A's aren't ready to let this end

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A's aren't ready to let this end

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OAKLAND -- Grant Balfour didn't even pitch in Game 4, yet he still had a huge impact on the game. Facing elimination and down two runs in the ninth inning, the A's season looked to be on life support. That's when the ultra-intense closer fired up the A's dugout with a passionate speech. Four hits later the A's were on the field celebrating their 15th walk-off win of the season and seventh in A's postseason history.During the ninth inning Balfour was told to go to the bullpen to warm up. He eventually did but not before giving the A's a pep talk. "It was no disrespect to anyone but I said 'We are going to rock this guy's world tonight. We're going to walk it off in A's fashion, that's what we do," Balfour recalled. "Believe it. Every one of you put your mind to it and believe it, and see yourselves running onto that field with that walk-off victory," he told his teammates."See it and believe it," he repeated.They believed alright. As the sell-out crowd of 36,385 wondered if the A's had any magic left in them this season, the A's answered their question. Josh Reddick hit a leadoff single. Josh Donaldson doubled off the wall in left field -- just missing a game-tying home run. Seth Smith smacked a game-tying two-run double to right field. Coco Crisp then connected for the knockout blow, a walk-off RBI single to right field to give the A's a 4-3 win. "I believe in the mind as a powerful thing," Balfour said. "It was unbelievable. If you really want something bad enough and you've got every guy in the dugout that wants it and he's thinking the same thing and believes it, it just goes to show."Maybe what the A's are accomplishing isn't magic. They are just insanely determined, and a little ignorant.
RATTO: A's are more than just magic
"We've heard a lot of people say we aren't smart enough to know when to lose a game like most people do," Josh Reddick said. "We've been battling to the 27th out all year and we are not going to stop now." Reddick said he took the brunt of Balfour's rage in the dugout before he led off the ninth inning with a single. Maybe he needed the abuse. Reddick struck out in his first two plate appearances running his strikeout total in this series up to eight -- the most by any A's hitter in a single playoff series. "He was hitting me and hugging me and all that crazy stuff he usually does," Reddick said. "He kept telling us 'We aren't going to lose this game. We aren't going to lose this game.' We firmly believe in that." "A two-run deficit isn't enough to hold us right now," Reddick added. The A's often say they don't quit until the final out. It's hard to doubt them at this point. This game was all Tigers until the sixth inning. Detroit's starting pitcher Max Scherzer struck out eight and had the A's hitters baffled. When Oakland finally got on they made a seemingly crippling mistake. Stephen Drew doubled home Crisp in the sixth with no outs but got thrown out at third by several steps as he tried to make it to third. A's third base coach Mike Gallego didn't put on the stop sign. At that point it was a 2-1 game and Drew would have been the tying runner with Yoenis Cespedes due up. "It wasn't a good call, it wasn't a good play," Gallego said. "I felt that I couldn't have stopped him either. If I would have stopped him I would have gotten him hung out to dry in the middle of the base paths." It seems there's always a moment like that that unravels the A's in the playoffs. The moment where Jeremy Giambi doesn't slide in 2001, or when Eric Byrnes doesn't touch the plate in 2003. It looked like Gallego would be the scapegoat for the A's getting eliminated. Things looked even more bleak when the Tigers added a run in the eighth off reliever Sean Doolittle. The 2012 A's aren't phased by these things. In the end, the play and the Tigers' insurance run didn't mean a thing as the A's got the last laugh in the bottom of the ninth. "It's huge, it's playoff baseball," Donaldson said. "We're down to our last three outs right there. For me to come through right there the amount of emotion going through me right there was just uncontainable at the time."Like Balfour, Donaldson was so fired up after the game that he didn't flinch when asked if he was going to sleep tonight. "I'm not," he said. Crisp might have sweet dreams. He was still sticky from the postgame pie and Gatorade after the game when he addressed the media. A veteran in more ways than one, at this point he is used to taking the brunt of the A's celebratory dessert. He is responsible for four of the A's 15 walk-offs. "There's certainly guys we feel good about," Melvin said. "But I don't think there's anybody we feel better about in that situation than Coco."The A's live to fight another day again. After dropping the first two games of the series in Detroit they will play a win-or-go-home fifth game here at the Coliseum on Thursday night. One thing is clear, they aren't ready to go home. Not if Balfour has anything to say about it. "I want it so bad," Balfour said. "I know everyone in here wants it so bad. I didn't want to go home tonight. No chance."The A's have now won back-to-back elimination games for the second time in Athletics history. The last time they did it was in the 1973 World Series when they ended up beating the Mets after trailing 3-2. If the A's can continue their improbable run they will have to defeat reigning American League MVP and Cy Young award-winner Justin Verlander. He is 3-0 against the A's this season. Jarrod Parker will get the ball for the A's.

With division rivals dominating rumor mill, how will A's respond?

With division rivals dominating rumor mill, how will A's respond?

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As you ponder what moves the A’s might make in the near future, keep an eye on what’s taking place with the teams they’re trying to chase down in the American League West.

The Astros and Rangers, who look like the division’s top two teams on paper, are in the thick of some of the juiciest rumors circulating on the first day of baseball’s winter meetings.

Houston already has made several impact additions this offseason, including signing former Athletic Josh Reddick to a four-year $52 million contract. The Astros, coming off a disappointing third-place finish in 2016, have also traded for catcher Brian McCann and signed outfielders Carlos Beltran and Nori Aoki, plus right-hander Charlie Morton to fortify their rotation.

Now the Astros are on the hunt for a top-flight starter to complement 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel. Reportedly they are a major player to land White Sox ace Chris Sale — destined to be the most talked-about name throughout these meetings — but it’s believed Houston doesn’t want to part with young infielder Alex Bregman, which might thwart a trade for the big lefty.

The Rangers, two-time defending AL West champs, also are looking for an ace-type addition to their starting staff with the possibility that Yu Darvish could leave as a free agent following this season. But Texas also has been linked to free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion, and gets mentioned in trade rumors involving outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Billy Hamilton.

It’s no wonder the Rangers are on the lookout for hitters — they’ve already lost Beltran to free agency and could watch fellow outfielders Ian Desmond and Carlos Gomez and first baseman Mitch Moreland walk as well. One way or another, expect Texas’ roster to look drastically different in 2017.

The Seattle Mariners, who made a 10-win improvement last season over 2015, are very much in the market for a rotation upgrade of their own, and they’ve been aggressive with offseason moves under general manager Jerry Dipoto.

Don’t forget about the Angels, who are searching far and wide for a second baseman. If Los Angeles gets better health from its starting rotation this season, that alone could make the Angels more of a division threat.

How does all of this pertain to the A’s?

It demonstrates that climbing the ladder in the AL West won’t be an easy task for a club coming off consecutive seasons in the cellar. The teams expected to fight atop the division are aggressively trying to get better. And surely A’s officials take notice as they weigh whether to make significant moves to improve for 2017 or take a step back, evaluate more of their young talent in the upcoming season and lay groundwork for the future.

To that end, right-hander Sonny Gray’s name figures to surface throughout the four-day winter meetings, taking place just outside the nation’s capital.

The Atlanta Braves, an up-and-coming team that’s been linked to Sale and other top pitchers, have interest in Gray. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Braves and A’s discussed Gray but that Atlanta found the A’s asking price too extravagant, even though it didn’t include stud shortstop prospect Dansby Swanson.

The Braves do have some talented young center fielders — Ender Inciarte and Mallex Smith among them — and given the A’s great need at that position, it stands to reason at least one of those players would surface in talks between the clubs. Whether the Braves would part with either is another question.

A's outfielder Khris Davis to play for Mexico in World Baseball Classic

A's outfielder Khris Davis to play for Mexico in World Baseball Classic

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Khris Davis confirmed Monday that he will play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic this spring.

The A’s left fielder, who led Oakland with 42 home runs and 102 RBI last season, was also on a preliminary list for Team USA, and he’d been weighing which country to play for.

“I’m just excited to represent Mexico and felt I should be loyal,” Davis told CSN California in a phone interview. “I’m flattered that Team USA invited me and was considering me, but at the end of the day they weren’t going to guarantee playing time like Mexico was. … (Mexico) has been on me for years, since before I was even a big leaguer.”

Davis was born in Southern California, but his mother, Sonia Alarcon, is from Ensenada, which makes him eligible to play for Mexico. He was exposed to the country’s baseball culture as a youth while traveling with his father, Rodney, who was a scout for the Dodgers and Diamondbacks.

“His mom is from Ensenada, I think he was proud to say that,” Team Mexico manager Edgar Gonzalez said. “People didn’t know that, and his mom and his whole family are going to be very proud of him to represent the country that they grew up in.”

Gonzalez’s brother, Dodgers star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, will also play for Mexico, and Edgar has visions of Davis combining with Adrian as part of a potent heart of the order.

“It’s a 42-home run bat in the middle of the lineup, which is pretty impressive,” Gonzalez said. “Those are impressive numbers for somebody in that stadium (The Coliseum).”

Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna also is expected to suit up for Mexico, and Davis said he’s hopeful that a good friend of his, Orioles pitcher Yovani Gallardo, also will be a teammate.

Mexico is scheduled to begin first-round play March 9 in Jalisco, so Davis will report to spring training with the A’s before leaving to play in the WBC. Major league clubs can’t prevent their players from participating in the event, although factors are taken into consideration if there is an injury risk. A’s general manager David Forst said early in the offseason that he had no issues with Oakland players taking part in the WBC.