Oakland rekindles love affair with baseball

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Oakland rekindles love affair with baseball

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- Bob Melvin saw Ryan Cook in the hallway outside his office, hugged him and said, Its a start.And Cook agreed. For him, and for the Oakland Athletics, its a hell of a start.Then again, baseball is a cruel master, and it punishes with the same swiftness as it rewards. The demands of staying in the fight are far greater than getting in it in the first place. They even give the process by which swift improvement is followed by equally swift retrenchment.The Plexiglass Principle. A fancy phrase for regressing back toward the mean.And we mention this only to remind one and all that the hard part has just begun, now that the fun is over.This night, a 6-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers in the fifth game of this fly-or-die American League Division Series, is one that will last with the players a good long while. They got to see Detroits Justin Verlander at the lung-constricting top of his game, so much so that the atmosphere in the Coliseum started to thin.Then it occurred to some nameless soul or souls in the crowd that this season demanded more, and at the end of the seventh inning, after Yoenis Cespedes had popped up to Prince Fielder and Verlander had caught Seth Smith and Josh Reddick looking at bastard pitches, they began a slow but growing roar.They could do nothing about Verlander nobody could but they could see to it that their team would not go out feeling like failures.So they roared, and they chanted, and they did not stop even when Verlander stopped with a seamless ninth inning. They booed the Tigers for a few moments, and then started chanting Lets Go Oak-Land to salute their freshly fallen favorites.And it struck a chord, enough to make the players stay and salute them back rather than slink to a dry and morose clubhouse. They tried to be a force in the game, which technically is impossible and on this night was a ludicrous suggestion, but they were noticed.I don't know if you believe this, Detroit manager Jim Leyland said, (but) I told one of my coaches on the bench, I said, We need about a four spot to take this crowd out of this thing (which they got in the seventh inning to turn 2-0 into the final margin).And we never did take them out of it. They were through them through the thick and thin. As we were celebrating, they were applauding their players. It was a great gesture on the fans' part. And they're the real deal. This was no fluke, they're very impressive.Leyland was saluting the As at the end, for he is faced with the knowledge that he enters the ALCS against either New York or Baltimore able to use Verlander only in Game 3, or if he stretches, Games 3 and 7. It took that much to beat down the As, and it would have taken even more to convince Verlander to leave for the sake of prudence. As Leyland said, He had a complete game look in his eye.Oakland, on the other hand, went as far as they had the right to hope because of that. The As learned how to win, how to keep winning, and how to run with the swiftest. They even learned how to be the darlings of a town whose fans have been beaten down by bad results and reluctant ownership.And it is very possible that they will never have a more enjoyable season in their lives.On the other hand, as we said, baseballs cruelties are many and varied, and one of them is the suddenness of the landing. The offseason can be a valuable time for recharging, but it also hold uncertainties, and in one case, long and concentrated mourning.Pat Neshek packed his bag slowly while media types crowded around Coco Crisp. He packed his hats, his workout clothes, even a box of Bazooka bubble gum, all in silence, as he began the long trip home to resume mourning for his son, who died the night the As clinched the AL West, and the day after he was born.Neshek did stop for a postgame meal with A.J. Griffin and Evan Scribner, and share the last few shards of a great season and a horrible October, because especially at times like those that await him and his wife, a smile is worth a million dollars, and the chant of 36,000 of his newest friends at least a billion.So yes, the off-season is filled with promise and trepidation, continuity and change. This roster will be altered in the winter because all rosters are, but they will always have 2012 together, and the sound of Lets Go Oak-Land in their heads for as long as their heads will hold it.This isnt what people mean by the hometown discount, but its a much better definition than the one in common use. Oakland regained its love for baseball, its team, and for the attitude and aptitude that team brought to a town that responds to those qualities most of all. Oakland went Thursday night. It went big.

Graveman delivers in front of 'Blue Moon' Odom, rest of A's can't

Graveman delivers in front of 'Blue Moon' Odom, rest of A's can't

ANAHEIM — The A’s collection of individual highlights during their visit to Angel Stadium shouldn’t have equated to a three-game sweep for their opponent.

Jesse Hahn fired eight one-hit innings Tuesday, the same night Josh Phegley delivered a pinch-hit homer in the 10th before the A’s lost in 11 innings. On Thursday, Kendall Graveman turned in perhaps the defensive play of the 2017 season by a pitcher, recording an unassisted double play that was the first by an A’s pitcher in 46 years.

All great moments to relive in the clubhouse afterward, but surely they ring a bit hollow given the final outcomes. The A’s were swept by an Angels team that, like Oakland, has been hit hard by the injury bug. Los Angeles is without key relievers Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, Cam Bedrosian and Mike Morin, not to mention starter Garrett Richards among others.

Yet the Angels pitching staff twice held the A’s to one run over the three-game series, including Thursday’s 2-1 defeat, when the A’s mustered just three hits.

“We’re a little streaky right now,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “… Give them credit, they pitched really well, and they really are down a lot of guys in the bullpen. We would expect to do a little more damage.”

They couldn’t Thursday, and that it made it tough to savor Graveman’s incredible play the way they should have.

With runners on the corners and no outs, he fielded Juan Graterol’s comebacker and caught Ben Revere in a rundown between third and home. Graveman ran him down and after applying the tag, hurdled Revere and made the tag on Cliff Pennington, who was trying to advance from first to third in the chaos.

“That’s probably the best play I’ve ever seen a pitcher make, hurdling over an (opponent) to get the second out unassisted,” Melvin said. “I didn’t even know how to put that one down on my card.”

Graveman, one of the A’s better overall athletes, was asked if he’d ever recorded an unassisted double play before.

“Never. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one,” he said. “(Ryan) Madson said he’s never seen one and he’s watched over 2,000 games.”

Incredibly, the last A’s pitcher to pull off an unassisted double play previously was in attendance Thursday night. John “Blue Moon” Odom did it back on July 11, 1971, also against the Angels. Odom attends most of the A’s games in Anaheim, and he’s struck up a friendship with Graveman over the years.

“Every time we come here and even in spring training, I try to catch up with Blue Moon Odom and see how he’s doing,” Graveman said. “He and Wash (former A’s infield coach Ron Washington) are friends so we always cut up about Wash. He’s a great guy. He sits in the front row. He came in and saw me right before stretch and told me ‘I’m gonna be front row watching you.’ That is pretty neat that that happened.”

A’s first baseman Yonder Alonso said he’s never surprised to see Graveman make a great defensive play.

“The guy’s a pitcher, but it feels like he’s a shortstop playing the position.”

Graveman was visited by trainers after the fifth-inning play, but Melvin said it was mainly to give the pitcher a breather and let him get his adrenaline under control. Neither Graveman nor his manager revealed anything specific that bothered Graveman. Seeing him stay in the game and complete six innings of two-run ball had to be encouraging for Melvin.

“The first thing I asked him was ‘What’d you fall on?’” Melvin said. “He said, ‘My butt.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re all right then.’ But you’re not gonna see that play again probably.”

The A’s are giving their manager and fans some accomplishments to marvel over. As they move on to Houston trying to halt a four-game losing streak, they just need to figure things out on the scoreboard.

Instant Replay: Graveman's strong start not enough, Angels finish sweep of A's

Instant Replay: Graveman's strong start not enough, Angels finish sweep of A's

BOX SCORE

ANAHEIM – If the A’s were searching for inspiration, they got some from their starting pitcher Thursday.

In his first start back from the disabled list, Kendall Graveman turned in a gutsy six innings that included a highlight-reel unassisted double play that solicited a visit from the training staff to make sure he was OK.

But the A’s offense couldn’t make Graveman’s night complete. Oakland scraped together just three hits in a 2-1 loss that completed a three-game sweep for the Los Angeles Angels.

It was the A’s second 2-1 defeat of the series, and the third time during their current four-game losing streak that they’ve been held to one run.

The Angels scored twice off Graveman in the first on a two-out rally that included Mike Trout’s double, Albert Pujols’ RBI single off the right field wall and C.J. Cron’s double to the warning track that Jaff Decker couldn’t haul in.

That was all that was needed to make a winner of Ricky Nolasco (2-2), who went 5 2/3 innings and avenged an Opening Night loss at the Coliseum on April 3.

Starting pitching report

Graveman (2-1) gave up the two runs in the first inning, then buckled down and allowed the Angels no more in his first start since April 14, when he was lost to a strained right shoulder. He went six innings, allowed six hits, struck out four and didn’t walk anyone. It was a good sign that Graveman’s fastball consistently registered in the mid-90’s. And though he appeared shaken up after his acrobatic double play, he retired his final seven hitters, including back-to-back called strikeouts of Trout and Pujols in the sixth to finish his night.

Bullpen report

Ryan Madson and Daniel Coulombe threw scoreless innings to keep the game close.

At the plate

Besides Yonder Alonso, who drove in three runs Wednesday and had a bloop single for an RBI on Thursday, it’s hard to know who the A’s can turn to right now for an offensive spark. Leadoff hitter Jaff Decker, filling in for the injured Rajai Davis, went 2-for-11 in the series and isn’t making an impact at the plate or in the field. Cleanup man Khris Davis went 1-for-9 in the series and Ryon Healy went 1-for-14, including chasing a high fastball for a strikeout with the bases loaded in the sixth.

In the field

Graveman turned in the first unassisted double play by an A’s pitcher since Blue Moon Odom did it July 11, 1971 against the then-California Angels. He had runners on the corners with no outs when Juan Graterol hit a comebacker to the mound. Graveman caught Ben Revere in a rundown between third and home. He made a sprinting tag of Revere near the third base bag just as Cliff Pennington was trying to advance from first all the way to third on the play. Graveman tagged Revere, then leapt over Revere and tagged Pennington out as he tumbled to the ground. It was unclear what bothered Graveman after the play. But after a visit from trainers, he stayed in the game and pitched well.

Attendance

Tonight's reported attendance in Anaheim was 37,603.

Up next

The A’s continue this nine-game road trip against the first-place Astros. Friday — Jharel Cotton (2-2, 4.76) vs. Charlie Morton (1-2, 4.29), 5:10 p.m. Saturday — Andrew Triggs (3-1, 2.43) vs. Joe Musgrove (1-1, 5.91), 4:10 p.m. Sunday — Jesse Hahn (1-1, 2.08) vs. lefty Dallas Keuchel (4-0, 1.22), 11:10 a.m. All three games air on NBC Sports California.