Tigers don't see A's as underdogs


Tigers don't see A's as underdogs

DETROIT -- The Oakland Athletics won 94 games, had the best record in the Major Leagues since June 2 (71-38), and a had a Major League-leading 112 home runs, and 394 runs scored since the All-Star Break. Somehow, they are still considered the underdogs against the 88-win Detroit Tigers in Las Vegas. It would seem the A's are getting no respect, but that's clearly not the case -- just ask the Tigers themselves. "That's just a group of guys that don't give up and I think they like the fact that a lot of guys are saying they might be the underdog in the series," Tigers' game one starting pitcher Justin Verlander said. "Even though they won more games than us. It's crazy." "They've been a great story," Tigers' manager Jim Leyland added. "I think it has been an unbelievable year for baseball and the A's have been part of the story."
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Oakland's improbable surge to capture the American League West Championship has certainly garnered the attention of the Tigers who spent Friday afternoon sizing up their competition. "They've gotten great pitching all year," catcher Alex Avila said. "Their offense is pretty good too. You can't argue with how many games they've won. They are a tough team and they are a scrappy team." The Tigers and A's both took their respective divisions late in the season. The A's actually never held sole possession of first place until after winning their final game. The Tigers finally passed the Chicago White Sox for good on September 26. Both the Tigers and A's have identical home winning percentages (.580, 50-31).Verlander was 2-0 against the A's this season. He faced Oakland when they weren't running on all cylinders though. They were missing Yoenis Cespedes from the lineup when Verlander beat them in Oakland on May 13, and they were missing Coco Crisp when he defeated them in Detroit on September 19. Even without Crisp -- who is 8 for 22 in his career against Verlander -- the A's were able to work up his pitch count and get him out of the game after throwing 122 pitches through six innings of shutout ball. "It's just one of those teams that is scrappy and found a way to win no matter who is in the lineup," Verlander said. "The last game I threw against them was actually one of the toughest games I threw all year."
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That's high praise coming from the reigning American League MVP and Cy Young award-winner. "You can't ever take guys for granted no matter who's name is on the back," Verlander said of the A's lineup. "Obviously this group of guys have done a fantastic job and they had one of the best records in baseball so they are doing something right." The starting pitcher for the Tigers in game two will be Doug Fister. The Merced native holds a a different type of admiration for the A's. "Growing up I was more of a Giants fan but I went to a couple A's games with my dad and some friends. I think it is going to be fun. There's going to be a lot of friends and family that comes to the games. It does make it definitely more special to have some familiar faces in the stands."Fister struck out nine consecutive batters on September 27 to set an American League strikeout record. He is 10-10 with a 3.45 ERA this season and is 5-4 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 career starts against the A's. He sees a lot of similarity between the A's and Tigers. "I think that their camaraderie is there," Fister said. "They play together, they play for one another, and you see it. That's the same thing we do it's going to be a good battle for us." As much as the Tigers seemed to respect and appreciate what the A's have accomplished, they know the A's don't have a weapon like Miguel Cabrera. The first triple crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, Cabrera demolished the A's this season to a tune of a .483 (14 for 29) average with three homers and 14 RBI in their seven games against each other.
RELATED: A's-Tigers ALDS broadcast schedule"Everybody everywhere wants to pay attention when he's hitting," Verlander said. "He's an unbelievable talent and I think in the ballpark when they announce Miguel Cabrera everyone in the hot dog line gets out of the line and comes to watch." "I do too," he added. "I get out of the hot dog line in the dugout."
Oakland can let the Tigers fans stay in the concession lines by avoiding Cabrera all together. They might be better off taking their chances with Prince Fielder at the plate. He only hit .074 (2 for 27) against A's pitching this season. The first two games will be in Detroit. Saturday's game is at 3:07 p.m. and Sunday's game is at 9:07 a.m. PST. Tuesday's game will be at 6:07 p.m. in Oakland. If necessary the final two games of the series will be at the Oakland Coliseum at a time to be determined.

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

MESA, Ariz. — Khris Davis enjoyed quite an offseason travel itinerary, checking out Toronto, taking in the beaches of Hawaii and dining on lobster in Belize.

However, it was the time spent in his adopted hometown of Oakland that most struck a chord with the A’s left fielder. After finishing his first season with the A’s, Davis followed through on his plan to make his offseason home in Oakland, and he was glad he did.

“I got to just feel the heart of the city,” he said upon arriving at camp Sunday. “That was basically the purpose of why I was there. … I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it, honestly. I love the city.”

He trained at Dogtown Athletic, a gym in West Oakland. He took part in the A’s holiday party for kids at the Oakland Zoo, joined by A’s Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who grew up in the city.

“Just to feel these kids’ happiness,” Davis said. “They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They just looked at me as a role model kind of.”

It should be music to the ears of A’s fans that the team’s most dangerous hitter has a love affair with the city he plays in. If the A’s ever entertained the idea of trying to sign Davis to a multi-year extension, and that’s purely hypothetical here, it would help that Davis feels comfortable in his surroundings.

Even when he described Oakland in edgy terms, such as when he said it “has its dark side,” he seemed to find it endearing.

In return, Davis felt the love from the fan base in 2016, hitting a career-high 42 homers with a team-best 102 RBI. That was despite the awful start he got off to, hitting .143 and mustering just one RBI over his first 12 games.

Obviously, any chances the A’s have of improving last year’s American League-worst offense rely on the 29-year-old Davis having another big year. But over-analysis is one thing he tries to avoid.

“I don’t want to get caught up in last year — the slow start and the strong finish, whatever,” he said. “However it was, I’m just ready to do this year.”

Davis decided to back out of his plan to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, saying his main priority was preparing for his A’s season.

“My main focus is to perform for the organization,” he said. “I feel like I want to get off on the right foot this year.”

NOTEWORTHY: Heavy showers continued to pelt Mesa on Sunday, spoiling the A’s first full-squad workout. The hitters were relegated to swinging in the cages and playing catch, while pitchers were scheduled for a day off from throwing on the mound anyway.

“If ever there was a day, at least for the pitchers, that you don’t need to (work out), it’s today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you have everybody there on the first day, you wanna get out on the field and do everything. Hopefully we can incorporate everything tomorrow.”

The A’s have a whopping 70 players in camp, more than in any other spring Melvin can remember as a big league manager. He addressed the full team in a meeting Sunday morning.

His message?

“We’re gonna have to outwork, out-hustle everybody like we have in the past,” he said, “and get back to playing the game with the same tenacity that we did a couple years ago.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Longtime A’s second baseman Mark Ellis is back for the second year in a row as a spring infield instructor. The plan is for Ellis to spend a week with the team now, then another week later in camp.

“I’ll take Mark Ellis as many days as I can have him,” Melvin said.

LIGHTER SIDE: Nursing his broken right foot, starting pitcher Daniel Mengden has been making his way through the clubhouse on a knee scooter in order to keep pressure off his foot.

Apparently, it looks more fun than it really is.

“I contribute to society Friday, when I can start walking again,” Mengden quipped.

BART, transportation among issues A's tackling in ballpark search

BART, transportation among issues A's tackling in ballpark search

MESA, Ariz. — The research and fact-finding continues for the A’s as they work toward deciding where to build their new ballpark in Oakland.

Team president Dave Kaval, in Arizona to briefly soak up the spring training vibe, says the team is still gathering all the information it can on the four locations being considered — the current Coliseum site, Howard Terminal, Laney College and Brooklyn Basin, which like Howard Terminal is a waterfront site.

Place an asterisk next to “four,” because as Kaval explains, there’s multiple spots a ballpark could be built at some of the locations.

For example, “there’s a couple different ways in the Lake Merritt area to orient a ballpark,” he said Sunday. “Each one has to be studied individually, because there’s traffic and parking issues that change depending on where you put it. There’s a couple ways it can work in and around Lake Merritt. So we kind of are looking at it as two different options.”

The research will continue for the “next couple of months,” according to Kaval, meaning it doesn’t seem any decision is forthcoming soon. But he reiterated that an announcement will come during 2017.

Kaval was asked how important it was for a ballpark to be near a BART station.

“I think if you’re in a certain range of a BART station, it doesn’t matter if it’s one block or two blocks,” he said. “But if you start getting a little farther, it does change people’s willingness to actually take that public transportation to the venue.”

Howard Terminal, located just north of Jack London Square, is a 20-25 minute walk to the nearest current BART station (12th Street). There’s been speculation that a new station could be built closer to Howard Terminal if a stadium went up. Kaval also said the A’s would consider some sort of shuttle service were they to build at Howard Terminal, and they’re researching the ferry options for such a location.

Long story short, there’s still plenty of transportation and environmental issues to sort out before the A’s settle on a site to build. In the meantime, fans will be in for a treat in the upcoming season when they arrive at the Coliseum.

The A’s gutted the West Side Club and are rebuilding it as Shibe Park Tavern, named after the franchise’s former home in Philadelphia. It will include bricks and other materials from the old ballpark, obtained from the Philadelphia Historical Society.

The A’s will also launch “Champions Pavilion”, which will include anywhere from eight to 16 local food trucks that will be stationed between the Coliseum and Oracle Arena during most home games. Ticket holders will have in/out privileges, with video monitors outside showing the game.

Nights when there’s a Warriors home game could make it tougher to pull off the full operation — Warriors playoff games will be a particular challenge, Kaval said — but the A’s will work with the Coliseum’s Joint Powers Authority to smooth things out as much as possible.

According to Kaval, the A’s are spending between $600,000-$700,000 to improve the current in-house concession stands, making it possible to cook inside the stands themselves as opposed to transporting food from the kitchen.

The efforts received a thumbs-up from A’s manager Bob Melvin.

“We’re there until we’re not,” Melvin said of the Coliseum. “We’re gonna be there for a period of time, so I appreciate the fact that he’s trying to spruce it up a little bit for our fans, give them more options for food and just create a better atmosphere in our ballpark.”