A’s break off talks with Japanese righty Hisashi Iwakuma

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A bit of a shocker here.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that talks have “broken off” between the A’s and Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma.

The A’s bid $15 million in early November for the right to negotiate exclusively with Iwakuma, but Slusser says that he was looking for “Barry Zito type” money and Oakland declined to take that risk.  Zito landed a seven-year, $126 million from the Giants before the start of the 2007 season.

Iwakuma, 29, posted a 2.81 ERA in 201 innings this year for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.  He had a career year in 2008 when he registered a 21-4 record and 1.87 ERA to win the Pacific League MVP.

The righty will head back to Japan for 2011.  If he again posts great numbers, he could try to break into Major League Baseball next winter.

Oakland traded starter Vin Mazzaro to the Royals this fall for outfielder David DeJesus with the idea of making room in the starting rotation for Iwakuma.  They do have some depth, but it’s quite possible that GM Billy Beane will be active on the free agent market this winter in order to fill the hole left by Iwakuma’s decision.  If the A’s don’t add a starter, Bobby Cramer, Josh Outman and Tyson Ross will probably battle for the final rotation spot in spring training.

Video: Albert Almora, Jr. saved by the ivy

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The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.

After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.

Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.