Kottaras plays hero for A's in extra-inning win

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Kottaras plays hero for A's in extra-inning win

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ARLINGTON -- It's not how you start, it's how you finish.

Those are words the 2012 Oakland A's can live by on an individual player level and a team-wide level. On Tuesday night in Texas, the A's fell behind early but finished with a big home run and save in the 10th inning to defeat the Rangers 3-2.
INSTANT REPLAY: A's 3, Rangers 2 (10)

With the win, their magic number to clinch a spot in the American League Wild Card game is seven, and they are again four games behind the Rangers in the A.L. West. RELATED: MLB standings
The A's final run scored in the 10th inning when George Kottaras clubbed a ball 394 feet into the second deck off Rangers reliever Mark Lowe. Four of his nine home runs this season have given his club the lead. He hit three while with Milwaukee and is up to six with the A's. This one was particularly special for him. "Way up there," Kottaras said of where his 10th inning homer ranks in his career. "To do that, to help the team in that manner, kind of win the ball game was huge for me today."Kottaras' first career home run was off Lowe. Something keen A's manager Bob Melvin wasn't going to let him forget. Especially in a moment this big. "He definitely mentioned it when I was walking up to the on-deck circle and kind of joking about it a little bit," Kottaras said. "It was just one of those things where I'm trying to have a good at bat and hit the ball hard somewhere and kind of off it went so"The A's started the year power starved; now they lead all of Major League Baseball with 99 home runs in the second half. It's not how you start, it's how you finish.The A's bullpen had been overworked in recent days and the biggest concern was finding a way to get the relief corps some rest. Tommy Milone was burdened with the pressure of going deep into the game to save the recently suffering bullpen that has allowed 26 runs in the last eight games. At first that looked like it might be a bit of a problem. Milone allowed the first three batters of the game to reach on singles. The third single belonged to Josh Hamilton, and the ball he hit got by right fielder Brandon Moss, who let it roll all the way to the wall, scoring two runs. Milone responded by stranding Hamilton on third with no outs and ended up retiring the next 11 batters he faced. "I think any good starting pitcher typically, you've got a chance to get him early before he gets into a rhythm," Melvin said. "After that he was fantastic." Milone ended up with 110 pitches through six innings of work. He only allowed three hits after the first inning rally and didn't allow an earned run or a walk. He struck out three batters. "It is easy to lay back and let that affect you but you just have got to keep making pitches and get out of the inning," Milone said. "We have a tremendous amount of respect for our hitters so it's not one of those things where we felt we were in a hole." Moss started with that critical two-run error, and finished with a game-saving catch with the bases loaded in the seventh inning. Elvis Andrus hit a ball deep to right field that looked like trouble, but Moss went into a full sprint and somehow managed to make an over-the-shoulder catch to save three runs. "I didn't realize that it had gone that far; I did feel like I was running forever," Moss said. "But not as far as Yoenis Cespedes had to run after that ground ball I missed.""I was just praying that it wouldn't cost us," Moss added. "It seems every error I make lately two or three runs score and we end up losing by one." The A's were expecting to face one of the Rangers' best pitchers in Yu Darvish. They ended up facing Scott Feldman, who they have scored 12 runs on this season. That's a pretty huge turn of events for a team clinging to life in the division. The A's were able to touch up Feldman for two runs on four hits and knock him out of the game after four innings. The A's may have fell behind early but they battled back quick. Daric Barton, who was in the lineup mostly for defensive purposes, stroked an RBI double on the first pitch he saw to cut the lead in half. In the past Barton has been a patient hitter to a fault."I got a pitch up in the zone early in the count and one of the things I have worked on was just being more aggressive with guys in scoring position and it paid off," Barton said. "It feels good to play, period." "He has good at-bats against lefties, righties, good defender," Melvin said. "That was a nice late addition for us because we are getting a lot of use out of him."Chris Carter tied the game at two in the fourth inning with his 16th home run of the season. That was all Rangers manager Ron Washington wanted to see out of Feldman. He was removed from the game after just four innings with 75 pitches. After allowing 26 runs in their last nine games, the A's relievers were money on Tuesday. They combined for four scoreless innings against a tough Rangers lineup. Sean Doolittle pitched one and one-third innings and Evan Scribner pitched a scoreless ninth inning to get his first career win. Closer Grant Balfour locked down the victory with his 21st save of the season. He pitched a three up, three down 10th inning and has been remarkably consistent since re-taking the closer's role. He hasn't blown a save in 16 chances since August 11. "He's coming in and throwing strikes and mixing his pitches up too," Kottaras said. "He's not just a fastball thrower, he's a pitcher. To be able to do that is huge for us." The A's have lost six of their last nine games. Each win gets them a step closer to the postseason for the first time since 2006. They have eight games left and are two games ahead of the Angels for the second Wild Card spot, and half a game behind the Orioles for the first spot. They control their own destiny at this point."I think the farther you go into the season each and every win has a bit more magnitude to it," Melvin said. "It was a huge win the last day in New York, a huge win the last day in Detroit, this team has responded like this many, many times this year, so it doesn't surprise me." Again, it's not how you start, it's how you finish. NOTES:-- Coco Crisp entered the game as a pinch runner and stole a base. He participated in baseball activities and hit in the cage on Tuesday before the game. It is a sign he might finally be close to a return. -- The A's struck out 15 times on the evening, raising their running franchise record total to 1,322 and bringing them closer to the all-time American League record of 1,324 recorded by the Rays in 2007.
-- Tuesday was the second game in Rangers franchise history where they scored one or more runs but recorded 0 RBI. The last time was 1962, when they were the Washington Senators, also a 3-2 loss.

Royals ace Yordano Ventura dies in car crash at 25 years old

Royals ace Yordano Ventura dies in car crash at 25 years old

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, whose electric arm and confident demeanor helped lead his long-suffering team to the 2015 World Series title, died in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic early Sunday. He was 25.

With the fitting nickname of "Ace," Ventura burst onto the baseball scene with a 100 mph fastball and an explosive attitude to match. He was a fierce competitor always willing to challenge hitters inside, then deal with the ramifications when they decided to charge the mound.

Not surprisingly, he quickly became a fan favorite as Kansas City embraced baseball once again.

"Our prayers right now are with Yordano's family as we mourn this young man's passing," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said in a statement. "He was so young and so talented, full of youthful exuberance and always brought a smile to everyone he interacted with. We will get through this as an organization, but right now is a time to mourn and celebrate the life of Yordano."

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo said Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles northwest of Santo Domingo. Mateo did not say whether Ventura was driving.

Also Sunday, former major league infielder Andy Marte died in a separate car accident in the Dominican Republic. Metropolitan traffic authorities said he died about 95 miles north of the capital.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Andy Marte and Yordano Ventura," players union executive Tony Clark said. "It's never easy to lose a member of our fraternity, and there are no words to describe the feeling of losing two young men in the prime of their lives. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families, friends, teammates and fans throughout the United States and Latin America."

Ventura is the second young pitching star to die in past four months. Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was among three men killed in a boating accident in late September, when the 24-year-old pitcher's boat crashed into a jetty off Miami Beach in the early morning hours.

Ventura went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 2014, his first full season in the big leagues, and helped the long-downtrodden Royals reach the World Series for the first time since 1985. He proceeded to dominate San Francisco in both of his starts, though the Royals would ultimately lose in seven games.

In an eerie coincidence, Ventura paid tribute to his friend and countryman, Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, with a handwritten message on his cap during Game 6. Taveras also was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic, and his funeral occurred just hours before Ventura stepped on the mound.

The following year, now firmly entrenched in the rotation, Ventura helped lead Kansas City back to the World Series, pitching well in two starts against Toronto in the AL championship Series. The Royals went on to beat the New York Mets in five games to win their second championship.

Not surprisingly, the Royals moved quickly to sign their burgeoning young ace to a five-year contract through the 2019 season that included two more options that could have kept him in Kansas City.

He wound up pitching his entire career for the Royals, going 38-31 with a 3.89 ERA.

Born June 3, 1991, in Samana, Dominican Republic, Ventura represented a true rags-to-riches story. He quit school at 14 and was laboring on a construction crew to support his family when Ventura heard about a tryout, which led to a spot in the Royals' academy located on his picturesque island home.

Still, the odds were long that Ventura would ever make it to the big leagues. Very few players from the Dominican academies reached the pinnacle of the sport.

But over time, Ventura was able to harness one of the most electric fastballs that scouts had seen in years, and his headstrong and confident nature was essential in his rapid rise. He made his big league debut to great fanfare in 2013, allowing just one run again Cleveland in a sign of things to come.

He eventually became a cornerstone of a youth movement that included young stars such as first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas, one that carried the Royals first to respectability, then to the top of the American League — rare heights the organization had not experienced in decades.

Hosmer took to Twitter upon hearing the news of Ventura's death, saying: "I love you my brother. I'm in disbelief and don't know what to say. I love you ACE."

Moustakas also expressed disbelief, tweeting: "I love you Ace. I don't know what to say other than I'm going to miss you a lot. RIP ACE."

Reports: Ex-A's catcher Suzuki agrees to deal with NL East team

Reports: Ex-A's catcher Suzuki agrees to deal with NL East team

Kurt Suzuki is headed back to the National League.

After three seasons in the American League with the Twins, the former A's backstop has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Braves.

News of the agreement was first reported by SB Nation.

Suzuki will reportedly make $1.5 million, according to Fox Sports. He has a chance to make an addition $2.5 million in incentives.

The 33-year-old Suzuki was drafted by the A's in the second round of 2004 MLB Draft. He made his debut with Oakland in 2007 and was the starting catcher until a 2012 trade to Washington. A year later, the Nationals traded Suzuki back to the A's for the final five weeks of the season.

Prior to the 2014 season, Suzuki signed with Twins. In three seasons with Minnesota, Suzuki hit .263/.316/.364 with 75 doubles, 16 home runs and 160 RBI.

Suzuki will likely serve as a back-up to catcher Tyler Flowers.