A's 'pumped' for playoff push after sweep

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A's 'pumped' for playoff push after sweep

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- The Oakland Athletics have a funny way of simplifying things. They take things one pitch at a time, one inning at a time, and every once in a while go completely crazy and look at things one game at a time. Around these parts tomorrow is a terrible burden to worry about until it becomes today. Maybe there is something to that. While everyone else worries about tie breakers, clinching scenarios, and potential one-game playoffs, the A's worry about one thing: Winning. "It's our choice," Grant Balfour said. "We go out there and win then good things are going to happen." The A's could clinch a playoff spot on Monday. They could sweep the Rangers and have a chance to win the American League West. They can't worry about it, and they can't do it unless they keep winning. The A's did just that on Sunday, as they swept the Seattle Mariners in a 5-2 win to drop their magic number to clinch a postseason berth to two.
INSTANT REPLAY: Athletics 5, Mariners 2
They did it in typical A's fashion, by keeping the game close and scoring late. In the eighth inning Yoenis Cespedes hit his 23rd home run, a go-ahead shot to left field that barely stayed fair. Two batters later Josh Reddick hit his 32nd, a second deck two-run homer to right that also barely remained on the fair side of the foul pole. "It's paramount for us," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "That's the way we've been winning pretty much from June on." He's right. Since June 2, the A's are 69-38, which is the best record in baseball over that span. The A's have hit 20 home runs in the their last nine games and lead Major League Baseball in long balls with 110 since the All-Star Break. Cespedes ended the day 3 for 4 and put the A's on board in the first inning with an RBI triple to right field. He came around to score the second run on a shallow fly ball hit by Brandon Moss. "Even though we are young we have a lot of desire to play hard and to win," Cespedes said through reporter Jorge L. Ortiz, who was translating. In his final start of the regular season Tommy Milone lasted four and two-thirds innings but only allowed two runs. He would have allowed a third run but Reddick gunned down Justin Smoak at home in the second inning for his 15th outfield assist of the season. "When you are pitching out there and they stop that run from scoring it's a big deal," Milone said. "It's a good feeling when you've got guys that do that all year long and save runs for you."Milone, 25, finished the regular season 13-10 with a 3.47 ERA. His 13 wins are the most ever by an Oakland rookie. While he wasn't happy with his final start, he acknowledged after the game that he achieved all of his goals for the season. He knows he'll likely be taking the mound again this year. "There's not a doubt in my mind that we are going to make it at least into one of the Wild Card spots," Milone said.Milone was pulled after 85 pitches with a runner on third and two outs. The A's bullpen took it the rest of the way, tossing four and one-third scoreless innings after he left the game. Jerry Blevins ended the fifth inning and pitched the sixth inning. Ryan Cook allowed a double and a single to start the seventh inning, then struck out the side to escape unscathed. Sean Doolittle pitched a scoreless eighth inning, and then Grant Balfour locked down his 22nd save of the season and is now 15 for 15 in save opportunities since re-taking the closer's role on August 11. "We come out of the game and there's not really any doubt in our minds that they are going to get the job done," Milone said of the bullpen. "They have been doing it all year." After playing a doubleheader on Sunday against the Angels, Texas comes to town on Monday for three games to cap the regular season. Those contests will determined the fate of the 2012 Oakland Athletics. If they sweep the Rangers there is a chance Oakland emerges the American League West champions. If they get swept, they could miss the playoffs altogether. Everything is on the line. "I like every guy's chances in here," Balfour said. "The way we've been playing I feel like we've got some good momentum going our way and I just want to keep the ball rolling all the way through October."The players know they control their own destiny at this point, but they are having too much fun to worry about the details. If they keep the momentum going, they will be popping champagne bottles in the coming days. "We're pumped," Donaldson said. "We are going to take it one game at a time but we feel pretty good about our situation." "It's tough getting to the playoffs; it doesn't happen all the time," Balfour said. "It's been six years here and you've got guys that have never been and you never know when it's going to be the next time. You've got to play for now and that's it."The A's take it one pitch at a time, one inning at a time, one day at a time. If they keep doing that, they may soon look up and realize that their time has arrived.

Pinder's potential 'coming to fruition' in chance with A's

Pinder's potential 'coming to fruition' in chance with A's

OAKLAND — With so much attention focused on who might be the next wave of A’s infielders coming up from the minors, Chad Pinder is making quite a statement in the present.

Pinder enjoyed another big day at the plate Sunday with a two-run homer and a double in the A’s 12-3 loss to Boston. That came on the heels of Saturday’s 460-foot home run that made him just the fifth player to reach the second deck just above the Coliseum’s first level of luxury suites.

For fans around the country who might have seen that mammoth blast on highlight shows, it likely was their first introduction to the 25-year-old Virginia native. However, those within the organization witnessed Pinder’s steady rise through the farm system since he was drafted as a sandwich pick between the second and third rounds of the 2013 draft out of Virginia Tech.

“I don’t think it’s a shock what he’s doing,” said A’s designated hitter Ryon Healy, who was part of that same draft class. “I think he’s always been that caliber of player. He’s always had that potential and it’s coming to fruition right now and it’s really fun to watch.”

Pinder, who made his big league debut in September but began this season with Triple-A Nashville, is hitting .286 over 21 games with Oakland. He’s homered in four of his past eight, and he provided a boost over the weekend as the A’s took three of four from the Red Sox.

The right-handed hitting Pinder was in the lineup all four games — with the Red Sox starting lefties on the mound for the final three contests, the A’s stacked their lineup with righties, giving Pinder a stretch of consistent playing time.

He’s provided enough of a spark that he warrants consideration to remain in the lineup even though the A’s are scheduled to face right-handers during their two-game series with the Miami Marlins that begins Tuesday at the Coliseum.

Granted, it’s not the biggest sample size either way, but Pinder is actually hitting better against righties (.348, 8-for-23) than he is against lefties (.231, 6-for-26). Four of his five home runs also have come against right-handers.

Asked whether Pinder could draw more starts against right-handers, A’s manager Bob Melvin replied: “Potentially, yeah. You want to try to stay consistent with the lineups you have, but if you have a hot hand, you look for ways to get him in there.”

Working in Pinder’s advantage is the versatility he’s shown since being recalled from Nashville on April 16. The A’s always knew Pinder could handle second, shortstop or third as needed, but he’s also shown to be a capable option in right field with a strong arm for the outfield.

Pinder was the Texas League (Double-A) Player of the Year in 2015 and ranked No. 7 on Baseball America’s preseason list of A’s prospects. He’s making the most of his time in the majors.

On the minds of many Oakland fans is when a couple more infield prospects who are impressing at Triple-A — middle infielder Franklin Barreto and third baseman Matt Chapman — might get their first crack in the bigs.

Barreto, ranked as the No. 25 overall prospect in the majors in Baseball America’s most recent ratings, is hitting .311 with six homers and is tied with Matt Olson for Nashville’s RBI lead at 27. Chapman, ranked the 95th overall prospect, missed two weeks earlier this season with a wrist injury but has shown signs of heating up offensively. He’s hitting just .237 but has eight homers and 15 RBI.

Two other Nashville players, who have both seen time with the A’s, are putting up noteworthy numbers: Olson, a first baseman/outfielder, is hitting .276 with 10 homers and 27 RBI, and corner infielder/outfielder Renato Nunez is tied for the Pacific Coast League lead with 12 homers to go with a .245 average and 25 RBI.

The A’s are working with Barreto and Chapman to hone their approach at the plate and control the strike zone. General manager David Forst maintains the A’s will be patient with both, noting that Pinder benefited last year from a full season at Triple-A before his promotion.

“The calendar needs to turn over,” Forst said. “They need at-bats. Matt missed a couple weeks with the injury, but they just need more days and more at-bats. We don’t have an ‘X’ on the calendar anywhere where this is the day. We’ll know when it’s time.”

Axford makes his 2017 debut; Doolittle takes step forward to return

Axford makes his 2017 debut; Doolittle takes step forward to return

OAKLAND — The A’s officially welcomed John Axford back into their bullpen fold Sunday, and they got some encouraging news about another reliever.

Sean Doolittle was expected to only throw a flat-ground session before the series finale against Boston, but he wound up throwing 15 pitches off the mound as well. That’s the first time Doolittle has thrown from the mound since joining the disabled list May 3 with a strained left shoulder. Next up is a 25-pitch session off the mound Wednesday.

The early indications are that Doolittle’s current shoulder woes aren’t as severe as the ailments that sidelined him for major portions of the past two seasons.

Axford was reinstated from the 10-day DL Saturday for his own shoulder strain, but his season debut came Sunday, when he handled the eighth inning and allowed one run. He was sidelined during the season-opening series against the Angels when he hurt his shoulder while warming up in the bullpen.

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All indications are that first baseman Yonder Alonso will be available to return to the lineup Tuesday for the opener of a two-game interleague series against the Miami Marlins. A’s manager Bob Melvin said before Sunday’s game that he considered Alonso as potentially being available off the bench. Given the A’s are off Monday, it’s reasonable to assume Alonso will be ready Tuesday when the Marlins start right-hander Jose Urena on the mound.

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The A’s are plenty familiar with Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland from his days with division rival Texas. But Moreland continues to do damage against Oakland even though he’s out of the AL West. Moreland’s two-run homer in the sixth off Andrew Triggs marked his third homer of the four-game series, and his 19th homer in 80 career games against the A’s. That’s his most homers against any major league club.

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The run Axford allowed in the eighth snapped a streak of 27 scoreless innings at home by the A’s bullpen. Josh Smith allowed five runs in the ninth.