Athletics

Coco Crisp: From goat to hero

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Coco Crisp: From goat to hero

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OAKLAND -- Coco Crisp had a lousy Sunday, so he was delighted to learn that there would be a Monday. Then he hit the lottery on Tuesday, meaning hes pretty much broken even for Wednesday.

Crisp, who double-bobbled a fly ball in Detroit to help speed the Tigers to a 2-0 lead in this American League Division Series, ski-mask-stole Game 3 Tuesday in Oakland, 2-0, with an extraordinary catch of a Prince Fielder home run. Extraordinary, because it became the difference between Oakland pitcher Brett Anderson being on the ropes in the second inning, and getting to pitch the six-inning masterwork he actually threw.

PRATT'S INSTANT REPLAY: A's stave off elimination

So just as Crisp violently jerked the series toward Detroit two days earlier, he yanked it part of the way back Tuesday. And life . . . well, it was okay.

Yeah, you do lose some confidence after a play like that, the As center fielder said. It does weigh on you. But to be able to make a play like that and help your team, it kind of resets everything.

Crisp broke with the loud report of Fielders bat on a 1-2 slider and raced toward the Xfinity (reality meets corporate plus) sign just to the right of the center field gate, leaped in stride, caught the ball a good foot over the eight-foot wall, and came down on the warning track, first to nervous silence, and then to an enormous roar from the sellout crowd at Oakland TarpnCarp Coliseum.

It started fading on me at the last moment, Crisp said, but I just felt like I was in stride with it the whole way, and it was one of those all-in-one plays. But I have to say, he hit the (urine) out of that ball.

Whatever effluent the ball may or may not have produced, it was a highlight, to be sure, but what made it more important was the fact that Delmon Young and Jhonny (CQ) Peralta followed with singles that almost certainly would have forced manager Bob Melvin to get his bullpen into action five innings before he ultimately had to. It changed the mood, the tone, and the direction of the game, as surely as his horrific bobble on Miguel Cabreras blooper changed Game 2.

It certainly revivified Anderson, who worked his way out of the YoungPeralta jam and gave up no other hits, leaving the tidying up to the CDB Line (Ryan) Cook, (Sean) Doolittle and (Grant) Balfour.

And despite Oaklands own meager offensive output against Anibal Sanchez (two runs, five hits), they remain in play for Wednesdays all-in with Max Scherzer facing A.J. Griffin.

For that, they can thank Crisp more than anyone else, for he also opened Oaklands scoring with a ground single to right, advancing to second on a Stephen Drew walk and scoring on Yoenis Cespedes single up the spine of the diamond. Between that play and his Fielder-robbing spectacular, the front of his jersey had the equivalent of a preschool sandbox.

And a very happy bearer therein.

Im glad we did have another game, because it would have been very hard to go home with that one as the last thing you did, he said. Im glad I was able to change the game for the good.

Indeed, Crisp changed his season for the good after a hideous start, exacerbated by his reluctance to enjoy the benefits of left field. He had been moved there to accommodate Cespedes, but he did fully embrace the relocation, and when Melvin decided to swap the two, both benefited Crisp almost immediately, Cespedes within a few weeks.

And suddenly the Oakland outfield was one of the best defensive units in the game, which it is today. Fielder, in fact, was robbed at glove point twice, the second time to start the seventh, when Cespedes made a diving catch in front of him to rob the Tiger first baseman of a bloop single that might have changed Cooks inning. Young struck out, but Peralta singled to center, which could have either forced Melvins hand again or turned into a rally that, in a 2-0 game, could have been its own game-changer.

But Crisp needed the heros role more, because he had done his time as the miscreant. That his stay in the pooch hut last barely two days is one more metaphor for a team that takes bad news in stride and turns it into a Happy Fizzies party the next chance it gets.

That doesnt get them out of this particular piece of the forest yet, but this series wont be Coco Crisps to wear. At least not yet.

Bregman's big night against A's catches attention of his counterpart

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Bregman's big night against A's catches attention of his counterpart

HOUSTON — A subplot to Friday night’s game at Minute Maid Park is one that will likely repeat itself often over the next few years.

The A’s and Astros boast two of the better young third basemen in the American League in Matt Chapman and Alex Bregman. Both are under 25, excellent with the glove and sure to face each other plenty as AL West opponents. The difference right now is Bregman is a key piece to a team likely to contend for the World Series.

Dallas Keuchel dominated the A’s on the mound Friday, but he got a huge assist from his 23-year-old third baseman.

Bregman made several standout defensive plays and drilled an opposite-field homer off Sean Manaea in the Astros’ 3-1 victory. Paying close attention from the opposing dugout was Chapman, who’s part of the A’s young nucleus that’s taking its lumps as it tries to learn how to win consistently at the major league level.

“He definitely showed up ready to play today,” Chapman said of Bregman. “He was all over the place at third base. I like to watch opposing third basemen and see what they kind of do. He’s definitely good at his craft.”

The two know each other well. Chapman, 24, played at Cal State Fullerton while Bregman attended LSU. They never faced each other in college, but they played together on Team USA in the summer of 2013, and Chapman praised the way Bregman goes about the game.

“(Bregman) literally is a shortstop playing third,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “So the ones on the run, especially to his backhand, he’s used to making those plays. He was significant in where the game went.”

Bregman has filled in at shortstop lately for Houston with Carlos Correa on the disabled list, though Marwin Gonzalez played short Friday.

Manaea, his fastball still lacking its typical zip of late, went six solid innings and showed improvement after three consecutive poor outings. The difference Friday was his ability to pitch inside better. He had a good changeup to offset a slider that he’s still trying to rediscover the feel for.

“I was just trying to let loose and not worry too much about the little things —mechanics , pitch grips, finishing through the ball,” Manaea said. “Today I just threw everything out the window and let my arm take care of everything.”

But his margin for error was minuscule with Keuchel dealing over seven innings of three-hit ball. Manaea fell behind Bregman 2-0 in the third and watched Bregman deposit a ball into the right field seats. Manaea then got ahead 0-2 on the next hitter, MVP candidate Jose Altuve. He tried to go high and tight with a fastball but caught too much plate, and Altuve made it back-to-back homers.

Former Athletic Josh Reddick singled home another run off Manaea in the sixth for a 3-0 Houston lead.

That was sufficient for Keuchel, whose repertoire was an eye-opener for Chapman and some of the A’s other young hitters. Chapman -- who came in leading AL rookies in runs, homers, RBI and extra base hits since the All-Star break -- doubled off the lefty in the fifth. But the A's only run came on Matt Joyce's eighth-inning homer against reliever Chris Devenski.

“(Keuchel) was getting ahead,” Chapman said. “If he happened to fall behind, he was still making quality pitches. You can prepare as much as you want, but until you get out there and see for yourself, that’s how you make adjustments.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as A's can't find answers vs Keuchel

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Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as A's can't find answers vs Keuchel

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HOUSTON — Sean Manaea was much improved Friday night over his previous three starts for the A’s.

Unfortunately for the left-hander, he had no control over the work of his counterpart on the mound.

Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel was at his ground ball-inducing best, frustrating the A’s over seven scoreless innings as Houston continued its recent dominance over Oakland with a 3-1 victory in the opener of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.

Keuchel recorded 17 of his 21 outs via ground ball, an astonishing rate but typical of the way the 2015 AL Cy Young winner likes to do business. He entered the night leading the major leagues in groundball percentage (64.7) among those with at least 90 innings pitched. Keuchel (11-2) got a big assist from his infield defense, particularly third baseman Alex Bregman and shortstop Marwin Gonzalez.

Manaea went six innings and gave up three runs, including back-to-back solo homers from Bregman and Jose Altuve in the third. But it was a definite step forward after his previous three outings, in which he surrendered 13 earned runs and 21 hits over just 6 2/3 innings.

The A’s mustered just five hits. Aside from Matt Joyce’s homer in the eighth, they didn’t advance a single runner past second base.

Oakland has dropped 11 of 13 games to Houston so far this season.

IMPROVED SHOWING: After showing signs of fatigue in his recent starts, Manaea showed improved form simply based on the batters he retired. His fastball generally sat between 89-91, still a bit below normal, but he overall pitched more effectively and turned in his longest outing since going seven innings July 27. He gave up six hits over his six innings, struck out two and walked one. A wild pitch in the sixth hurt, as it set up Josh Reddick’s RBI single.

HEY, IT’S PROGRESS: Seeing Manaea get through a scoreless first inning was noteworthy, as the A’s had gone five consecutive games with allowing at least one run in the first.

PINDER DEBUTS IN CENTER: Matt Olson entered the game as a pinch hitter in the top of the eighth, then went to right field in the bottom half. That pushed Chad Pinder over to center field, his first time playing the position in the major leagues. Manager Bob Melvin has mentioned Pinder is likely to draw some starts in center before the end of the season.

STRIKEOUTS MOUNTING FOR KD: After striking out four times Wednesday, the A’s cleanup man struck out three more times Friday. His 158 strikeouts entering the night were tied for eighth most in franchise history.

CATCHING UPDATE: Josh Phegley, coming back from a strained oblique, has played two games for Triple-A Nashville on a rehab assignment. Melvin said the A’s are not going to rush Phegley. Part of that is they think highly of the work Dustin Garneau has done in his place as the right-handed portion of the catching platoon with Bruce Maxwell.