Athletics

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's Game 1 loss to Rays

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's Game 1 loss to Rays

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The A’s comeback rally in the top of the ninth Saturday afternoon only set up their disappointment an inning later.

Evan Longoria doubled home Peter Bourjos in the bottom of the 10th and the Tampa Bay Rays rang up a 6-5 victory in the opener of a doubleheader at Tropicana Field.

Oakland trailed 5-4 entering the ninth but tied the game on back-to-back doubles from Yonder Alonso and Ryon Healy. But in the 10th, Peter Bourjos singled and went to second on a wild pitch from Liam Hendriks. Then Longoria drilled the game-winner to the corner in left field.

Despite the late-game drama, this one played out like too many before it for the A’s. They racked up 16 hits but left too many opportunities on the bases. They made a couple sterling defensive plays, yet also turned in a couple of costly errors. In the end they did just enough wrong, and Tampa Bay has claimed the first two of this four-game series. The second game of Saturday’s twin bill was scheduled to begin about 40 minutes after the first, with Sean Manaea taking the hill for Oakland.

Early offense, but not enough: The A’s racked up 16 hits and jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but left 13 men on base. Those missed chances wound up costing them.

Another untimely error does damage: After the Rays took a 4-3 lead in the sixth, they stole another run on a play where the A’s should have had the third out. Michael Martinez reached on an infield single and Tim Beckham tried to score all the way from second. Yonder Alonso’s throw home was to the wrong side of the plate but arrived in plenty of time to get Beckham, but Josh Phegley couldn’t handle the throw and Tampa Bay had another run. Tampa Bay’s two-run rally in the fourth also began with a throwing error from A’s starter Sonny Gray.

A big opportunity goes to waste: Leading 3-0, the A’s had a chance to extend that lead in the fourth when they loaded the bases with no outs, but they came up empty. Matt Joyce bounced into a home-to-first double play and Chad Pinder flied out. With that, the A’s missed a chance to possibly get into the Rays bullpen early and make things more difficult for the home team during a long day of baseball.

A memorable moment for the rookie: The good, the bad for Sonny: Gray went six innings and notched his fourth career 10-strikeout game. But Tampa Bay got to him for five runs, just two of which were earned. Given a 3-0 lead, Gray gave up Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out, two-run single to make it a one-run game but struck out Tim Beckham to strand a runner at third. But Beckham would get Gray in the sixth, delivering a two-run go-ahead double, another rally that unfolded with two outs. The E-2 play at the plat with Phegley would follow to make it 5-3.

A's Matt Chapman undergoes shoulder surgery, will swing again in six weeks

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USATSI

A's Matt Chapman undergoes shoulder surgery, will swing again in six weeks

Matt Chapman had his second surgery of the offseason on Friday and underwent a successful procedure on his left shoulder, the A's announced. 

The Gold Glove-winning third baseman will begin physical therapy next week, and is expected to be able to swing a bat in six weeks, according to Dr. William Workman, who performed the surgery. Six weeks from the surgery is Jan. 25, 2019, or about two weeks before the start of spring training. 

Chapman recently felt discomfort in his shoulder during off-season workouts, according to the A's. In October, Chapman underwent surgery on his left thumb, and was expected to make a full recovery. 

Chapman emerged as one of the most important A's last season, and arguably the best defender in baseball. He led all of MLB with 29 defensive runs saved, and was voted the winner of the AL Platinum Glove. 

The A's need his glove -- and his bat -- healthy for spring training, no matter how the rest of the offseason shakes out. 

A's in no hurry to sign starting pitchers as MLB free agency progresses

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AP

A's in no hurry to sign starting pitchers as MLB free agency progresses

Right at the beginning of this offseason, A's executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane identified starting pitching as the club's top priority. General manager David Forst and manager Bob Melvin both echoed that sentiment.

So why has the team yet to add a single starting pitcher?

"I don't think there's a need to be knee-jerk right now because some of these guys will still be on the board till the end," Melvin said at the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings this week in Las Vegas. "Our guys have been pretty good about identifying the right fits here. So it doesn't look great right now as far as our rotation, but I think our guys have a pretty good handle on it."

Added Forst: "We have sort of targeted conversations, free agents and trades, and kind of go at our own pace. I don't know that any external forces are going to change that."

[RELATED: Sources: A's, Kelley's reps have 'positive dialogue']

The A's did meet with several agents at the winter meetings, and they remain interested in a handful of starters, including Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson from last year's squad.

But while some teams feel a sense of urgency to wheel and deal at the winter neetings, Oakland preferred to take a more cautious approach.

"There are certainly good things about being [at the winter meetings], but we also want to get out, look at what we've done in the light of day and make sure it's the right thing," Forst explained.

Said Beane: "Things don't always get done [at the winter meetings], but a lot of groundwork is laid and a lot of things happen right after."

That explanation might not satisfy fans, but the strategy has worked for Oakland in the past. Last year, the A's waited until March to sign Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson. They didn't add Edwin Jackson until June.

Even if other teams go out and spend big money on starting pitchers, Oakland won't let that affect its negotiations.

"We kind of set our price," Forst said. "We know what we can do within the confines of our payroll and try to stay on that."

[RELATED: Former A's top pick goes No. 1 overall in Rule 5 Draft]

As for the current roster, the A's actually do already have five or six viable starters. Everyone in the organization agrees top prospect Jesús Luzardo is ready to pitch at the big-league level. Add Daniel Mengden, Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt and Paul Blackburn, and you have a starting five.

The A's also recently acquired 25-year-old right-hander Tanner Anderson from the Pirates, and they expect him to compete for a rotation slot. 22-year-old righty Grant Holmes is another possibility.

Of course, some of Oakland's best pitchers are injured, though prospect A.J. Puk and Jharel Cotton should be able to return midway through the season.

"We feel really good about the depth we have," Melvin said. "Now, granted, a lot of these guys are hurt right now, and you never really know how you're going to respond. But there's a whole host of guys who are going to be back (between) spring training (and) the end of the year that we're really excited about."

That's not to say the A's will fail to add a few more starters to the mix, either through free agency or trade. It just might not happen as soon as fans would like.

But remember, it's a long offseason.