Oakland's road warriors head home


Oakland's road warriors head home


ARLINGTON -- The boys will be back in town. After a brutal stretch of games that featured 17 of 20 on the road, and a three-game pit stop in Oakland that felt more like a part of the road trip than a homestand, the most difficult stretch of the season is over. Oakland won 12 of the 20 games over the most critical juncture of the season. They head home with a chance to lock down their first postseason berth since 2006. "We do know that we've gotten to the end of a long tough trip and now we get to go home for the final six," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "That's encouraging for us that we did battle through this thing and we are still in a good position."The A's wouldn't end up heading home with a win after losing 9-7 to the Rangers, but the Angels' 9-4 loss against the Mariners did drop Oakland's magic number to clinch a spot in the American League Wild Card game to five. The first inning pretty much decided the game for the A's. Oakland got runners on the corners with one out but Chris Carter grounded into an inning-ending double play. Travis Blackley stepped on the mound and allowed a solo home run to Ian Kinsler on the second pitch he threw, and ended up allowing five runs to score on five hits in just one inning of work. It was the worst start of the season for Blackley. "Honestly I don't know what's going on," Blackley said. "I feel pretty good before the game I am hitting my spots and keeping it down, get out there and I'm just not finding it where I'm wanting it. Kind of running out of ideas on what to do." Blackley has allowed nine runs, seven earned, in his last two starts while lasting three innings. He was visibly frustrated with his performance and even took to Twitter after the game to issue an apology to the fans. "There's no excuses," Blackley said. "I am doing everything I can to be ready for a start between the start and I'm not sure what's going on." The A's bats did their best to get back in the game after falling behind by five runs. Oakland clubbed five home runs, three in the eighth inning, to get back into the game. The biggest homers of the day belonged to Josh Reddick, who snapped an 0-for-30 skid on Wednesday, then blasted his 30th and 31st home runs on Thursday. His second homer of the day made it a two-run game. "It's a great personal accomplishment," Reddick said. "Never did I think I'd do that this year, but the important thing is we're a team and where we are at right now is the big picture."Reddick's struggles were likely due to him pressing at the plate a bit as he tried to get to the 30-homer milestone. After hitting his 29th home run on Sept. 16, he hit .128 (5-for-39) with zero RBIs until smashing No. 30 a distance of 399 feet into the second deck in right field."That hadn't really been on my mind," Reddick said. "The big thing wasn't about hitting 30, it was obviously about helping the team win. I put that in the back of my mind and felt like if I don't think about it then it's going to happen eventually." "We thought get one out of the way, get 30 out of the way, and then he'd be off to the races," Melvin said. "Our group, it didn't look good early and to battle back like we did, you know every game we continue to battle like that. We are never out of a game." Brandon Moss hit his 20th homer of the season and Yoenis Cespedes hit No. 22 on the year. Moss' homer gave the A's three 20-home run hitters for the first time since 2006 when Frank Thomas (39), Nick Swisher (35) and Eric Chavez (22) accomplished the feat. Derek Norris also added a two-run homer in the fourth inning. It was only the fourth time in Oakland history the A's lost after hitting five home runs. "We do have a lot of power on the team, everybody one through nine has pop." Moss said. "We could easily have four or five 20-home run guys with Carter and Jonny Gomes right there at it too."The A's bullpen had to shoulder the innings load again on Thursday. Five pitchers combined for seven innings and allowed four runs. Jeremy Accardo made his A's debut and allowed two runs in the fourth inning, but pitched a scoreless fifth frame. He may have been a little rusty, seeing as how he just joined the team last weekend and hadn't pitched since Aug. 16 in Triple-A. Jesse Chavez had his first scoreless outing for the A's after allowing seven runs in his first three appearances. The A's have three games against the Mariners this weekend and then take on the Rangers for the final three games. With the win, Texas is back to four games ahead of Oakland in the American League West and their magic number to clinch the division is three. The Rangers have three games against the Angels, who are two games behind the A's in the standings, so there will be a considerable amount of scoreboard watching going on this weekend.

Kaval: A's considering future move into Raiders' locker room

Kaval: A's considering future move into Raiders' locker room

OAKLAND — The Raiders are likely to play at the Coliseum for the next two seasons at least, but the A’s are daydreaming about the time they can finally call the venue their own.

One idea they’re considering is moving their home clubhouse into the space that currently serves as the Raiders locker room, which would more than double the current space they have.

Beyond that, imagine the possibility of the A’s current clubhouse being transformed into a “club” type area for fans to schmooze and enjoy some beverages. Team president Dave Kaval says both ideas are on the table for after the Raiders move to Las Vegas, which they’re planning to do for the 2020 NFL season.

The No. 1 long-term goal for the A’s, obviously, is to find a location in Oakland and build a new baseball-only stadium. The homework continues on that front, with Kaval maintaining the promise for that announcement to come sometime in 2017.

The Raiders have lease options to play at the Coliseum for each of the next two football seasons, with their plans for 2019 uncertain as their Vegas stadium is built.

Regardless, there will be a gap from the time the Raiders execute their move and the time the A’s are ready to move into their potential new digs. They apparently plan to make the most of that time at the Coliseum, which is the only two-sport complex remaining in major North American professional sports.

Kaval addressed the idea of shifting the home clubhouse into the Raiders’ locker room space.

“Well, it’s considerably bigger than our current locker room, and so we could have a more player-friendly area, more lounge space, be more spread out,” he said as the A’s wrapped up a 10-game homestand Sunday. “Even space for training facilities we don’t have now. And so it just provides a lot more flexibility, and a better draw for players if they want to play here in Oakland.”

That last statement shouldn’t be overlooked. As much as current Athletics would appreciate any upgrades to their day-to-day situation at the Coliseum, the improvements might also help a bit when it comes to attracting prospective free agents, who could be sold the idea of better conditions at the Coliseum and the promise of a brand new ballpark to come.

The A’s try to make use of every inch of space available in the current Coliseum set-up, but it’s an antiquated situation to say the least. Players sprawled out on the floor doing stretching exercises outside the A’s weight room often have to deal with reporters stepping around them as they get off the media elevator.

“I think it could be huge,” catcher Stephen Vogt said of possibly shifting the clubhouse to the Raiders’ locker room. “There’s triple the size of what we have. It’s kind of funny to think that we have the smaller locker room but they’re here for (only) 10 days a year basically. That’s just the way it is. If they are truly leaving and they’re not gonna be here, we could really utilize that space.”

Added Kaval: “We do have space in here, but when it’s a multi-purpose stadium it’s always challenging. Everything we’ve had to do over the years has been temporary.”

One consideration regarding the Raiders’ locker room: It’s a farther walk to the entrance of the field, with an extra flight of stairs to climb. That’s something to consider because baseball players tend to make quick trips back to the clubhouse during a game more so than football players do to their locker room.

But Kaval said he’s already talked to A’s manager Bob Melvin about some of the logistical challenges, and he emphasized that any changes wouldn’t happen without positive feedback from the coaching staff and players.

One change the A’s already have implemented this season with players in mind: They’ve dedicated an expanded luxury suite area solely for players’ families during games and also expanded the nanny service they provide for players’ children during games.

As for the A’s ballpark search, Kaval says the four sites the A’s are considering are all “neck and neck” — the current Coliseum site, Howard Terminal, a site near Laney College and one at Brooklyn Basin, on the other side of Highway 880 from Laney.

“We continue to have meetings with all the key stakeholders,” Kaval said. “I think we’re really happy about the acceleration of those meetings. We’re starting to talk more business terms, starting to get into some of the final feasibility (decisions) so we can make that final announcement this year on a location.”

A's find themselves in decent shape with Graveman, Gray possibly returning

A's find themselves in decent shape with Graveman, Gray possibly returning

OAKLAND — Some 10-9 records are better than others, and so it is that the A’s can hit the road for a nine-game trip feeling pretty good about themselves.

Their just-completed homestand began with Opening Night starter Kendall Graveman leaving a game early and landing on the disabled list. That was coupled with news that shortstop Marcus Semien would be lost for two months or more with a fractured wrist.

The A’s responded to those developments with a five-game winning streak that was halted by Sunday’s 11-1 rout at the hands of the Seattle Mariners.

The A’s went 5-4 on the homestand, holding their ground after a heavy dose of injury misfortune, and now the outlook changes just a bit. The focus shifts from the players joining the D.L. to those that could soon return to provide a boost.

Graveman, who has a strained right shoulder, is scheduled to throw off the mound Monday. If that goes well, expect him to be activated sometime in the early portion of the upcoming trip. Sonny Gray, who has been out since injuring a side muscle early in Cactus League games, is set to throw Thursday for Triple-A Nashville after an encouraging rehab outing Saturday for Single-A Stockton.

If Gray comes out of Thursday’s start well, look for the 2015 All-Star to join the active roster and pitch sometime against Minnesota in the final series of this road trip. Nothing can be taken for granted until both pitchers actually return healthy, but it’s a promising scenario to possibly add two starters of their caliber as April turns to May.

“I think any time you look up and you’re over .500 and you’ve had a great homestand and you’re missing your best two pitchers, that’s something to be pleased about,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “Getting Kendall back is huge. And Sonny obviously did great last night, and felt great, which is more important than the results.

“We’re excited to get those two guys back but in the meantime, we’re gonna continue to keep playing the way we are because we’re playing really good baseball and we’ll just keep things rolling.”

It was clear early on Sunday that a five-game winning streak wouldn’t reach six. The Mariners led 2-0 in the third when Andrew Triggs missed location on a 1-0 sinker and Taylor Motter launched a grand slam over the wall in left-center.

Triggs, who excelled at missing the fat part of bats over his first three starts, didn’t have the feel for his cutter Sunday. When he fell behind to Motter, the cutter is normally a pitch he would have gone to had it been working for him.

“I wasn’t commanding well,” he said. “I didn’t wanna go 1-0 to 2-0. I felt better going with the sinker. I got it down, but missed location in and out. In a perfect world, the cutter would have been great to get a groundout.”

But to this point, the A’s rotation has held firm without Gray and with the short-term absence of Graveman. Perhaps the biggest test moving forward is whether an offense that is tied for the American League lead in extra-base hits can continue to produce consistently with Semien’s absence, particularly without anyone having established themselves as the regular leadoff man.

A’s manager Bob Melvin likes what he’s seen from his team in light of the injuries.

“Every game we go out there there’s an expectation to win,” Melvin said, “and when you win multiple games in a row, you get that feeling and it’s a little more significant. So hopefully we can carry that on to the road trip. As a group, we’ve been able to manage these injuries here recently, and once we start getting guys back it’s gonna be a good thing for us.”