Pratt's Instant Replay: A's drop Game 1 in Detroit


Pratt's Instant Replay: A's drop Game 1 in Detroit


DETROIT -- The Oakland Athletics knew they had a tough task at hand while facing reigning American League MVP and Cy Young Award-winner Justin Verlander. He didn't disappoint. He struck out 11 A's batters, and allowed just three hits while hand delivering the Detroit Tigers a 3-1 victory in Game One of the American League Division Series.Arguably more impressive however was the performance of A's reliever Pat Neshek, who retired two batters just two days after his newborn son passed away.Starting Pitching ReportJarrod Parker looked poised out of the gate. He kept his pitch count low and worked his way out of a tough first inning situation. Austin Jackson hit a leadoff double that was bobbled by Cespedes in the outfield. With the infield drawn in to protect against the bunt, Berry ended up hitting a ball to third that Donaldson made a diving attempt on but couldn't come up with the ball. As the crown chanted M-V-P, Miguel Cabrera stepped to the plate with runners on the corners. Parker got him to ground into a double play which pushed across a run but minimized the damage.Parker only threw seven pitches in the second inning, making short work of the Tigers. In the third inning he ran into a some trouble again. The Tigers ended up scoring a run after Omar Infante hit a one-out double and Parker misplayed a slow rolling ground ball hit toward first base. He chased down the ball and scooped it up but it fell out of his glove as he reached first.Parker's only other mistake was a solo home run he allowed to Alex Avila in the fifth inning. The rookie battled through a tough Tigers lineup, and still turned in a quality start. He ended the night with six and one-third innings pitched, allowing seven hits, one walk, and struck out five. All things considered he pitched pretty well. He was just out-dueled by Verlander.Bullpen ReportThe A's were wearing black patches on the right sleeve of their jerseys with the initials "GJN," in memory of Gherig John Neshek, who passed away unexpectedly just 23 hours after he was born on Wednesday. Playing with a heavy heart, Neshek entered the game in the seventh inning in relief of Parker. He got Omar Infante to ground into a force out and then struck out Jackson to end the inning. Neshek must have been pitching on raw emotion.After he finished the inning he touched the patch on his right sleeve with his glove and looked to the sky. He exhaled deeply as he jogged off the mound, a touching moment on the field.At the PlateThe A's started the American League Division Series in style. Coco Crisp connected on a 2-1 pitch for a leadoff home run. Crisp's shot was the second in Major League history to lead off a postseason series. Former A's outfielder Jonny Damon did it while playing for the Yankees in the 2007 ALDS at Cleveland. Crisp joins Bert Campaneris (1973), Rickey Henderson (1989), and Ray Durham (2002) as the only A's to hit a leadoff homer in a playoff game.The A's employed a strategy to work up Verlander's pitch count and it worked. In his previous start against Oakland he tossed 122 pitches over six innings. Oakland got him to throw 26 pitches in the first and got him up to 61 pitches through three, and 105 through six. Problem is, Verlander hit 101 on the radar gun in the sixth inning as he struck out the side. He hit 99 MPH on his 105th pitch, a called third strike on Josh Donaldson to end the inning.
The A's hitters seemed to be upset about home plate umpire Jim Reynolds' strike zone. He called several strikes that were outside of the strike zone on both the game telecast and MLB PITCHfx. Verlander struck out a string of five A's hitters in a row at one point.
Verlander exited the game after the seventh inning. It was a difficult day for A's hitters. Josh Donaldson just missed hitting a home run to the deepest part of the park in the second inning. In any other ballpark he would have gone yard, but in Detroit center field is 402 feet deep. After Verlander left the game, Brandon Moss just missed hitting a game-tying homer on a deep fly ball to right field that Andy Dirks caught with his back up against the wall.In the FieldReddick made a slick diving catch toward the foul line. As the ball was hit someone in the press box muttered "double" and then Reddick leaped head first and caught it. After he landed he laid propped up on his side and held the his glove up for the umpire to see. He looked like he was striking a pose.AttendanceThe Tigers announced a sell-out crowd of 43,323. They were all waving their white rally towels.Up NextRookie pitcher Tommy Milone takes the mound against Doug Fister in Game Two of the ALDS. Milone will be making his postseason debut. He is one of 12 rookies on the A's playoff roster. Milone and Parker finished the season tied with 13 wins, and a share of an Oakland rookie record. Milone is 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA in two starts against the Tigers.Fister is a Merced native. He said on Friday that he is a Giants fan, but did admit to going to several A's games with his father and friends. The right-handed pitcher is 5-4 with a 2.45 ERA in his career against the A's.

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.