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9:50PM

Dramatic A’s win, and now Coliseum belongs to Raiders

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — That’s it for baseball at Oakland. This year, at least. A dramatic conclusion, a successful end. Now the Coliseum will be in sole possession of the Raiders.

The pitching rubber was dug out almost before the before the ball Mark Canha smacked in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday cleared the left field fence.

The next day or two, the infield will disappear. No more dirt. No more ground balls. No more home runs. Until next spring.

Until baseball returns to the East Bay.

Before that, the merchants and politicians can debate the proposed A’s stadium near Lake Merritt that, knowing how things work in Nor Cal — or maybe that should be don’t work — might never be constructed.

Whatever, the ball club has been built — and disassembled and rebuilt — and with only four road games remaining this season of ’17, all against the Rangers, the A's seem destined to be considerably better in the years ahead. Depending on the whims and needs of the front office.

It’s a long season. We know that, 162 games, from the end of March until the end of September. Yet, it’s not the grind we remember, it’s the moments.

The little things. Franklin Barreto, sprinting around the bases in the third — “out of the box, running hard,”  said A’s manager Bob Melvin — a double and getting to third on an error. He would score on Jed Lowrie’s sacrifice fly.

The big things. Canha, a Cal guy as is Melvin, hitting his second walk-off of the year, on a 1-0 pitch in the last of the ninth that gave Oakland a 6-5 win over Seattle, which Melvin in so many words indicated was huge.

This had been a good month, September, 14-10 for an A’s team with a bad overall record, 72-85. But add a victory in each category.

”We had a lot of good things going, and then to get swept the last series at home ... ” sighed Melvin. Which, after dropping the first two games to Seattle and then losing a two-run, eighth-inning lead Wednesday, appeared a strong possibility.

Then Canha came to bat with one out, nobody on and the score tied, 5-5. He was 0-for-8 in the series. Wham. He was 1-for-9 and being swarmed at home plate by jubilant teammates.

“It was a fun way to end it,” he said.

An appropriate way to end it, according to Melvin. This was the A’s 11th walkoff win of the season (out of the 73 so far) and the eighth by a homer.

Yet Melvin didn’t approach it as enjoyment as much as relief.

“We’ve been consistent at home all year,” said Melvin, “and to get swept the last series would have been pretty disheartening. And of course we wanted to win for our home fans on this last day."

Few as there might have been, the announced attendance of 13,132 perhaps a bit misleading. But the gate was not the issue, the game result was.

Finale or not, it still was an autumn, midweek afternoon game against a team with talent but not much charisma. Maybe not even the Yankees or Red Sox would draw, given the particulars.

The A’s players found contentment in the score and their contribution.

“I had a tough series until (the home run),” said Canha. He’s from San Jose and Bellarmine Prep. After Cal, he was taken by the Miami Marlins, then chosen in the Rule 5 draft by Colorado, which traded him to Oakland for Austin House. Canha led the A’s in home runs in spring training 2015 and that year led all American League rookies in RBIs.

But 2016 brought hip surgery, and then this year he was optioned to Nashville April 15. He came back. In a big way, a walkoff home run in May, and now another.

“It happened so fast,” he said of the pitch from Shane Simmons and the swing that produced only his fifth homer of the year. “It’s been an up-and-down season for us as a team and for me personally. Nice to cap it off with that.”

Very, very nice.

8:03AM

One day, but a day of homers and brilliance for the A’s

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — Sometimes you have to take a day out of context, have to appreciate what happened in those few innings or few hours, forget about what it means in the great scheme of things, the standings, the record book, and revel in what happened.

At the Coliseum on maybe the warmest Saturday of the season — the temperature hit 80 — and for the Oakland Athletics unquestionably the most exciting, seemingly everything happened, from a ton of home runs to an 8-3 victory over the Red Sox that all but silenced all those expatriate New Englanders.

Fine pitching? Absolutely. From Oakland starter Sean Manea, who went five innings, allowed three runs and got the win (he’s now 2-3), and relievers Frankie Montas and Josh Smith, who extended the A’s bullpen streak of scoreless innings at home to 25.

Power hitting? Certainly. Four Oakland home runs, including one to dead center in the fifth by Chad Pinder that landed in the seats of the plaza level, some 460 feet away. He joins Mark McGwire, Larry Walker and Jarrett Parker to have landed balls there in the lower region of Mt. Davis since the area opened in 1996.

Consternation? Indeed. A’s manager Bob Melvin was angry after a ruling in the second on a ball that was thrown by Boston catcher Christian Vazquez (for an error) into the right field visitors bullpen. Everyone believed that Melvin argued because he wanted an extra base, but he said after being ejected by crew chief Mike Winters that he had another issue.

The A’s are last in the American League West. Boston is in the middle of the AL East. So this one didn’t exactly quite change the standings. But it was wonderful for entertainment, and isn’t that what we most demand of sports?

The Red Sox fans who once filled the Coliseum are not quite what they used to be, in numbers or voice. Game one of this four-game series Thursday night drew only around 14,000 people — a number that you might expect for the Rangers. The gate was 24,378 Friday night, but Saturday, as fine an afternoon as one could imagine, there were only 20,235. Did Red Sox Nation shrink?

Oakland had home runs by Jed Lowrie, Khris Davis, Mark Canha and that monster by Pinder. Well, shrugged Melvin, when the A’s are hitting, that’s their game. Especially when the weather is hot. Over the years, the cold nights in Oakland cost Reggie Jackson, Jose Canseco and McGwire so many chances on balls that were hit hard. But on a day like Saturday, everything takes off — as Melvin agreed.

”Everybody just sat up and watched,” said Manea. “We had a good time in the dugout. Never seen a ball hit as far as Pinder hit. He’s really built.”

Melvin said Pinder is no surprise, although he hardly expected that sort of shot. “Everybody raved about him,” Melvin said. “We just have to find a position for him.” On Saturday Pinder was the designated hitter — emphasis on the word hitter.

Pinder’s homer followed those of Canha and Khris Davis in a five-run A’s fifth. There were some walks and a single in the mix. What do we call these guys, the Lash Brothers?

"Day games, the ball carries a little more, but I don't know if any of them would have been affected," said Melvin. "It seems like they got longer and longer. Canha crushed that ball. K.D. (Khris Davis not Kevin Durant, Warriors fans), we've seen it, and the Pinder one, I don't even know how to explain that.

Neither does Pinder, but he doesn’t need to. "It's one of those swings where you kind of just black out," Pinder said. "You see it and you hit it, and you don't know what happens after."

What happens is the ball goes forever, and people who have seen it grab their head in disbelief. Including Khris Davis, who now has 13 homers himself.

"That was amazing," Davis said of the Pinder bomb. "He's got a great swing. That was impressive."

So, on this warm day of excitement and long balls, were the Oakland A’s.

9:27AM

A’s not going anyplace — except maybe in the standings

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — “Rooted in Oakland.” That’s the A’s slogan, their implied promise. “We ain’t going anywhere, people,” they’re telling us. Unlike the Raiders. Unlike the Warriors.

Except, with good fortune, going up the American League standings.

It’s different on this side of the bay. No ballpark by the water. No Frank Sinatra recording of “Strangers in the Night” in the top of the seventh. Hey, when the announced attendance is only 11,383, nobody’s a stranger.

The A’s dropped one on Tuesday night to the Angels, 7-3. Three walk-off wins in a row and then a loss. Anyone in baseball gladly would accept that statistic.

Especially the Giants. They’re awful, and becoming more awful. They can’t win any, never mind three in a row.

The A’s? The Royals? The Blue Jays? No, the San Francisco Giants have the worst record in the majors. They lost opening day, and there went the season.

About the time the A’s were coming out for batting practice Tuesday, just after 4 p.m., the Giants, having played only two innings against the Mets in New York, were behind, 5-0, the score posted on the right field board even though nobody but players and workers were inside the Coliseum.

Somebody not in uniform was heard to comment, “Unbelievable.”

As if anything in baseball really is.

The Yankees and Cubs play 18 innings in one of those absurd ESPN Sunday night games that ended at 1:05 a.m. in Chicago, the Yankees then flying to Cincinnati, arriving at 5 a.m. and playing that night. The A’s win consecutive games in the final inning by a home run.

Yonder Alonso hit a couple home runs Tuesday night for Oakland. Maybe he’s on his way to becoming a star. Maybe he’s on his way to another team. With the A’s, one never knows.

The often-repeated theory held here is that with cars, wine or ballplayers one gets what he or she pays for. Sometimes you get a kid before he’s eligible for the big contract or vino the critics haven’t reviewed, but that’s not the norm.

So if the A’s, with their 2017 payroll of some $75 million — it’s still higher than those of the Rays, Padres and Brewers — are doing as well or as poorly as might be imagined, the Giants and their $170 million payroll are a disaster. Well, they’d be a disaster no matter how much money they earned.

Nostalgia is big at the Coliseum, as it should be. There’s Rickey Henderson Field, a wise public relations idea — and in the pre-game home clubhouse, there’s Rickey his ownself, chattering, laughing, lending as much credibility and direction as possible.

The wall of the walkway through which the athletes pass on their way to the clubhouse is lined with photos of everyone who played for the A’s, even if as brief as a season, elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Dennis Eckersley, Reggie Jackson and, of course, Henderson.

Past and present mingle beneath the framework of a stadium that management hopes to replace with a new ballpark. On the waterfront, perhaps. Or on the very site of the Coliseum. But definitely in Oakland.

The questions of when and where have persisted virtually from the time the A’s arrived in 1968. That was 10 years after the Giants, who — and isn’t this ironic, now having become established at AT&T Park? — moved to a ballpark accurately described as the worst in America, Candlestick Park.

The A’s were going to Denver. The A’s were going to Las Vegas. The A’s were going to San Jose. But they’re still in Oakland and seemingly will be for a long while.

Wonderful.

 

9:19AM

SportsXchange: Athletics defeat Rangers behind Triggs

By Art Spander
SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif  — The Texas Rangers had their ace, and for five innings Yu Darvish pitched exactly as everyone, including his manager, knew he could. The problem for the Rangers is they were facing X-factor, Andrew Triggs, who nobody suspected would win this pitchers' duel. 

Triggs was up and back last season, a reliever who couldn't quite stay on the Oakland Athletics' roster. Then, the decision was made to make him a starter. So far, the decision has been brilliant.

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2017 SportsXchange

9:31AM

SportsXchange: Dueling skids on line as Rangers visit A's

By Art Spander
SportsXchange

OAKLAND — Fans know the operative term when teams start poorly, to wit, "It's early." 

Literally yes, only two weeks into a major league season that extends six months. Still, early or late, the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers, who on Monday night begin a three-game series at the Oakland Coliseum, are going in the wrong direction. 

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2017 SportsXchange