What's going on in Oakland?


What's going on in Oakland?

ARLINGTON -- What's up with the A's? That seems to be a frequently asked question lately. They have lost six of their last eight games and are starting to look like they are leaking the winning lubricant that had recently made them a well-oiled machine. There's no denying the team is struggling. The bullpen that has been dubbed "The backbone of the team" has recently become a bit worn down, and there are no days off in sight. The team's most productive hitter, Josh Reddick, has been dropped from third, to sixth, to seventh, and most recently he is on the bench on Tuesday. The leadoff hitter, Coco Crisp, has a seemingly endless eye infection that couldn't have come at a worse time. Their starting pitching staff, which once boasted an embarrassment of riches, has been gutted. The three most experienced pitchers -- Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon, and Brett Anderson are all on the shelf. Lately, the A's have also forgotten how to play defense. They have nine games left, six against the American League West-leading Texas Rangers. Couldn't get much worse right?
Wrong.They A's are still two games ahead of the Angels in the Wild Card standings, and just one and a half games behind Baltimore. The seemingly crippling losses they keep suffering have come against three of the better teams in baseball in their home parks. Last weekend the A's dropped two of three to the Yankees in the Bronx, but pushed them to their limit, losing in extra innings in both games. All things considered they played pretty well and ended up with very little to show for it. The six games against Texas are tough, but they also give the A's a small glimmer of hope that they have can narrow the five-game lead the Rangers hold in the American League West.
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They may not for much longer at this rate, but for now the A's control their own destiny. Their magic number is eight to clinch a Wild Card playoff game. When asked about the struggles, two different players both spouted a nearly identical line: "Our backs aren't against the wall."They will have to fix things fast, things that fortunately can be fixed. The defense has been struggling lately to a tune of seven errors in the last three games. On Tuesday, Daric Barton is in the starting lineup and playing first base. Many may cringe at that thought but Brandon Moss and Chris Carter have both struggled defensively at first base in the last few games. Carter has reverted to the old Carter, and Moss made an error that lead to a Yankees walk-off win on Saturday.
NEWS: A's lineup: Pennington leading off
There is no quick fix in sight for the bullpen's fatigue, unless the starting pitchers can go deeper into games. One or two good starts will get the bullpen the rest they need to operate once again on full strength. Dan Straily's effort on Monday was a good step in the right direction. Tommy Milone on Wednesday and Jarrod Parker on Thursday need to do the same. In the meantime, A's manager Bob Melvin will have to be diligent in monitoring the use of his relievers. Unfortunately, that cost them the game on Monday. Reddick and Crisp have been nonexistent in the A's lineup lately for very different reasons. ForCrisp, it's a matter of waiting out the eye infection. The team is 62-43 with him in the lineup and 24-25 when he doesn't play. He looks closer to returning each day. Reddick gets a much needed mental break on Tuesday. He is 0-for-27, which is the longest hitless streak in his career, and hitting .190 with one home run and six RBI over his past 22 games. He has been too good all season long to stay in the dumps. It is a matter of time before he clicks. Before he hit the skids he went 14-for-28 with three home runs and nine RBI over a stretch of six games. One thing that is going well for the A's is that their middle of the infield problem appears to be resolved. Stephen Drew is hitting .317 (13-for-41) with six runs, three homers, and five RBI over his last nine games. Cliff Pennington has made 21 of his last 22 starts at second base and is hitting .364 (24-for-66) with 12 runs scored, three homers, and 10 RBI in his last 20 games. With Crisp out indefinitely, Pennington will be leading off. Maybe he can spark the team like Crisp has done. The A's still have the ability to hit for power. Yoenis Cespedes is surging again, hitting .326 (15-for-46) with five homers and 11 RBI in hist last 13 games. Moss has seven homers in his last 22 games. Josh Donaldson has filled in seamlessly for Brandon Inge, batting .305 (43-for-141) with 22 runs, 11 doubles, seven homers, and 21 RBI in 38 games since being recalled from Sacramento. Really, it isn't all bad. The A's are in the driver's seat for their first postseason spot since 2006. No one saw that coming at the beginning of the year. Let's put it this way: If someone told you in April that Oakland would be two games in the lead for a Wild Card spot with nine to play, you would have been pretty stoked. Things may be tough, but this is where a good team's mettle is tested.

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


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

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.