ALDS Game 3: Key Matchups

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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.

Pinder's potential 'coming to fruition' in chance with A's

Pinder's potential 'coming to fruition' in chance with A's

OAKLAND — With so much attention focused on who might be the next wave of A’s infielders coming up from the minors, Chad Pinder is making quite a statement in the present.

Pinder enjoyed another big day at the plate Sunday with a two-run homer and a double in the A’s 12-3 loss to Boston. That came on the heels of Saturday’s 460-foot home run that made him just the fifth player to reach the second deck just above the Coliseum’s first level of luxury suites.

For fans around the country who might have seen that mammoth blast on highlight shows, it likely was their first introduction to the 25-year-old Virginia native. However, those within the organization witnessed Pinder’s steady rise through the farm system since he was drafted as a sandwich pick between the second and third rounds of the 2013 draft out of Virginia Tech.

“I don’t think it’s a shock what he’s doing,” said A’s designated hitter Ryon Healy, who was part of that same draft class. “I think he’s always been that caliber of player. He’s always had that potential and it’s coming to fruition right now and it’s really fun to watch.”

Pinder, who made his big league debut in September but began this season with Triple-A Nashville, is hitting .286 over 21 games with Oakland. He’s homered in four of his past eight, and he provided a boost over the weekend as the A’s took three of four from the Red Sox.

The right-handed hitting Pinder was in the lineup all four games — with the Red Sox starting lefties on the mound for the final three contests, the A’s stacked their lineup with righties, giving Pinder a stretch of consistent playing time.

He’s provided enough of a spark that he warrants consideration to remain in the lineup even though the A’s are scheduled to face right-handers during their two-game series with the Miami Marlins that begins Tuesday at the Coliseum.

Granted, it’s not the biggest sample size either way, but Pinder is actually hitting better against righties (.348, 8-for-23) than he is against lefties (.231, 6-for-26). Four of his five home runs also have come against right-handers.

Asked whether Pinder could draw more starts against right-handers, A’s manager Bob Melvin replied: “Potentially, yeah. You want to try to stay consistent with the lineups you have, but if you have a hot hand, you look for ways to get him in there.”

Working in Pinder’s advantage is the versatility he’s shown since being recalled from Nashville on April 16. The A’s always knew Pinder could handle second, shortstop or third as needed, but he’s also shown to be a capable option in right field with a strong arm for the outfield.

Pinder was the Texas League (Double-A) Player of the Year in 2015 and ranked No. 7 on Baseball America’s preseason list of A’s prospects. He’s making the most of his time in the majors.

On the minds of many Oakland fans is when a couple more infield prospects who are impressing at Triple-A — middle infielder Franklin Barreto and third baseman Matt Chapman — might get their first crack in the bigs.

Barreto, ranked as the No. 25 overall prospect in the majors in Baseball America’s most recent ratings, is hitting .311 with six homers and is tied with Matt Olson for Nashville’s RBI lead at 27. Chapman, ranked the 95th overall prospect, missed two weeks earlier this season with a wrist injury but has shown signs of heating up offensively. He’s hitting just .237 but has eight homers and 15 RBI.

Two other Nashville players, who have both seen time with the A’s, are putting up noteworthy numbers: Olson, a first baseman/outfielder, is hitting .276 with 10 homers and 27 RBI, and corner infielder/outfielder Renato Nunez is tied for the Pacific Coast League lead with 12 homers to go with a .245 average and 25 RBI.

The A’s are working with Barreto and Chapman to hone their approach at the plate and control the strike zone. General manager David Forst maintains the A’s will be patient with both, noting that Pinder benefited last year from a full season at Triple-A before his promotion.

“The calendar needs to turn over,” Forst said. “They need at-bats. Matt missed a couple weeks with the injury, but they just need more days and more at-bats. We don’t have an ‘X’ on the calendar anywhere where this is the day. We’ll know when it’s time.”

Axford makes his 2017 debut; Doolittle takes step forward to return

Axford makes his 2017 debut; Doolittle takes step forward to return

OAKLAND — The A’s officially welcomed John Axford back into their bullpen fold Sunday, and they got some encouraging news about another reliever.

Sean Doolittle was expected to only throw a flat-ground session before the series finale against Boston, but he wound up throwing 15 pitches off the mound as well. That’s the first time Doolittle has thrown from the mound since joining the disabled list May 3 with a strained left shoulder. Next up is a 25-pitch session off the mound Wednesday.

The early indications are that Doolittle’s current shoulder woes aren’t as severe as the ailments that sidelined him for major portions of the past two seasons.

Axford was reinstated from the 10-day DL Saturday for his own shoulder strain, but his season debut came Sunday, when he handled the eighth inning and allowed one run. He was sidelined during the season-opening series against the Angels when he hurt his shoulder while warming up in the bullpen.

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All indications are that first baseman Yonder Alonso will be available to return to the lineup Tuesday for the opener of a two-game interleague series against the Miami Marlins. A’s manager Bob Melvin said before Sunday’s game that he considered Alonso as potentially being available off the bench. Given the A’s are off Monday, it’s reasonable to assume Alonso will be ready Tuesday when the Marlins start right-hander Jose Urena on the mound.

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The A’s are plenty familiar with Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland from his days with division rival Texas. But Moreland continues to do damage against Oakland even though he’s out of the AL West. Moreland’s two-run homer in the sixth off Andrew Triggs marked his third homer of the four-game series, and his 19th homer in 80 career games against the A’s. That’s his most homers against any major league club.

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The run Axford allowed in the eighth snapped a streak of 27 scoreless innings at home by the A’s bullpen. Josh Smith allowed five runs in the ninth.