Entries in A's (107)


A’s Bailey: ‘If we get there, we can do something’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — There’s something different about September baseball, something special. If you’re in the pennant race, and the Athletics very much are.

They won another one Wednesday, not easily, even against a team with the second worst record in the American League, Kansas City.

The A’s scored a run in the 11th, the only run of a 1-0 game, another walkoff win, another confidence builder.

There are bad teams in the majors, but in truth there are no underdogs. It’s all in the pitching, and the Royals had that. So did the A’s, which is why Oakland stayed ahead in the wild card scramble.

At the right time they also had the hitting, Mark Canha doubling home Jurickson Profar. That it was also Canha T-shirt giveaway day seemed appropriate.

Tuesday evening the score was 2-1. That was followed by the Wednesday shutout. Two games and only one run allowed.

You’ve heard the axiom that if the other team doesn’t score it’s impossible to lose. And if it scores only one run, your chances of losing are reduced enormously.

Pitching wins, and from starter Homer Bailey, who was replaced in a 0-0 game after 7 innings, through the three relievers who followed him — J.B. Wendelken earning the victory — the A’s had tremendous pitching.

Now they have a sense of what might be accomplished.

“We played really well against New York and Houston,” said Bailey. “We know if we can kind of get to the dance, we can do something.”

Yes, getting to the dance is a phrase normally used in connection with college basketball, the NCAA tournament, but Bailey is excused. After recording a season high 13 strikeouts, he can say almost anything he wishes.

Bailey came to the A’s from the Royals in a July trade. His best pitch is the split-finger fastball that has batters swinging at what they can’t hit.

“Homer’s much more consistent with his split now,” Royals manager Ned Yost told “He doesn’t miss much to lefties. Curveball was good. He spotted his fastball extremely well. I didn’t see him miss a location all day.”

There was morning rain Wednesday at the Coliseum. Batting practice was called off, and because the field was wet the start was delayed for 28 minutes.

When play finally did begin, however, it virtually flew, eight innings requiring only two hours. Of course, with no runs and few runners, a game should move along.

Whether the 16,714 fans cared doesn’t matter, but most still were around at the final out and waving those Canha T-shirts in celebration.

“They played us tough,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of the Royals. “You could see they were attacking our weak points, but in the end we got the big hit.”

The big hit and the big win. The focus has changed now, for Melvin, for the Athletics.

“The finish line’s in sight,” he said. “You can talk about winning a series early in the season, but now each game is important. Guys step up. It’s a different animal now. Ten games to go. We know our work is cut out for us. We have to try to win every game, not just win a series.”

The A’s won this series from K.C. after a stumble. They came home with six straight wins, a great road trip, very much in control of the wildcard berth. Six straight wins. Then a return to Oakland and a blown ninth-inning lead. Yikes.

But this is a solid Oakland team, one that has beaten the Yankees and Astros. No panic, and lately almost no runs allowed.

The A’s have three games on this last home stand of the regular season, all against the Rangers. Then one more week on the road.

“This is fun,” said Melvin. “I’m even watching scoreboards.”

The rest of us are watching the A’s.


For A’s, was it a Bronx bummer or baseball inevitability?

By Art Spander

NEW YORK — So what do we call DJ LeMahieu? The Bronx Bummer? One swing and the Oakland Athletics fell victim to the law of inevitability, Yankee Stadium variety.

The A’s had played the Yankees four times over the last couple of weeks and won every game. Meaning they were overdue to lose. And in the most agonizing of methods, which is appropriate in baseball.

If you banged your head against the wall for every defeat in major league ball, where at the minimum you’ll drop 60 games a season, you wouldn’t have a wall. And maybe not much of a head either.

Yes, A’s manager Bob Melvin did a bit of what should have been or could have been Saturday after the leadoff and walkoff home run in the 11th by DJ LeMahieu gave the Yankees a 4-3 victory.

Didn’t the A’s leave the bases loaded in the seventh, eighth and ninth? When that happens, even if you scored a run in the seventh, there’s trouble.

Didn’t Aaron Judge soar above the fence in right field in the 10th to steal a probable home from Oakland’s Matt Chapman — "All Rise” is Judge's slogan in New York — after he homered in the eighth to the game?

And didn’t Melvin ruminate about all that? “Chapman has a homer unless you’ve got a 10-foot outfielder in right field,” he mused. (To be accurate, Judge is only 6-7, but a little exaggeration is acceptable.)

This game was a disappointment for the A’s. And a joy for the Yankees, especially since it was played before 44,412 fans in one of the landmark venues in sports. 

Sure the ballpark isn’t the exact one — the House That Ruth Built, erected in 1923, where the Babe and Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio and Mickey played. But this one, finished in 2009, is across the street. And still the only proper way to get there is on the No. 4 subway, with dozens of fans in pinstriped Yankee attire. One was a shrine, the other is a monument.

Everybody knows Yankees history, including ballplayers. New York hasn’t won a World Series for a while, but they are one of the best clubs in the game, a standard by which other teams rate themselves.

“We played really well,” said Homer Bailey, the A’s starting pitcher. He has a sense of perspective. But after going 5.2 innings, allowing two home runs to Gary Sanchez, only two other hits and striking out nine, what Bailey didn’t have was a win or a loss.

“You got two good teams going at each other,” said Bailey. “You can’t win every game. You’re going to lose some tight ones. Sometimes that’s just how it goes.”

Melvin, as a manager who’s trying to keep young players believing, did find the upbeat side of a game that from the Oakland viewpoint would have been at the least a semi-downer. No, you’re not going to sweep the Yankees, so move on was Melvin's idea.

Leaving the bases loaded in three consecutive innings and a total of 15 for the game? “You’re always looking for a silver lining,” said Melvin. “We loaded the bases, which means we're grinding out walks and putting runners in scoring position, not going out one, two three.”  

He also liked the relief performances of Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino, even though Trivino, after keeping the Yankees scoreless in the 10th, gave up LeMahieu’s game-winner in the 11th.

“He was good,” Melvin said of Trivino, “other than that one pitch.” 

Let’s let it stand right there.


Handshakes and headshakes: Champion A’s meet 30 years later

By Art Spander
For Maven Sports

OAKLAND — There were handshakes and, thinking about how quickly 30 years had gone, headshakes. There were joyful words about those who returned, guys you know like Eck, Carney, and Rickey, and mournful talk about those who had passed on, guys you knew like Hendu, Bob Welch and Tony Phillips.

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2019 The Maven


Rollicking A’s on way to the wildest card

By Art Spander
For Maven Sports

OAKLAND — For the Oakland Athletics, it’s the wildest card. They’re winning games when it matters. They’re beating contenders, and that always matters.

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2019 The Maven 


Homer (Bailey) and the homers get A’s win over those Yankees

OAKLAND — They’re still the Yankees, the team with the pinstripes, with the monuments, with the 27 World Series titles, with the 1960s musical comedy about their dominance, “Damn Yankees,” when only the devil could beat them.

It doesn’t matter how they are doing at the any given time — and at this given time, lordy, the Yanks own the best record in the major leagues — the name resonates, the intensity percolates.

“Anytime you play a team like that,” Homer Bailey, the Athletics pitcher said, “it brings a lot of energy to the field. It’s not just who they are as an organization, but who they are this year — one of the better teams in baseball, if not with the best record in the game. It gets you up, makes it fun.”

Bailey was a reason Tuesday night, in the opener of a three-game series at the Coliseum, the Athletics had more fun than the Yankees, winning 6-2.

“I thought he was great,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of Bailey. 

He certainly was persistent. The Yankees make an opposing pitcher work. “They just foul so many balls off,” said Melvin. “The next thing, you’re in an uncomfortable pitch count.”

Yet not in an uncomfortable place on the scoreboard.

Sure, for a moment there, when Gary Sanchez, the third Yankee to come to the plate in the first inning, hit one into the seats, you’re thinking “Bronx Bombers” and all that history.

But like that, the A’s, Matt Olson, with a man on, and Mark Canha hit their own first-inning homers, and Homer and the A’s were back in front.

Which, reminded Melvin, was oh so important, given the opposition and the circumstances.

“The first time we play them this year,” said Melvin, “you can’t help but think back to the last time you played them.”

That would be the 2018 American League Wild card game, a 7-2 New York win that ended Oakland’s season. 

“A bunch of Yankee fans here,” said Melvin about the balance or imbalance of the 21,471 fans Tuesday night. “A raucous crowd. The whole bit. Sanchez gets them out in a hurry. Now we have to answer.

“I think the Olson home run was huge. Then Canha follows it up. You want to start well at home, knowing we play them six times the next 12 games or so. It was nice to get the first game.”

It was imperative. The Yankees were playing as if they had Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle. They were 15-4 in August (now 15-5, of course), had hit 47 home runs in those 19 games and were averaging 5.93 runs a game, the highest in 12 years.

But Bailey, who the A’s obtained in a trade from Kansas City on July 14 — that deal certainly worked — checked all the numbers and took the challenge without blinking. His best pitch is the splitter, the split-finger fastball, an off-speed offering that drops.

“I just kept staying with it,” said Bailey. And the Yankees stayed after it in a manner. “They didn’t hit a ball hard, other than the homer," said Homer.

They did keep making contact, if only with those fouls, so after 5.2 innings (which doesn’t seem like much) and 108 pitches (which is a lot) Bailey was relieved. 

“I just tried to get them out,” said Bailey, who succeeded often enough to get his 11th win. “Then let the offense do what they’ve been doing all year. I tried to make them put the ball in play. I had a few strikeouts, but with this defense it’s not that important.”

Bailey had problems throwing the splitter until July. ”I finally had a better understanding of the pressure points,” he said about gripping the ball. “It’s been working really well.”

Said Melvin, “He pairs it up with the fastball. As the game goes along, he gets better and better.”

Bailey has been a member of the A’s fewer than five weeks, but he’s all in, to borrow a phrase.

  “This is a club that believes it can play with anybody,” said Bailey, “and we’re showing it.”