Athletics

Harbaugh, Kerr salute Melvin's 1,000th victory after A's walk-off

Harbaugh, Kerr salute Melvin's 1,000th victory after A's walk-off

OAKLAND — Former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh offered his congratulations. Warriors coach Steve Kerr chimed in too.

It was fitting that on the night that A’s skipper Bob Melvin rang up win No. 1,000 of his managerial career, some of the Bay Area’s best known sports figures helped him celebrate.

Melvin, a Palo Alto native who attended Cal and played for the Giants, is a huge student of Bay Area sports history. And after Rajai Davis delivered a dramatic walk-off homer to lift Oakland to a 5-4 victory over the Twins on Saturday night, Melvin’s thoughts drifted to one of the Bay Area’s most legendary and beloved sports personalities.

Former A’s play-by-play man Bill King, who passed away in 2005, was inducted into the broadcasters’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday. Davis’ ninth-inning blast was a “Holy Toledo!”-worthy moment if ever there was one.

“Bill King day, there are a lot of things today that kind of make you reflect a little bit,” Melvin said after the win. “He was such a big part of my youth. Him going into the Hall of Fame today. Unfortunately he’s not here to enjoy it and see it … (But) it ended up being a nice day. If you get a win out of it that gets you a round number, it makes it a little better.”

While driving to the Coliseum earlier in the day, Melvin said he was listening to a clip of King calling the Warriors’ 1975 Western Conference Finals series against the Chicago Bulls, and that he got goose bumps. Then his team snapped a five-game losing streak with its eighth walk-off win of 2017.

After the game, the A’s tweeted out some pre-taped congratulatory messages. One was from Harbaugh, the Michigan football coach who played in the same American Legion program as Melvin as a youth. Wearing a Michigan polo and a green and gold A’s batting helmet, Harbaugh offered:

“Congratulations to the entire Athletics organization on getting Bob Melvin his 1,000th career win. Great coach, great win. Good luck the rest of the way.”

Then, Harbaugh pumped his fist cheerleader-style and finished his message with “Bo-Mel!”

Kerr, who’s enjoyed his share of celebrations over the past three years as Warriors coach, also taped a message.

“Hey Bob, congratulations on win No. 1,000 in your managerial career. Pretty amazing accomplishment. Keep it rolling, keep having fun and good luck the rest of the season.”

Davis, whose only previous walk-off homer came against the A’s in 2014 while with Toronto, was aware that Melvin had been stuck on 999 wins since Sunday.

“Hopefully they can find (the home run ball) for him,” Davis said. “Frame it for him real nice, so he can set it up on his wall or something.”

As it turns out, as soon as Davis’ blast cleared the fence in the ninth, Erik Farrell — the A’s manager of authentication — hightailed it toward the outfield to locate the ball. He retrieved it beyond the wall in left center, ensuring that Melvin will indeed have the meaningful keepsake.

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

BOX SCORE

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.

After country music detour, Giles instrumental in A's ballpark quest

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After country music detour, Giles instrumental in A's ballpark quest

As the A’s Chief Operating Officer, Chris Giles’ thoughts and energies are wired into the business world, helping the team plan for a new ballpark and brainstorming all ways possible to bring in more revenue.

From talking to him, you wouldn’t guess that Giles once walked away from the white-collar sports management world to pursue a country music career.

Giles left a vice president position with the 49ers in November 2015, picking up an acoustic guitar, writing and recording a three-song EP, “Party Me”, that he performed at club shows all around Northern California.

He still performs once or twice a month on the weekend. It’s quite a contrast from his Monday-thru-Friday gig, but that’s exactly the point. In the lyrics to the song “Party Me”, Giles addresses the ambition and drive required in the 9-to-5 world and the reward of blowing off steam with buddies afterward.

“It’s a hobby, I’ll always do it,” Giles shares in the latest edition of The A’s Insider Podcast. “I still play once or twice a month locally, small acoustic stuff.”

Giles grew up in Clovis and sang in talent shows as a kid before becoming a high school wrestler.

“Randy Travis was my favorite as a kid,” he said. “I can remember writing his lyrics on construction paper and giving it to girls on the playground.”

Giles’ career in sales and marketing eventually led him to the 49ers, where he became VP of sales and strategy and played an instrumental role in the opening of Levi’s Stadium. He oversaw premium sales, seat license sales, concessions and retail among other responsibilities.

But he never lost his desire to pursue a music career.

“It was one of those things where I felt like if I didn’t give it a try, then I would always just regret it,” said Giles, who is married with three kids. “I enjoy writing songs, I love playing live. I was running around with a couple other artists, we were collaborating on a couple things. It just seemed like a logical point to give it a go.”

He eventually returned to the sports world with the NFL, running sales and marketing efforts for Super Bowl LI. But it’s his experience with the launch of Levi’s Stadium that appears to make him an especially good fit with the A’s, who plan to announce by the end of the calendar year a location in Oakland to build a new ballpark.

Opening a new stadium is one thing. Finding ways to maximize revenue from that venue is another, and that’s where Giles’ expertise factors in. He’s got an instrumental voice in how the ballpark will be designed and what features it will include.

He came aboard in an advisory role for A’s president Dave Kaval in March and was named the team’s COO in early July. Joining the franchise at this point, with so many ambitious plans for the future, is energizing to him.

“I think we’re approaching a rocket ship that’s sitting on the ground,” Giles said. “We’re not quite sure which rocket boosters work, but we know we’ve got a rocket ship. Our job is to make sure we tune that thing up and get it ready to go.”