Balfour, A's confident with A.L. West on the line


Balfour, A's confident with A.L. West on the line


OAKLAND -- For the A's the formula is simple: Just keep winning and all these Wild Card and tiebreaker scenarios are irrelevant. Take down Texas, win the American League West, and pop more champagne on Wednesday. "Who would have thought we would be here," Grant Balfour said. "I know we did. I know the whole team did. We believe in ourselves. I don't know about anyone else but as long as we believe inside this clubhouse and we know we can get it done then we're going to do it.

"I honestly believe we are going to win tomorrow," Balfour added. The A's are one win away from achieving the truly improbable after beating the Rangers 3-1. They are now tied for the lead in the American League West with one game remaining and have already punched their ticket to the postseason.RECAP: Pratt's Instant Replay -- A's 3, Rangers 1
"Says a lot about this ballclub, says a lot about our manager, says a lot about our office," Jonny Gomes said. "Giving the guys the opportunity and chance to come up here and succeed." On June 30, the A's were 13 games behind the Rangers in the division. Since then they have gone a Major League best 56-26. They play at 12:35 p.m. tomorrow in what is basically an American League West championship game. "Regardless it's the same for both tomorrow," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "You'll see two teams go after it pretty hard tomorrow. We've had a nice run to get back into this position." The Rangers sent an All-Star starting pitcher to the mound in Matt Harrison. He is the second pitcher in Rangers history to win 18 games and have an ERA below 3.30. The A's sent a journeyman rookie to the mound that had an ERA of 7.00 with a 1-2 record in his previous four starts against the Rangers. That pitcher was Travis Blackley, and he came back like a boomerang to earn the win, the 53rd by an A's rookie this season, which is a Major League record. "I think that just sums up the A's of 2012," Gomes said. "You can say that about Josh Donaldson, you could say that about Cliff Pennington, one of the things I've always said is success is contagious. Let's not forget he's a good pitcher." On September 27, Josh Reddick shaved his facial hair. He hit two homers later that day. Travis Blackley decided to shear off his beard too and it worked. He allowed just one run over six innings of work, after allowing nine in his previous three innings prior to shaving."I'm letting it go," Blackley said. "This is the playoff beard it is starting to come back."Blackley struck out Geovany Soto looking with a big bender with runners on the corners and two outs in the second. He struck out Elvis Andrus swinging after Reddick dropped a foul ball in right field, and induced a double play immediately after Josh Donaldson allowed Nelson Cruz to reach on an error in the fourth inning. He had his mettle tested and passed with flying colors. "As a group we've picked each other up all year," Melvin said. "Whether it's the pitchers picking up a defensive player, or hitters picking up a pitcher, the timing has been really good here in the second half." "I just went out there and went at them like I had nothing to lose," Blackley said. "It worked out." The crowd of 30,066 at the Oakland Coliseum was jumping. Scattered across the crowd were jerseys baring the names of A's castoffs like Rich Harden, Eric Chavez, and Gio Gonzalez. Old laundry aside, the fans hung on every pitch, and exploded when Jonny Gomes connected on his 18th homer of the year in the sixth inning to put the A's up 3-1. "I did the same thing in '08 in Tampa with one of the best record in baseball and no attendance," Gomes said. "You win and they'll come. Any sport, any level, any age, you win and they'll come."The A's fell behind 1-0 after a Josh Hamilton RBI double in the third inning. They took the lead back by scoring two runs in the fifth inning when Derek Norris hit an RBI single that was misplayed in right field. Grant Balfour pitched for the fourth time in as many days and dispatched the Rangers three up, three down for his 24th save of the season. The crowd was whipped into a frenzy when the last out was recorded and could still be heard chanting "Let's go Oakland!" as Melvin's postgame press conference was beginning. The players want to do everything in their power to make sure they have the same crowd on their side for the playoffs. "I guess you look at the big picture and sure home field advantage throughout is pretty big," Gomes said. "These guys have done a great job of tunnel vision. This isn't game seven of the World Series. This isn't win or go home. "We're going to play loose, we're going to have fun and just continue to pass the torch," Gomes added. "Hopefully tomorrow we get our pitching, defense, and homers and that's been it for us." The homers have been there for Oakland all season against Texas. Their 26 homers against the Rangers are the most they have hit against any team. The A's are now a season-high 25 games over .500 and are 5-0 on the this final homestand. One more win could change everything for the 2012 Oakland Athletics.

A's coach plays part in Schwarber's World Series comeback

A's coach plays part in Schwarber's World Series comeback

Ryan Christenson has a reason to follow the World Series even more so than most years.

Christenson, who manages the A’s Double-A Midland squad, is also skippering the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League. One of his players happened to be Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber, if only for the briefest of periods.

Schwarber, as is well-documented, played in two AFL games as a quick tune-up before joining the Cubs’ active roster for the Fall Classic. It’s an unprecedented path, as Schwarber hadn’t appeared in a game for Chicago since April 7, when he tore the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee.

When he crushed a double off the right field wall in Game 1 against the Indians’ Corey Kluber, Schwarber became the first position player in major league history to get a hit in the World Series after recording zero hits during the regular season.

His preparations for the grand stage took place in the relative anonymity of the Arizona Fall League, and it presented some unique conditions for Christenson to manage under.

“It’s such a unique situation to see someone thrust into that after missing so much season,” Christenson said in a phone interview before Game 1. “To have a chance to be activated this time of year, it’s something special if he can pull this off. If he (sparks the Cubs), literally the guy can be a legend.”

Schwarber appeared in just two games for the Solar Sox, going 1-for-6 as a designated hitter. Christenson didn’t have much hands-on interaction with Schwarber — the Cubs had their own staff members on site helping him with treatment — but Christenson saw Schwarber’s swing rounding into form even in his brief time in the batter’s box.

“The bat speed is there,” said Christenson, who hadn’t met Schwarber previously. “I love watching him work in the cage. He’s got a great swing. I don’t think it would take someone of his caliber long to get his timing and pick up where he left off. It’s a simple swing.”

The Cubs asked Christenson to work Schwarber into the top of the batting order with the Solar Sox so as to maximize his number of plate appearances. They also asked one other favor.

“The only request they had was that I took it easy with him on the bases … not trying to score him from first base on a gapper.”

Schwarber’s mere presence in the Arizona Fall League created a delicate dynamic. The league is geared toward up-and-coming prospects who have yet to break into the majors, and Christenson said AFL officials were concerned about Schwarber dropping in and taking playing time away from those players.

Each major league organization sends at least six players to the AFL. Of those six, one is designated a “priority player,” meaning they must play at least four days a week, so innings can be tricky to spread around.

Adding to the sensitivity of the situation, the Solar Sox’s roster includes not only Cubs prospects but also those of the Cleveland Indians. Christenson needed to avoid a situation where Schwarber was stealing at-bats away from prospects of the American League champs — the team that Schwarber was training to try to help the Cubs beat.

But things unfolded smoothly, and Schwarber showed appreciation for getting the chance to drop in for a couple games.

“I’ll definitely be pulling for him,” Christenson said.

A's claim left-handed reliever off waivers from Cubs

A's claim left-handed reliever off waivers from Cubs

CLEVELAND — Left-hander Giovanni Soto has been claimed by the Oakland Athletics off waivers from the Chicago Cubs.

Soto was designated for assignment Saturday to open a spot on the 40-man roster for slugger Kyle Schwarber, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list following knee surgery in April. Schwarber was put on the World Series roster Tuesday and went 1 for 3 with a double, walk and two strikeouts in the opening 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians.

Soto was traded to the Cubs from Cleveland on April 11 and was 1-3 with a 5.14 ERA in 33 relief appearances for Triple-A Iowa. He made his big league debut with the Indians in 2015 and appeared in six games and 3 1/3 innings.

Oakland claimed him Wednesday.