A's face Mariners challenging for first wild card bid

A's face Mariners challenging for first wild card bid

SEATTLE — The Oakland Athletics won their battle with the Tampa Bay Rays for an American League wild-card playoff spot Monday night.

And now they become the Rays’ best friend.

With just five games remaining after Monday’s 7-3 win at Seattle, the A’s (95-62) need help from the Rays and/or the Boston Red Sox if they are to pass the New York Yankees (96-60) for the AL’s first wild card.

That now becomes the A’s goal, with the holder of the top wild card earning the home-field advantage in the single-elimination game next week.

The A’s were able to stay within 1 1/2 games of the Yankees, winners earlier in the evening at Tampa Bay, despite knowing they had already clinched a playoff berth by virtue of the Rays’ loss.

The A’s will need a similar businesslike approach when left-hander Brett Anderson (4-5, 3.96) duels with Mariners righty Mike Leake (10-10, 4.10) in the second game of the series on Tuesday night.

Presumably, the Oakland clubhouse will have dried after a wild celebration following Monday’s win that assured the A’s first postseason appearance since 2014.

“This is not a surprise to anybody in our locker room,” A’s manager Bob Melvin gushed afterward. Oakland had finished 2017 with a 75-87 record, a full 10 games out of the final wild-card spot.

“We knew we had (the playoff spot) once the game started, but it was kinda cool to finish it off like this,” Melvin continued. “You want to do it the right way. You don’t want to lose and then go in there and celebrate. This is the way you want to do it.”

Jonathan Lucroy, Jed Lowrie, Khris Davis and Matt Chapman homered in Monday’s win, and now they’ll set their sights on Leake, who had shut out the A’s on two hits over eight innings on Aug. 15, two weeks before getting shelled for six runs and 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings in a rematch.

Chapman and Stephen Piscotty had first-inning home runs off Leake in a five-run explosion that helped produce a 7-5 victory at a point when the Mariners also were competing for a wild-card spot.

Leake has made seven lifetime starts against the A’s, going 1-2 with a 3.48 ERA.

Anderson matched Leake pitch-for-pitch for 7 2/3 innings in the Aug. 15 contest, leaving a scoreless game in the bottom of the eighth.

The Mariners went on to win the game 2-0 on a Dee Gordon home run in the 12th inning.

Gordon also homered, just his fourth of the season, in Monday’s loss. He’s gone 3-for-9 without an extra-base hit in his career against Anderson.

The 30-year-old has pitched brilliantly at Safeco Field in his career, going 3-2 with a 1.20 ERA in nine games, including eight starts.

He’s 8-4 with a 1.82 ERA overall against the Mariners in 18 meetings (17 starts).

The Mariners (85-71), who finish the season with four games against Texas, need to win five of their remaining six to reach the 90-win mark for just the sixth time in franchise history, the first time since 1997.

MLB roundup: Brewers win, gain in two races

MLB roundup: Brewers win, gain in two races

Sep 24, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pinch hitter Eric Thames (7) hits a triple against St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Bud Norris (not pictured) during the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Thames scored the tiebreaking run on an error by losing pitcher Bud Norris in the eighth inning Monday night as the Milwaukee Brewers outlasted the visiting St. Louis Cardinals 6-4 in a potential National League wild-card game preview.

The Cardinals, who fell three games behind Milwaukee, hold just a half-game lead for the second wild card over the Colorado Rockies.

Ryan Braun homered for the Brewers, and Christian Yelich drove in two runs.

Pirates 5, Cubs 1

Francisco Cervelli and Pablo Reyes each homered and drove in two runs, and visiting Pittsburgh pulled away for a win over Chicago.

Jose Osuna added a pair of hits and an RBI for the Pirates. Pittsburgh (79-76) has won seven of its past nine games and eight of its past 11 as it looks to finish the season above .500 for the first time since 2015.

Chicago starter Cole Hamels (9-11) led his team at the plate with a solo homer. He gave up three runs (two earned) in six innings.

Dodgers 7, Diamondbacks 4

David Freese had three hits and two RBIs, and Manny Machado doubled and drove in two runs as Los Angeles maintained its 1 1/2-game lead over Colorado in the National League West with a comeback victory over Arizona in Phoenix.

Freese hit a bases-empty homer in the fifth inning and had an infield single to load the bases in a two-run seventh, when Machado drove in the go-ahead run on a groundout to shortstop for a 4-3 lead.

Clayton Kershaw (9-5) gave up six hits and three runs in six innings while making his 15th consecutive quality start, benefiting from the Dodgers’ seventh-inning rally to get the victory. He struck out six and walked one, and he has not lost since July 21.

Rockies 10, Phillies 1

Jon Gray tossed seven strong innings, Gerardo Parra had three hits, and streaking Colorado continued its late-season playoff push with a win over Philadelphia in Denver.

Trevor Story had two doubles in his return to the lineup for Colorado, which won its fourth straight. David Dahl added a two-run homer.

Rhys Hoskins hit a solo homer in the seventh inning to break up Gray’s shutout bid.

Athletics 7, Mariners 3

Shortly after learning that it had clinched its first playoff spot since 2014, visiting Oakland got homers from Jonathan Lucroy, Jed Lowrie, Khris Davis and Matt Chapman in a win at Seattle.

The clincher for the A’s came when the New York Yankees defeated Tampa Bay, formally knocking the Rays out of contention for the second wild-card spot in the American League.

The A’s can still earn the first wild card — and the home-field advantage in the single-elimination playoff game that comes with it — by finishing ahead of the Yankees. Oakland trails New York by 1 1/2 games.

Red Sox 6, Orioles 2

Mookie Betts hit his career-high 32nd homer to help Boston take an early lead en route to a victory over visiting Baltimore.

The victory was big for the Red Sox as it clinched home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs, which start next week. Boston improved to 106-51, breaking the franchise’s single-season wins record.

Betts finished 2-for-5 with two RBIs plus a stolen base, his 29th of the season, and now he has a major-league-leading .343 average.

Yankees 4, Rays 1

Brett Gardner delivered a tiebreaking single in the fifth inning and made a game-saving catch an inning later as New York Yankees inched closer to securing home-field advantage in the AL wild-card game with a victory at St. Petersburg, Fla.

New York used eight pitchers, with Sonny Gray (11-9) getting the win in relief and Zach Britton picking up his seventh save.

Andrew McCutchen led the Yankees’ offense with two hits, including third-inning solo homer.

Angels 5, Rangers 4 (11 innings)

Jose Briceno’s home run leading off the bottom of the 11th inning gave Los Angeles a victory over Texas in Anaheim, Calif.

Briceno, pinch-hitting for fellow catcher Francisco Arcia, hit an 0-2 pitch from Matt Moore (3-8) over the fence in left-center field to end the Angels’ five-game losing streak.

Los Angeles earlier got solo homers from Shohei Ohtani, Jefry Marte and Michael Hermosillo.

Indians 4, White Sox 0

Corey Kluber struck out 11 in earning his 20th victory, and Brandon Guyer hit a seventh-inning home run to break up a scoreless tie as visiting Cleveland earned a shutout victory over Chicago.

Kluber (20-7) went seven scoreless innings and became the second 20-game winner in baseball after the Rays’ Blake Snell. It was Kluber’s 46th career start with double-digit strikeouts. The right-hander allowed four hits and one walk.

Indians pitchers retired the last 17 batters they faced, as Andrew Miller threw a perfect eighth inning and Cody Allen did the same in the ninth.

Astros 5, Blue Jays 3

Brian McCann and Josh Reddick hit back-to-back solo homers in the second inning, Dallas Keuchel pitched five innings, and Houston won at Toronto.

Keuchel (12-11) allowed three runs, seven hits and three walks while striking out five.

Houston maintained a 4 1/2-game lead over the A’s in the American League West.

Nationals 7, Marlins 3

Anthony Rendon drove in four runs to lead host Washington to a win over Miami.

Rendon went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and a two-run double.

Washington’s Stephen Strasburg was in line for his 10th win of the season, but he walked four batters in four innings and was removed after his pitch count reached 100. He allowed three hits and one run in four innings.

Padres 5, Giants 0

Bryan Mitchell pitched 8 2/3 shutout innings to lead San Diego to a victory at San Francisco.

Kirby Yates came on with the bases-loaded in the ninth to strike out pinch hitter Austin Slater for his 11th save of the season.

Mitchell (2-4) allowed seven hits and three walks with a season-high seven strikeouts. His totals of 8 2/3 innings and 118 pitches were career highs.

–Field Level Media

Red Sox look to add to record season at Orioles

Red Sox look to add to record season at Orioles

BOSTON — David Price is less than two weeks away from his latest attempt at shedding his career albatross.

Price, the Boston Red Sox‘s likely Game 2 starter in the American League Division Series against either the New York Yankees or Oakland A’s, is 2-8 lifetime in the postseason. But both of those wins have come in relief, where the left-hander has done some dynamic work over the years.

There has been talk — all from the outside — of Price again working out of the pen, but he appears to be on track to start that second game at Fenway Park Oct. 6.

First, a couple of tune-ups, with Price facing the Baltimore Orioles in the second game of a four-game series at Fenway Tuesday night.

Monday night, the Red Sox recorded their team-record 106th win and locked up homefield advantage throughout the postseason with a 6-2 win over Baltimore.

His last time out, Price, who has more trouble pitching in Yankee Stadium than he does anywhere else, suffered his first loss since the All-Star break, allowing three homers in 5 1/3 innings in a loss to the Yankees.

That dropped Price to 5-1 since the break.

“I didn’t make as good of pitches, especially later on in the count,” Price said that night. “I left some balls up and they did what you’re supposed to do with those pitches. Anytime you give up a home run it’s frustrating, but everybody is playing in the same park. It’s not like the fences move back when they hit or move forward when they hit. So it’s part of it.”

Price, 15-7 with a 3.53 ERA overall on the season, is 2-0 against the Orioles this season — two earned runs, 18 strikeouts in 15 innings — and 14-5 with a 2.67 ERA in 27 career starts against the Birds.

Nathan Eovaldi, in line to start Game 4 of the ALDS for Boston, was the winner Monday, saying, “I definitely feel like we’re the team to beat.”

As far as the club breaking a record that was set in 1912, manager Alex Cora said, “It’s unreal. You think about the history of the game and the history of this franchise. To be part of this, I can’t even explain it. Obviously it’s something where we should call timeout and enjoy this one.”

The Orioles named Jimmy Yacabonis as their Tuesday starter after Monday night’s loss was their 111th, which ties the 1939 St. Louis Browns for the most in franchise history. Sean Gilmartin was another candidate, but he worked four innings in relief Monday night after Dylan Bundy only pitched three innings.

Adam Jones, who refused a deal that could have sent him to a contender at the trade deadline, electing to play out his contract with the Orioles, was in left field Monday night — his first time at the position since Sept. 30, 2007. He was a Seattle Mariner at the time.

Afterward, the veteran said, “It’s coming to an end here. The season ends. My contract ends. I’m an optimistic person. You never know what could happen. You always got to keep your options open.”

All-day rain is predicted in Boston Tuesday, with a split double-header set for Wednesday if there is a rainout.

Yefry Ramirez, in line to start Wednesday’s finale, won’t make that appearance because of a cut on his hand. The Orioles are hoping to see him pitch before Sunday’s season finale.

The current Orioles don’t have great numbers against Price.

Tim Beckham is 2-for-14 (.143), Jonathan Villar 2-for-12 (.167), Trey Mancini 3-for-13 (.231) and Jones 17-for-72 (.236). Chris Davis is hitting .256 (11-for-43) and has two homers but also has 20 strikeouts against Price.

The Red Sox are 15-2 against the Orioles this season.

Indians' Bauer starts at White Sox, where earlier injured

Indians' Bauer starts at White Sox, where earlier injured

Cleveland Indians Trevor Bauer missed more than a month because of a stress fracture in his right fibula.

Now, the immensely talented 27-year-old will return to the scene of the crime.

Bauer (12-6, 2.21 ERA) will make his second start since being activated off the disabled list when the Indians visit the Chicago White Sox for the second installment of a three-game series on Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. It is the same ballpark where he was injured Aug. 11 when White Sox slugger Jose Abreu drilled a line drive off his leg.

Cleveland (88-68) already has clinched its third straight American League Central division title. But the Indians know that a healthy Bauer will make a huge difference as they pursue their first World Series title since 1948.

Bauer tossed 34 pitches in his return from the disabled list Friday against the Boston Red Sox. He gave up two hits, walked one and struck out one without allowing a run in 1 1/3 innings.

Now, the right-hander will try to increase his pitch count as the playoffs approach. If the Indians deem him ready for the postseason rotation, he could knock teammate Shane Bieber out of a starting role.

Bauer is 8-3 with a 3.15 ERA in 17 appearances (15 starts) against the White Sox in his career. He has walked 31 and struck out 117 in 97 innings during those matchups.

Bauer said he was happy with his velocity in his first start back from his fracture.

“I never really doubted that I would be able to turn it loose,” he said to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I’m pretty good mentally at being able to flip that switch. I go through it all the time in the offseason. That’s part of the benefit of having the offseason program I do — the velocity training I do. You see a number of the radar board and you’re like, ‘OK, that’s not good enough.’ And you have to find a way to access the next step, the next level.”

Chicago (61-95) is looking to finish the season on a high note before shifting its focus toward the 2019 campaign. The White Sox have lost six of their last eight and 13 of their last 18.

However, White Sox manager Rick Renteria said the final week could have an effect on the start of next season.

“I think it does,” Renteria said to the Chicago Tribune. “They probably can equate some significant change in their routine or consistency in doing things to validate their outcomes, and then everybody can put their heads together and evaluate what they need to do to repeat that.”

White Sox right-hander James Shields (7-16, 4.48 ERA) will make his 33rd start of the season. The longtime veteran has a career mark of 145-139 with a 4.01 ERA in 406 games (404 starts).

The 36-year-old Shields needs four outs to post his first 200-inning effort since 2015. He has reached the milestone nine times, including tossing a league high 228 2/3 innings in 2013 with the Kansas City Royals.

In 23 career starts against Cleveland, Shields is 5-8 with a 3.76 ERA.

Chicago is 29-50 at home this season. Cleveland is 39-36 on the road.

Brewers beat Cardinals 6-4 to open 3-game wild-card lead

Brewers beat Cardinals 6-4 to open 3-game wild-card lead

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Milwaukee Brewers’ Jesus Aguilar scores during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Eric Thames scored on reliever Bud Norris‘ throwing error in the eighth inning and the Milwaukee Brewers improved their playoff positioning by topping the St. Louis Cardinals 6-4 on Monday night.

Ryan Braun homered and Christian Yelich drove in two runs as Milwaukee won for the fourth time in five games. The Brewers (90-67) opened a three-game lead over St. Louis for the top spot in the wild-card standings and pulled within 1 1/2 games of the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs, who lost 5-1 to Pittsburgh.

Corbin Burnes (7-0), the seventh of nine Milwaukee pitchers, got two outs for the win, and Corey Knebel worked the ninth for his 16th save. With a runner on, Jose Martinez fouled off four two-strike pitches before taking a called third strike for the final out.

Chase Anderson was slated to start before Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell announced Sunday that the team had decided to go with a bullpen game instead. Dan Jennings made his first career start and retired Matt Carpenter on a grounder to second before the left-hander was replaced by Freddy Peralta, beginning a parade of relievers for the Brewers.

Martinez and Marcell Ozuna homered off Josh Hader in the rain, but St. Louis (87-70) was unable to close out a one-run lead. The Cardinals’ advantage in the race for the second NL wild card was trimmed to a half-game over Colorado, which cruised to a 10-1 win over Philadelphia.

Thames tripled past a sliding Martinez in right field with one out in the eighth. After Mike Moustakas was intentionally walked, Norris (3-6) tried a pickoff throw that got away from first baseman Matt Carpenter.

Thames scored easily and Yelich added an RBI double in the ninth as Milwaukee improved to 9-8 against St. Louis this season. Yelich, one of the top candidates for NL MVP, also walked and scored on Braun’s bases-loaded walk as the Brewers scored two runs in the sixth without a hit, opening a 3-1 lead.

St. Louis staged a dramatic rally as the showers intensified on a soggy night at Busch Stadium.

Martinez led off the sixth with a drive to center for his 17th homer, sending a charge through the crowd of 36,508. After Paul DeJong walked, Ozuna put the Cardinals in front with a screaming liner just over the wall in center.

Ozuna threw his right arm in the air as he rounded first after the 23rd homer of his first year with the Cardinals. He then popped out of the dugout for a curtain call.

Hader had given up just six homers in 51 appearances this year, and none since Anthony Rizzo connected for the Cubs on Sept. 3.

But Milwaukee quickly answered. The Brewers loaded the bases with one out in the seventh against Jordan Hicks, and Keon Broxton scampered home with the tying run on Yelich’s fielder’s choice back up the middle.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Brewers: Hader was visited by Counsell and a trainer after he slipped while trying to pick off Harrison Bader at second. Hader stayed in and walked Yairo Munoz before he was pulled after Tyler O’Neill was announced as a pinch hitter.

Cardinals: 2B Kolten Wong struck out swinging as a pinch hitter in his first appearance since he left Friday’s 5-3 victory over San Francisco with cramps in both hamstrings. ”It’s definitely turned a corner,” he said before the game. ”It feels a lot better today.”

UP NEXT

Brewers left-hander Gio Gonzalez (9-11, 4.28 ERA) and Cardinals left-hander Austin Gomber (6-1, 3.63) pitch on Tuesday night. Gonzalez is 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in three starts since he was acquired in a trade with Washington on Aug. 31. Gomber is coming off a solid start at Atlanta, allowing one run in five innings for an 8-1 victory.

Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

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

Athletics success story continues with clinch of AL's final postseason berth

Athletics success story continues with clinch of AL's final postseason berth

The surprising Oakland Athletics became the fifth and final team to secure a postseason berth in the American League on Monday thanks to the Tampa Bay Rays 4-1 loss to the New York Yankees. Now the question is whether they’ll be the AL West champions, which is a long shot given the Houston Astros’ 4.5 game lead, or an AL Wild Card team along with the New York Yankees.

If it’s the Wild Card game, then we’ve yet to determine whether it will be played in New York or Oakland. The Yankees hold a two-game lead for home-field advantage, so the Yankees win actually hurt Oakland more than it helped.

Regardless of where they end up, the A’s have been one of MLB’s best stories this season. They had 94 wins entering play on Monday, which was the fourth most in MLB. Pretty good considering the oddsmakers at Bovada set their over/under for wins at 74.5 in March. Oakland finished with 75 wins last season.

Instead of taking a half-step back as the odds suggested was possible, the A’s have proven to be one of MLB’s most improved teams despite having the lowest opening day payroll.

Their success has been fueled by relentless and resilient play all season. That the A’s have pushed the Astros in the division and runaway with a postseason berth shows they can be a threat to the Yankees and anyone else they face in October.

Now, here’s a quick look at how the A’s got to this point, and how they can continue their unlikely journey all the way to a World Series championship.

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The Oakland Athletics are going to the postseason for the first time since 2014. (AP)

Red hot summer

The A in A’s stood for average during the early months. Oakland finished May with a 29-28 record, which was actually a step in the right direction. Still, it didn’t appear then that they would develop into a real contender.

That changed during the summer months. The A’s went 17-10, 17-8 and 18-9 during June, July and August respectively, and have remained hot with a 13-7 September record.

It was during that time that Oakland’s starting rotation took on a more veteran look with Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill and eventually Mike Fiers joining the mix. Jackson and Cahill were two pitchers looking for a job in March, but both ended up anchoring a young and thinning rotation hit by injuries over the summer. The A’s were boosted by a strong bullpen, which has the second best ERA in MLB and the third most innings pitched. The A’s have even used their bullpen exclusively during some key games.

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A’s slugger Khris Davis continues to be one of MLB’s most underappreciated superstars. (AP)

The unheralded superstar

It remains a shame that not more fans are familiar with Khris Davis. Oakland’s main power source has been one of MLB’s premier home run hitters since joining the A’s in a trade before the 2016 season. Since then, he’s crushed 130 homers, which far and away leads the major leagues.

Davis doesn’t hit for a strong average. In fact, he’s amazingly hit .247 each of the last three seasons, and has a .250 average this season. He does, however, make a huge difference. If the A’s make a deep run, chances are he’s one of the guys we’ll be talking about non-stop.

What the A’s have to do to win the World Series

The A’s will be outmanned from a pure talent standpoint. That doesn’t mean they’ll be outplayed though. The A’s have to be themselves, which is reminiscent of the Kansas City Royals recent postseason teams. The Royals were better overall, but their relentless style of play and constant belief that they could win any game under any circumstances is a nice blueprint.

One thing the A’s do better than those Royals teams is hit home runs. That tends to help them stay in games. While the rotation figures to be shaky, they can shorten games by scoring runs in bunches and backing it with a solid bullpen.

Yeah, quite a few things would have to fall right for Oakland. But they’re always ready to pounce when they do.

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