Athletics For Life

SONNY

October 6th, 2013

bd10a1ddad7562213f0f6a706700d5cbHe wasn’t in the rotation until August, and he was making his 11th big league start in the ALDS. And he was going up against A’s killer and 2011 Cy Young and AL MVP Justin Verlander. It was very much the David vs. Goliath matchup as far as name recognition goes, but man, did Sonny Gray deliver for the A’s when they needed a win.

Gray pitched eight shutout innings, striking out nine (including Austin Jackson four times) and giving up only four hits. Verlander was just as masterful as you’d expect him to be, but thanks to Gray, the A’s got themselves into the ninth inning with the score still zero-zero, where they could string a few hits together and come up with the walkoff single, as Stephen Vogt singled home Yoenis Cespedes to seal the 1-0 victory.

This was a must-win game for the A’s, as they’ve got to go on the road for the next two games and now there’s still a chance that they could take care of business without having to see Max Scherzer or Verlander again. Winning on the road isn’t going to be easy, but neither is beating Verlander when he throws 7 shutout innings and strikes out 11, and we just watched them do that.

Monday morning (thanks TV schedule), it’s Jarrod Parker and Anibal Sanchez in Detroit. Go A’s!!

Houston Astros v Oakland AthleticsUnlike a lot of people, I’m not going to pile on Josh Reddick for striking out with Yoenis Cespedes at third and one out in the second inning. That was a big missed opportunity, yes, but Max Scherzer strikes guys out. Seriously, that’s what he does. He was second in all of baseball in strikeouts this season, and he’s probably going to win the Cy Young Award. It sure would’ve been nice if Reddick hit the ball and drove in a run, but Scherzer did what Scherzer does.

Instead, that stupid first inning is what doomed the A’s tonight. Bartolo Colon spent an inning throwing wildly and leaving pitches up in the zone that the Tigers wasted no time hitting all over the field, and the A’s were down 3-0 before Coco Crisp even stepped into the batter’s box. But then after that, Bartolo was fine. He pitched through theĀ  sixth without giving up anything else, and then Dan Otero and Sean Doolittle kept the Tigers off the board the rest of the game. Cespedes’ two-run moonshot off Scherzer would’ve won the game if not for that lousy first inning.

The bad first inning also took the crowd out of the game right away and it really didn’t recover until Cespedes hit the home run. I don’t think the game was even going for five minutes when the score was already 2-0. That homefield advantage and that rowdy crowd were pretty much a non-factor.

So the A’s are now down 1-0 in the best of five series and have an uphill battle with Justin Verlander going for Detroit tomorrow night. Dropping one at home is bad. Dropping two at home and then heading on the road would be disasterous, so Game 2 is a must win, and it’ll be Sonny Gray on the hill for the A’s. No pressure, kid! Go A’s….

October Again

September 30th, 2013

628x471Well, here we are again. 162 games are in the books and the A’s are one of the remaining 11(!) teams with games still to play. This year’s A.L. West Division title came with less fanfare and drama than last year’s, but it’s still just as sweet to beat out a couple of teams most people thought were better than the A’s.

The 2013 A’s finished the regular season with 96 wins, two more than last season. I said at the beginning of the year that this year’s team was better than last year’s team on paper, and it turned out to be true in the standings. This year’s team posted a winning record in every month, and despite the little stretch after the All Star break where they dropped into second place for awhile, there weren’t many panic moments where I thought the A’s weren’t going to get it done.

I think this is mostly a testament to the depth and versatility of the roster. There was a time early in the season when Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, and Yoenis Cespedes were all on the disabled list at the same time. That’s the entire starting outfield, and it would’ve crippled a lot of teams. But the A’s got through it fine because of their roster depth. Cespedes didn’t even start to hit very well until September. The 2013 A’s are full of bench players on any given day that aren’t going to kill you if they have to be everyday guys for awhile.

Is this what’s finally going to make Billy Beane’s stuff work in the playoffs? I hope so. There hasn’t been much to cheer for in the playoffs in the Beane era. I can’t help but worry that will continue, but then again, I’m always full of optimism going into an October run. I truly believe it is a crapshoot, but one of these days, the A’s are going to be on the winning side of that crapshoot. Maybe, just maybe, 2013 is the year.

Go A’s!!!!!!

Nobody Said it Would be Easy

August 13th, 2013

It’s hard to believe how quickly the A’s got themselves a six-game lead in the A.L. West, and how quickly that evaporated. The A’s were up six games over the Rangers on July 29, after beating the Blue Jays 9-4, but then it only took nine calendar days for that lead to completely disappear. That’s what happens when the A’s go 1-6 while the Rangers reel off a winning streak.

call-sogThe A’s just finished off a six-game road trip with a 3-3 record, and that’s actually a miracle considering how sloppy the team looked at times over the course of that week. But the way the Rangers are playing right now, that one game back the A’s stand right now feels like six.

But as we’ve seen already this season, tides can change very quickly. The Rangers won’t play .800 ball forever. And the A’s will start to pick things up, which hopefully begins when they take care of business against the Astros this week.

A few other random things to mention:

- I’m glad the A’s made the smart move to send Tommy Milone down to AAA, and I hope that A.J. Griffin is next when Brett Anderson is ready to come back, which should hopefully be by Labor Day. Sonny Gray may be a rookie, but he’s got a higher ceiling than both of those guys, and we’ve seen Milone and Griffin enough to know that they are what they are. It seems silly to say, but I feel like I trust Gray more than Griffin and Milone to get big league hitters out. He has the stuff to go after guys. Also, sometimes just new blood helps.

- Speaking of new blood, the acquisition of Alberto Callaspo has been a good one for the A’s so far, at least offensively. After starting out his A’s career 0-for-10, Callaspo has gotten some big hits of late, including 2-RBI doubles in back-to-back games that broke late ties and helped the A’s beat the Blue Jays. Maybe when all is said and done, we will be sad that the A’s traded away Grant Green for a year and a half of this guy. But so far, so good at the plate. Defense, however, is another story. Let’s hope it’s not something that we need to talk about as the season goes on.

- And then there’s Adam Rosales. What the heck is going on between Oakland and Texas and Rosales on the waiver wire? Both teams have waived and claimed the guy twice in the past two weeks. It seems like Texas was claiming Rosales just to mess with the A’s, but now they are saying they need a utility man since they traded for Alex Rios. Should I believe them? Not that I miss Rosales, but this whole thing is just so weird.

The A’s get Houston, a struggling Cleveland, and Seattle next so it’s time to get back on track. Go A’s!!

The A’s at the Break

July 19th, 2013

First place at the All Star break certainly feels strange. The last time the A’s had this good of a record at this point in the season was 1990, and we know how far that team went (and should have gone). Last year at this point, the A’s were still under .500.

There are many first half stories on this team, the most notable of which is that the A’s have carried the late 2012 good vibes into the season and haven’t let their foot off the gas for over a year now. They have the best record in baseball since July 1 of last year. So much for the 2012 A’s being written off as a fluke, because they’ve pretty much just picked up where they left off. Houston joining the A.L. West certainly helps as well, but they don’t play Houston every single day, unfortunately.

Coco CrispThe second most notable first half story has to be Josh Donaldson. Who saw this coming? Well, I certainly didn’t expect him in the top 10 in the American League in WAR on July 19. But I think that any A’s fan who was playing close attention to the A’s down the stretch last year noticed that he really started to break out last season. People who just glanced at season numbers saw a .241 batting average and nine home runs. But Donaldson actually hit .290 with an .844 OPS and eight of his nine homers in the second half, after he came back from the minors to replace the injured Brandon Inge. This year he has just continued to get even better, and was on of the All Star Game’s biggest snubs, a slight that even many in the national media have acknowledged.

What else has gone right for the A’s? The pitching, as usual, is one of the best in the league, as the A’s are tops in the A.L. in team ERA. Bartolo Colon has been more than we could have hoped for and has made me not really notice that Brett Anderson is on the D.L. again. The trade for Jed Lowrie right before spring training had many scratching their heads, but he has been a lifesaver. John Jaso and Derek Norris have formed a formidable catcher platoon, and Coco Crisp continues to play above his career norms.

There are a few things that I hope to see improvement on in the second half of this season. Yoenis Cespedes certainly put on a show in the Home Run Derby, but he hasn’t been the offensive force in the lineup that he was last season. I hope and expect that he’ll have a much improved second half. Josh Reddick seems to be prone to long slumps and was atrocious in the early part of the season and spent a few weeks on the D.L. He has been better in June and July, and hopefully moving him down in the lineup will help him get out of his head and find some consistency. And I think we’ve gotten enough sample size over the last two seasons to know that Tommy Milone should only pitch at home.

With the A’s in the driver’s seat as they begin the post-All Star break portion of the season tonight in Anaheim, this season feels very different than last season. I just hope that the outcome in the A.L. West is the same.

Go A’s!!!!

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