Athletics

Strong-armed catcher Murphy highlights A's prospects in Arizona Fall League

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AP

Strong-armed catcher Murphy highlights A's prospects in Arizona Fall League

With the Arizona Fall League set to begin Tuesday, here’s a glance at the seven minor leaguers the A’s are sending to the annual prospect showcase.

Oakland will have four pitchers and three position players on the roster of the Mesa Solar Sox, joining prospects from the Astros, Cubs, Nationals and Tigers organizations for five weeks of games in the desert:

C Sean Murphy: Rated the A’s No. 4 prospect by Baseball America, the right-handed hitting Murphy was a third-round pick out of Wright State in 2016. He finished this past season with Double-A Midland despite it being his first full professional campaign. He has an excellent throwing arm with solid footwork behind the plate. Murphy finished at .250 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and a .723 OPS in 98 games split between Single-A Stockton and Midland. Participating in his first big league camp this past spring, Murphy impressed one former catcher in particular.

“The kid can throw,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said back then. “It's special. We heard that coming in, but to actually see him throw to bases, it's one of those where you tell the infielder, 'If the ball looks low, give it a chance, because it's carrying.’ It’s an electric arm for sure.”

Murphy turns 23 on Tuesday.

RHP Logan Shore: Lefty A.J. Puk got most of the buzz coming out of the A’s 2016 draft. But it’s Shore, Puk’s teammate at the University of Florida, who many felt was a more polished pitching product. Shore, 22, missed a good chunk of this season with a lat strain suffered in May. He finished 2-5 with a 4.09 ERA in 72 2/3 innings at Stockton. Shore made a nice impression in the spring with a spot start against the Angels that included a strikeout of Mike Trout. A’s special assistant Grady Fuson praised the right-hander during an A’s Insider Podcast interview in September.

“Great sinker, probably as good a changeup as we’ve got in the system. He basically almost makes the baseball stop.”

For much more on A’s prospects, listen to that entire podcast.

3B Sheldon Neuse: Acquired from Washington in the Sean Doolittle/Ryan Madson trade, the 22-year-old Neuse made a big impression with the A’s, hitting .380 with seven homers and 28 RBI in 40 games split between Single-A and Double-A. He also plays shortstop, but after his promotion to Midland, Neuse settled at third base with Jorge Mateo handling short for the Rockhounds.

“He’s got more of a third baseman/catcher’s type build, but the one thing that’s stood out since the day we got him is this guy looks like he might be as pure a hitter as we’ve got,” Fuson said. “He’s got a very good approach to the right-center part of the diamond. He’s strong. He’s physical.”

RHP Norge Ruiz: The A’s signing of this free agent from Cuba last December didn’t create a huge buzz because of the timing of it. But they gave Ruiz, now 23, a $2 million bonus, which speaks to the upside they believe he has. Ruiz posted a 2.55 ERA over three years in Serie Nacional, Cuba’s top professional league. He began this season pitching for the A’s Dominican Summer League team before moving to the Arizona Rookie League and eventually joining Stockton’s rotation, where he went 3-1 with a 5.71 ERA in eight starts.

OF Tyler Ramirez: A seventh-round draft pick out of North Carolina in 2016, Ramirez — who hits and throws left-handed — enjoyed a fine season split between Stockton and Midland. He hit .304 with 11 homers, 63 RBI and a .398 on-base percentage. Ramirez, 22, saw time in all three outfield spots this season but primarily played left field.

RHP Nolan Blackwood: A 6-foot-5 reliever with a submarine delivery, the 22-year-old Blackwood posted 19 saves and a 3.00 ERA for Stockton. That included an impressive 1.05 WHIP and .205 opponents’ batting average over 57 innings.

RHP Miguel Romero: Signed in February out of Cuba, Romero, 23, spent four seasons in Serie Nacional, mainly pitching out of the bullpen. It appears that’s the role the A’s envision for him as well. Romero pitched at four different levels this past season, including eight appearances (one start) and a 6.87 ERA for Stockton.

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

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USATSI

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 NBCSportsBayArea.com 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

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USATSI

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

BOX SCORE

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.