This is better than Moneyball

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This is better than Moneyball

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OAKLAND -- It's hard to picture the green and gold legends of yesteryear like Reggie Jackson or Catfish Hunter, or even Rickey Henderson, and Dennis Eckersley doing a synchronized dance in the middle of the clubhouse amid a rain shower of bubbly alcohol. That's what happened on Monday in Oakland as Bernie Lean blasted from the clubhouse speakers. But these aren't the A's of the past. These are a manager pie-ing, Spider-man costume-wearing, walk-off celebrating, group of outcasts that nobody saw coming. In Oakland people are learning to expect the unexpected, and it is safe to say that no one in their right mind expected the events that transpired October 1, 2012. As a raucous crowd chanted sweep, sweep, sweep, Grant Balfour struck out the side and the Oakland dugout exploded onto the field in wild celebration. With a 4-3 win over Texas the A's had clinched a spot in the postseason. "We silenced a lot of critics, a lot of people in this world," Josh Reddick said. "To come as far as we have is something that we didn't think was possible, nobody thought was possible."The A's have clinched 24 playoff berths in franchise history, but this one feels different. These A's weren't expected to amount to much. The oddsmakers had them as an 801 long shot to win the World Series in 2012, and placed the overunder on their win total at 72.5 wins. Here they are boasting a 92-68 record with two games remaining and a chance to win the American League West."We wear jerseys, we don't wear contracts between the lines," Jonny Gomes said. "It's one opportunity where you put your World Series rings, you put your All-Stars, you put your contracts away, none of that comes to play between the lines."On June 30, Oakland was 13 games behind the A.L. West-leading Rangers. Now they are just one game back. The champagne, beer, and cigar celebration could be a small sample of what is to come if the A's can win their next two games, and as a result the division."We're going to celebrate tonight absolutely and then finish these last two games out," Gomes said. "We're not going to stop trying to do it until we can't," Josh Donaldson said. "We're hopefully going to make a strong push into the playoffs." The A's are full of incredible stories. Take Jarrod Parker, the winning pitcher on Monday night for example. He has won a career-high four consecutive starts, is 3-0 against the Rangers, and wasn't even in the opening day starting rotation. His 13th win ties him with fellow rookie pitcher Tommy Milone for the most wins in Oakland history by a rookie.RATTO: A's celebrate before it's back to business
Sean Doolittle, who pitched the scoreless seventh inning, was a first baseman at this time last year. First baseman Brandon Moss, who drove in the go-ahead run on Monday, was a journeyman outfielder that was called up on June 6. This is better than Moneyball. These guys were buried under 50 tons of crap on the island of misfit toys that the 2002 squad came from. "It's like I've said all along we've got a lot of players that have been told no a lot in their careers," Moss said. "You put a lot of guys like that together in one team and there's going to be a lot of fight in them." It is an explosive combination especially when you have an ignitor. Coco Crisp went 2 for 4, with an RBI double, stole his 39th base, and scored the game winning run on Moss' sacrifice fly. He was held out of the lineup for nine games with eye issues, has gone 9 for 17 (.529) in four games since returning, and offered this explanation of the team's success with goggles on in the clubhouse after the game. "We're the underdogs and we probably still are," Crisp said. "We just keep on going out there playing hard and we're a team, we have good chemistry, and that's the main thing." Of course none of this happens without one man pulling all the strings -- the skipper. As the celebration in the clubhouse erupted he was right in the middle of it. He was either really excited, or trying to take a champagne shower to wash the pie out of his hair. Yep, even Bob Melvin got pied in the face after this game. "That was me of course," Reddick said. "I never had the opportunity to get him this year. I felt like it was the perfect set up."That pretty much sums it up right there. While no one can seem to figure out how -- or why -- these guys keep winning. The secret ingredient to the winning recipe has been there all along. No, not Reddi-Wip, fun. These guys are simply having too much fun to notice that they are achieving what they weren't supposed to. A loose team playing with nothing to lose can be very dangerous this time of year. "We're a good team. We're not a bunch of individuals and guys are really playing well," Crisp said. "The chemistry is 50 percent of it and I think we have that." The A's still don't know where they will end up. They are currently tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the top seed in the Wild Card Playoff game but hold the tiebreaker. They could end up winning the division and end up in the American League Division Series -- it is still up in the air.
One thing is certain though, they have punched their ticket to the playoffs and are ready to continue shocking the world. As Jarrod Parker put it: "We've shocked the world enough, we might as well keep doing it."

A's lineup: Alonso returns for opener against Marlins

A's lineup: Alonso returns for opener against Marlins

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Marlins-A's coverage begins at 6pm with Pregame Live on NBC Sports California and streaming right here.

After missing four games, Yonder Alonso is back in the lineup as the A's begin a series against the Marlins Tuesday night.

Miami Marlins:
1. Dee Gordon (L) 2B
2. Giancarlo Stanton (R) RF
3. Christian Yelich (L) CF
4. Marcell Ozuna (R) DH
5. Justin Bour (L) 1B
6. J.T. Realmuto (R) C
7. Derek Dietrich (L) 3B
8. J.T. Riddle (L) SS
9. Ichiro Suzuki (L) LF
Jose Urena -- RHP

Oakland A's:
1. Matt Joyce (L) RF
2. Mark Canha (R) CF
3. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
4. Khris Davis (R) LF
5. Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
6. Ryon Healy (R) DH
7. Stephen Vogt (L) C
8. Trevor Plouffe (R) 3B
9. Adam Rosales (R) SS
Jesse Hahn -- RHP

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.”