Athletics

Tigers don't see A's as underdogs

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Tigers don't see A's as underdogs

DETROIT -- The Oakland Athletics won 94 games, had the best record in the Major Leagues since June 2 (71-38), and a had a Major League-leading 112 home runs, and 394 runs scored since the All-Star Break. Somehow, they are still considered the underdogs against the 88-win Detroit Tigers in Las Vegas. It would seem the A's are getting no respect, but that's clearly not the case -- just ask the Tigers themselves. "That's just a group of guys that don't give up and I think they like the fact that a lot of guys are saying they might be the underdog in the series," Tigers' game one starting pitcher Justin Verlander said. "Even though they won more games than us. It's crazy." "They've been a great story," Tigers' manager Jim Leyland added. "I think it has been an unbelievable year for baseball and the A's have been part of the story."
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Oakland's improbable surge to capture the American League West Championship has certainly garnered the attention of the Tigers who spent Friday afternoon sizing up their competition. "They've gotten great pitching all year," catcher Alex Avila said. "Their offense is pretty good too. You can't argue with how many games they've won. They are a tough team and they are a scrappy team." The Tigers and A's both took their respective divisions late in the season. The A's actually never held sole possession of first place until after winning their final game. The Tigers finally passed the Chicago White Sox for good on September 26. Both the Tigers and A's have identical home winning percentages (.580, 50-31).Verlander was 2-0 against the A's this season. He faced Oakland when they weren't running on all cylinders though. They were missing Yoenis Cespedes from the lineup when Verlander beat them in Oakland on May 13, and they were missing Coco Crisp when he defeated them in Detroit on September 19. Even without Crisp -- who is 8 for 22 in his career against Verlander -- the A's were able to work up his pitch count and get him out of the game after throwing 122 pitches through six innings of shutout ball. "It's just one of those teams that is scrappy and found a way to win no matter who is in the lineup," Verlander said. "The last game I threw against them was actually one of the toughest games I threw all year."
RELATED: A's announce starters for Games 1 and 2
That's high praise coming from the reigning American League MVP and Cy Young award-winner. "You can't ever take guys for granted no matter who's name is on the back," Verlander said of the A's lineup. "Obviously this group of guys have done a fantastic job and they had one of the best records in baseball so they are doing something right." The starting pitcher for the Tigers in game two will be Doug Fister. The Merced native holds a a different type of admiration for the A's. "Growing up I was more of a Giants fan but I went to a couple A's games with my dad and some friends. I think it is going to be fun. There's going to be a lot of friends and family that comes to the games. It does make it definitely more special to have some familiar faces in the stands."Fister struck out nine consecutive batters on September 27 to set an American League strikeout record. He is 10-10 with a 3.45 ERA this season and is 5-4 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 career starts against the A's. He sees a lot of similarity between the A's and Tigers. "I think that their camaraderie is there," Fister said. "They play together, they play for one another, and you see it. That's the same thing we do it's going to be a good battle for us." As much as the Tigers seemed to respect and appreciate what the A's have accomplished, they know the A's don't have a weapon like Miguel Cabrera. The first triple crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, Cabrera demolished the A's this season to a tune of a .483 (14 for 29) average with three homers and 14 RBI in their seven games against each other.
RELATED: A's-Tigers ALDS broadcast schedule"Everybody everywhere wants to pay attention when he's hitting," Verlander said. "He's an unbelievable talent and I think in the ballpark when they announce Miguel Cabrera everyone in the hot dog line gets out of the line and comes to watch." "I do too," he added. "I get out of the hot dog line in the dugout."
Oakland can let the Tigers fans stay in the concession lines by avoiding Cabrera all together. They might be better off taking their chances with Prince Fielder at the plate. He only hit .074 (2 for 27) against A's pitching this season. The first two games will be in Detroit. Saturday's game is at 3:07 p.m. and Sunday's game is at 9:07 a.m. PST. Tuesday's game will be at 6:07 p.m. in Oakland. If necessary the final two games of the series will be at the Oakland Coliseum at a time to be determined.

Ryan Christenson named bench coach as A's solidify 2018 staff

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Ryan Christenson named bench coach as A's solidify 2018 staff

Ryan Christenson has worked his way up the coaching ladder in the A’s farm system, and on Thursday he was named the team’s new major league bench coach.

The announcement makes Christenson, 43, the right-hand man for manager Bob Melvin and essentially the No. 2 man in the dugout. It also settles a position that was in flux over the course of the 2017 season. Mark Kotsay began this past season as bench coach but stepped away from the team in June to be with his family after his daughter, Sienna, suffered a serious eye injury.

Kotsay is expected to remain with the big league club in some form of non-everyday role. Chip Hale finished the season as bench coach but will now switch back to third base coach, a position he originally was hired for leading into the 2017 season. Hale also coaches Oakland’s infielders.

“At some point in time we knew Ryan was going to be here,” Melvin said. “He went through all the classifications (managing in the minors). He did well with a young group. It’s a good fit bringing him in, and he’s ready for the bench coach role. He’s done a lot of managing.”

Though the bench coach works in closest tandem with a manager throughout the game, Melvin also noted the importance of having a third-base coach that thinks right along with him and is on the same page. From that standpoint, he said having Hale in that role is important.

“Chip’s so good at third, that even though I’m used to having him on the bench, it’s tough not to use him (at third),” Melvin said. “Certainly this isn’t a demotion for Chip.”

It’s the first appointment on a major league staff for Christenson, who has spent the past five seasons managing in Oakland’s farm system, starting with low Single-A and working his way up to Triple-A Nashville this season. He led Double-A Midland to back-to-back Texas League titles in 2015-16, and his teams went 391-307 (.561) over those five seasons.

The rest of Melvin’s coaching staff will return intact in 2018. That includes pitching coach Scott Emerson, who took over that role midseason after the firing of Curt Young, and hitting coach Darren Bush. Like Christenson, Emerson and Bush both were promoted from within the farm system to their eventual spots on the big league staff.

All three men have extensive history coaching the large group of young players that are establishing themselves as the A’s core, and that’s a factor worth keeping in mind when evaluating the makeup of this staff.

Emerson, who assumed Young’s duties in June, will return as pitching coach despite the A’s staff posting a 4.67 ERA, highest by an Oakland staff since 1999. A’s pitchers also surrendered an Oakland-record 210 home runs.

“Similar to Ryan, he knows everybody, what we have here and in the minor leagues,” Melvin said of Emerson. “He’s been a good fit here and continues to be a good fit.”

Bush oversaw a group of hitters that showed improvement as the season wore on, scoring the fifth-most runs in the American League after the All-Star break. The A’s set a franchise record for strikeouts – in line with the rise in whiffs throughout the majors -- but also hit the fourth-most homers in franchise history.

Melvin’s staff is rounded out by first base coach Mike Aldrete, bullpen coach Garvin Alston and assistant hitting coach/catching coach Marcus Jensen. Steve Scarsone, who filled in as interim third base coach from June through the rest of the season, will resume his duties as a traveling instructor throughout the farm system.

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

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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.