Athletics

Here's what fans missed in the A's come-from-way-ahead-to-damned-near-behind win over M's

Here's what fans missed in the A's come-from-way-ahead-to-damned-near-behind win over M's

The first sign that baseball playoff races are heating up in the East Bay is the faded yard lines on the field at the Coliseum. The second is the river of complaints about the yard lines on the field at the Coliseum, which run neck by jowl with the complaints by football fans of the indignity of their precious heroes having to play practice games on infield dirt.

The last sign, of course, is in the attendance. But isn’t that typically the way with the A’s? The folks who want them to entertain are typically the last to know.

But here’s the fun they missed Monday in the Elephants’ hilarious come-from-way-ahead-to-damned-near-behind 7-6 win over Seattle, a victory that strengthened their hold on the second wild-card space (now 2½ games over the Mariners), narrowed the distance between themselves and division-leading Houston (now two games), not to mention the first-wild-carded Yankees (3½ and shrinking):

-- They missed three more doubles by third baseman Matt Chapman, who will win no awards but almost surely will feature on many of the 30 American League Most Valuable Player ballots.

Hey, in the olden days, he’d have been a Minnesota Twin by July 23.

-- They missed two more doubles and four runs batted in by Jed Lowrie, who might get a couple of votes himself.

And he WAS going to be traded before smarted heads than those engaged in the various rumor mills prevailed.

-- They missed Sean Manaea’s most effective start since his no-hitter in April, as he stifled the Mariners’ fly-ball-laden lineup into a series of groundouts that not only kept him in the game into the eighth inning (his second longest start since the second day of the season) but allowed manager Bob Melvin to almost, but actually not at all, leave his bullpen in the bubble wrap for a change.

Hey, why have five closers if you can’t use a couple whenever you want?

-- They missed a brilliant two-out, 6-3-5 double play to end the fourth inning, starting with a smart pickup and throw by shortstop Marcus Semien to retire Ryon Healy and then an excellent cross-diamond throw by first baseman Matt Olson to third to get Kyle Seager with the extraneous but still delightful fourth out.

Hey, even superfluous athleticism should get noticed, if not tangibly rewarded.

-- And they missed the indisputable proof that some people already have Pachyderm Fever. Melvin hooked Manaea after seeing his starter get Guillermo Heredia and Andrew Romine to start the eighth before allowing a single to Ryan Haniger. Melvin replaced him with Emilio Pagan, who immediate gave up singles to Cameron Maybin and Jean Segura, and as Melvin walked out to replace Pagan with Lou Trivino, a fan in the second deck yelled (and I’m quoting here), “Boo Melvin! You idiot!”

Yes, the man SAID “boo.” He didn’t actually boo. He said the word “boo” the way you would say “Pass the sugar.” Fans are the best, no matter how many there are.

-- Finally, they missed the thigh-slapping, commode-hugging ninth inning, in which they aggressively tried to blow Manaea’s six-run lead. Jeurys Familia started the inning and quickly threw 17 pitches, five of them for strikes, thus loading the bases with no outs for closer Blake Treinen, who had pitched the day before and was probably looking forward to a well-earned night off.

He quickly taught Familia a valuable lesson about wasting pitches by throwing a wild pitch to score Ryon Healy, and then giving up a two-run single to Mitch Haniger to score the other two Familia walks, Mike Zunino and pinch-hitter Denard Span.

And the reason all this mattered in the long run? The 10,400 fans rose after the Haniger single and started chanting “Let’s Go Oakland” as though there were 13,873 of them. They demanded their heroes rise from their knees, and they got a response, albeit delayed.

Treinen struck out Maybin, gave up a single to Segura and, because it has to be this way with these guys, struck out power-hitting Nelson Cruz to win the game before a relieved mob that sounded more like 18,101.

See? The crowds ARE building, even if the math calls us all liars.

Besides, the 2002 A’s didn’t catch the area’s notice, in the year of their 20-game winning streak (2002) until after Game 15 of their 20-game winning streak in which Games 6 through 15 were played on the road. So maybe it isn’t that A’s fans are incapable of reacting to normal baseball stimulus after all. Maybe they just have a higher threshold the boys must reach before they fully commit to the concept.

Game Two is Tuesday. It will almost certainly be weirder than Monday’s, though it’s hard to imagine how. But at least the field will look a little less football-y.

Did Nathan Eovaldi's playoff heroics put him out of A's price range?

Did Nathan Eovaldi's playoff heroics put him out of A's price range?

No free agent made himself more money this postseason than right-hander Nathan Eovaldi.

The 28-year-old had a respectable regular season, going 6-7 with a 3.81 ERA and 1.13 WHIP between the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox. His career numbers also are just decent: 44-53, 4.16 ERA, 1.35 WHIP.

But in 22 1/3 innings this postseason, Eovaldi allowed just four earned runs for an ERA of 1.61, helping the Red Sox win a World Series title.

Eovaldi's playoff heroics turned him into one of the hottest commodities of the offseason. He earned just $2 million in each of the last two seasons, but he's now projected to land a multiyear contract at around $15 million per season.

The A's obviously need starting pitching help -- executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane already has said as much. But spending big bucks on a sexy free agent target isn't exactly their MO.

Eovaldi would have been a shrewd signing for around $8 million per year, but $15 million is a pretty steep price to pay off one great month. Before this season, Eovaldi hadn't recorded an ERA under 4 since 2013. His high WHIP and low swing-and-miss rate also are concerns.

For the type of money Eovaldi is expected to get, the A's would be better off pursuing top-end starters such as Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel, both of whom are expected to earn around $20 million per year. And really, what's an extra $5 million at that point?

Otherwise, Oakland probably should use that $15 million to sign multiple pitchers, including their own free agents.

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Thursday is dedicated to free agent pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.

Will Phillies be in the mix for Nate Eovaldi?
How Eovaldi set himself up for big payday
How does Eovaldi fit the White Sox?
Will Giants take risk with Eovaldi?

MLB rumors: A's talking to former catcher Kurt Suzuki about possible reunion

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USATSI

MLB rumors: A's talking to former catcher Kurt Suzuki about possible reunion

A familiar name recently has been mentioned with the A's.

Catcher Kurt Suzuki, who spent seven seasons with the team, reportedly has been approached by the organization about a possible reunion.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, the 12-year veteran has interest from the green and gold about a deal next season.

Suzuki was granted free agency this offseason after finishing his 2018 campaign with the Braves slashing .271/.332/.444 with 94 hits and 12 home runs in 105 games. His resume includes an All-Star selection in 2015 with the Twins and two postseason appearances.

The A's traded Suzuki to the Nationals in 2012, then was reacquired by the A's in 2013 for a short stint.