Bryce Harper deked a runner on Monday and now everyone’s mad at him

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I missed this due to travel and everything, but on Monday, Bryce Haper threw a baserunner out who was trying to stretch a single into a double. It looks as though Harper was sort of lazy getting to the ball and then recovered nicely with a good throw to nail him, but after the game he said he did it on purpose to try to lure the runner into getting greedy. Watch the play and make up your own mind about that:

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I dunno. The simplest explanation is that Harper was just being a tad lazy on a warm spring afternoon, but I wouldn’t put it past him at all to actually deke a runner like he said he did. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that the play pissed everyone off. Manager Matt Williams was displeased, noting that maybe you get a runner like that sometimes, but other times your throw is offline and you just over-thought your team into allowing a runner into scoring position. He’s not wrong about that, of course, and given that Williams seemed relatively even-keeled about it suggests that he’s not losing sleep over it, even if he wanted to send a message to his young outfielder.

A little more on the comical side of things was how ESPN talking heads Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon ran with this on their TV show. You can read the transcript of it all here. They are quite appalled at the laziness/brashness/arrogance/you name it of Mr. Harper.

I suppose you can make arguments either way. I do wonder, however, whether such arguments about a pretty unimportant play in a pretty unimportant game in spring training is really worth all of that hot air, though. On some level, spring training is like practice. And an look, I hear you . . . it’s funny to me too, I mean it’s strange . . . it’s strange to me too, but we’re talking about practice man, we’re not even talking about the game . . . the actual game, when it matters . . . We’re talking about practice.

AL West champion Athletics finally get their playoff series

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Marcus Semien and the Oakland Athletics earned themselves a full playoff series at last as division champions.

For two years now, the A’s have stressed how they absolutely needed to win the AL West to increase their chances of a deep postseason run following consecutive defeats in the wild-card game.

“It’s a little different than last year for us and also in ’18 where it’s just one game and you want to be so perfect and win that game,” Semien said. “It’s a three-game series, we’re at home and play good baseball.”

Oakland gets its shot against the Chicago White Sox in the best-of-three wild-card round having advanced just once during 11 previous playoff trips since 2000, when they reached the 2006 AL Championship Series before being swept by Detroit.

Both clubs navigated a challenging 60-game regular season, bolstered often by their top sluggers. The A’s finished 36-24, Chicago at 35-25.

Oakland will send 22-year-old lefty Jesus Luzardo out to start Game 1 on Tuesday. The White Sox went 14-0 facing left-handed starters this season.

“To be able to do it at a young age is a blessing,” said Luzardo, whose season was briefly delayed by a positive test result for the coronavirus despite never having symptoms. “I hope this is just the first of many.”

Right-hander Lucas Gioloto (4-3), who pitched a no-hitter against the Pirates on Aug. 25, takes the mound for Chicago.

“It’s time to go to work,” Gioloto said of his playoff debut. “This is what we’re playing for. Now that we’re here, it’s a brand new season. Everything that we did up to this point doesn’t matter any more.”

Here are some things to watch for in noon local time games this best-of-three round at the Coliseum, with A’s manager Bob Melvin saying “I don’t like it” regarding the early schedule:

ABREU’S BIG BAT

Jose Abreu hit 19 homers – second in baseball – and topped the majors with 60 RBIs while playing in all 60 games and batting .317. Yes, he averaged an RBI per game.

Chicago lost seven of eight ending the regular season, two on walkoffs.

“It’s a fresh start,” shortstop Tim Anderson said.

Matt Olson led the A’s with 14 homers.

“I think a lot of the teams feel they’re just getting going,” Semien said.

OLD SOX

Semien and right-hander Chris Bassitt, Oakland’s Game 2 starter, both were drafted by the White Sox and came to Oakland in the same December 2014 trade.

The connection might mean a little more if they had played with Chicago recently, but “that was so long ago,” Semien said. He has certainly paid attention to the White Sox from afar.

“They’re going for it this year,” Semien said. “I know a lot of those guys over there, primarily the same coaching staff besides the manager. It’s going to be a battle. It’s nice to be at home. I think we played them well at home in the past. Even though there’s no crowd I just feel like it’s a tough place for an opponent to come into.”

JIMENEZ UPDATE

White Sox manager Rick Renteria sounded optimistic about left fielder Eloy Jimenez playing Game 1 though he has been nursing a sprained right foot that kept him out of the final three games.

Jimenez went through baseball work and was scheduled to run on the field Monday.

“So far so good,” Renteria said of Jimenez’s status in Chicago’s first playoff appearance since 2008. “I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll be able to report something positive.”

LUZARDO’S CHANCE

Luzardo (3-2) has the opportunity to help Oakland get over a big hurdle: advancing. The A’s want to show the baseball world they have the talent to go further – much further.

Sean Manaea returned last September to go 4-0 and earn the wild-card start over Mike Fiers before faltering. Liam Hendriks lost it the previous year at Yankee Stadium.

Luzardo struck out four in three innings of relief in the 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay in last year’s AL wild-card game.

“I think getting my feet wet in postseason baseball last year really will help me a lot throughout this year and moving forward in my career,” he said. “I’m glad that they trusted me and gave me the confidence to go out there and throw three innings last year.”

CHAPMAN MISSED

The A’s are missing a key part of their infield without Gold Glove third baseman Matt Chapman, sidelined by a season-ending hip injury that required surgery. He hit 10 homers and drove in 25 runs.

Midseason additions Tommy La Stella and Jake Lamb have filled key voids.