“Clutch Norris” leads A’s three-headed catching monster

5 Comments

OAKLAND — There is one lone sticker on the nameplates in the A’s locker room. It boasts the words “Clutch Norris” above Derek Norris’ stall.

Never have the words been more true than Tuesday night when the catcher came off the bench in the sixth inning and collected the team’s final five RBI over two at-bats, including the game winner.

He became the 21st player and fourth Athletic in MLB history to enter the game as a substitute and collect at least five RBI, joining fellow A’s Mickey Tettleton, Erubiel Durazo (2004) and Seth Smith (2012) on the short list.

“That doesn’t really happen too often,” Norris acknowledged after his fourth career pinch-hit home run. “Never had a five-RBI game off the bench.”

But Norris was only one of three catchers to contribute in the A’s 10-6 win over Yu Darvish and the rival Rangers.

[RECAP: A’s 10, Rangers 6]

Norris, Stephen Vogt and John Jaso combined to go 7-for-8 with seven RBI and three runs in support of winning pitcher Tommy Milone.

“It’s a lot of fun right now,” Milone said after extending his career high-tying winning streak to five games. “Especially when they’re all in the lineup together, it seems like they are all producing.”

“It’s awesome,” said Vogt. “It’s a three-headed … catching … situation.”

It sounded like he wanted to call the catching trio a “three-headed monster” and resisted, but it wouldn’t have been an overstatement.

“We have three guys that could start in a number of places,” Melvin said. “It’s a luxury.”

Still, after pinning Darvish with his eighth loss in 10 starts against Oakland, the A’s are not ready to claim they’ve figured him out.

“We’re fortunate,” Melvin said after the game. “As far as that quality a pitcher that you end up having success against, I’d have to think for a while.”

Darvish, who can take solace in reaching the 600-strikeout milestone in the first inning, is now 0-2 with a 7.02 ERA in three starts against the A’s this year. He’s lost eight of 10 career starts against Oakland.

“I don’t know what it is about Darvish’s style that just fits into our hitting pattern,” Norris said. “One through nine, that guy was just grinding. Every guy that came up, it was a battle.

“I can only imagine that it can be a little frustrating. Sometimes good pitchers just have that one kryptonite team.”

The sticker above Norris’ locker might as well have have read “Superman” on Tuesday.

Dodgers clinch NL’s top seed, West title with win over A’s

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

Wrapping up an NL West title has become routine for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but in a year in which no one was sure three months ago if there would be a baseball season, manager Dave Roberts wanted his team to still savor the moment.

The Dodgers clinched the NL’s top postseason seed and eighth straight division title Tuesday night with a 7-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. They are third team to win at least eight straight division titles, joining the Atlanta Braves (14 straight from 1991-2005) and New York Yankees (nine straight from 1998-2006).

“To fast forward a couple months and be crowned NL West champs is a credit to everyone. It should never be taken for granted,” Roberts said. “Truth be told a lot of guys didn’t know we could clinch. We were responsible but I let it know that it has to be appreciated.”

The Dodgers, who own the best record in the majors at 39-16, were the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff berth on Sept. 16. They will open postseason play on Sept. 30 by hosting every game in a best-of-three series against the No. 8 seed.

Los Angeles came into the day with a magic number of two and got help with the Angels’ 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

Instead of a wild celebration on the mound after Jake McGee struck out Sean Murphy for the final out, players briskly walked out of the dugout to celebrate with teammates. Everyone grabbed a division clinching shirt and cap before heading to the mound for a group photo.

The clubhouse celebration was also muted. Champagne was still involved, but it was players toasting each other with a glass instead of being showered in it.

“We talked about it instead of dumping stuff on people. It’s a moment you need to celebrate and we did,” said Corey Seager, who had three hits and one of Los Angeles’ four home runs, “It stinks not being able to do champagne and beer showers because some of the younger guys haven’t been able to experience that.”

Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and AJ Pollock also went deep for Los Angeles, which leads the majors with 104 home runs.

“This whole year has been weird. There’s no other way to describe it,” Muncy said. “It’s sad not to be celebrate as usual but we know there is a lot more at stake.”

Dustin May (2-1) went five innings and allowed two runs on three hits. The 22-year-old red-headed righty set a team record by not allowing more than three earned runs in his first 13 career starts, which include 10 this season.

Robbie Grossman homered for Oakland, which clinched its first AL West crown in seven years on Monday during a day off. The Athletics, in the postseason for the third straight year, currently are the AL’s No. 3 seed.

Mark Canha had two of Oakland’s five hits.

Seager tied it at 1 in the first with an RBI single and then led off the fifth with a drive to center off T.J. McFarland to extend LA’s lead to 6-2.

Muncy gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead in the third inning with a two-run homer. Taylor and Pollock extended it with solo shots in the fourth off Oakland starter Frankie Montas (3-5).

Grossman quickly gave Oakland a 1-0 lead when he homered off the left-field pole in the first inning. Sean Murphy briefly gave the Athletics a 2-1 advantage when he led off the third with a walk and scored on a wild pitch by May with two outs.

Montas, who allowed only four home runs in his first seven starts, has given up six in his past three. The right-hander went four innings and yielded five runs on seven hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

“They’re a pretty good team that when you make mistakes, they make you pay,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “They’re pretty good laying off and making you throw it over the plate. They made Montas pay, unfortunately.”

Cody Bellinger added two hits for the Dodgers, including an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh.

ATHLETICS ADVANCE

The A’s have a team text thread they used to celebrate clinching their first AL West title since 2013 during their off day Monday, when the Mariners beat Houston.

“We didn’t really celebrate too much yet. It’s exciting,” Chad Pinder said. “We wanted to do it on our own terms. We still won the division and that was our goal. It’s nice to know we’ll be playing home for the series.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Athletics: INF/OF Pinder (strained right hamstring) planned to run at Dodger Stadium and test his leg with hopes of still playing before the conclusion of the regular season. …. RHP Daniel Mengden has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. He was designated for assignment after being medically cleared and reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list following a positive test from Aug. 28.

Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner was scratched from the lineup less than an hour before first pitch due to left hamstring discomfort He came off the injured list on Sept. 15 and has not played in the field since Aug. 28. … Joc Pederson was in the lineup at DH after missing five games while on the family emergency medical list. Roberts said before the game that he wasn’t sure if Pederson will remain with the team during the entire postseason.

UP NEXT

Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea (4-3, 4.50) is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA over his last five starts dating to Aug. 20.

Dodgers: LHP Julio Urias (3-0, 3.49) will make his team-leading 11th start.

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports