Kottaras plays hero for A's in extra-inning win


Kottaras plays hero for A's in extra-inning win


ARLINGTON -- It's not how you start, it's how you finish.

Those are words the 2012 Oakland A's can live by on an individual player level and a team-wide level. On Tuesday night in Texas, the A's fell behind early but finished with a big home run and save in the 10th inning to defeat the Rangers 3-2.
INSTANT REPLAY: A's 3, Rangers 2 (10)

With the win, their magic number to clinch a spot in the American League Wild Card game is seven, and they are again four games behind the Rangers in the A.L. West. RELATED: MLB standings
The A's final run scored in the 10th inning when George Kottaras clubbed a ball 394 feet into the second deck off Rangers reliever Mark Lowe. Four of his nine home runs this season have given his club the lead. He hit three while with Milwaukee and is up to six with the A's. This one was particularly special for him. "Way up there," Kottaras said of where his 10th inning homer ranks in his career. "To do that, to help the team in that manner, kind of win the ball game was huge for me today."Kottaras' first career home run was off Lowe. Something keen A's manager Bob Melvin wasn't going to let him forget. Especially in a moment this big. "He definitely mentioned it when I was walking up to the on-deck circle and kind of joking about it a little bit," Kottaras said. "It was just one of those things where I'm trying to have a good at bat and hit the ball hard somewhere and kind of off it went so"The A's started the year power starved; now they lead all of Major League Baseball with 99 home runs in the second half. It's not how you start, it's how you finish.The A's bullpen had been overworked in recent days and the biggest concern was finding a way to get the relief corps some rest. Tommy Milone was burdened with the pressure of going deep into the game to save the recently suffering bullpen that has allowed 26 runs in the last eight games. At first that looked like it might be a bit of a problem. Milone allowed the first three batters of the game to reach on singles. The third single belonged to Josh Hamilton, and the ball he hit got by right fielder Brandon Moss, who let it roll all the way to the wall, scoring two runs. Milone responded by stranding Hamilton on third with no outs and ended up retiring the next 11 batters he faced. "I think any good starting pitcher typically, you've got a chance to get him early before he gets into a rhythm," Melvin said. "After that he was fantastic." Milone ended up with 110 pitches through six innings of work. He only allowed three hits after the first inning rally and didn't allow an earned run or a walk. He struck out three batters. "It is easy to lay back and let that affect you but you just have got to keep making pitches and get out of the inning," Milone said. "We have a tremendous amount of respect for our hitters so it's not one of those things where we felt we were in a hole." Moss started with that critical two-run error, and finished with a game-saving catch with the bases loaded in the seventh inning. Elvis Andrus hit a ball deep to right field that looked like trouble, but Moss went into a full sprint and somehow managed to make an over-the-shoulder catch to save three runs. "I didn't realize that it had gone that far; I did feel like I was running forever," Moss said. "But not as far as Yoenis Cespedes had to run after that ground ball I missed.""I was just praying that it wouldn't cost us," Moss added. "It seems every error I make lately two or three runs score and we end up losing by one." The A's were expecting to face one of the Rangers' best pitchers in Yu Darvish. They ended up facing Scott Feldman, who they have scored 12 runs on this season. That's a pretty huge turn of events for a team clinging to life in the division. The A's were able to touch up Feldman for two runs on four hits and knock him out of the game after four innings. The A's may have fell behind early but they battled back quick. Daric Barton, who was in the lineup mostly for defensive purposes, stroked an RBI double on the first pitch he saw to cut the lead in half. In the past Barton has been a patient hitter to a fault."I got a pitch up in the zone early in the count and one of the things I have worked on was just being more aggressive with guys in scoring position and it paid off," Barton said. "It feels good to play, period." "He has good at-bats against lefties, righties, good defender," Melvin said. "That was a nice late addition for us because we are getting a lot of use out of him."Chris Carter tied the game at two in the fourth inning with his 16th home run of the season. That was all Rangers manager Ron Washington wanted to see out of Feldman. He was removed from the game after just four innings with 75 pitches. After allowing 26 runs in their last nine games, the A's relievers were money on Tuesday. They combined for four scoreless innings against a tough Rangers lineup. Sean Doolittle pitched one and one-third innings and Evan Scribner pitched a scoreless ninth inning to get his first career win. Closer Grant Balfour locked down the victory with his 21st save of the season. He pitched a three up, three down 10th inning and has been remarkably consistent since re-taking the closer's role. He hasn't blown a save in 16 chances since August 11. "He's coming in and throwing strikes and mixing his pitches up too," Kottaras said. "He's not just a fastball thrower, he's a pitcher. To be able to do that is huge for us." The A's have lost six of their last nine games. Each win gets them a step closer to the postseason for the first time since 2006. They have eight games left and are two games ahead of the Angels for the second Wild Card spot, and half a game behind the Orioles for the first spot. They control their own destiny at this point."I think the farther you go into the season each and every win has a bit more magnitude to it," Melvin said. "It was a huge win the last day in New York, a huge win the last day in Detroit, this team has responded like this many, many times this year, so it doesn't surprise me." Again, it's not how you start, it's how you finish. NOTES:-- Coco Crisp entered the game as a pinch runner and stole a base. He participated in baseball activities and hit in the cage on Tuesday before the game. It is a sign he might finally be close to a return. -- The A's struck out 15 times on the evening, raising their running franchise record total to 1,322 and bringing them closer to the all-time American League record of 1,324 recorded by the Rays in 2007.
-- Tuesday was the second game in Rangers franchise history where they scored one or more runs but recorded 0 RBI. The last time was 1962, when they were the Washington Senators, also a 3-2 loss.

Alonso strikes a chord with fascinating account of Cuba defection

Alonso strikes a chord with fascinating account of Cuba defection

ANAHEIM — As Yonder Alonso was preparing for the 2017 season last winter, he was tackling another challenge too.

Over the course of three months, the A’s first baseman gathered his thoughts and pieced together a fascinating first-person account for The Players’ Tribune about his childhood experience defecting from Cuba with his parents and younger sister.

Alonso framed the article as him penning a letter to his 8-year-old self, describing the grueling struggle he and his family would go through while reassuring his younger self that it would all be worth it when he finally made it as a major leaguer. Alonso describes in vivid detail the hardships he went through, caring for his sister, Yainee, at night as they dined on meals of microwaved hot dogs and microwaved eggs, while his parents were away from home working multiple jobs to support their family.

Alonso goes on to describe how he would return from college baseball road trips, while he was attending the University of Miami, and immediately head to a night job to help his father clean warehouses and scrub bathrooms.

The story struck a chord within the A’s clubhouse but also among so many people from the Miami area, where Alonso’s family settled after they defected. Alonso said he’s received text messages from many of them.

“I think everybody in this locker room, or any locker room, they definitely have a story to tell,” Alonso said. “And I think it’s awesome when you see a guy just kind of open up a little bit. I’m (usually) not one to open up.”

Athletes are used to reporters peppering them with questions and trying to draw stories out of them. Seldom do athletes take to penning their own story.

Representatives from The Players’ Tribune, an online publication started by Derek Jeter in 2014, reached out to Alonso in early December about writing something. Alonso had a trip planned to Cuba for later that month, before any request for an article came, and his return visit to his native country helped persuade him to go through with it.

“I saw a lot of people,” he said. “For me it was very touching. For my wife as well.”

Alonso met with an editor from The Players’ Tribune during spring training, and they began hashing out ideas. Alonso said he wrote the story himself with assistance from the editor.

“We had ideas, different ways of going about it,” he said. “I think from day one I knew the way I wanted to write it and how I wanted it to come out, which is a letter to my younger self.”

Even after finishing the project three weeks ago, Alonso said he wasn’t sure he wanted to share it publicly. He showed the article to some friends and teammates, including A’s reliever Sean Doolittle and outfielder Matt Joyce. After reading the piece, Joyce strongly persuaded Alonso to carry through with it.

“I told him it was awesome,” Joyce said. “From my perspective, you don’t really get a good sense of what those guys go through, coming over to the States. You just see them later. So to kind of read it in his own words, it was a really cool perspective and a good story to see what a kid across the water, from a different country, goes through to get to this point. I think it’s a very powerful story and message.”

Alonso said his motivation was simple.

“Just letting my family know, and people in this world know, that if you want to strive for something, it can be tough at times. But there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Manaea felt 'little sharp pain', but status of shoulder not immediately known

Manaea felt 'little sharp pain', but status of shoulder not immediately known

ANAHEIM — Sean Manaea is hopeful his left shoulder injury isn’t serious, but the A’s likely won’t have a full read on the starter’s condition for a couple days.

As of Wednesday night, no MRI was scheduled after Manaea left after just two innings of an eventual 8-5 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels with tightness in his shoulder.

“I felt it a little bit in the bullpen,” Manaea said. “I thought it was just one of those days where it took me longer to warm up, and that just wasn’t the case. It’s just really unfortunate.”

Just as the A’s are about to welcome Kendall Graveman back to the active roster Thursday, when he starts the series finale at Angel Stadium, and just as it appears Sonny Gray might be ready to come off the disabled list following one more rehab start, the A’s are hoping they don’t see Manaea subtracted from their rotation for any period of time.

Manager Bob Melvin said it was the top of Manaea’s shoulder that was bothering him.

“The velo was down, and it didn’t make sense to have him keep pitching,” Melvin said. “But we won’t know anything probably for a day or two, how he feels.”

Once he started throwing in the game, Manaea said he felt “kind of a little sharp pain. I mean, it’s nothing serious. I’ve dealt with it before and it only took me a few days to get back on the mound. To me, I’m not really worried about it.”

The pitcher added that he experienced a similar situation with his shoulder while a minor leaguer in Kansas City’s organization, toward the end of spring training, and he missed minimal time.

Things didn’t get better for the A’s (10-11) after Manaea exited, as they struck out 13 times and played sloppy defensively in dropping their third in a row. Catcher Stephen Vogt couldn’t handle Ryan Dull’s glove flip to the plate on a seventh-inning squeeze play, ending a streak of six errorless games for Oakland, but Melvin can live with occasional physical misplays. More problematic were occasions when right fielder Matt Joyce and center fielder Jaff Decker both seemed caught by surprise to see Angels runners take off for an extra base. Whether it was a lack of communication from infielders or the outfielders themselves needing to be more aware, the A’s can’t afford those kinds of mistakes.

“As a group, we can’t let that happen,” Melvin said. “We talk about it in advance meetings the way these guys run the bases. It’s not something we can do and expect to beat this team.”

Added Vogt: “We were on our heels quite a bit. This was obviously not the prettiest baseball game we’ve played.”