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ALDS Game 2 wrapup: A’s show their fight once again; Coliseum had room for more than baseball

This was what Raul Ibanez meant.

Last week when I was talking with the Mariners outfielder, he praised the A’s mental toughness, their inability to stop fighting. He called them one of the grittiest clubs he had ever seen.

Saturday’s 1-0 win over Detroit was the personification of that game. They scored not a run against former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander for seven innings, then didn’t score in the eighth after putting two men on base.

Come the ninth inning, the A’s were still clawing. Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith backed up doubles, and after Josh Reddick was intentionally walked, Stephen Vogt came up with the game-winner.

On paper, the Tigers may have the better team. They certainly hit for a better average, and as good as the A’s starting pitching is, the Tigers will say theirs in better. There is no Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander in Oakland.

But as Ibanez was pointing out, some things can’t be measured in statistics alone.

The result makes for some very good baseball. Saturday’s game was as good an exhibition of high-quality baseball as you’re likely to see.

As Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, “This is post-season pitching. That’s what you saw tonight at its best.’’

This kind of victory actually speaks well for the A’s going forward. The Tigers have sent their best two starters at Oakland and only got a split of the games. Jarrod Parker, who pitched a solid Game 1 in Comerica Park last year, goes against the Tigers in a day game Monday, and Dan Straily, whose win on Aug. 28 came at the expense of the pitcher he’ll oppose Tuesday, Doug Fister, has been pitching as well as anyone.

–Billy Beane was asked how Saturday’s scoreless battle between starters Verlander and Sonny Gray matched up with A’s post-season pitching matchups.

Misunderstanding the question, Beane said it reminded him of the 1991 Jack Morris 10-inning 1-0 win, outlasting Atlanta’s John Smoltz, who like Morris did not allow a run.

After that, Beane came up with Barry Zito vs. Mike Mussina of the Yankees in the 2001 playoffs, and Tim Hudson vs. the Yankees Andy Pettitte, also in 2001.

The fact is this one was a classic, for most of us anyway.

Late in the game the A’s general manager brought his kids down to manager Bob Melvin’s office where they, along with A’s managing partner Lew Wolff broke out the crayons and did some coloring.

The preschoolers (not including Beane Sr. and Wolff) “didn’t even know when we scored the winning run,’’ Beane said.

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Game 32 wrapup: Cespedes sends mom a signal; Donaldson HR no guess; Montz contributes a blast

It’s not sign language, but it might as well be.

After circling the bases on his fifth-inning two-run homer, the A’s Yoenis Cespedes stuck out his two index fingers, pointed them at the crowd behind the third base dugout and alternately waggled them up and down.

This series, for the first time, Cespedes had his mother in the stands. She and some other family members had been in St. Petersburg for a series with the Rays late last month, but Cespedes was hurt and didn’t play in the series.

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Smith making his case for more at-bats vs. lefties

For a man who has been primarily a platoon player in a Major League career that career that dates back to 2007, Seth Smith is looking decidedly un-platoonish these days.

Smith, a left-hander, came into the season having an 11-1 edge in games started against right-handed pitchers opposed to lefties, 368 to 32. Sunday, however, was his fifth start against a lefty this season in 27 games overall, and his third in the last four games.

He’s playing about twice as often against lefties this year than he has historically.

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Saturday pregame update

Quick post here with first pitch less than an hour away … Piecing together today’s lineup was tricky for Bob Geren because he wasn’t sure about Landon Powell’s availability to play catcher. Powell walked by Geren as Geren was chatting w/reporters and indicated his left hamstring felt good enough to go, so he starts behind the plate today. Geren really wanted to give Kurt Suzuki the day off with a day game after a night game. …

I’m surprised Eric Patterson isn’t back in center field today, even though he struggled last night at the plate. Rajai Davis gets the start in center. Geren wanted to get a right-handed bat in center with lefty Andy Pettitte on the mound for the Yanks. But if Patterson was playing so well at Triple-A, I’d keep him in the lineup regularly for the first few games he’s up here to see if he can keep some momentum going. Geren pointed out that the A’s will see lefties frequently in the near future. “(Patterson) will play against lefties,” he said.

Here’s the full lineups on a pleasant afternoon at Yankee Stadium. We’re lucking out w/the lack of humidity …

A’s
Kennedy 3B
Cabrera SS
Hairston LF
Garciaparra DH
Cust RF
Davis CF
Crosby 1B
Ellis 2B
Powell C

Gonzalez LHP

Yanks
Jeter DH
Gardner CF
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Swisher RF
Cano 2B
M. Cabrera LF
Ransom SS
Molina C

Pettitte LHP

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Chavez starting at third; still no Nomar

Quick update here from Rogers Center, where the A’s wrap up a three-game series against the Blue Jays. A victory today would give them the series win and take some good vibes into a three-game series w/the Yankees, where the intensity is sure to crank up a notch.

Eric Chavez is in the lineup at third base. He threw this morning and took BP and looked good (that’s according to Bob Geren, who was pitching to him). Still no Nomar Garciaparra, who can’t lick this right calf problem. “He feels better today than he did yesterday,” Geren said, adding that the DL is not being discussed yet for Nomar. Not having his right-handed bat Saturday or today hurts the A’s, as Toronto has gone w/three left-handed starting pitchers. The A’s also get lefties Andy Pettitte and C.C. Sabathia out of the chute in New York.

Jason Giambi is at DH, w/Landon Powell playing first base, his second start there in the past four games. It’s an effort to preserve Giambi’s legs a bit. Plus, Geren wanted to get Powell, a switch hitter, into the lineup without sitting Kurt Suzuki, another right-handed bat.

A’s lineup: Sweeney CF; Cabrera SS; Giambi DH; Holliday LF; Cust RF; Chavez 3B; Suzuki C; Ellis 2B; Powell 1B; Braden P

Jays lineup: Scutaro SS; Hill 2B; Rios RF; Wells CF; Millar DH; Rolen 3B; Overbay 1B; Raul Chavez C; Snider LF; Romero P

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Andy Pettitte speaks

Andy Pettitte faced the music about an hour ago at the New York Yankees’ camp, and before start any more of those annoying “St. Andy” testimonials, let’s start with this:

He’s been caught in another lie.

The latest was revealed when Pettitte told the assembled gathering at the Yanks’ camp in Florida that his friendship with Roger Clemens has been strained, but that “Roger knows how I feel about him. He knows I’ve admired him and continue to admire him. He’s a great friend to me.”

Now, that may well be true — though why would he continue to admire Clemens? — but it goes in direct contrast to what a “friend” of Pettitte told Newsday on Jan. 19. The friend said that Clemens and Pettitte “were never as close as they were made out to be.”

Didn’t see Pettitte rush to clarify his views once that article was written. So, in essence, he was an accomplice to that lie. Or, he’s lying now about his feelings toward Clemens. Either way, it adds to Pettitte’s “mis-truth” total, and by now, I’ve lost track of the number. Needless to say this “role model” or “consistent honesty,” (Representative Henry Waxman’s words) could have a dueling-nose fight with Pinocchio by now. 

OK, that said, Pettitte deserves a little credit (very little) for sitting down with the media, becuase the gutless, baseball-player thing to do would’ve been to avoid it altogether. And he does seem genuinely sorry for his role in baseball’s steroid mess. Hopefully, Clemens was watching. He could learn from Pettitte’s humility.

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On Clemens and more

Back in the office after the final two weeks of offseason vacation, and feeling a bit like it’s the first day of school. Time to catch up on some things I missed, as well as looking ahead:

— The Roger Clemens/Brian McNamee “debate” on Capitol Hill basically revealed nothing. We learned that 1) Clemens is a scumbag. 2) McNamee is a scumbag, and 3) Congress has many buffoons representing it. Honestly, didn’t we already know all those things?

—  Meantime, let’s stop the “Andy Pettitte is a saint”  summations. The man lied on numerous occasions himself, up to and including the tale he put forth in the aftermath of the Mitchell Report. Good for Andy for not lying under oath, but is that what passes for being a forthright person these days?

— Speaking of Pettitte, it seems his congregation is praying for him. He’ll need them, because he faces the New York media today.

— So, the Giants are giving Barry Zito another Opening Day start. Giants fans, if you didn’t figure this out last season, let’s repeat: The best chance Zito has to succeed is to get outside his head. Handing him the ball for the opener, in my humble opinion, is not an effective way to start that process.

— I’m not even in Arizona yet, and I can already smell the fresh air created by the absence of Barry Bonds’ scent.

— Meantime, A’s starter Joe Blanton is a hot commodity, but unless the Reds are ready to part with Jay Bruce or Homer Bailey, among others, and the Dodgers are set to give up a bounty, bet on Billy Beane holding onto Blanton at least until the July 31 trade deadline.

— Eager to see how Jack Cust’s season unfolds for the A’s. True, he seems to have a job nailed down entering the spring, and that’s a first for him. But you wonder how much rope he’ll get. Cust, a career minor-league journeyman before 2007, hit only 11 home runs after the All-Star break, and finished at .217 with 7 HR and 26 RBI vs. lefties. With Mike Sweeney in camp, and the Daric Barton era about to start, Cust may wind up expendable.

More to come after we hear what “Saint Andy” has to say. 

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Roger that

Had some time to digest that bizarre press conference involving Roger Clemens on Monday, and a couple of other thoughts came to mind that I didn’t mention in yesterday’s blogs.

1) Clemens’ willingness to put Brian McNamee’s personal life on public display — in particular, the state of health for McNamee’s 10-year-old son — was disgusting. A lot of that phone conversation was pertinent in Clemens’ apparent goal of destroying McNamee’s credibility, but there was really no reason to involve McNamee’s son in the conversation. I understand McNamee contacted Clemens and used his son’s sickness as a reaching-out point. But that part of the conversation has nothing to do with the mess to which Clemens and McNamee are linked, and should’ve been bleeped out when played in front of reporters. Bottom line, Clemens was trying to portray himself as a sympathetic friend by using a former friend’s sick child as a media op. Gross.

2) McNamee had some seriously brass gonads in reaching out to Clemens. Let’s imagine what McNamee was thinking. OK, I gave you up to the feds. I permanently stained your career. I probably should’ve kept quiet and gone to jail. But, oh, my son is sick, can you help me? Now granted, watching your own child fall ill will drive a man to do anything to change things. But, to paraphrase Tom Cruise in “The Color of Money,” he’s got brass, man. He’s got brass.”

Other news from the Clemens fallout:

1) Andy Pettitte is undecided whether he’ll testify in front of Congress. Big stunner there. Pettitte has absolutely nothing to gain by going to Congress. He’d be asked about Clemens, his friend and McNamee, also his former trainer. Thus, he would a) have to beg out of answering questions about the two of them or b) paint one of them as a liar. Nice choices.

Of course, Pettitte could help the game by telling Congress all he knew about the use of performance-enhancing drugs. But as much as they say otherwise, few of these players truly care about the health of the game. Otherwise, more objections about the rise of PED’s would’ve been made by members of the players’ union.

— Baseball has decided to ramp up security in its clubhouses. Among the changes: Teams no longer will be notified the night before drug testers arrive. Gee, what a novel concept.

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M-Day

The names in the Mitchell Report are starting to leak, and I’ll repeat what I’ve been saying for two years: If any name surprises you anymore, then you simply have been playing ostrich.

Anyway, the two names in the news this morning: Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.

Now, I know that we live in an “instant analysis” society, but I would like to see the unveiling of the report, and hear some of the questions that George Mitchell and commissioner Bud Selig answer, and hear reactions throughout the league before I form an educated opinion.

That said, I can tell you this: Clemens’ name has been whispered in off-the-record, steroid-related discussions for years, and if, indeed, he cheated his way to his phenomenal numbers, then his achievements deserve the same asterisk that Barry Bonds’ supposedly do. In fact, I would argue that Clemens might deserve the Mark McGwire treatment, because who knows how many years, victories and strikeouts were added to Clemens’ career because of performance enhancers.

As for Pettitte, his name was not heard nearly as much in private circles, at least by me, but again, nothing should be a surprise. And since Clemens and Pettitte train together, it would only make sense that their names are linked together.

One other thing as we sit here less than an hour from the release of more names. If Mitchell’s report tells us nothing more than the fact that there was a serious drug culture “from top to bottom” in baseball, then the approximately $20 million spent ($1 million per month) on the Mitchell Report was money wasted. After all, we’ve all known — at least those of us not playing ostrich — that such a culture has existed for years. Players acknowledged it in private conversations. So did executives, scouts, managers, you name it.

However, if this serves as an epiphany for the industry that such a culture should not be tolerated, then every cent was worth it. Baseball has been operating in denial for years, not that a problem didn’t exist, but that nothing really needed to be done about it.

Then again, never underestimate an industry’s (or individual’s) ability to fool itself. Thus, the reason that the most important part of the Mitchell Report is not the release of it, but the reaction to it.

More later.