Pratt's Instant Replay: Athletics 4, Twins 1

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Pratt's Instant Replay: Athletics 4, Twins 1

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OAKLAND -- Brett Anderson hadn't stepped on a big league mound since June 5, 2011. He certainly didn't appear to be rusty. Anderson, 24, dominated the Minnesota Twins with seven innings of one-run ball and the A's won 4-1.On a day in which the team introduced Stephen Drew and demoted the previously-deemed "untouchable" Jemile Weeks, Anderson reminded everyone that his return to the mound was the real story with a spectacular performance on the mound.Starting Pitching ReportIt turns out the A's are pretty good at evaluating pitching. They were dead-on when assessing that Anderson was ready for his return. Anderson faced one over the minimum for seven innings. He allowed just four hits, didn't walk a batter, and struck out six.Anderson retired nine batters in a row at once point and induced 13 groundouts and no flyouts. This wasn't just Anderson's first start in 14 months, this was one of the best pitching performances of his career.The only run that he allowed scored when Norris couldn't handle one of Anderson's sliders. It was ruled a wild pitch.Anderson's fastball topped out at 93 mph, and he effectively worked in his slider and curveball. Two of the hits he allowed came against his change-up, the other two were against his slider.Bullpen ReportSean Doolittle pitched a perfect eighth inning. He struck out two batters.Grant Balfour entered in the ninth inning with a 4-1 lead. He notched his 12 save of the season and hasn't allowed a run in 18 of his last 19 outings. Balfour has converted all five of his save opportunities since taking over the team's closer role.In the FieldYou never know what you are going to see at the ballpark on any given day. As they say around these parts, it's hard not to be romantic about baseball. The 13,116 fans in attendance on Tuesday witnessed something special when the A's turned a triple play in the fifth inning.RELATED: A's turn 5-4-3 triple play
Anderson had retired nine batters in a row when he gave up back-to-back singles to start the fifth. With Trevor Plouffe batting, Anderson threw a 77-mph, first-pitch curveball that was hit on the ground to Josh Donaldson, who started the 5-4-3 triple play.
It was the 21st triple play in A's franchise history, the eighth in Oakland history. The A's last triple play was an unassisted triple play handled by Randy Velarde on May 29, 2000 at New York.According to our CSN A's statistician David Feldman, the last time the A's turned a triple play at the Coliseum: July 18, 1983 vs Tigers (Peters to Phillips to Almon to Gross)At the PlateSeth Smith returned from the disabled list after missing 16 games with a strained left hamstring. He drew a walk in his first plate appearance and immediately put his hammy to the test. Josh Donaldson cracked a double to the wall in left field forcing Smith to score all the way from first. Donaldson's double tied the game at one.Smith would later add two singles. He finished the night 2-for-2 with two walks -- one intentional -- and two runs scored.Norris drove Smith home for the go-ahead RBI single in the sixth inning. The A's added two more runs in the seventh inning when Crisp led off with a double down the right field line, and Josh Reddick hit a bloop single to left that barely stayed fair. Chris Carter then drove home Reddick with a double.AttendanceThe A's announced an attendance of 13,116.Dot RaceFor the first time ever the A's Dot Race featured dots that are green, white, and gold. A long-standing A's tradition at the Oakland Coliseum, the dots used to be red, white, or blue. In this brave new era of Dot Racing, gold won.Up NextThe A's will send Tommy Milone (9-9, 4.03 ERA) to the mound. It will be Milone's 24th start of the season. The rookie lefty is 0-3 with a 7.50 ERA in his last four starts. Milone pitched on extra rest in his last outing and looked much better. He made one mistake in his previous start, allowing a grand slam to Shelley Duncan. Strangely, the A's are 2-0 in games that Milone allows a grand slam. He's walked one batter or fewer in each of his last 10 starts.The Twins will counter with Liam Hendriks (0-5, 7.04 ERA). As of Monday, this spot in Minnesota's rotation was listed as "TBD." He has never won a game in the major leagues.

With Yankees on the prowl, error costs Sonny Gray in loss to Blue Jays

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USATSI

With Yankees on the prowl, error costs Sonny Gray in loss to Blue Jays

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Sonny Gray walked off the mound after a scoreless bottom of the sixth Tuesday in Toronto.

Was it the last inning he’ll pitch in green and gold?

That’s the dominant storyline around the A’s right now, especially in light of Tuesday afternoon’s revelation that the Yankees are making a run at acquiring both Gray and first baseman Yonder Alonso from Oakland in a package deal.

MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported multiple sources as saying the teams were “making progress” on a deal that would send both players to the Big Apple.

The A’s have been scouting the Yankees’ farm system recently, along with the systems of other contending teams who are considering Gray. The speculation surrounding Alonso, a free agent this winter, has been light in recent weeks except for the Yankees’ known interest. But after New York acquired corner infielder Todd Frazier from the White Sox last week, it seemed the Yankees’ need for Alonso might have lessened. Apparently, that’s not the case.

Gray struck out nine over six innings in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Blue Jays, which leaves the A’s 1-4 so far on this seven-game road trip. All four runs off him came in the second, when his own throwing error toward second base helped open the gates to the only rally Toronto needed. Ryan Goins had a two-out two-run double and Jose Bautista also doubled home a run in the inning, with all four runs off Gray unearned.

MLB.com also reported earlier Tuesday that the A’s had a particular interest in Yankees Single-A center fielder Estevan Florial, and that infielder/outfielder Jorge Mateo, ranked New York’s fourth-best prospect by Baseball America before the season, could also enter the equation. That same report mentioned that such elite Yankee prospects as shortstop Gleyber Torres, outfielder Clint Frazier and pitchers Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield would be all but untouchable. All are among New York’s top-10 prospects.

But for a deal that includes both Gray and Alonso, it stands to reason the A’s could ask for the inclusion of one or more of those four in a deal.

The Yankees aren’t the only team that has an enticing pool of prospects that could make for a match with Oakland. Houston, known to be going after a starter, has multiple outfielders who could be attractive to the A’s. The Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers are among other teams in search of pitching who could put together competitive offers.

Gray’s next scheduled start would come Sunday at home against the Minnesota Twins, one day before the non-waiver trade deadline.

Decision time for A's: Trade Sonny Gray now or later?

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AP

Decision time for A's: Trade Sonny Gray now or later?

As Sonny Gray prepares to take the mound against Toronto on Tuesday night, there’s not a hotter name in the rumor mill as the major leagues’ non-waiver trade deadline approaches Monday.

Yet there’s a contradiction attached to the A’s right-hander. He is simultaneously the likeliest Athletic to be traded, and the toughest to pry away simply because of what the team will demand in return.

The markets for first baseman Yonder Alonso and second baseman Jed Lowrie haven’t developed as expected, to the point that you wonder how much the A’s could even get in return for them right now.

That focuses the spotlight squarely on Gray, 27, who has posted a 1.62 ERA over his last five starts and comes with two more seasons of team control before he hits free agency. That’s why he’s been linked to no fewer than nine contending teams who are looking for starting pitching.

The A’s sit in a position of strength here. They don’t have to deal Gray right now, and indications from within the organization are that they don’t feel a pressing need to deal him before Monday if they don’t get swept off their feet by an offer. They can retain him, and he’ll still hold great value as an offseason trade chip with those two years of team control.

MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reported Tuesday morning that the Yankees and Nationals — who have already struck a deal with Oakland to get relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson this month — are two teams in particular to watch in the hunt for Gray.

Morosi also reported that the A’s are targeting young outfielders as the anchor of any deal. That makes all the sense in the world given their organizational needs, particularly in center. It’s also in line with what I’ve heard that the A’s would prioritize getting position players in return since they worked so hard over the past couple of years to acquire and draft young starting pitching (though it stands to reason a deal for Gray would be a multi-player package that could also include pitching prospects as well).

Morosi specifically mentions Yankees Single-A center fielder Estevan Florial as a player the A’s like. He’s just 19 and at least a couple years away from the majors. But Billy Beane, the head of Oakland’s baseball operations, said after making the Doolittle/Madson trade that the emphasis moving forward would be on acquiring high-end talent, not necessarily prospects close to being major league-ready.

Other potential Gray suitors have elite outfield prospects in their system: The Astros boast Kyle Tucker, the Nats have Victor Robles and the Mariners have Kyle Lewis, though it’s doubtful whether Seattle has enough elsewhere in its farm system to assemble a package to land Gray.

Just a hunch, but keep an eye on the Dodgers as a team that could enter the Sonny Sweepstakes in light of Clayton Kershaw’s lower back injury. There’s strong ties between the Oakland and Los Angeles front offices, and the teams struck a deadline deal last summer that sent Rich Hill and Josh Reddick to the Dodgers. They have one of the majors’ top outfield prospects in Alex Verdugo, who’s currently at Triple-A.

Though much mystery remains, an eventual trade of Gray is inevitable. The A’s have a solid base of young pitching depth, both in the majors and coming up through the system. And Gray’s rebound from a poor 2016, combined with his favorable contract status, makes him too tantalizing a trade chip for the A’s not to make the move.

The key question is not “if” but “when.”