Tame Tigers feel title hopes slipping away

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Tame Tigers feel title hopes slipping away

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DETROIT -- Prior to the game, Miguel Cabrera shared a table with Hank Aaron and commissioner Bud Selig. With a horde of hundreds of media members crowded around, Aaron, unquestionably one of the greatest ever to step into a batter's box, was effusive in his praise of Cabrera. As Aaron named the Tigers' third baseman the 2012 American League Hank Aaron Award winner for outstanding offensive performance, he pointed out that Cabrera did something that he himself was never able to do -- win the Triple Crown. "You did it, and you did it with poise, and you did it with grace," Aaron said. Hall of Famer Frank Robinson has won a Triple Crown. He was there too, and he handed baseball's first Triple Crown winner since 1967 a real crown, one befitting a king. Yet, hours after being heaped with praise, awards, and even bejeweled headgear, Cabrera could have cost himself a ring and a trophy. Then he ducked out unceremoniously by blowing off the media after a 2-0 loss to San Francisco in Game 3 of the World Series.RECAP: Giants claim 3-0 World Series lead
The Tigers have only scored one run against Giants starting pitchers in this series. They finally had a real chance to do some damage in the fifth inning. Down 2-0 with two outs, Cabrera stepped to the plate with the bases loaded against Ryan Vogelsong. With one swing of the bat he could have changed the game, and possibly the series. Instead, he fouled a two-seam fastball down the right field line. Then popped up a four-seam fastball to end the inning. As the ball landed safely in the shortstop's glove, Cabrera looked down in disgust and punched his helmet. At that moment Vogelsong was king of the hill.
"Obviously we're not going to talk about one atbat taking away from how great Miguel Cabrera is," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We had other opportunities, we didn't get it done." He's right. The blame doesn't fall solely on Cabrera's shoulders. The Tigers had other chances. Vogelsong got Prince Fielder to ground into a inning-ending double play in the first, and got Quintin Berry to do the same in the third. Berry also struck out swinging with one out and the bases loaded before Cabrera came to the plate. "We know that it's crutch time, and it's a time that everyone wants to get the job done," Berry said. "We can't afford to fall any further behind. Everyone wants to come through we've been working so hard and everyone is pulling for one another."As journeyman pitcher Vogelsong hand delivered the Giants a 3-0 series lead, the Tigers were again left tipping their caps to San Francisco's starting pitching. They have successfully kept the Tigers from taking a lead all series long. San Francisco is now 9-1 when scoring first in this postseason and hasn't trailed in a game in their last 54 innings. "Well, obviously I thought we had Ryan on the ropes a couple times tonight," Leyland said."We couldn't get the killer hit or the killer blow."What the Giants pitchers are doing is downright historical. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a team won the first three games of a World Series with starters allowing no more than one run was the 1937 Yankees. In two of those games the Giants brought a two-time Cy Young out of the bullpen in Tim Lincecum. It certainly looks and feels like an unbeatable combination at this point. "They've still got to throw the ball over the plate," Delmon Young said. "We're not seeing any new gyro pitches or anything. They are throwing the typical sinker, slider, change-up, curveball. It's just that they're hitting the glove and when we do get a pitch to drive we seem to miss it or get a leather-finder."No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the World Series. Only one team in 32 chances has come back from such a deficit in a best of seven series -- the 2004 Red Sox.
Reality is starting to sink in for the Tigers players. "Everyone knows that we are kind of letting this one slip away," Berry said. "Guys are kind of down on themselves because we are used to playing way better than this. "We've worked so hard to be better than this, but things aren't going well. You can see it in everybody's faces." The Giants are speeding toward their second San Francisco championship like a cable car down California Street with no breaks and a crazy conductor shoving the lever to full throttle. The Tigers, well, they aren't going anywhere. They look like their wheels have come off. Maybe an emotional raw-raw, spit-flying-from-the-mouth, eyes-bulging pep talk will get the team headed in the right direction. "Well, you don't really have to tell them anything," Leyland said."They can count."Maybe not. "They're big guys, they know what the situation is, and they know we have to come out tomorrow and obviously win a game," Leyland explained. Because if they don't, the Giants will be the 108th World Series champions.

A's spring training Day 13: Gossett part of fifth starter mix

A's spring training Day 13: Gossett part of fifth starter mix

MESA, Ariz. — An unexpected opportunity came Daniel Gossett’s way Sunday, and the young right-hander took it in stride.

When the A’s adjusted their starting rotation, Kendall Graveman got bumped to Monday and Gossett learned he’d be taking the ball to start Sunday’s Cactus League home opener against the Los Angeles Angels.

“I’m here for what they need me for,” Gossett said. “So anything they need, gimme the ball.”

He spun two scoreless innings in a game Oakland lost 5-3 at Hohokam Stadium. A nice first impression for Gossett, indeed, but the truth is A’s officials were already quite familiar with him.

A second-round pick out of Clemson in 2014, Gossett impressed at three levels of the farm system in 2016, beginning the year with Single-A Stockton and finishing it with Triple-A Nashville.

This is his first big league camp, and manager Bob Melvin even mentioned Gossett as being part of the fifth starter conversation.

“He impressed everybody in the organization last year, so when talking about that fifth spot, who knows?” Melvin said before the game.

The only blemishes on Gossett’s day were the pair of walks he issued. After walking Jefrey Marte to lead off the second, he got a lift from his catcher, as Josh Phegley fired a strike to second to nail Marte trying to steal.

“A pitcher’s best friend, I guess,” Gossett said. He went 10-6 with a 2.69 ERA across 27 starts at all three levels of the minors last year, and his 151 strikeouts led the A’s farm system. Gossett’s fastball ranges anywhere from 90-95 on the gun. He throws a changeup that gets the most swings and misses, plus a slider and curve.

Grady Fuson, an A’s special assistant to the general manager, liked the adjustments he saw with Gossett over the course of last season.

“He’s a super kid, a grinder,” Fuson said over the winter. “He’s a guy that hadn’t struck many guys out and had been very hittable in the strike zone. (In 2016), he started executing to different parts of the zone that limits the hard contact.”

CAMP BATTLE: Alejandro De Aza sparked the A’s first rally in the third Sunday with a triple, then scored on Mark Canha’s double. With Jake Smolinski sidelined currently by a shoulder issue, it’s a good time for De Aza, a non-roster invitee to camp, to make his mark. The door could be open for him to make a push to make the roster as a fifth outfielder.

“He’s an interesting guy,” Melvin said of the nine-year veteran. “He knows how to play the game, he can play all three outfield spots. We’ve seen him before when he’s given us trouble, too, with the White Sox.”

Another contender for a reserve outfield spot is Jaycob Brugman, who has yet to crack the majors but is already on the 40-man roster. He singled home a run in the seventh. Like De Aza and Smolinski, Brugman can play center field, and it stands to reason the A’s will want to carry someone who can back up Rajai Davis at that position.

NOTEWORTHY: Phegley admitted to some butterflies before getting behind the plate for his first game since July, when a right knee injury wiped out the rest of his season.

But he looked good springing up to nail Marte on the second-inning steal attempt. The A’s are counting on Phegley returning to his role as the right-handed hitting platoon partner with Stephen Vogt behind the plate.

STOCK RISING: Melvin was impressed, and entertained, by the first look he got at reliever Simon Castro on Saturday against the Chicago Cubs. Castro retired Kris Bryant to strand a runner at third, the only hitter he faced. But it was what happened before the at-bat that caught Melvin’s attention.

“When he came to the mound he was pretty vocal,” Melvin noted. “He was fired up, telling the guys ‘Let’s go!’ I haven’t heard that too many times out of pitchers, let alone in spring training. So he impressed me with his eagerness to pitch.”

FAMILIAR FACES: Campy Campaneris and Blue Moon Odom each threw out ceremonial first pitches before Sunday’s exhibition home opener, which drew a smallish crowd of 4,072.

A’s reliever, movie buff Axford makes 2017 Oscars predictions

A’s reliever, movie buff Axford makes 2017 Oscars predictions

Update: Axford finished the night correctly predicting 19 of 24 Oscars this year.

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A's reliever John Axford is not your casual movie fan. 

Axford majored in Film at Notre Dame and has a proven track record when it comes to the biggest night for movies. 

The last two years, Axford correctly predicted 17 of 24 winners for the Academy Awards. In 2014, Axford went a perfect 18-of-18 with his predictions. 

On Saturday, Axford offered 24 predictions for the 2017 Oscars. 

Axford is a clear believer in La La Land, choosing the film for eights Oscars, after winning a record-breaking seven Golden Globes. 

Will he go a perfect 24-for-24 this year?