Bay Area Baseball

Follow the latest news and notes on the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics

October 22, 2013
Giants, Lincecum agree to terms on two-year deal

The Giants and right-hander Tim Lincecum have agreed to terms on a deal that will keep one of the team's most familiar faces in orange and black for at least the next two seasons.

TIM.jpegThe parties agreed to terms on a two-year deal covering the 2014-15 seasons pending a physical, a team official announced today. The date of the physical is still to be determined.

Terms of the deal were not announced, though multiple outlets reported the deal is for $35 million. Lincecum (pictured), the two-time Cy Young Award winner, is 89-70 with a 3.46 ERA in seven seasons in his career with the Giants and went 10-14 with a 4.37 ERA in 2013.

Lincecum was due to become a free agent for the first time in his career. He went 20-29 over the last two seasons but remained adamant toward the end of this past season that he wants to remain a starter for now and did throw his first career no-hitter against the San Diego Padres in July.

The Giants have now taken care of their top two offseason priorities, per general manager Brian Sabean in his end-of-season news conference. The Giants also inked right fielder Hunter Pence to a five-year deal just before the season ended.

Video: Lincecum celebrates throwing a no-hitter:

Tim Lincecum's career major league statistics.

- Matt Kawahara

October 11, 2013
What made Verlander so tough in Game 5?

OAKLAND -- Thursday night marked the eighth game in which A's third baseman Josh Donaldson has faced Justin Verlander in his career. The first seven included Verlander's complete-game shutout in Game 5 of last year's ALDS, his seven scoreless innings in Game 2 this year, a seven-inning, two-hit outing in a regular-season game last May and another regular-season game last September in which Verlander threw six innings and did not give up a run.

And Donaldson still had this to say about Verlander's performance in Thursday's Game 5 -- eight shutout innings that lifted the Tigers to a 3-0 win and a third consecutive ALCS: "That was the best I've seen him."

Verlander did not allow a baserunner until Josh Reddick's one-out walk in the sixth and didn't give up a hit until Yoenis Cespedes grounded a single back up the middle with two outs in the seventh. He allowed two hits total and struck out 10. He threw 111 pitches.

Among them were his normal assortment of mid-90s fastballs, big-breaking curves and the occasional changeup diving away from left-handers. It is an assortment of pitches the A's have gotten very familiar with over the past few seasons and yet -- when it's mattered most -- have not been able to conquer.

October 10, 2013
A's season ends with 3-0 loss in Game 5 to Tigers, Verlander

OAKLAND -- For three innings Thursday, Game 5 of the American League Division Series felt like a continuation of Game 2 the previous week, with two hard-throwing right-handers trading zeroes and a tense crowd hanging on every pitch.

And then Sonny Gray, the precocious A's rookie, blinked first, allowing a two-run home run to Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera with one out in the fourth. And after that, it began to resemble a more distant, less pleasant memory for the A's.

The Tigers' Justin Verlander, who nearly a year ago to the day in this same park threw a four-hit shutout in Game 5 of the 2012 A.L. Division Series, dropped the curtain on the A's season again Thursday. This time, Verlander allowed two hits over eight scoreless innings to pitch the Tigers into the A.L. Championship Series for the third consecutive year, while the A's saw their season end in a 3-0 loss at the Coliseum.

It was a quieting finish to a series the A's had been within nine outs of winning in Game 4, when they held a one-run lead going into the seventh inning only to see the Tigers pull out an 8-6 win. It ended a season in which the A's won 96 regular-season games, second-most in the American League, following their surprise run to the 2012 postseason with a year that seemed to indicate that was no fluke.

October 10, 2013
A's pre-game: Callaspo in; Colon unlikely for relief in Game 5

OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin said he went to bed early last night "just to make sure I got a few hours" before his team's winner-take-all ALDS game today against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. It was about 9 p.m., he said, and by that time he had a pretty good idea of the lineup he'd run out against Verlander today, which features a few changes from Game 4.

The main change: Alberto Callaspo, not Eric Sogard, will start at second base. Callaspo had an impressive at-bat against Max Scherzer in the eighth inning of Game 4 -- missing a double down the left-field line by about a foot and eventually lining out to center -- and Melvin said "all his at-bats in this series have been good."

"What you try to weigh is whether or not you need to get him four at-bats or if you want to try to pick a spot for him," Melvin said. "And in this particular game it came down to getting him multiple at-bats."

Melvin gave a similar reason for batting Yoenis Cespedes fourth today, Seth Smith fifth and Brandon Moss sixth -- "Particularly in Game 5, you're looking to try to get your best lineup, your hottest hitters, up there as many times as you can."

Here's the full A's lineup:

October 9, 2013
A's tab Gray over Colon for ALDS Game 5 start

OAKLAND -- The A's and manager Bob Melvin opted to go with the hot hand for Game 5 of the ALDS against the Tigers. Melvin said on a conference call today that Sonny Gray (pictured) will start Thursday night against the Tigers' Justin Verlander, tabbing the rookie for the winner-take-all game over veteran and 18-game winner Bartolo Colon.

GRAY.jpeg"Obviously we had two great options there with Bartolo and we looked at it a bunch of different angles," Melvin said. "Really the short of it is it came down to Sonny's last game that he pitched in similar conditions in our ballpark."

Gray went toe-to-toe with Verlander in Game 2 of the series, throwing eight scoreless innings to keep the A's in a game they eventually won on Stephen Vogt's walk-off single in the ninth. Melvin said it was Gray's performance and demeanor in that game in a high-pressure situation and in front of a raucous crowd -- in just his 11th major-league start -- that was the chief reason for going with Gray over Colon.

October 8, 2013
Deja vu: A's will face Verlander again in winner-take-all Game 5

DETROIT -- One effect of Max Scherzer's dramatic two-inning relief appearance in Game 4 of the ALDS on Tuesday night: If the A's are going to win this series and move on to the ALCS, they'll have to do what they could not last year, win a winner-take-all Game 5 at home in which they'll face Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander.

The A's, of course, were in this same position after winning Games 3 and 4 of last year's ALDS to set up a decisive fifth game at the Coliseum. Verlander threw a complete-game shutout to send the Tigers to the ALCS and end the A's season.

The A's did win the one game Verlander started in this series -- Game 2 -- but they didn't exactly beat Verlander himself. Verlander pitched seven shutout innings, striking out 11 in a game the A's won 1-0 in the ninth on Stephen Vogt's walk-off single.

In fact, Verlander has not allowed a run to the A's in 22 consecutive postseason innings dating back to Game 1 of last year's series. The 2011 Cy Young winner and MVP will be pitching on normal rest, one reason Tigers manager Jim Leyland felt comfortable using Scherzer in relief Tuesday in Detroit's 8-6 win.

October 8, 2013
Reddick, umpire differ on seventh-inning home run

DETROIT -- A's right fielder Josh Reddick said he believed "100 percent" he would have had a play on Victor Martinez's game-tying home run in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the A.L. Division Series, had a fan not touched the ball first.

Martinez tied the game at 4-4 when he hit an outside fastball from reliever Sean Doolittle that just cleared the top of the wall in right field. After attempting a leaping catch at the wall, Reddick landed and immediately began pointing toward the fans beyond the railing.

Umpires ruled the play a home run on the field, then upheld the call after reviewing it at the request of A's manager Bob Melvin. Replays showed a fan reached over the railing above the top of the wall and touched the ball, but that even without that contact the ball likely still would have landed above the yellow line designating a home run.

Reddick's frustration stemmed from the fact he thought he could have caught the ball. "I looked at it on the replay," he said, "and I had no doubt before I even looked that it was going into my glove."

Right-field umpire and crew chief Gary Darling disagreed in his explanation of the call.

"It was clear he was not going to catch the ball, so it was clearly going to be a home run," Darling told a pool reporter. "There wasn't any other evidence on replay to turn it another way."

October 8, 2013
Tigers force decisive fifth game in ALDS, defeat A's 8-6

DETROIT -- The A's had already struck once against Max Scherzer and seemed to have the Tigers' tall right-hander on the ropes again, trailing by one but with the bases loaded and nobody out in the eighth inning Tuesday night. And then, A's catcher Stephen Vogt said, something about Scherzer seemed to change.

"You could see his demeanor, as soon as the bases were loaded, he just got better," Vogt said. "He gritted down and said, 'Nope.'"

With the potential tying run 90 feet from home plate and the A's one win from clinching this A.L. Division Series, Scherzer, the 21-game winner summoned in relief, retired the next three A's hitters in order to preserve what was then a 5-4 lead. The Tigers then held on late for an 8-6 win to force a winner-take all Game 5 Thursday at the Coliseum.

It dropped the A's to 1-11 in their last 12 potential postseason clinchers dating back to the 1990 World Series. Now, for the second year in a row, the A's will face Detroit's Justin Verlander at home in an elimination game for both teams, with Oakland's starter -- either veteran Bartolo Colon or rookie Sonny Gray -- yet to be determined.

"It's a lost opportunity to win today," said A's center fielder Coco Crisp. "It's not a lost opportunity to win the entire series. We still have another game. We get to play in front of our fans. And we'll try to make the most of it."

October 8, 2013
Reddick: A's have 'all the confidence in the world' for Game 4

DETROIT -- Needing one win to clinch their ALDS against the Tigers, the A's are going with the same lineup as in Game 3 today behind right-hander Dan Straily. That lineup finally broke out Monday with three home runs against A.L. ERA leader Anibal Sanchez, and will face another tough right-hander today in Doug Fister, who went 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA during the regular season.

"Fister's no easy challenge, but we have all the confidence in the world after beating Anibal Sanchez and we feel like we can come in here and do a good job of battling against these guys," right fielder Josh Reddick said today. "It's a tough task ... but we're the team with the momentum in our favor and they're the team with their backs against the wall."

Manager Bob Melvin, for one, isn't taking anything for granted. Tigers manager Jim Leyland was asked before the game what his tentative pitching plans are for a potential Game 5 on Thursday in Oakland. Leyland said he hopes to have Max Scherzer ready to go, but he added he might consider using Scherzer in relief today if the Tigers were to have a late lead and Scherzer felt OK in pre-game warm-ups.

The Tigers would still be able to start Justin Verlander in Game 5 on regular rest. Melvin, meanwhile, was asked whom he would use to start Thursday and responded: "I'm not even thinking about Game 5 right now. We've got to get through this one." Melvin did say he would not consider using Bartolo Colon in relief today.

The full A's lineup against Fister looks like this:

October 7, 2013
One win from ALCS, A's do their best to remain 'business-like'

OAKLAND -- Speaking statistically, historically and in just plain common sense, the A's put themselves in a much better position by winning Game 3 of their A.L. Division Series against the Tigers on Monday.

The A's lead the series 2-1 and are one win from advancing to the ALCS. Previously in the franchise's history, the A's had taken a 2-1 lead in 14 postseason series and gone on to win 11 of those series. They had fallen behind 1-2 six times and never come back to win any of them.

"It's where you want to be," catcher Stephen Vogt acknowledged. "Just having a chance to take it in Game 4, that's where you want to be. Once you have the advantage, you can hopefully take advantage of that and finish it."

That was about as positive an outlook as any A's player allowed Monday regarding their situation going into Tuesday's Game 4. Reliever Sean Doolittle characterized the mood in the clubhouse as "very businesslike," and it certainly seemed that way, with the normal loud music playing after a win but little else to suggest the A's might be on the verge of moving on.

October 7, 2013
Smith, seldom used in September, leads Game 3 power surge

OAKLAND -- Seth Smith's name in the A's lineup was a rare sight in September, when the veteran outfielder started just seven games. Still, when he did play, he was productive at the plate, going 11-for-28 with five extra-base hits in the month.

After not playing in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Tigers, Smith collected two hits in Game 2, and manager Bob Melvin wrote him into the lineup again Monday. It didn't hurt that Smith entered the game 7-for-19 in his career against Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez, with three of the hits being home runs.

Smith responded Monday with two more hits off Sanchez, including a two-run homer in the fifth inning that gave the A's a 6-3 lead -- which held up as the final score -- and got Sanchez out of the game after 4 1/3 innings and 101 pitches.

"In my career I've got practice at not playing for a while and then playing," Smith said, referencing his time as a part-time player in Colorado. "It's the big leagues, especially now it's the postseason, and you're expected to get the job done regardless of what you're asked to do."

October 7, 2013
Balfour on bench-clearing: '(Martinez) gave me the death stare'


DETROIT -- Grant Balfour's habit of stalking around the mound and screaming when he pitches has been termed the "Balfour rage" in Oakland. While teammates and Balfour say the A's closer is usually trying to fire himself up, it appeared Monday to rub an opponent the wrong way.

Balfour saved the A's 6-3 win in Game 3 of the ALDS with a scoreless ninth that also featured a brief bench-clearing centered around Balfour and Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez. After Martinez fouled back Balfour's 1-2 pitch, the two stared at each other before exchanging words and starting toward each other, prompting the interlude.

Balfour said he took exception to Martinez giving him "the death stare" after the pitch.

"He had the eyes locked on me like he wanted to come out," Balfour said. "So I said, hey man, you want to stare me down like that and you got a problem, then come on out."

The Detroit Free Press, meanwhile, reported that Martinez said he got upset after Balfour said: "What the (expletive) are you looking at?" Martinez reportedly said he refused to be "intimidated" by Balfour.

October 7, 2013
A's hit three home runs in 6-3 win, move within a win of ALCS

OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin said Monday morning he didn't think his lineup or that of the Detroit Tigers would lay dormant forever after combining for six runs over the first two games of this A.L. Division Series.

"Both teams have good offenses," Melvin said. "And you would expect both to break out a little bit more."

The A's then did just that against the league's ERA leader in the regular season, Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez, hitting three home runs off Sanchez during a 6-3 win at Comerica Park to move within one win of taking the series and advancing to the ALCS.

Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Seth Smith all homered off Sanchez, and right-hander Jarrod Parker and three relievers combined to hold the Tigers scoreless outside of a three-run fourth inning. It's the 15th time the A's have taken a 2-1 lead in a postseason series; of the previous 14, they've gone on to win 11 times.

Grant Balfour, who blew a save here in August, closed the game with a scoreless ninth. Both benches cleared in the inning after Balfour threw a 1-2 pitch to Victor Martinez that Martinez fouled back. Balfour and Martinez began barking at one another and walking toward each other, which prompted the brief interlude in which no punches were thrown.

October 7, 2013
ALDS Game 3 lineups: An early start in Detroit

DETROIT -- When the A's hit the field at Comerica Park for warm-ups before Game 3, it was just after 11 a.m. local time and the scoreboard read 49 degrees with a chilly wind blowing from right to left field. Third baseman Josh Donaldson drained a Mountain Dew before starting to stretch. Odds are the people already occupying seats at Comerica Park are leaving chairs in other locations -- offices, schools -- empty.

In short, it's early. First pitch is scheduled for 10:07 a.m. PT. The good news is that, after some substantial rain in the area yesterday evening, the sun has been in and out for most of the morning, though forecasts still say there's a chance of showers in the afternoon.

"Not much we can do about it," A's manager Bob Melvin said of the early start time. "It's not ideal. But both teams have to play in the same conditions, same time."

Both offenses have looked pretty groggy anyway through the first two games of the series with the A's striking out 29 times in two games and the Tigers having not scored in their last 17 innings. For the A's, Melvin said there's no reason not to stay patient with his regulars -- particularly Brandon Moss, who has six strikeouts in the first two games -- and said he does expect the lineup to break out at some point.

October 6, 2013
Vogt still feeling walk-off 'whirlwind;' Parker returns to Detroit

DETROIT -- A day after his game-winning single in Game 2 of the A.L. Division Series, A's catcher Stephen Vogt said he was still wrapping his head around the impact of the hit Sunday afternoon.

"Haven't really processed what happened last night," Vogt said. "It's been a whirlwind. It's been a crazy, crazy few hours."

The A's boarded a plane shortly after the game ended and landed in Detroit early Sunday morning, and Vogt said he didn't sleep well on the flight. So there hadn't been much time to let the moment sink in for the 28-year-old catcher, who began the season in Triple-A after being traded to the A's from the Tampa Bay Rays in early April.

Vogt said he "heard from a lot of people" following what he termed the biggest moment of his career to date. The only thing comparable, he said, was "maybe my first hit in the big leagues" -- a home run on June 28.

"But this blew that out of the water for sure," Vogt said.

October 6, 2013
After losing the best at-bat of Game 2, Vogt gets the last word

OAKLAND -- Quite a night for Stephen Vogt. The A's rookie catcher had probably the best at-bat of Game 2 of the ALDS, as well as the most crucial defensive play -- and that was all before his bases-loaded single gave the A's a walk-off 1-0 victory in the ninth.

First, the at-bat, which came in the seventh inning of a still-scoreless game, with runners on second and third and two outs. Despite Vogt's being a left-handed hitter and Detroit's Justin Verlander having thrown 107 pitches already, Tigers manager Jim Leyland left his starter in for the chance to finish the inning.

Vogt fouled off the first pitch from Verlander, a mid-90s fastball, then the second, a big, breaking curve. Then he fouled off the third, and the fourth, and the fifth. With each, the crowd of 48,292 got a little louder. As the at-bat went on, Verlander's fastball somehow picked up steam. The first one he threw registered at 96 mph on the radar gun. The third hit 97. The last -- the 10th and final pitch of the at-bat, which Vogt swung through for the strikeout -- reached 98.

Verlander came off the mound yelling and pumping his fists. Afterward, Verlander called it "one heck of a battle."

October 5, 2013
Tigers' Verlander, Leyland come away impressed by Gray

OAKLAND -- As Sonny Gray sat before the cameras in the Coliseum interview room late Saturday night, taking questions from media following the pitching performance of his young career, Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander stood in the back of the room, waiting for his turn at the podium.

When Gray finished and left the podium, his path back to the A's clubhouse took him right past Verlander. Gray had just come from the trainer's room and still wore his gold A's jersey with a large ice pack wrapped around his right arm. Verlander had showered and dressed in well-pressed gray suit. As they passed each other, Verlander a good six inches taller than the 23-year-old rookie, Verlander reached out and shook Gray's hand, giving him a pat on the back with his left.

"I just told him he did a good job," Verlander said.

October 5, 2013
Gray, Vogt lift A's to 1-0 win, ALDS even at a game apiece

OAKLAND -- Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter spun away from an inside pitch and shot a look at A's right-hander Sonny Gray, then gestured toward the mound. It was the third inning of a scoreless game, and Gray, the 23-year-old right-hander, had been hitting 95 mph on the radar gun regularly but nothing above.

The Coliseum crowd began to boo lustily as Hunter, still reacting to the pitch, took his time before stepping back into the batter's box. When he did, six of Gray's next eight pitches were fastballs. Four registered at 96 mph, the last waved at fruitlessly by the reigning MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.

Chosen to pitch Game 2 of the A.L. Division Series in just his 11th big-league start, Gray rose to the occasion, outlasting former Cy Young winner and MVP Justin Verlander into the eighth inning of a scoreless game. The A's broke it in the ninth on Stephen Vogt's bases-loaded single, giving them a walk-off 1-0 win, and now head to Detroit with the series even at one game apiece.

A's closer Grant Balfour was the pitcher of record, having thrown a scoreless ninth, but the A's were still in position to win because of Gray. Facing a Tigers lineup that scored the second-most runs in baseball this year, the rookie gave up just four hits and struck out nine, becoming the second pitcher in A's history to post those numbers over eight shutout innings in a playoff game. The other was Chief Bender in 1905.

"The 'W' goes to Sonny tonight," Balfour said. "He was the man, the MVP, whatever you want to call him.

"That's a huge win. It was kind of a must-win, in a way."

October 5, 2013
A's, Tigers Game 2 lineups: Barton out, Smith in

OAKLAND -- The A's lineup has a slightly different look for Game 2 against Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander. Daric Barton, who started Game 1, is out, with Brandon Moss at first base and Seth Smith starting at designated hitter.

Manager Bob Melvin said he intended before the series to have Smith start this game, and taking Barton out of the lineup isn't a reaction to Barton having a rough Game 1. Barton struck out in all three of his plate appearances and couldn't glove a couple grounders that Melvin said were plays he'll often make.

Smith does have a history of at least making Verlander work in at-bats -- he's 2-for-15 lifetime against the Tigers righty but with six walks in 21 plate appearances. The A's could benefit from getting Verlander's pitch count up earlier than they were able to get Max Scherzer's last night.

Here's the full A's lineup against Verlander:

CF Crisp
SS Lowrie
3B Donaldson
1B Moss
LF Cespedes
DH Smith
RF Reddick
C Vogt
2B Sogard

October 5, 2013
Vogt: 'Uber-aggressive' Tigers exploited Colon in first inning

OAKLAND -- Among the post-game comments in the A's clubhouse Friday night, this one from Coco Crisp rang among the truest: "Hopefully tomorrow we don't have to come from behind, because we've got a nice challenge ahead of us."

The A's trailed by three runs in their 3-2 Game 1 loss Friday before they even saw one of Max Scherzer's mid-90s fastballs. Even for an A's team that has made a habit of dramatic finishes, that's a tough situation to play under. When a pitcher is throwing like Scherzer did Friday night, it can feel even more daunting.

How unlikely was that first inning? In 54 previous starts with the A's, Bartolo Colon had allowed three first-inning runs all of once. He had given up six earned runs total in his six starts since coming off the disabled list in late August. Or you can sum it up like this -- Colon hit the second batter he faced, Torii Hunter, with an inside fastball. He hadn't hit a batter all year in 190 1/3 regular-season innings.

"He got out of sync," manager Bob Melvin said. "You saw balls up in the zone, which you normally don't see from him, hits a batter. So it took him an inning to get back into his rhythm."

About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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