A's lineup: Carter, Moss can coexist


A's lineup: Carter, Moss can coexist

PROGRAMMING NOTE: A's Pregame Live begins at 6:30 on CSN California, followed by A's-Rangers, and A's Postgame Live immediately after the final out.

OAKLAND -- At 9-1 in July the A's are one of the hottest teams in baseball. With the American League West-leading Texas Rangers in town, Oakland is beginning a season- defining stretch of games. The A's are starting to look the part of a contender, but they'll have to prove they can hang with the big boys in the A.L. as they play two games against the Rangers, and four against the Yankees on this homestand.A's (46-43)
Jemile Weeks, 2B
Seth Smith, LF
Josh Reddick, CF
Yoenis Cespedes, DH
Brandon Moss, RF
Chris Carter, 1B
Kurt Suzuki, C
Brandon Inge, 3B
Cliff Pennington, SS
Instant AnalysisThe first thing that jumps out about Bob Melvin's lineup card is that Seth Smith is batting second again. With Coco Crisp bothered by a sore shoulder, the A's have been able to get Smith and Jonny Gomes time in the two-spot. Smith is a perfect two-hitter. He has a .361 on-base percentage, and walks in 13.1 percent of his plate appearances. I also like that Chris Carter and Brandon Moss are both in the lineup. I've been of the opinion that Carter shouldn't be platooned, and Moss deserves to be in there daily as well. They both provide serious pop. Last time they were both in the starting lineup they each went yard. The only A's batters that have faced Roy Oswalt are Seth Smith and Brandon Moss. Smith is 2 for 9 with two strikeouts against the veteran righty, and Moss is 1 for 8 with three strikeouts. Top of the OrderJemile Weeks is leading off again. He seems to be comfortable in that spot. He is also heating up a little bit, going 10 for 31 with five runs scored over his last seven games. Heart of the OrderYoenis Cespedes seems to have taken nicely to the designated hitter role. In his 13 games as the DH he is batting .346 (18 for 52) with four homers and 13 RBI. The Cuban-slugger is batting .571 (8 for 14), with two homers and a 1.643 OPS since the All-Star break. He is also batting .500 (14-28) with four doubles, a homer, and seven RBI against the Rangers this season. He could be primed to have a big series.
Bottom of the OrderThe A's will need some production out of the bottom of the order. Kurt Suzuki is starting to heat up, he is batting .400 (4 for 10) in his last three games. Brandon Inge has been struggling offensively with 21 strikeouts in his last 15 games. Cliff Pennington is batting .120 (6 for 50) over his last 17 games.

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.