A's poised amid playoff pressure

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A's poised amid playoff pressure

OAKLAND -- The calendar flips six times during baseball's regular season. When it flips to October everything changes. There are way more media members swarming the A's dugout and clubhouse, scoreboard watching becomes a distraction, and the games have heavy implications. Sounds stressful, but is there anything better than October baseball? "No there's really not," Jonny Gomes said. "It was funny, I remember in 2008 my first go around with it and everyone was loading up with veterans. We were like, 'We don't need any veterans we've got it. We just won the division.'" "First pitch, playoffs I was like, 'Whoa. Totally different game,'" Gomes added. The A's know they are on the verge of doing something special. One win and they are in the postseason for the first time since 2006. Three wins and they are the American League West champions. It may not be the playoffs yet, but it sure feels like it -- and the A's are enjoying every second of it."It's a special team," Brandon Moss said. "We've got a lot of great personalities and a lot of guys who are striving to get there. It's the most fun I've ever had in baseball without a question.""We're in a playoff situation," Chris Carter said. "Making playoffs and doing stuff like that in the minors is one thing, but doing it here is a whole different level." Based on the magnitude of the situation, the importance of each remaining game, veterans like Gomes who have been there have to lead by example. The A's have a roster full of young players that have never been to the postseason. Gomes, Grant Balfour, Brandon Inge, Seth Smith, and Stephen Drew have been there before and are leading by example. "I know I get credit for being the older guy," Gomes said. "But these guys are doing it on their own."Most teams have a veteran presence, but the players on this team believe their leadership group is different. They allow young players like Josh Reddick to be vocal and pie people on the field. They let the young players be themselves and have fun as long as they get their jobs done on the field. "To have guys like that to keep it fresh, keep it humble, keep it fun, is huge," Moss said. "You see guys that have done it but they are having just as much fun as we are. It's not all business we're playing for fun." That doesn't mean the veterans don't have a few tricks up their sleeve if they need to crack the whip."There's certain things you can police with the eye stare, the silent treatment for a while," Gomes said. "Everything is going to happen quick so it's like if you do something wrong there's not really a guarantee there's going to be an opportunity again." As Gomes often explains, playing for fun, not contracts, is why the A's are successful. He says if you take away the good times, the A's might crumble under the pressure. A's manager Bob Melvin clearly agrees. He may shake his head and crack a smile when the team shoots a 'Bernie Lean' music video, or look away while a player dressed as Spider-man runs onto the field brandishing pies, but he knows his players are getting it done when it matters the most, and respecting the game on the field. "I think they have done a really good job of keeping us focused on the task at hand," Sean Doolittle said. "While still keeping the atmosphere pretty light and letting us play loose."Oakland has a chance to pop the champagne on Monday. It is safe to say no one saw it coming, but now everyone seems to be expecting it to happen. Pressure to perform can wear on a young team, but these guys don't seem to mind. They are playing with house money at this point. "Here none of us are expecting anything," Moss said. "We just go out and play."

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's first road sweep of 2017

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's first road sweep of 2017

BOX SCORE

The A’s sprung to life offensively in the late innings Sunday and polished off their first road sweep of 2017.

They scored all five of their runs over the final three innings to beat the Chicago White Sox 5-3, continuing an odd stretch of streakiness. The A’s swept the New York Yankees in four at the Coliseum, then turned around and dropped four in a row to the Houston Astros before arriving in Chicago and taking all three from the Sox. It’s their first sweep on the road since they won four in Kansas City from Sept. 12-15 of last season.

The weekend’s events provided a morale boost for a team that began the series an American League-worst 9-25 away from home. The sweep also featured numerous contributions from a pack of recently promoted young players fresh from the minors.

The A’s had no answer for left-hander Derek Holland through six-plus innings, mustering just four hits off the veteran. But trailing 2-0, they got on the board with Jed Lowrie’s pinch-hit RBI double in the seventh. The next inning, Khris Davis singled home the tying run and Yonder Alonso followed with a go-ahead single down the left-field line to put the A’s up 3-2.

They tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth on back-to-back homers from Adam Rosales and Matt Joyce.

Sonny rebounds: Sonny Gray (3-3) avoided the early trouble that plagued his last start, working seven innings and being rewarded with a victory thanks to the A’s eighth-inning rally. He struck out seven and walked just one. That was a key as Gray had issued seven free passes combined in his previous two starts. Adam Engel hit a 2-1 fastball for a homer in the third, then Jose Abreu scored on a passed ball in the fourth to give Chicago a 2-0 lead. But Gray held the Sox to just four hits over his seven innings.

Sign of things to come? Franklin Barreto got a look as the No. 2 hitter in the order Sunday, a spot that some scouts feel he’ll be well suited for as his career unfolds. He singled to the opposite field in his first at-bat, then struck out looking in his next two trips to the plate. In the eighth, his broken-bat single to left jumpstarted Oakland’s two-run go-ahead rally. Barreto is 4-for-10 in his first two games with the big club.

Joyce provides a lift off the bench: Joyce entered as a pinch runner in the seventh and connected for his 10th homer, right after Rosales had gone deep himself. Joyce became the fourth Athletic to crack double figures in homers, and the A’s improved to 31-26 when they hit at least one home run (they’re 3-16 when they don’t).

Doo does it again: Lefty reliever Sean Doolittle continued to deal since coming off the disabled list. He threw a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts and has allowed just one hit over five innings in six appearances since his return.

An unwanted milestone: The Sox scored their second run on a passed ball by Josh Phegley, which accounted for Oakland’s 50th unearned run, most in the majors. They had just 43 unearned runs all of last season.

Former A's catcher Stephen Vogt claimed by NL Central team

Former A's catcher Stephen Vogt claimed by NL Central team

A new team believes in Stephen Vogt.

The former A's catcher, who was designated for assignment on Thursday, was claimed by the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.

The A's announced the transaction shortly before their game against the White Sox.

News of the Brewers making the waiver claim was first reported by ESPN.

The Brewers were the only team to place a waiver claim on Vogt, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

Vogt, a clubhouse leader and one of the longest tenured A's, hit just .217 with four home runs and 20 RBI in 54 games this season.