Tigers stunned as Valverde suffers career low

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Tigers stunned as Valverde suffers career low

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OAKLAND -- Jose Valverde appeared in his 597th career MLB game Wednesday night -- postseason included -- and the charismatic closer turned in an outing he won't ever forget.

Sitting with his head down in front of his locker after his blown saveloss left the Tigers wondering what hit them, Valverde was the recipient of a few knowing pats on the back from manager Jim Leyland before he rose to face the media ... and the music.

"That was the toughest outing of my career," Valverde owned up. His words were quiet, but they were easy to make out in the silent Tigers clubhouse penetrated by the wild cheers of Oakland's sellout crowd lingering in the Coliseum stands above.

Indeed, security guards had to quell boisterous A's fans as they left the prime seats behind home plate and streamed past the Tigers clubhouse shouting.

Valverde was called upon to hammer in the final three nails in the A's 2012 coffin, but Josh Reddick, Josh Donaldson, Seth Smith and two outs later Coco Crisp ensured the 2012 ALDS saw a decisive Game 5 by manufacturing three runs on two singles and two doubles in the bottom of the ninth.

By the time the closer threw his first non-fastball 10 pitches into the ninth inning, the game was tied and the A's had the winning run in scoring position. A steady diet of 90- to 93-mph fastballs was met by Oakland barrels, but Valverde, who throws his fastball 82.4 percent of the time and averages 93.2 miles per hour, wouldn't do anything differently.

"I think my pitches were good," Valverde said. "Maybe one mistake."

His catcher saw things differently.

"He had a really good fastball," Alex Avila said from the opposite end of the Tigers locker room. "A couple leaked over the middle."

Like the ones Donaldson and Smith sprayed to the left- and right-center field gaps for the two biggest hits of the game?

"Those were the key mistakes," Avila confirmed. "Fastballs that leaked out over the plate."

Leyland offered the final word on Valverde's outing: "He probably didn't get the ball located where he wanted to. Tonight he just didn't get the job done."

The one positive the Tigers can fall back on is that they'll have reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander on the mound in Game 5.

"It definitely gives us a lot of confidence, just 'cause Justin is our guy," Prince Fielder said in a tone that indicated he might be lying. "So we'll see what happens."

Fielder recorded his first hit in 24 Oakland Coliseum at-bats this season, a fourth-inning unrobbable blast to right. It represented the first run of the series knocked in by the heart of the Tigers order. Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, who combined for 74 home runs and 247 RBIs during the regular season, are now 8-for-32 on the series with the lone home run and a Game 2 run scored by Cabrera in terms of production.

"It's tough. We were real close to closing out the series there," starting pitcher Max Scherzer said after doing everything he could to put the Tigers in position to do so. "Credit to their hitters. They have no quit in them.

"We're in a one-game playoff now and anything can happen. This is a hostile place right now."

Scherzer wore the maelstrom of Green and Gold support from the announced sellout crowd of 36,385 like a badge as he carved through the first five innings, striking out eight Athletics along the way.

He stuck around in the dugout waiting for the celebration only to watch his team crumble in the ninth. He had little encouragement to offer his teammates.

"There's not much you can say," Scherzer said, talking specifically about Valverde.

"He's a veteran," Avila said. "He's a professional, he's been through it before."

Except that he hasn't. Not like this, anyway, and admittedly so. Despite faltering on the biggest of stages, the Tigers aren't making any late-inning adjustments.

"He's our guy and that's just the way it is," Leyland said.

There is no escaping the failure the A's forced on Valverde, and the world will be watching and judging the closer's every move to see if he allows doubt to creep into his body language and psyche. With the guidance of his veteran manager, Valverde just might be able to put it behind him. The closer is thankful to have a man like Leyland at the helm, a man who has ushered seven of his 21 MLB squads into the postseason.

"I think everyone should have a manager like Leyland," Valverde said. "I've never played for a manager like this in my life."

A's manager Bob Melvin also played for Leyland, when he was drafted by the Tigers in 1981. Every day Melvin seems more like a lock for the AL Manager of the Year, and he has a chance Thursday to out-coach his former preceptor in a winner-take-all Game 5 at 6 p.m. at the Oakland Coliseum.

Maybe Valverde forgot his three years with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2005-2007 when he played for Bob Melvin. The Tigers are hoping just as soon he'll forget his 2012 outing on Oct. 10 against Melvin's squad, but you don't easily forget your most trying professional moment.

Report: A's bringing back former slugger first baseman

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Report: A's bringing back former slugger first baseman

The A's hit a lot of home runs and they appear to be bringing back a player that hits a lot of home runs.

Chris Carter, who played for the A's from 2010 through 2012, is reportedly signing a minor league contract to return to the organization.

News of the deal was first reported by FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman.

Carter was released by the Yankees on July 10. In 62 games for New York, Carter hit .201/.284/.370 with five doubles, eight home runs and 26 RBI.

Over the previous four seasons between Houston and Milwaukee, Carter hit 131 home runs and drove in 328 runs.

Carter's high-water mark with the A's came in 2012 when he hit 16 home runs in 67 games.

Sonny Gray keeps dealing, A's avoid sweep with win over Rays

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Sonny Gray keeps dealing, A's avoid sweep with win over Rays

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OAKLAND — Sonny Gray struck out six pitching into the seventh in what might have been his final home start in Oakland if the club tries to deal him before the trade deadline, and the Athletics rallied in the fifth inning to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-2 on Wednesday.

Matt Joyce hit a towering homer to the right-field seats in the eighth for Oakland.

Rajai Davis doubled home Oakland's first run in the fifth then Joyce followed with a tying sacrifice fly before Davis scurried home with the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.

Gray (6-4) won his third straight start and fourth in five. When speculation arose from the White Sox side before his Friday outing that the right-hander had been scratched because of a possible deal, the A's quickly announced that he was indeed taking the mound for his scheduled outing.

After a pair of one-run defeats to begin this series, the A's avoided being swept by the Rays in Oakland for the first time. This already marked just their third lost series at home to Tampa Bay.

Gray allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings with two walks.

The Rays got three straight singles off Gray to start the fourth inning, including an RBI single by Wilson Ramos. Brad Miller also drove in a run on a groundout.

But Oakland finally got to Tampa Bay right-hander Jake Faria (4-1) in the fifth. With seven straight quality starts to begin his career, Faria took his first big league loss.

A's All-Star Yonder Alonso hit an RBI single in the inning, when Faria had two of his four walks. He allowed six hits and four runs in five innings, striking out four.

Alonso was thrown out at home in the first when he tried to go from first on Khris Davis' double to right. The throw beat him so handily Alonso didn't even try to slide and instead ran behind the plate before turning for the dugout.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rays: RF Steven Souza Jr. exited the game in the first after straining his left hip trying to steal second after drawing a leadoff walk to start the game. Shane Peterson replaced him. X-rays were negative and he will be re-evaluated once the team arrives home. ... Manager Kevin Cash said LHP Blake Snell would make his next turn in the rotation despite still being winless at 0-5 with a 4.98 ERA in 11 starts. "He's going to pitch well," Cash said.

Athletics: The A's hope to have Chad Pinder back from the DL and a strained left hamstring when they return home from an upcoming seven-game trip to the New York Mets and Toronto. Manager Bob Melvin plans to use him as a utilityman. ... RHP Kendall Graveman allowed five hits and four runs with one strikeout and a walk on 46 pitches in 2 1/3 innings with Triple-A Nashville rehabbing his strained pitching shoulder. RHP Jharel Cotton (blister on his right thumb) also pitched in the game, striking out six in 3 1/3 innings, while Pinder was 0 for 2 with a walk and strikeout for the Sounds.

UP NEXT

Rays: With the Rays back home, RHP Alex Cobb (8-6, 3.59 ERA) takes the ball in Friday's series opener against Yu Darvish and Texas having not faced the Rangers since April 6, 2014.

Athletics: After Thursday's day off following a cross-country flight, RHP Paul Blackburn (1-0, 1.83 ERA) pitches the series opener at the Mets in his fourth career start.