Pratt's Instant Replay: Angels 7, Athletics 1

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Pratt's Instant Replay: Angels 7, Athletics 1

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- What goes up must come down. No one expected the A's to win every single game for the rest of the season, even after tallying nine wins in a row. That being said, the 7-1 loss resulting in the three-game home sweep at the hands of the Angels is mildly troubling. The A's have much more to worry about than Wednesday's loss. The more immediate concern is the health of pitcher Brandon McCarthy after he took a line drive off the head in the fourth inning. Starting Pitching ReportThe ball hit McCarthy just above his right ear. He was eventually able to walk off the field under his own power. According to the A's, McCarthy never lost consciousness and was taken to a local hospital for precautionary reasons.The ball hit by Angels' shortstop Erick Aybar ricocheted off McCarthy to third baseman Josh Donaldson, who threw to first to make the out. After being struck by the liner McCarthy dropped to the ground and laid prone for a moment. Soon after impact the right-handed pitcher was able to sit up and speak with trainer Nick Paparesta. As the Coliseum went completely silent, McCarthy's teammates and coaches stood around him on the mound before he was able to get up and leave the field. McCarthy's ability to leave the field without assistance was an encouraging sign and surely a relief for many. The frightening moment is a reminder just how vulnerable pitchers are when on the mound. On Tuesday night relief pitcher Sean Doolittle was also hit by a line drive. He was struck on the left shin and was reportedly hobbled after the game. McCarthy allowed three runs, all earned, prior to his departure. The runs all came in the third inning. He gave up a leadoff single to Alberto Callaspo, who was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and a Mike Trout ground out. Callaspo scored on a Torii Hunter single to right field. The next batter was Albert Pujols, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games after he squeezed a double down the third base line that got past a diving Donaldson. The A's chose to take their chances with Howie Kendrick, walking Kendrys Morales to load the bases with two outs. Kendrick came through for the Halos, driving a two-run single to right field, but Morales ran into an out on the play to end the inning. Bullpen ReportTravis Blackley entered in relief of McCarthy. He was given as much time to warm up as needed. The A's long reliever and spot starter kept them in the game. He threw 44 pithes in three innings of scoreless relief. He was able to strand two runners in scoring position in the sixth inning. With runners on second and third with no outs he struck out Mark Trumbo looking and got Aybar to fly out to end the threat. Pat Neshek retired one batter to end the seventh inning. Ryan Cook took over in the eighth frame. He struck out Pujols, walked Morales, then got Kendrick to ground into an inning-ending double play. Cook remained in the game for the ninth, but allowed the Angels to load the bases with no outs.Grant Balfour inherited the bases loaded situation. He walked pinch hitter Maicer Izturis on a close pitch that was called ball four. Balfour responded by striking out Trout looking on a 94-MPH fastball. Hunter then broke open the game with a two-run single up the middle past the outstretched glove of a diving Adam Rosales. Now a 6-1 game, A's manager Bob Melvin brought in Jim Miller. The right-handed pitcher struck out Albert Pujols swinging on a 92-MPH fastball. The Angels then executed a double steal with Hunter taking second and Izturis successfully taking home. Miller eventually ended the inning by getting Morales to ground out to second. At the PlateThe A's put together a third inning rally in response to the Angels' runs. It started with some control problems by Dan Haren. With one out he walked both Derek Norris and Cliff Pennington. The next batter, Coco Crisp, reached on a force attempt after Howie Kendrick didn't even try and touch second after receiving first baseman Kendrys Morales' throw. The Angels argued that Pennington obstructed the throw to no avail. Seth Smith came up next and made the Angels pay for their mistake by driving the first pitch he saw into right field for an RBI single. With the bases loaded Josh Reddick struck out swinging and Yoenis Cespedes grounded out to end the threat. Norris scored the A's first run after a free pass. He ended up with three walks on the day. After Norris' third walk, Brandon Moss entered the game as a pinch hitter and smashed a single to right field. The Angels countered by putting in rookie Nick Maronde. He struck out Crisp and Smith swinging to end the threat. Maronde also struck out Reddick to start the eighth inning. He has retired four batters in his career, all via strikeout. Kevin Jepsen picked up where Maronde left off, striking out Cespedes and Carter to end the eighth inning. A span of five consecutive batters retired via strikeout. In the Field With two on and no outs in the ninth inning, Callaspo laid down a perfect bunt. Donaldson briefly charged the ball before back tracking to third base, while Norris attempted to grab the ball barehanded but couldn't get a grip on it. Norris was charged with an error and the Angels loaded the bases. In the ninth inning with runners on the corners and two outs, the Angels executed a double steal. Miller had the right idea, faking a throw to third as Hunter broke for second, but Drew was late to the bag. As Miller threw the ball to Drew, Izturis broke for home. AttendanceThe A's announced an attendance of 15,404. Dot RaceGold wins the dot race.Up NextThe A's get a day off as they travel to Seattle. On Friday, A.J. Griffin (4-0, 2.26 ERA) takes the mound for Oakland. He will be opposed by Mariners' ace Felix Hernandez (13-6, 2.51 ERA).

A's position outlook: Will three catchers make Opening Day roster?

A's position outlook: Will three catchers make Opening Day roster?

The A’s have options at the catcher position, and with those options come decisions to make.

Figure that manager Bob Melvin and the rest of Oakland’s front office will use the length of spring training to evaluate their catching corps, and the decisions that eventually come down will impact the rest of the roster.

Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley could form a natural left-right platoon, as they did to begin last season. But Phegley is coming off right knee surgery that ended his 2016 season in July and proved more problematic than anticipated as he recovered. His status can’t be adequately judged until camp begins and he’s behind the plate testing his mobility.

Adding intrigue to the catching puzzle was last season’s emergence of Bruce Maxwell, who hit .283 after making his major league debut in July and shows defensive upside.

Might the A’s keep three catchers to begin the season? Melvin acknowledged that possibility when asked about it during the winter meetings. Vogt has played first base and the outfield in the past, so he provides a little flexibility. But keeping him, Phegley and Maxwell would short the A’s roster elsewhere.

There are decisions to make, but a full Cactus League exhibition season should influence how things shake out at catcher.

STARRING CAST: Maxwell’s emergence, and the fact he hits left-handed, made the 32-year-old Vogt a potential trade piece this winter. But the veteran is still an Athletic and has been an All-Star in back-to-back seasons, though his 2016 stats didn’t jump off the page. He hit .251 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI, delivering a much better first half than second half offensively. But Vogt’s biggest value comes with his clubhouse leadership and ability to connect with his pitchers. He’s the unofficial team spokesman, always willing to stand in front of the cameras after a tough loss. His steadying presence is even more important on a team that annually undergoes such heavy roster turnover.

CAMP COMPETITION: Phegley, 28, missed time in May with a strained right knee, then underwent surgery in July to remove a cyst from the knee. That seemed a rather minor procedure, but Phegley was hospitalized in August after developing a case of synovitis, or inflammation in the knee joints. A’s general manager David Forst said recently that Phegley’s offseason rehab has gone well, but Phegley will remain a question mark until he shows he’s full strength throughout camp.

Maxwell, 26, hadn’t played above Double-A before last season. But he impressed at Triple-A Nashville both with his bat and overall defensive skills. After a slow start in the majors, Maxwell hit .367 over his final 20 games. He began showing flashes of the potential the A’s saw when they made him a second-round pick in 2012 out of tiny Birmingham Southern College.

“Bruce is a guy that maybe in the season you didn't expect to see (before) September, and he’s a guy that came in and made an impact defensively and offensively,” Melvin said during the winter meetings. “It's exciting to have a young catcher like that, especially that hits from the left side of the plate to give Stephen some days off. Stephen is a versatile guy where you can DH him some too, maybe even play him at first base on a day that Yonder (Alonso) gets a day off.”

Could the A’s simply go with Vogt and Maxwell at catcher, though both hit left-handed? Again, Phegley’s health could factor prominently.

PAY ATTENTION TO: A catcher the A’s drafted in the third round last summer, Sean Murphy. He’s a non-roster invitee to big league camp. Murphy, who attended Wright State, is said to be a gifted catcher defensively, with mlb.com’s Jim Callis saying last June that Murphy had the strongest arm of any catcher in the 2016 draft.

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."