A’s showing opponents that no lead is safe

29 Comments

Trailing in a game does little to affect the Oakland A’s right now.

They’re operating with supreme offensive confidence, able to overcome deficits with a combination of power, plate discipline and sheer tenacity with each individual at-bat.

It was on display again Wednesday, when they trailed at Yankee Stadium for the second straight night only to come back and notch a victory. This one ended 7-4, as the A’s erased a 4-1 New York lead and ran their winning streak to five games.

[RELATED: Instant Replay: A’s crush it at the plate, beat Yankees 7-4]

In the majors’ most high-profile market, the A’s (37-22) are showing just how they’ve built the American League’s best record. They’re so diverse in the way they can score runs, and that provides a sense that they’re never really out of a game.

To be sure, Oakland’s big boppers have delivered in the first two games of this series. Brandon Moss hit two homers in Tuesday’s 5-2 victory. Yoenis Cespedes added two more Wednesday and Josh Donaldson’s solo shot in the seventh snapped a 4-4 tie.

But it hasn’t just been about the power. The A’s grind out at-bats and draw walks, running up the pitch count and whittling down a pitcher’s patience. Alberto Callaspo didn’t notch a hit in five plate appearances Wednesday, but he turned in two of the most important trips to the plate in the game.

Leading off the fifth, he fell behind 0-2 to Yankees starter Vidal Nuno but battled back for a walk. Callaspo eventually came around to score on Jed Lowrie’s sacrifice fly to cut the A’s deficit to 4-2.

His next at-bat came with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth, with Oakland trailing 4-3. He engaged Matt Thornton in a nine-pitch at-bat, fouling off five consecutive pitches at one point, before lofting a sacrifice fly that tied the game.

That’s been a trait of Callaspo’s in recent games, and it’s winning the switch hitter playing time, whether it’s at first base, second base or designated hitter, as was the case Wednesday.

A’s manager Bob Melvin and hitting coach Chili Davis talk a lot about “passing the baton” and not trying to do too much, allowing teammates to be the heroes. It can sound cliché and hokey, but it also rings true in so many games with the A’s, who lead the majors with 315 runs scored (5.34 per game).

Six different players drove in runs Wednesday, and five different ones scored themselves.

By winning the first two of this three-game series, the A’s go into Thursday’s finale gunning for the sweep against tough right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, but knowing they’ve already captured a series to begin this nine-game road trip.

No doubt, there was more to Wednesday’s story than offense. Right-hander Jesse Chavez shook off a three-run homer he allowed to Jacoby Ellsbury in the third inning and lasted through six. He left things in the hands of a bullpen that has yet to allow a run in 6 2/3 innings this series.

Chavez’s defense also came through for him on his very first hitter, when center fielder Craig Gentry raced into the alley in left-center and made a fearless diving grab to rob Brett Gardner.

It helps when all components of your team are contributing to wins. It also helps when you’ve got so many ways to jump back into a ballgame, as A’s opponents are learning all too well.

Must-read: A profile on former Rays prospect Brandon Martin, currently in jail for alleged murders of three men

Leave a comment

Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times has an outstanding profile of former Rays prospect Brandon Martin, who is currently in jail for allegedly murdering three men nearly two years ago.

Fenno describes Martin’s erratic personality as he became a highly-touted baseball prospect who then descends into drug use. Friends described Martin has having completely changed into an unrecognizable person. Martin had repeated conflicts with friends and family such that police reports became common and he was placed in a psychiatric facility. Sadly, the facility only held him for less than 48 hours. He would allegedly murder three people upon returning home: his father, his brother-in-law, and a home security system contractor. Martin fled from police, who eventually caught up to him and subdued him with the help of a police dog.

Fenno’s profile is really worth a read, so click here to check it out.

Martin, 23, was selected by the Rays in the first round (38th overall) of the 2011 draft. He spent three years in the Rays’ system, reaching as high as Single-A Bowling Green.

Pedro Martinez: “If I was pitching, I was going to drill Machado, as much as I love him.”

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
6 Comments

On Sunday, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes was ejected for throwing at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado‘s head. It was revenge for a slide of Machado’s which ended up injuring Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Barnes was suspended four games.

Hall of Famer and former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez said that if he were in Barnes’ shoes, he would have also thrown at Machado, although not necessarily at his head. Via ESPN’s Scott Lauber:

If I was pitching, I was going to drill Machado, as much as I love him. The only thing I would’ve done differently is probably bring the ball a little bit lower.

Martinez added that Machado “did not intend to hurt Pedroia. And I know that because I know Machado.” And he doesn’t think Barnes meant to throw at Machado’s head.

Martinez, of course, was certainly a pitcher who wasn’t afraid to pitch inside to batters and even hit a few of them when he felt he or his teammates had been wronged. This is an unfortunate part of baseball’s culture and the fact that it continues means that it will eventually result in someone being seriously hurt. It’s disappointing that Martinez isn’t willing to be a better role model now that his playing days are over. Martinez could have set an example for today’s pitchers by saying what Barnes did crossed a line. Getting a Hall of Famer’s seal of approval will only embolden players now when they feel they must defend their teammates’ honor.

The “tradition” of beaning batters to defend one’s teammates is anachronistic in today’s game, especially when Major League Baseball has made strides in so many other ways recently to protect players’ safety.