A's bullpen usage explained after Texas-sized loss


A's bullpen usage explained after Texas-sized loss


ARLINGTON -- They say everything is bigger in Texas. That apparently includes the two-foot hot dogs also known as "Boomsticks," the home runs, and the walk-off wins. The mortal enemy of the A's fan, Adrian Beltre, who twice turned down the A's when they tried to sign him, stung the Oakland faithful again with a two-run game-tying blast in the seventh inning off Pat Neshek, and game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded to give the Rangers a 5-4 win.
INSTANT REPLAY: Rangers 5, Athletics 4
With the loss in Texas, the A's elimination number in the American League West is now at five. They still play the Rangers six more times so they are not out of it yet. Most of the questions after the game centered around the usage of the relief pitchers. A's manager Bob Melvin elected to bring in left-handed pitcher Jerry Blevins to face Josh Hamilton with two outs in the seventh inning. The plan backfired. Hamilton was 0 for 5 with four strikeouts in his career against Blevins, but he drew a walk. The A's brought Neshek in for the righty on righty match up to face Beltre and he tied the game at four with a home run. "We had so few guys available today," Melvin explained. "We went to the match ups to get through the seventh and we had Ryan Cook for the eighth and Grant Balfour for the ninth, we just never got there."With the game now tied, Cook pitched a three up, three down eighth inning while Tyson Ross and Grant Balfour warmed up. Cook was working on his third consecutive day so he wasn't a candidate to go more than one inning. He had pitched three and one-third innings in his last two games. Ross came out to pitch the bottom of the ninth because he was the long man, and Melvin wanted to save Balfour in case the A's got the lead. Ross allowed back-to-back leadoff singles. The runners were bunted over so the A's intentionally walked Hamilton, which loaded the bases. Then Beltre came up and hit the game-winning single. After the game Melvin explained why he went to Ross in that situation. "We had Balfour and basically him; we didn't have Evan Scribner and Jim Miller today and I'm not going to put Jesse Chavez in that situation. Certainly Jeremy Accardo hasn't been pitching in a while so Tyson has good stuff. He just has to locate it and have some confidence out there because he does have good stuff." Melvin didn't mention Sean Doolittle but it is a fair bet that he also wasn't available, otherwise he probably would have been used. The A's relief pitchers have been maxed out lately. They pitched 17 23 innings in the series against the Yankees, which included two extra innings game. They have no days off for the rest of the season so Melvin has to be extra careful how he uses the bullpen. Before the Rangers' rally the biggest thing in Texas might have been the performance of A's starting pitcher Dan Straily. After getting pushed back in the rotation for match up reasons, the rookie took the ball and regained his team's faith in him. Straily, 23, struck out a career-high eight Rangers over six and two-thirds innings and allowed two runs, one earned. He put the A's in a position to win and left the game with a two-run lead."At this point in the year and from here on out every start is the biggest start of my life," Straily said. "That's the case for everybody. That's the way it is." Straily's defense didn't do him any favors early on. The A's committed two errors behind him and could have been charged with a third that was ruled a hit. Instead of letting the pressure of giving the Rangers' potent lineup extra outs wear on him, he got dialed in and recorded some big outs. He struck out Elvis Andrus with the bases loaded in the second inning, and got Ian Kinsler looking on a fastball with two aboard in the fourth frame. "I was able to make pitches and that's something that a few starts before I wasn't able to do," Straily said. "I was able to just bear down and throw my pitches with with conviction and trust in myself and my stuff and the results turned out pretty good tonight." While Straily was able to limit the damage, the A's defensive miscues cost him some pitches and he might have been able to work deeper into the game if it wasn't for those mistakes. That would have given the bullpen a little extra rest."You can't give free outs to those guys out there, they're too good," Josh Donaldson said. "We've got to go out there and make them earn every run they score." Donaldson was charged with one of the A's errors. He was able to get the ball and make a throw but Chris Carter couldn't pick it clean. He did hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the top half of the second inning, though. The biggest homer in the game measurement-wise was the 441-foot blast off the bat of Hamilton in the fifth inning. He drove a changeup thrown by Straily into the cheap seats. That might have had to do with why Melvin didn't let Straily finish the seventh inning with two outs and Hamilton stepping to the plate again. Straily says he knew he wasn't going to get another chance to face Hamilton, who he struck out earlier in the game. "When I go out Curt Young always tells me not the names, but just right-left-right or left-left-right or whatever," Straily said. "He just said 'right-right' so I knew going out that I was getting two batters. Obviously I want to get him again because I am confident I can get him out, but at the same time lefty on lefty, why wouldn't you do that?"The A's have nine games to play and their magic number to clinch a Wild Card berth is stuck at eight for now. The beauty of baseball is that teams don't have time to sulk after a tough loss. They have another game that is equally important on Tuesday, and everyday after for the remaining nine days."It's one game we've got to bounce back," Melvin said. "We did that in both Detroit and New York. We lost some tough games and we bounced back, won the last game of each series and it would have been nice to start off with a win in this series but you've got to move on from it."

A's GM Forst feels passion of fans, will not second-guess decisions

A's GM Forst feels passion of fans, will not second-guess decisions

A’s general manager David Forst says he has a stack of strongly worded letters from fans who grow frustrated with many of the team’s personnel moves.

That comes with the territory of running a major league front office. But Forst also said, during a wide-ranging interview on the latest A’s Insider Podcast, that honest critiquing must come from within office walls.

“You do want to do some self-evaluation and self-assessing,” Forst said. “What I don’t do, I don’t go back and second-guess decisions, whether it’s a trade or a signing. I don’t sort of hypothetically think, ‘Well, what if we hadn’t done this,’ because it’s not a good use of anybody’s time. What you do have to do is make sure the process that led to that decision is sound and a good one.”

Certainly one of the most scrutinized A’s moves of recent history was their signing of designated hitter Billy Butler to a three-year $30 million contract in November 2014. That turned out to be a costly mistake, with Butler being released in September with one year left on his deal and the A’s still on the hook for roughly $10 million. Forst acknowledged how poorly that decision worked out but sticks by the initial motivation to sign Butler.

“Look, Billy Butler didn’t go the way we expected, and that’s one that gets brought up a lot,” Forst said. “But I think back to the time when we made that decision to sign him, and what we were projecting Billy to do. It was very clear what our team needed. Again, going into 2015, coming off the wild card that year, we still felt like this was a team that could compete for a division title. So all the things that went into the decision, ultimately I will stand by.”

Forst spoke frankly about several other topics during the podcast. Regarding fans’ frustration about seeing so many high-profile players traded:

“I’ve got a stack of letters on my desk, the substance of which I can’t repeat on the air,” he said with a smile. “… But there’s passion. And I know we have a fan base that cares, and that’s really a good place to be.”

Forst said the A’s definitely will pursue starting pitching this offseason, despite the fact that 1) he’s very optimistic about the crop of young pitching Oakland has developed, and 2) he believes Sonny Gray will bounce back from a poor 2016 season. The GM takes encouragement that Gray made a full physical recovery from a strained forearm.

“Am I going to get the Cy Young (caliber pitcher) from Day 1? I don’t know. But I think there’s a confidence that this was an aberration, this whole year, more than anything else.”

Crisp homers as Indians shut out Blue Jays to advance to World Series


Crisp homers as Indians shut out Blue Jays to advance to World Series


TORONTO -- A most unlikely pitching performance helped put a most unexpected team into the World Series.

Rookie Ryan Merritt coolly delivered a lead to the Andrew Miller-led bullpen and the Cleveland Indians won their first pennant since 1997, blanking Toronto 3-0 Wednesday in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series.

Cleveland, which has never hosted a World Series opener, will play Game 1 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night against either the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Indians will try to boost what's already been a magical year in Cleveland after LeBron James and the Cavaliers earned the city's first sports championship since 1964. The Indians' title drought dates to 1948.

The Dodgers led the Cubs 2-1 going into Game 4 of the NLCS on Wednesday night. Cleveland didn't play either team this season.

With all of 11 major league innings under his belt, Merritt took the mound and looked just like a seasoned vet. The 24-year-old lefty retired the first 10 batters and allowed only two hits before being pulled after 4 1/3 innings.

Then it was up to Cleveland's tireless relievers to hold a three-run lead.

Miller again did most of the heavy lifting, pitching 2 2/3 innings, and Cody Allen pitched the ninth for the save. Winner Bryan Shaw worked an inning before Miller came in.

Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp homered for the Indians.