A's aren't ready to let this end

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A's aren't ready to let this end

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- Grant Balfour didn't even pitch in Game 4, yet he still had a huge impact on the game. Facing elimination and down two runs in the ninth inning, the A's season looked to be on life support. That's when the ultra-intense closer fired up the A's dugout with a passionate speech. Four hits later the A's were on the field celebrating their 15th walk-off win of the season and seventh in A's postseason history.During the ninth inning Balfour was told to go to the bullpen to warm up. He eventually did but not before giving the A's a pep talk. "It was no disrespect to anyone but I said 'We are going to rock this guy's world tonight. We're going to walk it off in A's fashion, that's what we do," Balfour recalled. "Believe it. Every one of you put your mind to it and believe it, and see yourselves running onto that field with that walk-off victory," he told his teammates."See it and believe it," he repeated.They believed alright. As the sell-out crowd of 36,385 wondered if the A's had any magic left in them this season, the A's answered their question. Josh Reddick hit a leadoff single. Josh Donaldson doubled off the wall in left field -- just missing a game-tying home run. Seth Smith smacked a game-tying two-run double to right field. Coco Crisp then connected for the knockout blow, a walk-off RBI single to right field to give the A's a 4-3 win. "I believe in the mind as a powerful thing," Balfour said. "It was unbelievable. If you really want something bad enough and you've got every guy in the dugout that wants it and he's thinking the same thing and believes it, it just goes to show."Maybe what the A's are accomplishing isn't magic. They are just insanely determined, and a little ignorant.
RATTO: A's are more than just magic
"We've heard a lot of people say we aren't smart enough to know when to lose a game like most people do," Josh Reddick said. "We've been battling to the 27th out all year and we are not going to stop now." Reddick said he took the brunt of Balfour's rage in the dugout before he led off the ninth inning with a single. Maybe he needed the abuse. Reddick struck out in his first two plate appearances running his strikeout total in this series up to eight -- the most by any A's hitter in a single playoff series. "He was hitting me and hugging me and all that crazy stuff he usually does," Reddick said. "He kept telling us 'We aren't going to lose this game. We aren't going to lose this game.' We firmly believe in that." "A two-run deficit isn't enough to hold us right now," Reddick added. The A's often say they don't quit until the final out. It's hard to doubt them at this point. This game was all Tigers until the sixth inning. Detroit's starting pitcher Max Scherzer struck out eight and had the A's hitters baffled. When Oakland finally got on they made a seemingly crippling mistake. Stephen Drew doubled home Crisp in the sixth with no outs but got thrown out at third by several steps as he tried to make it to third. A's third base coach Mike Gallego didn't put on the stop sign. At that point it was a 2-1 game and Drew would have been the tying runner with Yoenis Cespedes due up. "It wasn't a good call, it wasn't a good play," Gallego said. "I felt that I couldn't have stopped him either. If I would have stopped him I would have gotten him hung out to dry in the middle of the base paths." It seems there's always a moment like that that unravels the A's in the playoffs. The moment where Jeremy Giambi doesn't slide in 2001, or when Eric Byrnes doesn't touch the plate in 2003. It looked like Gallego would be the scapegoat for the A's getting eliminated. Things looked even more bleak when the Tigers added a run in the eighth off reliever Sean Doolittle. The 2012 A's aren't phased by these things. In the end, the play and the Tigers' insurance run didn't mean a thing as the A's got the last laugh in the bottom of the ninth. "It's huge, it's playoff baseball," Donaldson said. "We're down to our last three outs right there. For me to come through right there the amount of emotion going through me right there was just uncontainable at the time."Like Balfour, Donaldson was so fired up after the game that he didn't flinch when asked if he was going to sleep tonight. "I'm not," he said. Crisp might have sweet dreams. He was still sticky from the postgame pie and Gatorade after the game when he addressed the media. A veteran in more ways than one, at this point he is used to taking the brunt of the A's celebratory dessert. He is responsible for four of the A's 15 walk-offs. "There's certainly guys we feel good about," Melvin said. "But I don't think there's anybody we feel better about in that situation than Coco."The A's live to fight another day again. After dropping the first two games of the series in Detroit they will play a win-or-go-home fifth game here at the Coliseum on Thursday night. One thing is clear, they aren't ready to go home. Not if Balfour has anything to say about it. "I want it so bad," Balfour said. "I know everyone in here wants it so bad. I didn't want to go home tonight. No chance."The A's have now won back-to-back elimination games for the second time in Athletics history. The last time they did it was in the 1973 World Series when they ended up beating the Mets after trailing 3-2. If the A's can continue their improbable run they will have to defeat reigning American League MVP and Cy Young award-winner Justin Verlander. He is 3-0 against the A's this season. Jarrod Parker will get the ball for the A's.

A's find themselves in decent shape with Graveman, Gray possibly returning

A's find themselves in decent shape with Graveman, Gray possibly returning

OAKLAND — Some 10-9 records are better than others, and so it is that the A’s can hit the road for a nine-game trip feeling pretty good about themselves.

Their just-completed homestand began with Opening Night starter Kendall Graveman leaving a game early and landing on the disabled list. That was coupled with news that shortstop Marcus Semien would be lost for two months or more with a fractured wrist.

The A’s responded to those developments with a five-game winning streak that was halted by Sunday’s 11-1 rout at the hands of the Seattle Mariners.

The A’s went 5-4 on the homestand, holding their ground after a heavy dose of injury misfortune, and now the outlook changes just a bit. The focus shifts from the players joining the D.L. to those that could soon return to provide a boost.

Graveman, who has a strained right shoulder, is scheduled to throw off the mound Monday. If that goes well, expect him to be activated sometime in the early portion of the upcoming trip. Sonny Gray, who has been out since injuring a side muscle early in Cactus League games, is set to throw Thursday for Triple-A Nashville after an encouraging rehab outing Saturday for Single-A Stockton.

If Gray comes out of Thursday’s start well, look for the 2015 All-Star to join the active roster and pitch sometime against Minnesota in the final series of this road trip. Nothing can be taken for granted until both pitchers actually return healthy, but it’s a promising scenario to possibly add two starters of their caliber as April turns to May.

“I think any time you look up and you’re over .500 and you’ve had a great homestand and you’re missing your best two pitchers, that’s something to be pleased about,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “Getting Kendall back is huge. And Sonny obviously did great last night, and felt great, which is more important than the results.

“We’re excited to get those two guys back but in the meantime, we’re gonna continue to keep playing the way we are because we’re playing really good baseball and we’ll just keep things rolling.”

It was clear early on Sunday that a five-game winning streak wouldn’t reach six. The Mariners led 2-0 in the third when Andrew Triggs missed location on a 1-0 sinker and Taylor Motter launched a grand slam over the wall in left-center.

Triggs, who excelled at missing the fat part of bats over his first three starts, didn’t have the feel for his cutter Sunday. When he fell behind to Motter, the cutter is normally a pitch he would have gone to had it been working for him.

“I wasn’t commanding well,” he said. “I didn’t wanna go 1-0 to 2-0. I felt better going with the sinker. I got it down, but missed location in and out. In a perfect world, the cutter would have been great to get a groundout.”

But to this point, the A’s rotation has held firm without Gray and with the short-term absence of Graveman. Perhaps the biggest test moving forward is whether an offense that is tied for the American League lead in extra-base hits can continue to produce consistently with Semien’s absence, particularly without anyone having established themselves as the regular leadoff man.

A’s manager Bob Melvin likes what he’s seen from his team in light of the injuries.

“Every game we go out there there’s an expectation to win,” Melvin said, “and when you win multiple games in a row, you get that feeling and it’s a little more significant. So hopefully we can carry that on to the road trip. As a group, we’ve been able to manage these injuries here recently, and once we start getting guys back it’s gonna be a good thing for us.”

Instant Replay: Mariners mash Triggs, A's win streak ends at five

Instant Replay: Mariners mash Triggs, A's win streak ends at five

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND – That pristine ERA wasn’t going to last forever for Andrew Triggs, and it was no secret why things took a wayward turn for the A’s right-hander Sunday.

His command deserted him in the top of the third against Seattle, and that led to a disastrous inning that told the story in an 11-1 loss that halted the A’s five-game winning streak.

Triggs, who hadn’t allowed a single earned run in winning his first three starts of 2017, walked Robinson Cano to load the bases in the third, then issued another free pass to Nelson Cruz that forced in a run and put the Mariners up 2-0. After striking out Daniel Vogelbach, Triggs caught too much plate with a 1-0 pitch and Taylor Motter drilled it for a grand slam that made it 6-0 and put this one out of reach with the way Yovani Gallardo was pitching.

Gallardo (1-2) gave up just four hits over 6 1/3 innings as the Mariners prevented the A’s from completing their first home sweep of a four-game series since July 3-6, 2014, when they took four from Toronto.

Seattle turned it into a rout as Nelson Cruz belted a three-run homer in the seventh off Raul Alcantara, who was left in to eat up innings and surrendered two***more runs in the ninth.

Triggs (3-1), in a season-opening rotation for the first time in his major league career, opened the year by throwing 17 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run. That was the longest such season-opening streak by a starting pitcher in Oakland history. His ERA went from 0.00 to 2.42 with Sunday’s outing.

The A’s (10-9) finished 5-4 on their nine-game homestand that was shortened by one game due to a rainout Easter Sunday.

Starting pitching report

The first batter of the game was a bad omen for Triggs as he hit Jarrod Dyson to put the speedster on base. Dyson stole second and Cano knocked a run-scoring single to right field that quickly brought Triggs’ earned-run streak to an end. The right-hander was charged with six earned runs over 4 2/3 innings. He gave up five hits with four strikeouts and the two walks.

Bullpen report

Daniel Coulombe entered in relief of Triggs in the fifth and provided 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Then Alcantara, who was replaced in the rotation by Jesse Hahn on the last road trip, was left in to soak up three innings to save the bullpen any more wear and tear in a lopsided game. He gave up five runs in three innings and walked two.

At the plate

The A’s, after falling behind early, couldn’t muster anything against Gallardo, who the Mariners acquired in an offseason trade from the Orioles. Their only run came in the seventh, when Ryon Healy led off with a double, moved to third on Trevor Plouffe’s single and scored on Matt Joyce’s sacrifice fly off reliever Tony Zych.

In the field

Neither team committed an error, making it five games in a row that the A’s have gone errorless. Gallardo was aided by an outstanding diving snag by third baseman Mike Freeman in the sixth. Matt Olson, drawing a start in right field for the A’s, made a sliding catch that turned into a double play when Daniel Vogelbach wandered too far off first base.

Attendance

The homestand finale drew 24,165 fans.

Up next

The A’s take Monday off and then begin a nine-game road trip against the Angels on Tuesday. The opener pits Jesse Hahn (1-1, 3.00) against J.C. Ramirez (2-2, 6.46). On Wednesday, it’s Sean Manaea (1-1, 4.43) against Matt Shoemaker (0-1, 4.98). Then Jharel Cotton (2-2, 4.76) matches up against Ricky Nolasco (1-2, 4.76) in Thursday’s finale. All three games begin at 7:05 p.m. and air on NBC Sports California.