Rangers leave impressed with A's brand of ball


Rangers leave impressed with A's brand of ball

OAKLAND -- The A's entered a pivotal six-game homestand against baseball's top two teams Tuesday, just a half-game out of the second A.L. Wild Card berth.

Trailing 3-1 late in Wednesday's game, the A's showed why this squad is different from years past by mounting a comeback and claiming their MLB-leading ninth walk-off win of the season.

RECAP: Hicks powers A's walk-off
The A's have to believe they'll be competitive down the stretch, and they do, according to Wednesday's starter.

"Don't sleep on us," Travis Blackley said before the win. "I feel good about the team. I reckon we're going to be in the hunt at the end."

But do the top players on the Rangers squad think the A's will be a playoff contending team? Not one player responded negatively.

Josh Hamilton:
"Of course they have talent. They have young guys. They have pitching. Guys are doing a good job stepping up. The key is for them to figure out the grind of the season, the whole way out. If they do that, I don't see why they couldn't be there."

Michael Young:
"Without a doubt. The Wild Card standings are all jammed up. Everything is up for grabs. There's a ton of talent in our league, it's a fun league to play in."

What's different about his year's team from Oakland?

"They're better."

Adrian Beltre:
"They definitely have what it takes. You never know. Anything could happen. They definitely have good pitching. It's a long season, so I wouldn't count anything out. They battle. Everyone's trying to do the same thing -- win the West."

Nelson Cruz:
"They're really good now. They showed a lot of heart. They have a lot of different guys (this year). Their corner outfielder, the catcher, corners -- first and third base. But they always have good pitching."

David Murphy:
"Definitely. They don't have the All-Star roster that you look for in a playoff contender. But they have a lot of heart. And they obviously never say die. Down 3-1 late in the game, against a pretty impressive arm out of the bullpen, that says something right there. They have a never-say-die attitude and get the job done."

Colby Lewis:
"They've got a good ballclub. This is a better lineup that they've put together in the last couple years. They've got guys stepping up and hitting home runs, with Reddick and signing Cespedes -- he's a tough out. And the pitching is going to come along for 'em.

"It's anybody's game, really. You've got to go out there and compete, and these guys do that. Like today. They've always been a scrappy team. And that keeps them competitive."

With one American League juggernaut leaving Oakland with a series split and renewed respect, the A's set their sights on a four-game set with the New York Yankees, who are riding an impressive stretch of 42 games in which they've scored three or more runs."I didn't know that," A's manager Bob Melvin said of their streak. "But we feel like we can hold teams down, especially here. You know their lineup is deep and stacked and they have an offensive team, but we're first in the league in pitching or a reason."That reason? Gutsy performances like the three-run effort Blackley and four relievers combined for Wednesday. The result? Respect from some of MLB's best, and if sustained, meaningful baseball down the stretch.

Arizona Fall League roundup: Seven A's in action

Arizona Fall League roundup: Seven A's in action

The Arizona Fall League hosts six teams featuring many of baseball's top prospects beginning in early October. This year seven players from the A's farm system are representing Oakland on the Mesa Solar Sox, which also consists of prospects from the Blue Jays, Cubs, Indians and Marlins. 

Below are the seven A's prospects on the Solar Sox, managed by former A's 10th-round draft pick Ryan Christenson, and their stats through a maximum possible total of 11 games. 

[STIGLICH: A's coach plays part in Schwarber's World Series comeback]

A's Prospects

RHP Sam Bragg
4 G, 0-0, 1.29 ERA, 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO

RHP Trey Cochran-Gill
5 G, 0-0, 2.25 ERA, 8.0 IP, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO

RHP Dylan Covey
3 G, 3 GS, 2-0, 3.75 ERA, 12.0 IP, 5 ER, 4 BB, 10 SO

RHP Frankie Montas
3 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 8.1 IP, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO

IF Franklin Barreto
10 G, .244/.262/.268, 10 H, 1 2B, 7 R, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 11 SO, 2 SB

IF Yairo Munoz
11 GP, .216/.268/.216, 8 H, 3 R, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 10 SO, 1 SB

IF Max Shrock
8 G, .303/.343/.455, 10 H, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 R, 6 RBI, 1 BB, 2 SO


-- The A's drafted Solar Sox manager Ryan Christenson in the 10th round in 1995 out of Pepperdine University. The center fielder played six years in the bigs, four with the A's, where he hit .237/.319/.348 with 13 home runs. 

-- Infielder Franklin Barreto is tied for the team lead in at-bats with 41. He is also tied for the lead in strikeouts with 11.

-- Infielder Yairo Munez leads the team in games played. 

-- RHP Frankie Montas is one of four pitchers on the team yet to allow an earned run. 

-- RHP Sam Bragg is right behind Montas in the team lead with his 1.29 ERA. 

-- RHP Dylan Covey leads the staff with games started and innings pitched. He is also tied at the top with wins and second in strikeouts on the hill.

-- Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber spent two games with the Solar Sox before flying to Cleveland for the World Series.

A's coach plays part in Schwarber's World Series comeback

A's coach plays part in Schwarber's World Series comeback

Ryan Christenson has a reason to follow the World Series even more so than most years.

Christenson, who manages the A’s Double-A Midland squad, is also skippering the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League. One of his players happened to be Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber, if only for the briefest of periods.

Schwarber, as is well-documented, played in two AFL games as a quick tune-up before joining the Cubs’ active roster for the Fall Classic. It’s an unprecedented path, as Schwarber hadn’t appeared in a game for Chicago since April 7, when he tore the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee.

When he crushed a double off the right field wall in Game 1 against the Indians’ Corey Kluber, Schwarber became the first position player in major league history to get a hit in the World Series after recording zero hits during the regular season.

His preparations for the grand stage took place in the relative anonymity of the Arizona Fall League, and it presented some unique conditions for Christenson to manage under.

“It’s such a unique situation to see someone thrust into that after missing so much season,” Christenson said in a phone interview before Game 1. “To have a chance to be activated this time of year, it’s something special if he can pull this off. If he (sparks the Cubs), literally the guy can be a legend.”

Schwarber appeared in just two games for the Solar Sox, going 1-for-6 as a designated hitter. Christenson didn’t have much hands-on interaction with Schwarber — the Cubs had their own staff members on site helping him with treatment — but Christenson saw Schwarber’s swing rounding into form even in his brief time in the batter’s box.

“The bat speed is there,” said Christenson, who hadn’t met Schwarber previously. “I love watching him work in the cage. He’s got a great swing. I don’t think it would take someone of his caliber long to get his timing and pick up where he left off. It’s a simple swing.”

The Cubs asked Christenson to work Schwarber into the top of the batting order with the Solar Sox so as to maximize his number of plate appearances. They also asked one other favor.

“The only request they had was that I took it easy with him on the bases … not trying to score him from first base on a gapper.”

Schwarber’s mere presence in the Arizona Fall League created a delicate dynamic. The league is geared toward up-and-coming prospects who have yet to break into the majors, and Christenson said AFL officials were concerned about Schwarber dropping in and taking playing time away from those players.

Each major league organization sends at least six players to the AFL. Of those six, one is designated a “priority player,” meaning they must play at least four days a week, so innings can be tricky to spread around.

Adding to the sensitivity of the situation, the Solar Sox’s roster includes not only Cubs prospects but also those of the Cleveland Indians. Christenson needed to avoid a situation where Schwarber was stealing at-bats away from prospects of the American League champs — the team that Schwarber was training to try to help the Cubs beat.

But things unfolded smoothly, and Schwarber showed appreciation for getting the chance to drop in for a couple games.

“I’ll definitely be pulling for him,” Christenson said.