way out. If they do that, I don't see why they couldn't be there."

Michael Young:
"Without a doubt. The Wild Card standings are all jammed up. Everything is up for grabs. There's a ton of talent in our league, it's a fun league to play in."

What's different about his year's team from Oakland?

"They're better."

Adrian Beltre:
"They definitely have what it takes. You never know. Anything could happen. They definitely have good pitching. It's a long season, so I wouldn't count anything out. They battle. Everyone's trying to do the same thing -- win the West."

Nelson Cruz:
"They're really good now. They showed a lot of heart. They have a lot of different guys (this year). Their corner outfielder, the catcher, corners -- first and third base. But they always have good pitching."

David Murphy:
"Definitely. They don't have the All-Star roster that you look for in a playoff contender. But they have a lot of heart. And they obviously never say die. Down 3-1 late in the game, against a pretty impressive arm out of the bullpen, that says something right there. They have a never-say-die attitude and get the job done."

Colby Lewis:
"They've got a good ballclub. This is a better lineup that they've put together in the last couple years. They've got guys stepping up and hitting home runs, with Reddick and signing Cespedes -- he's a tough out. And the pitching is going to come along for 'em.

"It's anybody's game, really. You've got to go out there and compete, and these guys do that. Like today. They've always been a scrappy team. And that keeps them competitive."

With one American League juggernaut leaving Oakland with a series split and renewed respect, the A's set their sights on a four-game set with the New York Yankees, who are riding an impressive stretch of 42 games in which they've scored three or more runs."I didn't know that," A's manager Bob Melvin said of their streak. "But we feel like we can hold teams down, especially here. You know their lineup is deep and stacked and they have an offensive team, but we're first in the league in pitching or a reason."That reason? Gutsy performances like the three-run effort Blackley and four relievers combined for Wednesday. The result? Respect from some of MLB's best, and if sustained, meaningful baseball down the stretch.

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach


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


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.