A's thrive in playoff atmosphere


A's thrive in playoff atmosphere


OAKLAND Things were different at the Oakland Coliseum Friday night. After working their loyal fan base into a froth with a second consecutive 6-1 road trip, the A's returned home to a raucous sellout crowd and a matchup with serious playoff implications.And they thrived. "It was incredible," third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "I got chills out there."The 35,067 paid attendance got chills when Donaldson initiated 5-4-3 inning-ending double plays in the fourth and sixth -- two of the A's four double plays of the night. "For a guy who was catching last year, to be able to play the defense he has for us has been spectacular," Melvin said. "He was a key part of the game tonight."Donaldson's bare-handed play in the eighth inning looked to be the defensive play of the game, until Derek Norris gunned down pinch runner Xavier Avery to end the game. "You don't see that too often," Melvin said. "That's the best throw we've seen (Norris) make." Yes, the defense was there. But a playoff team has pitching too, and Tommy Milone showed, again, that the A's have the pitching. He set the tone with first-pitch strikes to 20 of the first 21 batters he faced, and he seemed to get tougher with runners on base."That's really impressive. That's the kind of start we've seen from him all year," Melvin said. "Bends at times, but doesn't break."Milone had been 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA in his last five starts, but recaptured his early season dominance, looking like the pitcher that went 5-1 with a 0.91 ERA in his first eight starts. The rookie's "vintage" effort earned him a place in the record books as the first Oakland A's freshman to win 13 games."I was congratulating him on tying it and the next thing he said is, 'It's time to break it,'" Melvin said. "Just a long, long list of great pitchers here, to be able to break that record is a nice feather in his cap."Milone departed with the tying runner on base, and Pat Neshek, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour preserved his record-breaking victory when they combined for two and two-thirds innings of relief, recording three strikeouts in facing the minimum number of Orioles."The bullpen came in and took over and did what we've seen them do for the better part of the season," Melvin said.The adage states that pitching and defense win championships, but it can't be done without a little offense. The A's, who have hit the second most home runs in the majors since the All Star break, got their boost in the fourth inning when Yoenis Cespedes went deep for the third time in the last four games. Cespedes arrived at the ballpark day-to-day with a sprained right wrist, but he played all nine innings and backed up his pregame claim that he'd rest when the team gets a championship. "It's tough to give him a full day's rest at this point in the season," Melvin said. "Obviously, that was a huge home run tonight."Every pitch means the world in playoff baseball, and Friday's game had that feel, with the sellout crowd hanging on every offering."Our fans were into it," Melvin acknowledged. "It was back and forth. It was an exciting game. It had a little bit different atmosphere."It all came back to the atmosphere. "It's awesome to have the people out there like that," Balfour said after recording his 18th save of the season. "The fans we have are awesome. They get into it. Just to see that many people. It really makes a huge difference for us, I can tell you that as a player."Balfour's call to action for Oakland fans shouldn't be necessary. The A's are playing exciting baseball, and Friday night they showcased their ability to thrive when the pressure is highest."Those close ballgames like that, to come out on top is big," Balfour said. "You know going into the playoffs you're not going to have a blowout game. You're going to have two good teams, good pitching. It's going to be close, going to be tight. It's good to come out on top tonight."And you better believe the atmospheric change registered in the A's clubhouse."Heck yeah," Donaldson said. "Everywhere you go, everybody's got their A's gear on wanting to talk A's baseball. It's a great atmosphere in the city of Oakland."It's a playoff atmosphere.

Young A’s fan writes letter to team after fires take home, beloved memorabilia

Twitter @KatieUtehs

Young A’s fan writes letter to team after fires take home, beloved memorabilia

Young Athletics fan Loren Jade Smith is among the thousands of people affected by the Northern California wildfires. Along with his family's home, the fire storm took his most valued possession -- his A's memorabilia collection. 

In his disappointment, Smith wrote a letter to the A's that has since gone viral. 

After the letter was shared throughout the Twitterverse, A's President Dave Kaval said the team would reach out to Jade and his family to replace his memorabilia. 

And since Kaval's announcement, the A's community of fans has responded with offers to send the young fan some memorabilia. The A's have even set up an address where fans can send Smith their gifts. 

Who can we blame for epidemic of teams losing three straight elimination games?


Who can we blame for epidemic of teams losing three straight elimination games?

Fox’ Matt Vasgersian, who does his job well,  declared the New York Yankees’ American League Division Series win over Cleveland to be amazing.

It is not. Not any more.

In fact, the Yankees winning three elimination games in succession is a feat that has happened seven times in the past three years. And we can only conclude from that that they’re not making teams that can avoid the bad beat the way they used to.

The 2017 Indians joined the 2016 Indians, Warriors and Thunder, the 2015 Clippers, Capitals and Texas Rangers, the 2014 Penguins and Sharks, the 2013 Red Wings, the 2012 Reds and Cardinals, the 2011 Penguins, the 2010 Bruins and Capitals as proud laryngectomy victims – teams that needed to win only one of three (or in the Sharks’ case, four) games to advance in the playoffs (or in the Warriors’ case, win).

That’s 15 times this “amazing” thing has happened, which means that by any estimate, teams that needed to win three consecutive games to escape the icy hand of Uncle Death are now pretty much the norm in this decade.

And why, you ask? I blame Twitter. I blame global warming. I blame video games. I blame smartphones. I blame phones. I blame the new president. I blame the old president. I blame Satan. I blame participation trophies and orange slices and juice boxes. I blame the players and I blame the owners and I blame the fans and definitely those smarmy bastards in the media. They’re the worst.

I blame you. Hell, I think I blame Matt Vasgersian.

But whomever is at fault, we have here an epidemic of feet strangling their owners when everything seems their cheeriest. And unless we live in such misery-enriched times that good times are only precursors to far worse ones, there is no sensible explanation. Players’ windpipes are no smaller than they were a decade ago. The Internet is older than seven years. Close-out games are not materially more difficult than they were before 2010.

And yet winning that one extra game is suddenly like finding out your SAT test has been written totally in anagrams. In other words, when things look brightest, that’s when you know you’re totally screwed.

And if you don’t believe me, ask Terry Francona. In a few weeks maybe. Not right away. Not unless you’re keen to see how it feels to have your neck used as a bathmat.