A's pregame notes: A's contingency plans, Scherzer limited?

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A's pregame notes: A's contingency plans, Scherzer limited?

OAKLAND -- The first question asked of A's manager Bob Melvin in Wednesday's pregame press conference was about his plan for Justin Verlander in Game Five. "We'll have to get there first," Melvin quickly replied. First the A's have to contend with Max Scherzer, who at times this season has been a better pitcher than Verlander. Scherzer might be slightly limited on the mound in Oakland on Wednesday. Last time he faced the A's he left after two innings with right shoulder fatigue. He also sprained his right ankle celebrating the Tigers American League Central title. He only threw 75 pitches in his final start of the season. If he is on a pitch count the A's could run up his pitch total and possibly get into the Tigers bullpen early. "If you go in trying to forecast something and it doesn't happen that way then you get surprised," Melvin said. "So I think we are just going to go out there with the mindset that he's going to be out there as long as he normally is." On Tuesday, Scherzer assured everyone in his press conference that he was 100 percent healthy. Jim Leyland reiterated that point on Wednesday. Usually when you have to assure the media that you are 100 percent -- it means you aren't. When you already have contingency plans going in it just confirms that assumption. "We've got Drew Smiley to go if something happens to Scherzer," Leyland said. "We'll be prepared for anything."Smiley is a lefty. If he enters the game then righties Jonny Gomes and Chris Carter may finally see some ALDS action. Of course, if Scherzer is indeed healthy, then none of this becomes a factor.

The A's have a contingency plan too. A.J. Griffin has been struggling lately and if he gets into trouble early Melvin won't hesitate to go with left-handed pitcher Travis Blackley, or right-handed pitcher Evan Scribner.
When Griffin left after just two and two-thirds innings in his final start of the season, Scribner came in and pitched three innings of scoreless relief and the A's ended up beating the Rangers and winning the AL West. "Our bullpen is in pretty good shape," Melvin said. "Scribner has done a nice job for us coming in and shutting some stuff down at times and moving us farther in the game." Griffin is 7-1 with a 3.06 ERA but is 1-1 with a 7.27 ERA in his last four starts. His only loss was against the Tigers and he allowed a career-high five runs on a career-high tying eight hits in that start.
The A's will be the only team in Major League history to start three rookie starting pitchers in a playoff series when Griffin takes the mound. The A's young pitchers have taken a mature approach to their preparation and it has worked so far. Every starting pitcher in this series so far has thrown a quality start."We're a young staff and we try to bounce as many things off of each other as we can," Game One and potential Game Five starting pitcher Jarrod Parker said."We try to learn from each other and try to do as much as we can to learn and take the knowledge that we have, one guy throws a game and does something, I'm going to ask him what he's doing to get this guy out and vice versa."
The A's have done a good job limiting the damage done by the Tigers' big hitters in this series. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are a combined .185 (5 for 27) in the first three games of the postseason. The A's defense made a ding in their collective batting average on Tuesday. Fielder was robbed of a home run in the second inning, robbed of a hit up the middle by Stephen Drew, and robbed of a hit in the seventh when Yoenis Cespedes made a diving catch. The A's fielders aren't treating him like a prince.
"I think it more gets into a poor hitter's head when he gets hits taken away from him rather than a good hitter," Melvin said. "I don't think it's going to effect Prince Fielder. A guy like me, if I had a chance to get three hits and they were taken from me it would put me in a rubber room somewhere." Melvin also said he is crazy about what Cespedes has been doing in this playoff series. "We've seen Yoenis make huge strides in left field, now all of a sudden he is just a plus left fielder," Melvin said. "Before it was a struggle for him both mentally and physically. We're reaping some serious rewards with what he is doing right now."
The A's snapped their six-game postseason losing streak on Tuesday with the 2-0 win over the Tigers. Coincidentally all six of their losses were at the hands of Detroit. The Tigers swept the A's in the 2006 American League Championship Series and won the first two games of the ALDS. If the A's can win on Wednesday the series will be all evened up with a win-or-go-home Game Five taking place at the Oakland Coliseum.
Oakland native and WBCWBA Super Middleweight Champion Andre Ward will throw out tonight's ceremonial first pitch

Faltering defense continues to be A's unwanted storyline

Faltering defense continues to be A's unwanted storyline

NEW YORK — A weekend that began with promise instead wound up feeling like another lost opportunity for the A’s.

Their defense once again paved the way to their undoing Sunday, and there were plenty of players willing to accept responsibility for a 9-5 loss to the Yankees in the rubber match of a three-game series in the Bronx.

When right fielder Matt Joyce had a catchable fly ball pop out of his glove for a third-inning error that loaded the bases, it seemed inevitable the mistake would come back to haunt the A’s.

On cue, one-time Oakland draft pick Aaron Judge drilled an opposite-field grand slam off Andrew Triggs to a turn a 2-1 A’s lead into a 5-2 deficit. Joyce said he couldn’t stomach to watch the replay of his missed catch afterward.

“It just hit my glove and I dropped it,” Joyce said. “Obviously that’s pretty tough to swallow for me in that situation. For me, I think that’s an easy play. It’s a little embarrassing. It’s obviously really frustrating, especially with what it led to.”

The A’s (22-27) chalked up two more errors, giving them a staggering 49 in 49 games played. When play began Sunday, they had at least 10 more errors than every other big league club. It’s no surprise, therefore, that they also lead the majors with 35 unearned runs, after five of the nine runs they surrendered Sunday were unearned.

That kind of bumbling play in the field is making it difficult for the A’s to maintain leads when they claim one, and tough to mount comebacks when they fall behind. In a factoid that helps explain why the A’s likely find themselves looking at another summer of selling off veterans, they have won just one of the eight road series they’ve played in 2017. Their 7-17 record away from Oakland is second worst in the American League.

The A’s took Friday’s series opener 4-1 but dropped the final two to the AL East leaders.

“I’ve said often, there’s a psychology to it too,” manager Bob Melvin said. “You feel like you have a chance to battle and come back and score some runs, and when your defense is poor, sometimes mentally it’s tough to overcome or get past it. We just have to keep working on it.”

Leading 5-2, New York added to its lead in the fourth with help from a Josh Phegley throwing error on Aaron Hicks’ stolen base. Hicks wound up on third and came home on Chris Carter’s sacrifice fly. The A’s pulled to within 7-5 on Khris Davis’ 15th homer which in the eighth, a two-run shot. But the Yankees answered right back with two more off reliever John Axford, who hurt his cause with two walks.

There were other mishaps that didn’t cost the A’s runs, like Davis making a poor throw to third that allowed a Yankee runner to advance an extra base, and third baseman Ryon Healy losing a foul pop up in the sun.

Regardless of the defensive issues, A’s starter Andrew Triggs wasn’t looking to hand off blame. Just one of the six runs he allowed was earned over his six innings. But Triggs still had a chance to preserve a 2-1 lead in the third if he could have retired Judge with two outs and the bases loaded. Instead he left a 2-1 sinker over the plate and Judge mashed it over the right field wall.

“In my mind it was either sinker away or sinker in, and I thought away was better,” Triggs said. “But you gotta execute the pitch and I didn’t.”

It was the first career grand slam for Judge, who was drafted in the 31st round out of high school by Oakland in 2010 but opted to attend Fresno State. The Yankees took him in the first round in 2013, and in clubbing his 16th homer Sunday (tying him with Mike Trout for the league lead), Judge continued building his strong early case for the Rookie of the Year award.

A's fall short of series win vs Yankees after Judge's grand slam

A's fall short of series win vs Yankees after Judge's grand slam

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge hit his first career grand slam and the New York Yankees took full advantage of Oakland's shoddy defense Sunday in a 9-5 victory over the Athletics.

Michael Pineda (6-2) tossed six innings of three-hit ball to win his third straight start. Aaron Hicks and Chris Carter each had an early sacrifice fly as the AL East leaders scored five unearned runs and took two of three in a well-pitched series.

Judge connected with two outs in the third for his 16th home run, tying Mike Trout of the Angels for the big league lead. The drive landed in the right-field seats, not far in front of The Judge's Chambers cheering section installed by the Yankees for the 6-foot-7 rookie at the start of this 4-2 homestand.

Khris Davis hit his 15th home run for the A's, who committed two more costly errors to raise their season total to 49. They began the day with 10 more than any other team in the majors.

The fielding failures put starter Andrew Triggs (5-4) in tough situations. He went six innings and gave up one earned run - but even that could have been prevented if not for a poor throw by the weak-armed Davis in left.

Gary Sanchez added an RBI double in the seventh that squirmed out of the glove of a diving Davis. Brett Gardner drove in two insurance runs with a pop-fly double in the eighth.

Adam Warren retired all four batters he faced for his first save since July 28, 2015.

The Yankees trailed 2-1 when Ronald Torreyes reached on a soft infield single leading off the third, and Sanchez singled with one out. Matt Joyce then dropped Matt Holliday's fly ball in the right-field corner for an error that loaded the bases.

After Starlin Castro struck out, Judge lined a fastball the other way to put New York ahead. Triggs had given up just three home runs in his first nine starts this year.

Hicks stole second in the fourth and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Josh Phegley. That set up Carter's sacrifice fly, which made it 6-2.

And while Triggs' defense was betraying him, New York's fielders gave Pineda a big boost when he needed it.

With nobody out in the second, Ryon Healy was thrown out by Gardner trying to stretch a two-run single to left field. Torreyes followed with a diving play at third base.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Athletics: 1B Yonder Alonso was back in the lineup after missing three games with a sore right wrist. ... CF Rajai Davis was rested in favor of Mark Canha, who batted leadoff for the first time in his major league career. ... One-time closer Sean Doolittle, on the DL since April 30 with a strained left shoulder, threw 20 pitches Saturday and felt good, according to manager Bob Melvin. "So we'll figure out the next step here in the next day or so," Melvin said. ... Oakland plans to put RHP Kendall Graveman (shoulder) on the 10-day disabled list Monday and recall RHP Daniel Mengden from Triple-A Nashville to make his first big league start of the season in Cleveland.

Yankees: Slumping 3B Chase Headley was given a second consecutive day off to work on his swing. He'll return to the lineup Monday, manager Joe Girardi said. ... All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) was scheduled to throw for the second straight day before a day off in his program Monday.

UP NEXT

Athletics: The 24-year-old Mengden began the season on the disabled list following surgery on his right foot. He was activated May 20 and optioned to Triple-A Nashville. Including his rehab assignment, Mengden is 2-1 with a 2.21 ERA in four Triple-A starts this year. He reached the majors for the first time last season and went 2-9 with a 6.50 ERA in 14 starts for Oakland. RHP Carlos Carrasco (4-2, 2.93) pitches for the AL champion Indians.

Yankees: Begin a seven-game road trip Monday afternoon in Baltimore, with rookie LHP Jordan Montgomery (2-3, 4.30 ERA) on the mound against Orioles RHP Dylan Bundy (5-3, 2.92).