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Game 156 wrapup: Beane says depth crucial to A’s West title; Crisp surprises himself with 20-20 output; This celebration means more to Sogard

The fact that the A’s were able to clinch the American League West title on Sunday, the final home date of the regular season, worked out well for Billy Beane.

Securing the title meant the A’s general manager could stay at home and not join the team Monday in Anaheim for a possible clinching party there. Beane isn’t much for road trips these days.

As it was, Beane stayed mostly out of the clubhouse celebration Sunday and was uncontaminated by the sprays of champagne and beer that coated most of the rest of the members of his organization.

He was with his twins, Brayden and Tinsley, when I caught up with him far from the madding crowd.

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Game 155 wrapup: A’s watch Rangers win, then prepare to go out and lock down AL West crown

The A’s were perfectly willing to let Kansas City shoulder some of the work in the American League West Saturday.

The Royals were down 3-0 to Texas after the A’s finished taking care of Minnesota 9-1 when a Rangers loss would have secured the West title for Oakland.

That being the case, none of the A’s players or coaches left the Coliseum clubhouse. The lockers were all covered by plastic sheeting to make sure the worst of a champagne celebration didn’t get into the players’ and coaches’ lockers.

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Steinbach suggests A’s not sweat it if Oakland winds up clinching AL West Division title off the field

The last time the A’s were in a situation at all closely resembling the one they faced today – a possible chance to clinch while not on the field – was in 1992.

Back then, the A’s had a day off at home, but the second-place Twins were playing. A loss and the A’s would be in the post-season.

On Saturday, the A’s were in the spot where they had to win a day game on the West Coast against the Twins, then the second-place Rangers had to lose a night game in Kansas City.

One of the players who was on that 1992 team, catcher Terry Steinbach, is now the bench coach for the Twins, and he said that if the A’s don’t get the chance to celebrate on the field, don’t obsess about it.

“One thing I learned from Tony (then-A’s manager Tony La Russa) was that there are three goals you set at the start of every season,’’ Steinbach said Saturday morning. “When you win the division, no matter when you win it or where you are when you win it, you’ve accomplished the first of those.

“Maybe they won’t get a chance to jump up and down on the field after clinching. But the important thing is that they’ve clinched. And one game doesn’t change the importance of what you’ve done for six months. Tony always said this was the hardest of the three things to do, they need to enjoy that they’ve done it.’’

The second task is to win the division series and the third is to win the Championship Series. If that’s done, you’ve gotten to the World Series. Those games will take care of themselves.

Steinbach has some memories of sitting with his teammates in a rented private room of a bar/restaurant near Jack London Square back in 1992. When the Twins lost that night, the celebrating wasn’t quite the same. But it was still a celebration.

“I remember sitting and watching the game with Carney (Lansford) and a bunch of the guys,’’ he said. “When it was over, it was great. It wasn’t any less of an accomplishment because we didn’t win it on the field.

“These guys (the A’s), they should know that. They’ve had a great year.’’

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Game 154 wrapup: You can smell the champagne, and then it’s on to a week of questions

In for John Hickey …

One win and a Rangers loss. Or two wins and to hell with the Rangers. The A’s are on the doorstep of a second straight A.L. West division title, it’d definitely going to happen, and maybe the only surprising thing about that is that so many of them are unprepared for the scenario of a possible clinch Saturday, which would involve beating up on the Twins again and then waiting around — perhaps several hours — to see if the Rangers lose again to Kansas City.

As I wrote in the game story, the A’s have never really encountered this kind of clinching situation in their Oakland history. In 1992, they clinched the division on an off-day, and everybody simply gathered at a sports bar in Jack London Square to celebrate, according to clubhouse manager Steve Vucinich. But winning and then waiting? Never. So it should be intriguing to see what they do.
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Game 154 pre-game notes: Cook has a bullpen therapy session with Melvin, Young

In for John Hickey …

Struggling reliever Ryan Cook worked in the bullpen well before the game under the observation of Bob Melvin and Curt Young. The A’s know they have to get Cook straightened out before the playoffs, but Melvin is confident that will happen.

“If you remember, he went through one of these last year and he got through it,” Melvin said. “He’s a competitor and it bothers him when he’s not contributing how he’d like to. So he’s going to fight his way through it, and he’ll get through it. Sean Doolittle went through a little bit of a tough time, and so will Cookie.”
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Game 153 wrapup: Bad luck compounds Cook’s woes; Straily makes bid for post-season rotation

There’s a tendency to jump on a player when he’s down that pervades all sports. Baseball is no different in that regard.

A’s reliever Ryan Cook is in a bad slump, no doubt about it.

But sometimes it’s not bad pitching as much as it is bad luck.

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Game 152 wrapup: A long, strange two games for Donaldson; Griffin’s tempo and delivery are back

To say that it was a strange 24 hours for Josh Donaldson may understate it some.

In the ninth inning Tuesday he delivered a game-winning hit on an 0-2 pitch that cut the A’s magic number for winning the American League West to six games.

He was hit in the face by a couple of pies in typical A’s fashion, and also had the contents of the Gatorade cooler dumped on him.

In the first inning Wednesday he was drilled in the back by a pitch from Angels’ starter Jason Vargas, an apparent purpose pitch that had the umpiring crew warning both benches about further retaliation.

Three hours later, the third baseman muffed the pickup of a sacrifice bunt attempt, giving the Angels an extra out they were able to convert into the winning run in a 5-4, 11-inning victory, denying Oakland a chance to cut further into its magic number.

“I felt I came in too aggressively,’’ Donaldson said of the failure to handle Erick Aybar’s bunt attempt. It set up Josh Hamilton’s game-winning sacrifice fly a few minutes later. If Donaldson had made the play, Hamilton’s fly ball would have been the inning’s third out. “My feet weren’t right.

“I expect to make that play every time.’’

What he may not have expected was to get smoked by a pitch in the back. But he’s the A’s best hitter at this point, and that means something. The Angels’ best hitter, Mike Trout, was hit by a pitch in his final plate appearance Tuesday, and the Angels apparently felt retribution was needed.

Since Trout getting hit loaded the bases with two out in a 1-all tie, it’s likely that Ryan Cook wasn’t going out of his way to hit him.

“Was it intentional? I don’t know,’’ Donaldson said. “Trout took that one pretty hard yesterday.’’

The umpiring crew led by Gary Darling wasn’t taking any chances and both benches were warned against further incursions, which A’s manager Bob Melvin felt was unnecessary.

“That’s a very experienced crew of umpires,’’ Donaldson said. “They’ll try to take control of the game.’’

Donaldson said he wasn’t sure that Vargas was even throwing at him.

“He has to throw inside,’’ the third baseman said, “for guys to respect his changeup.’’

 

–Starter A.J. Griffin hit a slow spot in August, but he’s been close to at his best in his last four starts, including fiving up two runs and one hit in six innings Wednesday in a no-decision against the Angels.

The only hit he allowed was Mike Trout’s 26th homer, the center fielder’s third in the series. Beyond that, only two walks marred Griffin’s day.

Afterward he said he’s been able to recapture his tempo and delivery and repeat both time after time.

“It’s better now,’’ he said. “Before I was thinking too much. Now I get a sign and let it fly.’’

As for the homer, the 35th he’s allowed, he’s the big league leader in that category, something that’s an issue only when someone asked him about it.

“Trout’s good at baseball,’’ Griffin said, shrugging his shoulders. “It was a 3-2 fastball that caught too much of the plate.’’

As for being asked about all the home runs, he took it matter-of-factly.

“It’s only a problem when the press asks about it,’’ he said. “(Bert) Blyleven and Catfish (Hunter) gave up some homers and they were pretty good pitchers.’’

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Whether it’s in Oakland or San Jose, A’s boss Lew Wolff sees a downtown stadium as the answer

Lew Wolff, the managing partner of the Oakland A’s, was on the field before Wednesday’s game with the Coliseum awash in sunshine and his team having a magic number of six to win the American League West and all was good.

Yes, the A’s should draw better given their record (89-62) and their lead (6½ games) in the West. Yes, the leaky sewage that once more intruded into public consciousness raised more of a stink than Wolff would have like. And yes, there are stadium issues that face the club now and heading forward.

For this day on the green between the dugout and third base, Wolff was in his element – hoping that his troops could get the home field advantage for the first round of the playoffs. The A’s came into Wednesday with a one-game lead over the Tigers in the race to host three games in the first round instead of two.

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Game 151 wrapup: Wolff says he’s not complaining about fans; Reddick likes his handiwork with pies; Rookie starter Gray comes up big against Trout

There is no timing quite like bad timing.

And so it was for A’s managing general partner Lew Wolff, who took to the pages of USA Today Tuesday to talk about the low turnstile count at the Oakland Coliseum on the same night the A’s surpassed last year’s attendance total of 1.665 million.

It was the fourth year running that the A’s had registered an increase in yearly attendance, and in the wake of a 2-1 walkoff win over the Angels, the A’s still have five home games left in which to build on that total.

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