Athletics

A's get taste of playoff baseball with four-game fight with Twins

A's get taste of playoff baseball with four-game fight with Twins

As the calendar speeds toward August, the A's have their eyes set on playing more than one October baseball game this year.

With a roster that has minimal postseason baseball experience, any taste of playoff intensity can be beneficial for Bob Melvin's club, and Oakland got a little dose of it over the weekend in Minnesota.

The AL Central-leading Twins and A's dueled it out in a four-game slobber-knocker that concluded with Max Kepler's walk-off single Sunday afternoon, giving the Twins a 7-6 win and series split against the A's.

It was a series that had a serious playoff feel to it, with neither team refusing to give in.

On Saturday, the A's stunned the Twins on Khris Davis' two-out, two-run single in the top of the ninth, giving the A's a 5-4 win. The Twins returned the favor Sunday when Luis Arraez singled off All-Star closer Liam Hendriks and scored on a triple by Ehire Adrianza to tie the game at six. After Hendriks struck out Jason Castro for the second out, Kepler roped a single into left-center field and the party was on at Target Field.

The A's leave Minnesota at 57-43, one game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays for the second AL wild-card spot. The Twins currently lead the Cleveland Indians by three games in the AL Central and appear primed to make a return to October baseball.

An October return to Target Field certainly isn't out of the question for the A's, and this series helped give the A's another sense of what awaits them in the playoffs should they continue on their current trajectory. 

[RELATED: Optimistic Beane hopes A's are active at trade deadline]

Last season, the A's walked into the AL Wild Card Game against the New York Yankees and looked overwhelmed by the stage en route a season-ending 7-2 loss at Yankee Stadium. After getting a taste of playoff baseball last year, the A's are hoping to make a deeper October run this season. 

They got another taste of playoff-like intensity over the weekend against a team they could see in October, and it can only benefit them as the dog days of summer turn into tense fall nights.

A's ready to use A.J. Puk in 'a big spot' in making major league debut

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AP

A's ready to use A.J. Puk in 'a big spot' in making major league debut

OAKLAND -- A.J. Puk's major-league debut has been a long time coming. The A's believe it will be worth the wait.

Puk, 24, has been ranked as the A's No. 2 prospect for the last four years. After undergoing Tommy John surgery last spring, the 6-foot-7 left-hander is finally ready to take the field at the Coliseum.

"I’m really excited to just get out here and compete and try to help the team," Puk said. "It's been a long year -- a lot of work -- and it's paid off. I'm happy to be here."

The A's are certainly happy to have him as well. In the long-term, Puk will be a starting pitcher, but since he's on an innings limit following his surgery, he will join the bullpen for the stretch run.

"I'm not afraid to use him in a big spot," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "Now he's in the big leagues, the training wheels are off, and I'm looking forward to seeing him out there."

Puk has dominant stuff that should play right away in the majors. His fastball sits in the high 90s and can even touch 100, and his slider is absolutely devastating against either left-handed or right-handed batters.

"I see a fungo with long hair," joked NBC Sports California analyst Dallas Braden. "I also see a dude who has thunder coming out of that left arm and I see who I think understands how important and how valuable he can be, even in a short burst right now."

Melvin summed up Puk's stuff in a similar, if not as colorful, manner.

"Well, he throws rather hard. He's got a pretty good slider. Up to this point, he's developed into the guy that we kind of expected him to. ... We've been excited watching his progress and we're excited to have him."

Puk should significantly upgrade an Oakland bullpen that has dealt with its share of struggles this season. 

[RELATED: A's release struggling Estrada after constant back issues]

"What he's potentially capable of allows some other guys to settle in and maybe take a load off," Braden explained. "There's no doubt that, if necessary, he's poised for a big moment. That's what he has to know he's here for."

Puk will have his entire family at the Coliseum on Tuesday night -- his parents, three siblings, his agent Scott Boras, and even his old pitching coach who he's known since the age of nine.

"When they call my name, (I'll) be ready to pitch," Puk said. "Probably juiced up a lot. I'll try to stay relaxed and just get the job done."

Yankees vs. A's lineups: Oakland plays host for AL Wild Card rematch

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USATSI

Yankees vs. A's lineups: Oakland plays host for AL Wild Card rematch

Call it a rematch if you must, but the Oakland Coliseum will host a familiar matchup on Tuesday night. The A's will face the New York Yankees, the same team that cut their 2018 season short in the American League Wild Card Game.

Righty Domingo Germán will get starting honors for the pinstripes as he seeks his eighth consecutive win. He could limit his innings from here on out, but he's riding high with a 16-2 record on the season.

Homer Bailey will be on the mound for the A's and hopes to continue his success in the state of California. He comes off a scoreless seven-inning win over the Giants on Wednesday and has rather impressive numbers against the Yankees in his last outing as a member of the Royals in April.

It will be Chris Herrmann behind the plate catching Bailey as Josh Phegley gets the day off. 

Here are how the lineups look to shape up for Yankees-A's. You can follow the action on NBC Sports California, or by downloading and streaming on the MyTeams app.

New York Yankees (83-43)

DJ LeMahieu, 1B
Aaron Judge, RF
Gary Sanchez, DH
Gio Urshela, 3B
Didi Gregorius, SS
Gleyber Torres, 2B
Cameron Maybin, LF
Austin Romine, C
Mike Tauchman, CF

Domingo Germán (16-2, 3.96 ERA)

Oakland A's (71-53)

Marcus Semien, SS
Robbie Grossman, LF
Matt Chapman, 3B
Matt Olson, 1B
Mark Canha, CF
Khris Davis, DH
Stephen Piscotty, RF
Corban Joseph, 2B
Chris Herrmann, C 

Homer Bailey, P (10-8, 5.22 ERA)