Win or go home for the A's

912505.jpg

Win or go home for the A's

OAKLAND -- Ray Fosse's primal scream Cliff Pennington's one-man dog pile Coco Crisp's walk-off hit that made the Oakland Coliseum shake It's playoff baseball alright, but it feels different than it normally does. There's something undoubtedly special about what the A's are doing. It has felt like that since June 2, when they started surging and really never looked back with a 72-38 record the rest of the way en route to winning the American League West on the final game of the season. This after never holding sole possession of first place all year. Only eight teams in the history of Major League Baseball have come back from a 2-0 deficit in a best of five series. It can be done. Heck, the Giants just did it a few minutes ago. It only seemed fitting that the A's would be forced to try to do it themselves. If this season really is a script for Moneyball 2, as many have joked, then it can't be anything but overly dramatic. What's more dramatic than rallying from a two run deficit in the bottom of the ninth to force a win-or-go-home Game Five? Having to face the reigning MVP and Cy Young award-winner, Justin Verlander, who happens to be 3-0 against the A's this season in the elimination game. After going up 2-0 the Tigers are the team under pressure. "You know it's not easy to play here," Verlander said. "So we put ourselves in a position where we just need to win one.Whatever game that is, doesn't matter.So hopefully it's the fifth one." Verlander will be opposed by Jarrod Parker. At 23, he is the youngest player in the last 15 years to start a deciding playoff game. The youngest to do so was Jaret Wright who was 21 when he pitched for the Indians against the Marlins in Game Seven of the 1997 World Series. He lost. Mark Mulder was 24 when he took the hill for the A's in Game Five of the ALDS against the Yankees. He also lost. No pressure. "To us and as a team, a group, the pressure, it's not built by us," Parker said."It's not put on by us.We know we're playing the same game. And we love playing in front of our crowd. And we love playing at home."The Tigers have the Verlander advantage. Six years ago today he was the winning pitcher as the Detroit Tigers swept the A's in the ALCS in 2006. The A's have the momentum and they have the home field advantage. Including the postseason the Tigers are 38-45 on the road this season. Can that help them beat the Tigers' ace? In his three starts against the A's this season he has allowed a total of two runs. However, the A's have battled against him. He hasn't gone deeper than seven innings in any of the three starts. They've had their chances to do damage against him and have fallen just short. "I think you gain confidence from being on the verge," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "His stuff was a lot better last time and we still had some opportunities and still to a certain extent got his pitch count up there. I think any time you get him to a point where you get him out of the game in the seventh with a 120 pitches or some under his belt, you've done some good things." That gives the A's a chance to work against Detroit's bullpen. If Parker can limit the damage then the A's who lead Major League Baseball with 15 walk-off wins will have a chance for late-inning heroics. Anything can happen. It's the playoffs. All we know is that one team will be packing their bags and heading home, while the other will live to fight another day.

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.