Athletics

Rewind: Gray keeps it together, A's win streak reaches six

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Rewind: Gray keeps it together, A's win streak reaches six

TORONTO – Friday’s game began as an eagerly anticipated matchup of Sonny Gray vs. former A’s teammate Josh Donaldson.

The most important battle wound up being Sonny Gray vs. the sixth-inning adversity that threatened to unravel all that had gone so good for the A’s up to that point.

Gray faced a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth, with the heart of the Blue Jays’ dangerous batting order due up and a Rogers Center crowd waiting to burst into delirium. Instead, Gray held the damage to one run, order was restored, and the A’s steered their way to an 8-5 victory that ran their winning streak to six games, their longest since a six-gamer from July 3-8, 2014.

“The key to the game was probably that sixth inning,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.

[RECAP: Instant Replay: A's bats swing away, escape Blue Jays in win]

The fact of the matter is it’s not quite as easy as the A’s are making it look right now. The hits are coming in bunches, and the confidence flowing through the batting order, one through nine, can nearly be felt through your flat-screen TV.

But it takes just one or two ill-advised pitches to completely shift the complexion of a game. Particularly against an offense as dangerous as Toronto’s, and particularly with Donaldson as the focal point of it. The former A’s star said with sincerity before the game that he’ll always cherish his years in green and gold.

“Ten years from now, I’ll still remember that time, “ he said. “It was pretty special for me.”

But the reigning American League MVP also admitted there’s a little extra kick of adrenaline facing the A’s, especially with their ace on the mound.

Gray struck him out in the first, as Donaldson’s bat went flying out toward shortstop when he swung through a curve. He singled in the fourth and drew a walk that loaded the bases in the sixth with no outs. Suddenly, Gray found himself falling behind in counts. The A’s led 6-1, but with Jose Bautista batting, the Jays were one swing away from getting right back in the game.

Instead, Gray buckled down. He retired Bautista on a sacrifice fly that let steam out of the rally. Cleanup man Edwin Encarnacion flied out to center, and after Justin Smoak walked to load the bases again, Gray got Josh Thole on a groundout and the A’s returned to the dugout still leading 6-2.

[WATCH: Inside Pitch: Gray vs Donaldson one of best matchups in MLB]

“I dug myself in a hole and kind of was able to dig myself out of it,” Gray said.

Similar to the New York Yankees, whom the A’s just swept, the Blue Jays are scuffling offensively more than their star-studded lineup would suggest they should. Compounding matters for Toronto was Friday’s news of first baseman Chris Colabello’s 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

But Toronto battled back Friday, pulling to within 6-5 before the resurgent Khris Davis delivered a two-out, two-run double for the A’s to add some important insurance runs. “There’s never a comfy lead against that offense,” Davis said. “But scoring after they score is kind of deflating (for the opponent).”

And there to close it out in the ninth for the A’s, once again, was Ryan Madson. His seven saves are tied with the Royals’ Wade Davis for most in the American League, but Melvin still isn’t anointing Madson his official closer.

Matchups dictate who he goes with, Melvin said, adding that he was planning to use Doolittle for the ninth until Ryan Dull found trouble in the eighth and Melvin instead called on Doolittle then (the lefty allowed a walk and Kevin Pillar’s two-run single to make it a 6-5 game at that time).

Job titles — or lack thereof — hardly matter to the A’s right now. Their 7-0 road start is third-best in Oakland history behind the 11-0 start of the 1981 club and an 8-0 run by the 1990 squad.

They’re beating opponents with grand gestures — like Chris Coghlan’s three-run homer Friday. They’re also doing it with subtle victories within the game, as Gray demonstrated in a sixth inning that could have taken an ugly turn but didn’t.

Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

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AP

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.

A's trade Ryon Healy to Mariners for two players

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USATSI

A's trade Ryon Healy to Mariners for two players

The rumors were indeed true. Ryon Healy was on the trade block.

And now Healy has been traded...to the Mariners.

The two teams announced the trade Wednesday evening.

Oakland will receive right-handed pitcher Emilio Pagan and shortstop Alexander Campos.

Healy burst on to the scene in 2016 with 13 home runs and 37 RBI in 72 games. This past season, he finished second on the A's with 25 home runs and 78 RBI. But he had become the odd man out in the A's lineup with Matt Olson and Matt Chapman solidifying the corner infield spots.

The 25-year-old is familiar with the Pacific Northwest as he attended the University of Oregon.

Pagan, 26, made his major league debut during the 2017 season. In 34 relief appearances with the Mariners, he posted a 3.22 ERA and struck out 56 batters in 50.1 innings. Against the A's, Pagan allowed one run in 5.1 innings over three outings. A native of South Carolina, Pagan was drafted by the Mariners in the 10th round of the 2013 MLB Draft.

Campos appears to be the prize of the trade, though he's a bit further away from reaching the major leagues. Just 17 years old, Campos signed out of Venezuela in 2016 and made his professional debut this past season. In 59 games for the Mariners' Domincan Summer League team, Campos hit .290/.413/.367 with 10 doubles, two home runs and 26 RBI.

MLB Pipeline ranked Campos as Seattle's No. 15 prospect.