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.

A's lineup: Young faces throughout as Athletics start series vs White Sox

A's lineup: Young faces throughout as Athletics start series vs White Sox

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Astros-A's coverage begins at 4 p.m. with Pregame Live on NBC Sports California and streaming right here.

The latest A's youth movement embarks on its first road trip when they visit the south side of Chicago and the White Sox. Manager Bob Melvin has issued his lineup for Game 1 of the series.

Chicago White Sox:
1. Melky Cabrera (S) LF
2. Jose Abreu (R) 1B
3. Avisail Garcia (R) RF
4. Todd Frazier (R) 3B
5. Matt Davidson (R) DH
6. Tim Anderson (R) SS
7. Yolmer Sanchez (S) 2B
8. Kevan Smith (R) C
9. Adam Engel (R) CF
RHP -- Mike Pelfrey 

Oakland A's:
1. Matt Joyce (L) LF
2. Matt Olson (L) RF
3. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
4. Khris Davis (R) DH
5. Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
6. Ryon Healy (R) 3B
7. Chad Pinder (R) SS
8. Bruce Maxwell (L) C
9. Jaycob Brugman (L) CF
RHP -- Jharel Cotton


New-look A's continue the youth movement with Maxwell's arrival

New-look A's continue the youth movement with Maxwell's arrival

OAKLAND — The A’s set off for Chicago on Thursday evening to begin their next road trip, and how their dynamic has changed over the course of one week.

They began their most recent homestand by cutting ties with veteran third baseman Trevor Plouffe to make room for hotshot prospect Matt Chapman. On Thursday, catcher Stephen Vogt suffered the same fate as Plouffe, getting designated for assignment to make room for another young player in Bruce Maxwell.

The calendar may still read June, with more than half of the season remaining, but the A’s are cleaning house, undergoing a reboot and playing the rest of 2017 with an emphasis on what lies ahead.

Five of the nine position players in their starting lineup for Thursday’s 12-9 loss to the Houston Astros are what you would consider “future” guys — center fielder Jaycob Brugman, third baseman Ryon Healy, second baseman Chad Pinder, Maxwell and right fielder Matt Olson.

They will shuffle around the diamond a bit, and Olson may only stay with the big club until Chapman comes off the disabled list (though Olson’s full-time status in the bigs doesn’t seem far off). Regardless, the plan is crystal clear — the A’s are hitching their wagon to their young core and are prepared to let them develop at the major league level, with whatever successes and failures may come with the growth process.

“We do get excited about giving these guys playing time,” A’s general manager David Forst said before Thursday’s game.

The Astros finished off a four-game sweep of Oakland with their 12-9 victory, jumping out to a 10-0 lead and then holding on after the A’s mounted a late charge. Glance up and down the box score, and those key young players were instrumental in so much that went right for the A’s.

Maxwell went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Olson drove in two runs. Pinder had two hits and an RBI. Brugman chipped in an RBI single and walked twice. That was the silver lining on a day that starting pitcher Jesse Hahn struggled mightily, allowing nine earned runs in just two innings.

“These guys are gonna be important,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “The last thing you want to see when you’re down 10-0 is guys just cash it in, and that wasn’t the case. These guys all have something to play for. They’re playing for jobs. And in the future, starting jobs.”

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, middle infielder Franklin Barreto will join the mix from Triple-A Nashville. For now, an immediate storyline is the health of Chapman, who joined the 10-day disabled list with a case of cellulitis (bacterial infection) in his left knee. The A’s checked him into a hospital Wednesday night to get an intravenous antibiotic, after his condition “plateaued” with oral antibiotics, according to Forst.

He said Chapman is likely to leave the hospital Friday, and the A’s are hopeful the rookie third baseman will be able to return when he’s eligible to come off the D.L. His stint can be backdated to Monday, meaning Chapman is eligible to return next Thursday at Houston.

He’s part of the youth movement that resulted in Vogt getting shown the exit. Maxwell sent Vogt a text message wishing him the best Thursday morning, and Vogt quickly responded, wishing him the best. That meant a lot to Maxwell, who didn’t learn until Thursday morning that his roster spot was coming at Vogt’s expense.

But Maxwell said he’s excited to be surrounded by so many players that he’s advanced through the minors with.

“Once we get everybody acclimated to each other and the game up here,” he said, “I feel like we could potentially set up a turning point for this organization for years to come.”