Verlander wowed by Giants' bats in Game 1

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Verlander wowed by Giants' bats in Game 1

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The reigning American League Cy Young and MVP doesn't often step off the mound looking completely confused. Yet, Justin Verlander seemed sort of shell-shocked after giving up five runs in four innings in his first postseason loss in 2012. It's safe to say no one expected the the Tigers' ace to be bewildered by the Giants' bats, but that's just exactly what happened as San Francisco stunned Detroit in an 8-3 victory in Game One of the World Series. Verlander had only allowed two runs while winning all three of his starts in this postseason. He quickly equaled that total on Wednesday night. Then doubled it. He struggled with his fastball command and seemed to be out of rhythm after being forced to take eight days off. Verlander last took the mound on Oct. 16, and defeated the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, but after Detroit swept New York they had to wait for the Giants and Cardinals to battle through a seven game National League Championship Series. The Giants squad looked in sync and the Tigers looked, well, rusty.RATTO: 'Rust' factor a myth
"Well, I think first of all you give the Giants hitters credit," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Then second of all, I think probably a little bit layoff, it's been quite a while since he's pitched." Pablo Sandoval struck first with a solo home run in the first inning. Then after back-to-back eight-pitch at-bats resulted in a tough-hop double and an RBI single, Verlander got a visit from Tigers' pitching coach Jeff Jones. As Jones walked to the mound Verlander could be seen mouthing the words, "Why are you here?" with a puzzled look on his face. "I just went out and talked to him about not trying to be too quick with a guy on first," Jones said. "I thought the first couple of pitches he threw the ball a little bit quick." The pep talk didn't work. Moments later Sandoval connected for a two-run homer on a 95-mph fastball and Jeff Jones, Sandoval, and Verlander were all trending nationwide on Twitter.Verlander mouthed the word, "Wow," as he watched the ball fly out of the park to give the Giants a 4-0 lead."I've seen enough balls off the bat now to know if somebody gets one and I definitely didn't think that was a homer off the bat," Verlander said. "I turned around and watched Delmon Young stand at the wall and that's kind of where the 'Wow' came from." Verlander had been unstoppable this postseason. He shouldn't however be completely floored by his struggles in the World Series. After Wednesday's loss he is now 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA in his first three starts in the Fall Classic. His four-inning performance is his shortest since Oct. 8, 2011, when he was held to four innings against Texas in the ALCS after two rain delays.
Verlander gave up six hits, walked one batter, and struck out four. He threw 98 pitches. "Normally when he doesn't have the typical game that he normally throws, it's fastball command more times than not," catcher Alex Avila said. "When he's able to locate his fastball, he's deadly."He had the velocity but clearly not the location. You knew things were going really bad for Verlander when Barry Zito got a hit off him in the fourth inning. Zito is just the fourth pitcher ever to record a hit against Verlander, and the first since Adam Eaton did it June 17, 2007. After Zito's single he retired Angel Pagan to end the fourth and never came back. "Is it disappointing? Yeah. Would you have liked to win Game 1? Absolutely," Verlander said while answering his own questions. "It's not the end of the world by any means." It may not be the end, but it doesn't look good statistically. The last eight home teams to win Game 1 have won the World Series.

Santiago Casilla signs, but who will close for the A's?

Santiago Casilla signs, but who will close for the A's?

Santiago Casilla says he’s returning to his baseball home, which requires only a trip across the Bay Bridge.

The A’s finalized a two-year $11 million contract with the former Giants closer Friday, adding him to a bullpen that has no shortage of late-inning relief options for manager Bob Melvin.

“There’s an old saying that it’s always good to return home, and I’m very happy to get this new opportunity with the Athletics,” Casilla said on a media conference call, via interpreter Manolo Hernandez Douen.

It’s “new” in that the 36-year-old Casilla spent the past seven seasons wearing black and orange. But his major league career is rooted in Oakland. The A’s signed him out of the Dominican Republic as an amateur free agent back in 2000, and he spent his first six seasons with Oakland, the first two of those pitching under the name Jairo Garcia.

He’s since won three World Series rings with the Giants, including notching four saves during the 2014 postseason. His final season with San Francisco ended on a sour note last year, however, as he was demoted from the closer’s role during a rough September.

What role will he find in 2017?

Casilla, who reportedly can earn up to $3 million in incentives based on games finished, joins three other relievers in the A’s ‘pen who have legitimate big league closer’s experience — John Axford, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Doolittle was the closer entering last spring but shoulder problems derailed him for a second consecutive season. Madson handled the ninth for most of 2016 and notched 30 saves, but general manager David Forst made it clear Friday that the Opening Night closer has yet to be determined.

“We had a number of different guys save games last year,” Forst said. “… Santiago saved almost 80 games the last couple years. He’s got a lot of experience. As we talked to him and his representatives, he made it clear he’s willing to do anything. It’s great for Bob to have a number of options. It’ll sort itself out in spring training as to who the guy is to start the season.”

Doolittle, Axford, Ryan Dull and Zach Neal combined for 12 saves last season. But even though the A’s are fully stocked with ninth-inning options, it’s fair to question whether any of them is a clear-cut answer for the closer’s role as spring training nears.

Madson’s seven blown saves tied for second most in the American League. Doolittle hasn’t pitched a full season since 2014. Axford issued 4.11 walks per nine innings last year, and Dull’s biggest strength is his ability escape jams when entering mid-inning.

Casilla went 2-5 with a 3.57 ERA and 31 saves last season, striking out a career-best 10.1 per nine innings, but there was some turbulence. He was displeased with Giants manager Bruce Bochy last May after being pulled from a game. Then he struggled mightily in September and lost the closer’s role. Bochy didn’t call on him at all as the bullpen coughed up a ninth-inning lead to the Cubs in Game 4 of the NL Division Series that ended the Giants’ season. That decision had Casilla in tears after the game.

Asked Friday if he harbored any hard feelings toward the Giants, Casilla replied: “It’s a new year, a new team. I have left this in the past.”

Forst pointed to Casilla’s sustained velocity — his fastball averaged 93.6 miles per hour last season — and his expanded repertoire over his career as reasons why the A’s went after him.

“His numbers were really good — 65 strikeouts, 19 walks,” Forst said. “As we got through the offseason I think we thought he was being overlooked a little bit just because of the narrative surrounding his departure with the Giants. I wasn’t around and I don’t know what went on, but it seems like a few blown saves marred what otherwise was a fantastic season for him.”

In other news, the A’s signed veteran outfielder Alejandro De Aza to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training. Forst noted De Aza’s ability to play all three outfield spots and his speed as traits that caught the A’s attention.

A's officially agree to two-year contract with Santiago Casilla

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USATSI

A's officially agree to two-year contract with Santiago Casilla

OAKLAND, Calif. – The Oakland A’s agreed to terms with right-handed pitcher Santiago Casilla on a two-year contract through the 2018 season, the club announced today.  To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the A’s designated outfielder Brett Eibner for assignment.  The A’s also announced that they agreed to terms with left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler and outfielder Alejandro De Aza on minor league contracts with an invite to spring training.

Casilla went 2-5 with 31 saves, a 3.57 ERA and .235 opponents batting average in 62 relief appearances with San Francisco last year.  He ranked sixth in the National League in saves but had nine blown saves, which tied for the most in the majors.  The 36-year-old right-hander struck out a career-high 65 batters in 58.0 innings.  He walked just 19 average his average of 2.95 walks per nine innings was the second lowest mark of his career.  Casilla allowed just 1-of-18 (5.6%) inherited runners to score and held first batters faced to a .228 batting average and .267 on-base percentage.

Casilla returns to the Oakland organization as he was originally signed by the A’s as out of the Dominican Republic on January 31, 2000.  He made his Major League debut with Oakland in 2004 and was 6-4 with four saves and a 5.11 ERA in 152 relief appearances from 2004 to 2009.  Casilla was released following the 2009 season and spent the next seven seasons with the Giants.  He went 32-22 with 123 saves and a 2.42 ERA in 414 games with San Francisco.  Casilla saved a career-high 38 games in 2015 and he ranks sixth on the Giants career saves list.  The 13-year veteran is 38-26 with 127 saves and a 3.19 ERA in 566 career appearances.

Eibner began the 2016 season with Kansas City and hit .231 in 26 games over two stints with the Royals before he was traded to Oakland for Billy Burns on July 30.  He batted .165 in 44 games with the A’s and combined for a .193 batting average, six home runs and 22 RBI in 70 games in his Major League debut.

Detwiler was acquired by the A’s from Cleveland in a minor league deal July 17 and combined for a 2-4 record and a 6.10 ERA in 16 games, including seven starts.  He was also 6-4 with a 4.40 ERA in 16 games, including 15 starts, with Triple-A Columbus and Nashville.  De Aza spent the entire 2016 season with the New York Mets and hit .205 with six home runs and 25 RBI in 130 games.  He is a .261 career hitter in 810 games in nine Major League seasons with Florida (2007, 09), Chicago-AL (2010-14), Baltimore (2014-15), Boston (2015), San Francisco (2015) and New York-NL (2016).

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