A's escape from New York

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A's escape from New York

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NEW YORK -- After 34 innings of pure unbridled agony in the Bronx, the A's can escape New York with their heads held high. On Sunday the scrappy A's faced the possibility of suffering through a crippling sweep and found a way to salvage the series with a 5-4 win.

INSTANT REPLAY: A's 5, Yankees 4

As manager Bob Melvin said after Saturday's extra inning loss, they played their hearts out. Oakland pushed the Yankees to the limit but fell just short in the first two games. Taking the series finale is crucial as the A's head to Texas for a four-game series still in striking distance of the division-leading Rangers.

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"It was a big game," Melvin said. "Each and every game will be big, but probably to this point and time of the year that was our biggest win." It was the biggest game of the year until Monday's game in Texas, then Tuesday's game, and Wednesday's game, and Thursday's game, and so forth. The magic number for Oakland to clinch a spot in the Wild Card playoff game is nine. They are four games behind the Rangers in the American League West with seven games to play against Texas. "Playing these games that mean something is the coolest thing I've been a part of," Cliff Pennington said. "It's awesome."Pennington went 3 for 4 with a home run and three RBI against the Yankees on Sunday. He gave the A's a 3-0 lead in the second inning when he crushed a slider thrown by Yankees' starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda into the right field seats, and smacked the game-winning RBI single against Kuroda in the sixth inning. Pennington has turned his season around since being moved from shortstop to second base. "He's just back to the type of player that you saw last year," Melvin said. "I don't know if it has anything to do with just making that change but it kind of gave him a re-birth." Once Pennington gave the A's the lead in the sixth inning the bullpen locked down the game. The A's relievers combined to pitch five scoreless innings against the Bronx Bombers, an impressive feat especially when considering they were a depleted and tired unit after two consecutive extra innings games. "Those guys stepped up huge," Pennington said of the bullpen. "They've been stepping up huge for us all year. That's been pretty much the backbone of this team from day one anyway." Oakland's relief pitchers threw 17 23 innings in the series against the Yankees. No inning was bigger than the ninth inning on Sunday. That's when closer Grant Balfour took the mound with a one-run lead and a chance to send the A's off to Texas with some momentum. He retired the side in order but not before one moment that made the collection of A's players, and fans' hearts skip a beat. With one out Alex Rodriguez hit a towering fly ball toward the short porch in right field. Josh Reddick tracked the ball to the wall and made a hop as he caught it. The 43,867 in attendance thought the game was about to be tied at five. "I don't want to say it skips a beat, you'd have to have your eyes open for it to skip a beat," Melvin said jokingly."The way things went for us in this series you never know," Balfour said. "I knew he didn't get it good but I knew that he's strong enough. He doesn't have to hit a ball perfect to get it out especially down that right field line it's so short." Rodriguez went 0 for 5 and struck out three times. He was booed by his home crowd several times during the game. Two of the three strikeouts came with starting pitcher A.J. Griffin on the mound. He had A-Rod's number, but struggled with the rest of New York's lineup. Griffin only lasted four and one-third innings. He allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks. After starting an Oakland record 6-0, he's had two consecutive sub-par starts. "He just ran into a little bit of a tough spot," Melvin said. "They're always going to work the count and get your pitch count up, foul some balls off like they did for him." Not getting swept by the Yankees helps ensure the loose A's clubhouse doesn't start getting tense. Many of the players in the A's clubhouse haven't dealt with the pressures of a playoff chase.
"We can't play with our backs against the wall," Balfour said. "We've got to play free and easy baseball and enjoy it, give it all we've got, because we've been good all year so let's just keep going."

A’s agree to terms with Gray, Hendriks and Vogt to avoid arbitration

A’s agree to terms with Gray, Hendriks and Vogt to avoid arbitration

The Oakland A’s avoided arbitration with right-handed pitchers Sonny Gray and Liam Hendriks and catcher Stephen Vogt when they agreed to terms on one-year contracts for the 2017 season, the club announced today.

Gray went 5-11 with a 5.69 ERA in 22 starts last year in a season shortened by two stints on the disabled list.  His ERA was more than 2½ runs higher than his previous career high and his five wins follow back-to-back 14-win seasons.  Gray went 33-20 with a 2.88 ERA 76 games over his first three seasons with the A’s and now has a 3.42 ERA in his career, which ranks ninth in Oakland history.

Hendriks compiled a 3.76 ERA and .270 opponents batting average in 53 relief appearances in his first season with the A’s.  He had an 8.27 ERA and .394 opponents batting average in 11 games before going on the disabled list in early May with a strained right triceps.  Hendriks then logged a 2.23 ERA and .222 opponents batting average in 42 games following his return from the DL.

Vogt played in a career-high 137 games last year and hit .251 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI.  He also had career bests with 123 hits, 30 doubles and 46 extra base hits.  Vogt was named to his second consecutive American League All-Star team.

The only remaining arbitration eligible player on the A’s roster is Khris Davis.

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Mariners swing pair of trades, bolster rotation with addition of Smyly

Mariners swing pair of trades, bolster rotation with addition of Smyly

SEATTLE -- Jerry Dipoto's 11th trade this offseason rounded out the Seattle Mariners roster with his top target.

"I've probably spent more time through the course of our offseason trying to acquire Drew Smyly than any other thing that we've done," the general manager said Wednesday.

Seattle made pair of deals on Wednesday that ultimately landed Smyly, a pitcher Dipoto thinks will fill out the Mariners starting rotation. Seattle also landed a potential key reliever, getting right-hander Shae Simmons from the Atlanta Braves.

The Mariners acquired outfielder Mallex Smith from Atlanta, then sent him to Tampa Bay along with infielder Carlos Vargas and left-hander Ryan Yarbrough for Smyly. Smith was also an offseason target for the Mariners but when Seattle acquired Jarrod Dyson from Kansas City last week, Smith instead became the conduit in helping to obtain Smyly.

"It became apparent to us over the last two or three days that we were able to access Drew Smyly by making the deal with Atlanta that tapped into Mallex Smith," Dipoto said. "So effectively these were two deals that were interlinked."

Smyly is the centerpiece of what Seattle was trying to accomplish as the Mariners seem to have rounded out a starting rotation that appeared to be a major question at the start of the year. The acquisitions of Smyly and Yovani Gallardo from Baltimore last week appear to have filled out a rotation where Felix HernandezHisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton were the only certainties.

Smyly, 27, made 30 starts last season for Tampa Bay, throwing a career-high 175 1/3 innings and striking out 167. He was 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA, but starting pitching is one of Tampa Bay's strongest assets, and Rays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager Erik Neander felt comfortable making the deal because of the depth the Rays have in that area.

Smyly was 15-15 with a 3.95 ERA in 49 starts for Tampa Bay after being acquired from Detroit in the 2014 trade deadline deal that sent David Price to the Tigers. He is arbitration eligible after winning $3.75 million in an arbitration hearing last season.

"He fits our ballpark particularly well. He's a pretty extreme fly-ball pitcher with the low walks, high strikeouts, who in our ballpark, with what we think is a greatly improved outfield defense fits us like a glove really," Dipoto said. "If as we expect he shows up and does his thing it should fit very well for us in this ballpark."

What Smith may be able to add was attractive to Neander, who said the trade was made to help position the Rays to be competitive in 2017. He stopped short of saying he expects Smith to make the team coming out of spring training.

"We need to get better," Neander said. "To do that, we need more competition" for jobs.

Simmons is also a key acquisition for Seattle, providing another power arm in the bullpen. Simmons, 26, made seven appearances last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and threw just 6 2/3 big league innings. Before elbow issues, Simmons was 1-2 with a 2.91 ERA in 26 appearances during the 2014 season.

"He's had a strong history with striking (batters) out and (we're) really excited to plug him in," Dipoto said.

The cost for Seattle to complete to two deals meant giving up two of its top pitching prospects in Yarbrough and Luiz Gohara. Yarbrough, 25, was named the Southern League pitcher of the year after going 12-4 with a 2.95 ERA at Double-A Jackson last season. Gohara, 20, was 7-2 with a 1.81 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 13 starts at two Class A stops.

Seattle also sent lefty Thomas Burrows to Atlanta and designated right-hander Cody Martin for assignment to make room on its 40-man roster.