A's are more than just magic


A's are more than just magic


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

A's coach plays part in Schwarber's World Series comeback

A's coach plays part in Schwarber's World Series comeback

Ryan Christenson has a reason to follow the World Series even more so than most years.

Christenson, who manages the A’s Double-A Midland squad, is also skippering the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League. One of his players happened to be Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber, if only for the briefest of periods.

Schwarber, as is well-documented, played in two AFL games as a quick tune-up before joining the Cubs’ active roster for the Fall Classic. It’s an unprecedented path, as Schwarber hadn’t appeared in a game for Chicago since April 7, when he tore the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee.

When he crushed a double off the right field wall in Game 1 against the Indians’ Corey Kluber, Schwarber became the first position player in major league history to get a hit in the World Series after recording zero hits during the regular season.

His preparations for the grand stage took place in the relative anonymity of the Arizona Fall League, and it presented some unique conditions for Christenson to manage under.

“It’s such a unique situation to see someone thrust into that after missing so much season,” Christenson said in a phone interview before Game 1. “To have a chance to be activated this time of year, it’s something special if he can pull this off. If he (sparks the Cubs), literally the guy can be a legend.”

Schwarber appeared in just two games for the Solar Sox, going 1-for-6 as a designated hitter. Christenson didn’t have much hands-on interaction with Schwarber — the Cubs had their own staff members on site helping him with treatment — but Christenson saw Schwarber’s swing rounding into form even in his brief time in the batter’s box.

“The bat speed is there,” said Christenson, who hadn’t met Schwarber previously. “I love watching him work in the cage. He’s got a great swing. I don’t think it would take someone of his caliber long to get his timing and pick up where he left off. It’s a simple swing.”

The Cubs asked Christenson to work Schwarber into the top of the batting order with the Solar Sox so as to maximize his number of plate appearances. They also asked one other favor.

“The only request they had was that I took it easy with him on the bases … not trying to score him from first base on a gapper.”

Schwarber’s mere presence in the Arizona Fall League created a delicate dynamic. The league is geared toward up-and-coming prospects who have yet to break into the majors, and Christenson said AFL officials were concerned about Schwarber dropping in and taking playing time away from those players.

Each major league organization sends at least six players to the AFL. Of those six, one is designated a “priority player,” meaning they must play at least four days a week, so innings can be tricky to spread around.

Adding to the sensitivity of the situation, the Solar Sox’s roster includes not only Cubs prospects but also those of the Cleveland Indians. Christenson needed to avoid a situation where Schwarber was stealing at-bats away from prospects of the American League champs — the team that Schwarber was training to try to help the Cubs beat.

But things unfolded smoothly, and Schwarber showed appreciation for getting the chance to drop in for a couple games.

“I’ll definitely be pulling for him,” Christenson said.

A's claim left-handed reliever off waivers from Cubs

A's claim left-handed reliever off waivers from Cubs

CLEVELAND — Left-hander Giovanni Soto has been claimed by the Oakland Athletics off waivers from the Chicago Cubs.

Soto was designated for assignment Saturday to open a spot on the 40-man roster for slugger Kyle Schwarber, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list following knee surgery in April. Schwarber was put on the World Series roster Tuesday and went 1 for 3 with a double, walk and two strikeouts in the opening 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians.

Soto was traded to the Cubs from Cleveland on April 11 and was 1-3 with a 5.14 ERA in 33 relief appearances for Triple-A Iowa. He made his big league debut with the Indians in 2015 and appeared in six games and 3 1/3 innings.

Oakland claimed him Wednesday.