ALDS Game 3: Key Matchups


ALDS Game 3: Key Matchups

OAKLAND -- The Oakland Athletics have their backs against the wall in a major way. It seems they like to play with the odds against them. If that's truly the case, then they got their wish. Oakland has lost it's last six postseason games against the Detroit Tigers. The last time the A's beat the Tigers in a postseason series was the American League Championship series in 1972. Many remember that series because of an infamous altercation. Tigers' pitcher Lerrin LaGrow hit Bert Campaneris with a pitch and Campaneris fired his bat back at the pitcher. Tigers' manager at the time Billy Martin was the first out of the dugout to go after Campy as the benches cleared. The A's ended up winning their first Oakland World Series that year and went on to win it all in 1973 and 1974. This may be a subliminal message to the Tigers, but Campaneris will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on Tuesday. Of all the A's greats who could have been chosen to throw out the pitch, Campaneris seems like the most relevant choice. Key Match Ups for the Athletics-- Seth Smith vs. Anibal Sanchez: Smith has hit .462 (6 for 13) against Sanchez in his career. He has two homers, one double, and three RBI against the Tigers' righty. Smith was in the lineup when the A's faced Sanchez on August 20 in Detroit and homered off him. The A's knocked Sanchez out after five and two-thirds innings with six runs, five earned, the last time they faced him. Smith is 0 for 5 with two walks in this series so far.-- Anderson vs. Tigers: No player on the Tigers' active roster has hit a homer against Anderson. Miguel Cabrera has fared best against Anderson, he is 3 for 7 with a double, one RBI, and three walks against him. Anderson is going to provide more than a presence on the mound. He becomes the latest unbelievable story that can serve as a motivational factor for a team that could use any boost it can get down 0-2 and facing elimination. It was against Detroit on August 19 that Anderson left with a strained right oblique. A return in time to take the mound when the A's need him the most could pick up a team facing elimination. -- Baseball Gods vs. The Tigers: When Al Aburquerque caught a come backer hit by Yoenis Cespedes and kissed the ball before throwing to first he angered some A's players. In response, Jonny Gomes told reporters that the Baseball Gods have a way of working these things out. The A's have many strange storylines working for them this season, this is just one more. The team will be getting Anderson back, playing for the son of Pat Neshek -- Gehrig John Neshek -- who tragically passed away 23 hours after being born, and playing for Brandon McCarthy who suffered a skull fracture after getting hit by a line drive. They are playing to win, but of all the twists of fate the A's have endured this year, what's one more? Oakland never even held sole possession of the AL West before winning game 162. At this point nothing should shock the A's or their fans anymore. Winning the next three at home against Detroit is just the latest challenge they've been presented. -- Miguel Cabrera's Weakness: The reigning American League Triple Crown-winner can give any pitcher fits. He hit .335 against right-handed pitchers this season and .314 against lefties. That reverse split favors the A's with Anderson, a left-handed pitcher throwing. Only four of Carbera's 44 homers came with a southpaw on the mound. Cabrera has been good in Oakland this season though, he hit .500 (9 for 18) with one double and seven RBI at the Oakland Coliseum this season. -- Fielder of Dreams: So far in nine games against the A's this season Prince Fielder hasn't been a factor. Including the playoffs, he is hitting .086 (3 for 35) in nine games against Oakland pitching in 2012. With an ineffective Fielder backing up Cabrera the A's should be able to be more careful with the Tigers' dangerous three hitter. -- Sanchez surging: The A's were the only team that tattooed Sanchez in September. He had a 2.15 ERA in his last eight starts. That was the sixth lowest ERA in the American League since August 22. -- Anderson's Inexperience?: Anderson may be the most experienced active pitcher in the A's rotation, but he hasn't pitched in the postseason before. At 24, Anderson will be the fifth youngest starting pitcher to take the mound in a postseason game. Vida Blue became the youngest to do so when he pitched in the 1971 ALCS. Anderson is 185 days older than Mark Mulder was when he pitched in the 2001 ALDS. For what it's worth, Mulder won that start after going six and two-thirds innings and allowing just one run.

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge


A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

OAKLAND — Matt Olson is aware of the company he’s keeping in the A’s record books.

His reaction is a mix of reverence and a shrug-of-the-shoulders type humbleness.

That’s the personality of the A’s rookie first baseman. Even as the conversation about him and his awe-inspiring home run pace grows louder, he remains the same steady, grounded presence.

“I’m happy for him,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “The guy’s worked his butt off. He’s the same today as was when he first got called up.”

Olson cleared the fences once again Friday night, his two-run homer off Nick Martinez in the second inning helping the A’s to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. At this point, it’s much more newsworthy when Olson doesn’t homer than when he does.

He’s crammed 24 homers into just 57 games this season. Taking into account his first call-up last September, and Olson’s 24 homers over the first 68 games of his career are the second-most in the history of major league baseball over that span to open a career. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger also hit 24 and only the White Sox’s Jose Abreu, with 25, hit more over his first 68.

Olson’s 13 homers in September are the most by any rookie in major league history for the month, and there’s still eight games left in it. But Olson’s hot streak dates back to Aug. 27. He’s hit a major league-best 16 homers in 23 games since then.

Among rookies in A’s history, only Mark McGwire (49) in 1987 and Jose Canseco (33) in 1986 have hit more than Olson’s 24. But neither Bash Brother, nor any other player in Oakland history, ever hit 15 homers in a 21-game span as Olson recently did.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Olson said before Friday’s game. “I grew up with a Mark McGwire poster on my wall. It’s a little surreal.”

Who saw this coming?

Olson went 2-for-21 without a single RBI in his first taste of the bigs last September. Then he shuttled five times between Triple-A and the majors this season before getting called up once again Aug. 8 and being told he’d get a shot as the A’s regular first baseman with Yonder Alonso having been traded. The constant shuttling took its toll, though Olson never let on about that publicly to reporters.

“You could see (the frustration),” said Ryan Christenson, his manager at Triple-A. “When he walks in and you tell him ‘You’re getting sent up,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, how many days is it for this time?’ He wouldn’t voice it necessarily, but you could sense it.”

Olson, with help from Bush and others, made an adjustment coming into this season. He began holding his hands out farther away from his body to begin his swing. With his 6-foot-5 frame, Olson had found himself getting jammed inside. Then in trying to adjust to that, he couldn’t square up pitches on the outer half.

“Now, his hands are firing from where he wants them to,” Bush said. “He doesn’t have to fight. You want your hands to have a clean path. Now he can stay in there, stay behind the ball, let his hands work for him.”

Olson, a 23-year-old from Lilburn, Ga., takes this sudden burst of success — and attention — in stride.

“I’ve been hit with so many stats here in the past week, I can’t even keep track of who’s done what, and honestly what I’ve done,” he said. “I kind of try to ignore all that.”

That’s OK. Others are taking plenty of notice.


Kaval calls A's ballpark plan 'as big a project' as Oakland has seen


Kaval calls A's ballpark plan 'as big a project' as Oakland has seen

OAKLAND — A’s president Dave Kaval took part in a fan Q&A session Friday at the Coliseum as part of the team’s Fan Appreciation Weekend.

Here’s some bits and pieces from the session, which was moderated by A’s radio broadcaster Ken Korach:

—Would the A’s re-consider the Coliseum site for a new ballpark if the Peralta location ultimately doesn’t work out?

Kaval: “We’re 100 percent focused on Peralta. We think it can be a dynamic location, and we’re excited about engaging the community. .. But we’re not abandoning East Oakland.”

To that end, Kaval emphasized once again the A’s ambition for the Coliseum site — if all of the current professional teams do in fact bolt the location — to eventually house a youth sports academy with baseball fields and other facilities.

“Wouldn’t it be something to have more home-grown players playing at our (new) ballpark?”

—What other ballparks might be inspirations for design of the venue?

“I think the two guiding principles we have, are, 1) that it’s an intimate ballpark. Not a bad seat in the house. No nosebleeds. Think Fenway or Wrigley (plans are for a roughly 35,000 seat stadium). And 2) build something uniquely Oakland. Something that feels like Oakland, whether it’s an Oaklandish store (built in to the stadium), or the foodie culture …”

—Addressing how city and county funds might be utilized, Kaval emphasized that the ballpark itself will be privately financed, as has been stated before. He mentioned public funds being used for infrastructure (also a long-established idea), including possible enhancements to the Lake Merritt BART station, which is a short walk from the proposed stadium location.

“We’ll work together with the county, with the city, with (the) Peralta (Community College District). This is as big a project as the city has ever seen, a massive coordinating effort.”

—As Kaval told NBC Sports California in this story last week, the A’s plan to retain a good chunk of their current young core of talent to be the cornerstone players once the new stadium opens. Their target move-in date is Opening Day, 2023. That likely means sinking money into long-term extensions for players who will be arriving at, or nearing, their free agency years. Kaval mentioned the Cleveland Indians of the early 90’s as an example of a team opening a new stadium with a home-grown group of stars. Billy Beane, the head of the A’s baseball operations, has made the same comparison in the past.

— The A’s plan to build substantial parking, but the idea is for the new ballpark to be “(public) transit-first, like AT&T Park and Fenway,” Kaval said. … “It’s gonna take cars off the road.”

Having said that, Kaval added that the A’s will aim to preserve the tailgating culture with the parking that they do provide.