Pratt's Instant Replay: Athletics 9, Twins 4

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Pratt's Instant Replay: Athletics 9, Twins 4

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The A's came out of the gate like a thoroughbred ridden by a maniacal jockey, leaving Twins starting pitcher Brian Duensing in the dust. He was knocked out after just two innings, allowing six runs on seven hits. With their second consecutive four-homer game the A's powered their way to a 9-4 win.The swinging A's have hit nine home runs over the course of this three-game sweep of the Twins. Oakland is now a season-high three games over .500 and a 12 a game behind Baltimore for the second American League Wild Card spot.At the PlateA's manager Bob Melvin is pulling all the right strings -- call him the puppet master. He started Gomes in the second spot in the lineup for the first time this season -- all Gomes did was go 3 for 4 with a two-run homer and three runs scored.Gomes launched one of the A's four homers on Sunday. The A's have so much pop lately that the late, great Orville Redenbacher would be jealous. They now have 92 home runs this season. They hit 114 all of last year.Yoenis Cespedes smashed an outside pitch to dead center for a solo homer in the second inning. Chris Carter upped the ante with a blast to right-center that hit the facing of the second deck. Cespedes and Carter's back-to-back blasts gave the A's a 6-2 lead. In addition to his homer, Carter drew three walks.Cespedes ended up going 4 for 5 with three RBI, his first career four-hit game. He looked unstoppable in this series. The Cuban-born slugger sprayed the ball all over the field, doing a particularly good job of hitting the ball to the opposite field. When he is healthy he is scary good.Seth Smith was moved down to the eighth spot in the lineup -- shocker, another Melvin move that worked. He clubbed his 10th homer of the season in the sixth inning. The A's now have five hitters on the team with double-digit home runs. (Reddick-20, Moss-11, Cespedes-11, Gomes-10, Smith-10.)After Smith's homer in the sixth, Cespedes hit an RBI-single. The A's eventually loaded the bases in that frame, scoring another run on a wild pitch with Brandon Inge batting, making the score 9-2.Inge came to the plate three different times with the bases loaded on Sunday. He went hitless in all three of those plate appearances, ending the day 0 for 5 with two strikeouts. He left eight men on base.Starting Pitching ReportJarrod Parker pitched on a full week's rest and had enough run support to be at ease on the mound. Even though it wasn't one of his best performances, the 23-year-old rookie got his sixth win. He allowed four runs on nine hits, but didn't walk any batters which is a great sign. Parker has all the makings of a frontline starting pitcher, but his one weakness is issuing walks. Bullpen ReportJerry Blevins pitched a clean seventh inning and came back out for the eighth. He got two more outs in that frame before being relieved by Evan Scribner, who got the last out of the inning. Scribner stayed in the game for the ninth inning and pitched a scoreless frame.In the FieldJarrod Parker got charged with an error when he fielded a comebacker and bounced a throw to shortstop Brandon Hicks, who could have turned a double play if the throw was better. When all was said and done it only ended up costing the A's one run.As rough of a day as Inge had at the plate, he made a sensational play to end the eighth inning. The third baseman dove to his right stealing a double off the bat of Trevor Plouffe, then fired to first for the out.Up NextThe A's head home and get the day off on Monday, before beginning a pivotal six-game stretch with two games against the Rangers and four against the Yankees.Oakland will be sending Bartolo Colon (6-7, 3.80 ERA) to the mound against the Rangers. It will be his third start since being reinstated from the disabled list. Colon is 18-6 with a 3.61 ERA in 28 career starts against the Rangers.Roy Oswalt (2-1, 6.26 ERA) will be on the mound for the Rangers. The veteran righty has made four starts this season after sitting out the first two and a half months of the season. He gave up nine runs on July 3 against the White Sox, but allowed just one run against the Twins over 5.2 innings in his last start. Former A'sBen Sheets got his first win since July 10, 2010 -- when he was with the A's. He threw six innings of shutout ball against the Mets. The veteran righty who has returned from "Tommy John" surgery allowed just two hits and struck out five hitters.Trevor Cahill went 5.1 innings for the Diamondbacks agains the Cubs. He allowed three runs on four hits. Cahill was part of the swap that sent Parker to the A's.

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.”