Only one things matters in Oakland: 'Play hard tomorrow'


Only one things matters in Oakland: 'Play hard tomorrow'


OAKLAND -- Two days ago, Coco Crisp couldn't make out faces in the crowd from the dugout. Less than 72 hours later, he's the man of the clubhouse after his 3-for-5 performance left little doubt that he belongs in the starting lineup -- with or without perfect vision.

"He's something," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It starts with him, all the way around."

Fighting through an eye infection that doctors tell him could last up to three months, Crisp's active red blood cells are still causing some blurry vision in his eyes, but he saw his first-inning shot travel over the right-field wall clear as day.

"The leadoff homer was huge," Sean Doolittle said. "He's such a spark for our offense."

Crisp's goals for the game were considerable lower than his output.

"More than I was expecting," Crisp said. "I was just trying to have quality at-bats. With just six games left, I wanted to get some kind of rhythm to be able to help the team."

He did. But playing in a day game Saturday after Friday's night game, Crisp is wary that his sensitive-to-light eyes will be ready.

"We'll see," Crisp said. "I'm just hoping that each day they get better. If that's the case, then I shouldn't have any problems."

Crisp wasn't the only outfielder to put together an impressive and complete game.

Yoenis Cespedes' stats belie his impact on the A's 8-2 win over Seattle Friday night. He finished 0-for-3, but Melvin is convinced his scorched shot in the hole -- ruled an error -- deserved a hit.

"That's a quality shortstop and that ball just ate him up it got on him so fast," Melvin said. "So I don't agree with that call."

Cespedes' next at-bat came against flamethrower Stephen Pryor. After swinging through the first two strikes, Cespedes showed veteran discipline on pitches touching 97 miles per hour, working a bases-loaded walk that put the game out of reach.

"One of the key at-bats of the game was that walk," Melvin said. "He's down two strikes, lays off a pitch, gets to 3-2 and takes a walk and we score some runs. "

And his full-extension catch in the eighth inning was a Golden Great all the way. Making it look easy, Cespedes has come a long way from the beginning of the season when he was regularly misplaying balls in center field. The growth registers with his manager.

"Now, all of a sudden, he's just a good left fielder," Melvin said. "He's a natural out there."

The stout defense helped the A's bullpen preserve rookie A.J. Griffin's seventh win in 14 starts as he bounced back from two previous rough outings. While he was happy to get back on track, he is well aware that his next slated start lands on the final day of the season. He's been thinking about it, too.

"Not going to lie, yeah," Griffin acknowledged. "But that's the fun part of this business. You get to go out there and pitch in games that matter. I just want to give us a good chance to win ballgames."

Griffin's admission that his next start has already entered his thoughts should come as no surprise. The A's are locked in a tight playoff race with four other teams, and they are making a serious attempt at focusing on only the things they can control, which means no scoreboard watching.

"We're trying not to pay attention to what other teams are doing," Doolittle said. "It's tough this time of year. But we're really trying to focus on everything in here. If we take care of business, it doesn't matter what anybody else does. That's our only goal at this point -- staying focused."

Doolittle and his teammates are buying into Melvin's only goal for the final five games: "Playing hard tomorrow." After watching the A's go all out on the field and commit to the team-first attitude in the clubhouse, even Coco Crisp can see that clearly.

A's coach plays part in Schwarber's World Series comeback

A's coach plays part in Schwarber's World Series comeback

Ryan Christenson has a reason to follow the World Series even more so than most years.

Christenson, who manages the A’s Double-A Midland squad, is also skippering the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League. One of his players happened to be Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber, if only for the briefest of periods.

Schwarber, as is well-documented, played in two AFL games as a quick tune-up before joining the Cubs’ active roster for the Fall Classic. It’s an unprecedented path, as Schwarber hadn’t appeared in a game for Chicago since April 7, when he tore the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee.

When he crushed a double off the right field wall in Game 1 against the Indians’ Corey Kluber, Schwarber became the first position player in major league history to get a hit in the World Series after recording zero hits during the regular season.

His preparations for the grand stage took place in the relative anonymity of the Arizona Fall League, and it presented some unique conditions for Christenson to manage under.

“It’s such a unique situation to see someone thrust into that after missing so much season,” Christenson said in a phone interview before Game 1. “To have a chance to be activated this time of year, it’s something special if he can pull this off. If he (sparks the Cubs), literally the guy can be a legend.”

Schwarber appeared in just two games for the Solar Sox, going 1-for-6 as a designated hitter. Christenson didn’t have much hands-on interaction with Schwarber — the Cubs had their own staff members on site helping him with treatment — but Christenson saw Schwarber’s swing rounding into form even in his brief time in the batter’s box.

“The bat speed is there,” said Christenson, who hadn’t met Schwarber previously. “I love watching him work in the cage. He’s got a great swing. I don’t think it would take someone of his caliber long to get his timing and pick up where he left off. It’s a simple swing.”

The Cubs asked Christenson to work Schwarber into the top of the batting order with the Solar Sox so as to maximize his number of plate appearances. They also asked one other favor.

“The only request they had was that I took it easy with him on the bases … not trying to score him from first base on a gapper.”

Schwarber’s mere presence in the Arizona Fall League created a delicate dynamic. The league is geared toward up-and-coming prospects who have yet to break into the majors, and Christenson said AFL officials were concerned about Schwarber dropping in and taking playing time away from those players.

Each major league organization sends at least six players to the AFL. Of those six, one is designated a “priority player,” meaning they must play at least four days a week, so innings can be tricky to spread around.

Adding to the sensitivity of the situation, the Solar Sox’s roster includes not only Cubs prospects but also those of the Cleveland Indians. Christenson needed to avoid a situation where Schwarber was stealing at-bats away from prospects of the American League champs — the team that Schwarber was training to try to help the Cubs beat.

But things unfolded smoothly, and Schwarber showed appreciation for getting the chance to drop in for a couple games.

“I’ll definitely be pulling for him,” Christenson said.

A's claim left-handed reliever off waivers from Cubs

A's claim left-handed reliever off waivers from Cubs

CLEVELAND — Left-hander Giovanni Soto has been claimed by the Oakland Athletics off waivers from the Chicago Cubs.

Soto was designated for assignment Saturday to open a spot on the 40-man roster for slugger Kyle Schwarber, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list following knee surgery in April. Schwarber was put on the World Series roster Tuesday and went 1 for 3 with a double, walk and two strikeouts in the opening 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians.

Soto was traded to the Cubs from Cleveland on April 11 and was 1-3 with a 5.14 ERA in 33 relief appearances for Triple-A Iowa. He made his big league debut with the Indians in 2015 and appeared in six games and 3 1/3 innings.

Oakland claimed him Wednesday.