A's lineup: Kottaras could be the secret weapon


A's lineup: Kottaras could be the secret weapon

OAKLAND -- The A's look to sweep the Baltimore Orioles in their final meeting. Oakland has already won the season series with the Orioles, ensuring home-field advantage if they finish tied atop the Wild Card Standings. Here's Bob Melvin's lineup card.Oakland Athletics (84-61) lineupCollin Cowgill, LF
Jonny Gomes, DH
Josh Reddick, RF
Yoenis Cespedes, CF
Chris Carter, 1B
Josh Donaldson, 3B
Stephen Drew, SS
Adam Rosales, 2B
George Kottaras, C
Instant AnalysisYou normally won't see George Kottaras in the lineup against a left-handed pitcher but he is in for a good reason on Sunday. Kottaras used to be Randy Wolf's personal catcher with Milwaukee. He will likely be able to provide some key insights to his teammates about Wolf. Earlier this season when Kottaras faced Zack Greinke, another one of his former Milwaukee teammates, he took him deep.Coco Crisp was a late scratch. We'll have more on that shortly. Collin Cowgill is now starting in left field and leading off. As a result Jonny Gomes moves from left field to DH, and Yoenis Cespedes moves from DH to center field.
Top of the OrderJonny Gomes seems to be doing it all for the A's when given an opportunity to play. He is batting .352 with runners in scoring position this season. Heart of the OrderYoenis Cespedes has slowed down a bit in September but he is starting to find his power stroke and remains consistent with runners in scoring position. He is batting .354 with runners in scoring position which ranks eighth in the American League.Chris Carter has been used in a platoon role frequently but he is actually better against right-handed pitchers. Of his 14 homers, 10 have come against righties. His numbers against lefties are improving a bit though. (Courtesy: Bloomberg Sports)Bottom of the OrderKottaras has been a steady source of power for the A's since his acquisition. He has five homers and 17 RBI in 15 games with Oakland this season. Starting PitchersThe A's will go for the series sweep on Sunday. The Orioles announced their starter for Sunday shortly before Saturday's game. They have decided to go with lefty Randy Wolf (5-10, 5.69 ERA). It will be Wolf's first start for Baltimore, and his first since August 19 with Milwaukee. He will be the third lefty in a row the A's face. Dan Straily (2-0, 3.42 ERA) will be on the mound for the A's. It will be his fifth career start. The A's have won all four games started by Straily this season.

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.