A's are more than just magic

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A's are more than just magic

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OAKLAND -- Its not magic, what the Oakland Athletics have done for six months, including Wednesday night in Game Four of this American League Division Series. Magic is a lazy way to describe what they do, and how they do it.

In fact, magic might actually demean them a bit. Even on a night in which they score three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to cheat the reaper and the Detroit Tigers, 4-3.

PRATT'S INSTANT REPLAY: We'll see you Thursday night

ESPECIALLY on a night like Wednesday.

At some point, its just got to be good baseball, designated hitter Seth Smith said after his two-run double off Tiger closer Jose Valverde tied the game and after Coco Crisps two-out single scored him with the winning run. Theres no magic recipe, or anything like that. We go out there and we play hard and carefree and get the job done. And thats how we go about it. Theres nothing going on in the clubhouse or anything crazy like that. We go out and play the game the way its supposed to be played.

Well, as often as they can, anyway. For five innings, they played the game the way Detroit starter Max Scherzer wanted it to be played, and in the sixth, they killed their own rally when third base coach Mike Gallego encouraged Stephen Drew to take third on an RBI double and ended up dramatically wrong by about ten feet, killing a budding rally and leaving Detroit ahead, 2-1.

That wasnt very magical.

But it was very baseball. Gallego was trying to force an issue and thought Drew had a better shot to beat Austin Jacksons throw than he actually did. Not a bad idea. Not a good play.

Still, the As, who have defibrillated themselves back to life more times than even TV hospital shows are allowed, came back from down 0-2 to tie this series not because of magic but because they did the hard things well when they needed to be done. They forced Scherzer out of the game after Drews double, making Detroit manager Jim Leyland coax 11 outs from his spotty bullpen. That was a very tough ask.

It got easier when Detroit scored off Sean Doolittle in the eighth, and easier still as Leyland navigated his way through appearances by Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke, Al "The Kissing Bandit" Alburquerque and Joaquin Benoit, and was left with Valverde, his best, against Josh Reddick, Josh Donaldson and Smith, who were a combined 0-for-8 with five strikeouts.

Enter magic, in the guise of some very smart at-bats.

See thats the thing, manager Bob Melvin said. Its a magical season and all that, I guess, but those arent magical at-bats there. Im telling you these guys have smarter more aggressive at-bats than any team Ive ever managed. They know what they want to do, they have a plan, and they stick to the plan.

Reddick (single past second baseman Omar Infante), hes been struggling a little, but hes looking for a fastball he can do something with not hit it out, but put it in the big part of the park. Donaldson, hes clearly looking fastball and gets one right away that he can do something with, and its first and third. Smith, hes not trying to hit a home run either. He just wants to put it in play and gaps it . . . and Coco, well, right now, hes the guy I want in that situation as much as anybody for us.

And thats the thing about baseball. After 162 games, it isnt luck. As many times as weve done this, it isnt luck. You make your own luck.

And luck is another word for magic. And magic is a construct of the outworlders who hold to a story line that lost its validity a month ago.

Example: Smith came back from the interview room after the game, entered the clubhouse and took a hard left to go to the video room to look at his at-bats again. To see what he did, to see what Valverde did, and to see what he might have to do Thursday. No goat sacrifices, no pointy hats and wands, no eye-of-newt-and-wild-Brazilian-toad extract, no praying to graven idols. It was the work that got them all to this point.

But they know they will have to wrestle with the illusion of magic the rest of the way, whether it last one day or three more weeks. When one media member asked Crisp and Smith, Entering the ninth, knowing your history, is all of this on purpose? Were you guys trying to be down in the ninth?

Crisp tried to laugh, and said, I think so. What do you think? Definitely?

And Smith dropped his head a bit and said, Definitely. You nailed it.

So it goes. The As are stuck with magic, whether they like it or not, and the only way they lose it is to think that what they are doing is really magic after all.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's first road sweep of 2017

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's first road sweep of 2017

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The A’s sprung to life offensively in the late innings Sunday and polished off their first road sweep of 2017.

They scored all five of their runs over the final three innings to beat the Chicago White Sox 5-3, continuing an odd stretch of streakiness. The A’s swept the New York Yankees in four at the Coliseum, then turned around and dropped four in a row to the Houston Astros before arriving in Chicago and taking all three from the Sox. It’s their first sweep on the road since they won four in Kansas City from Sept. 12-15 of last season.

The weekend’s events provided a morale boost for a team that began the series an American League-worst 9-25 away from home. The sweep also featured numerous contributions from a pack of recently promoted young players fresh from the minors.

The A’s had no answer for left-hander Derek Holland through six-plus innings, mustering just four hits off the veteran. But trailing 2-0, they got on the board with Jed Lowrie’s pinch-hit RBI double in the seventh. The next inning, Khris Davis singled home the tying run and Yonder Alonso followed with a go-ahead single down the left-field line to put the A’s up 3-2.

They tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth on back-to-back homers from Adam Rosales and Matt Joyce.

Sonny rebounds: Sonny Gray (3-3) avoided the early trouble that plagued his last start, working seven innings and being rewarded with a victory thanks to the A’s eighth-inning rally. He struck out seven and walked just one. That was a key as Gray had issued seven free passes combined in his previous two starts. Adam Engel hit a 2-1 fastball for a homer in the third, then Jose Abreu scored on a passed ball in the fourth to give Chicago a 2-0 lead. But Gray held the Sox to just four hits over his seven innings.

Sign of things to come? Franklin Barreto got a look as the No. 2 hitter in the order Sunday, a spot that some scouts feel he’ll be well suited for as his career unfolds. He singled to the opposite field in his first at-bat, then struck out looking in his next two trips to the plate. In the eighth, his broken-bat single to left jumpstarted Oakland’s two-run go-ahead rally. Barreto is 4-for-10 in his first two games with the big club.

Joyce provides a lift off the bench: Joyce entered as a pinch runner in the seventh and connected for his 10th homer, right after Rosales had gone deep himself. Joyce became the fourth Athletic to crack double figures in homers, and the A’s improved to 31-26 when they hit at least one home run (they’re 3-16 when they don’t).

Doo does it again: Lefty reliever Sean Doolittle continued to deal since coming off the disabled list. He threw a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts and has allowed just one hit over five innings in six appearances since his return.

An unwanted milestone: The Sox scored their second run on a passed ball by Josh Phegley, which accounted for Oakland’s 50th unearned run, most in the majors. They had just 43 unearned runs all of last season.

Former A's catcher Stephen Vogt claimed by NL Central team

Former A's catcher Stephen Vogt claimed by NL Central team

A new team believes in Stephen Vogt.

The former A's catcher, who was designated for assignment on Thursday, was claimed by the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.

The A's announced the transaction shortly before their game against the White Sox.

News of the Brewers making the waiver claim was first reported by ESPN.

The Brewers were the only team to place a waiver claim on Vogt, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

Vogt, a clubhouse leader and one of the longest tenured A's, hit just .217 with four home runs and 20 RBI in 54 games this season.