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OAKLAND J.R. Richard Jersey , Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Athletics surprised most everyone but themselves.A young team that gained momentum with a strong September a year ago slugged its way right into the playoffs and onto the national radar by hanging tough in the difficult AL West this season.Still, it all ended with the same result: a playoff defeat in an elimination game. After a 97-65 regular season, Oakland lost the wild-card game 7-2 to New York on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.“Unless you play the last game, it’s disappointing,” manager Bob Melvin said. “So I think when you reflect back and look where we started the year, you know kind of where we came from, it ends up being a good year but it doesn’t feel good right now.”Khris Davis and the A’s rallied all year long to reach the postseason for the first time since 2014 following consecutive last-place division finishes.Davis led the majors with 48 home runs, his third straight 40-homer season.A sensational second-half surge made the difference. The A’s trailed the Mariners by 11 games in the wild-card race on June 15.“If you told us at the beginning of the year we’d have 97 wins at the end of the year and we have about five guys with career years and had an opportunity to be in a wild-card game against a team with a hundred wins, I think we’d all take that,” closer Blake Treinen said.The A’s believed from the start they could do this, even with an opening-day payroll of $66,039,675 that ranked lowest in the American League and second-lowest in baseball ahead of the Phillies.Then they captured the country’s attention — and opponents took notice, too — with a team with a knack for late-game rallies.Led by Davis and all his power-hitting sidekicks like Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, the A’s overcame losing key starters from their rotation down the stretch. That included left-hander Sean Manaea, who pitched a no-hitter on April 21 against Boston then had arthroscopic shoulder surgery last month.“It’s pretty hard but I’m not disappointed at all,” Davis said. “I think we showed some people we can do some things and I think next year, we’re a little bit more of a threat. I hope we can just continue this and build on it.”With his starting staff slim, Melvin recently turned to using an “opener” for an inning before going with another pitcher as a long man, and most everything he tried worked beautifully.Here are some things to take from the A’s year:DAVIS DELIVERS: Davis earned that hefty raise he received last offseason of $10.5 million http://www.astrosfanproshop.com/authentic-jose-altuve-jersey , more than doubling his salary after he beat the team in arbitration the previous winter.The 30-year-old Davis had career highs in home runs and with 123 RBIs. He joined Jimmie Foxx from 1932-34 as the only players in A’s history with three straight 40-homer seasons.PISCOTTY’S TRIUMPH: Newcomers such as Stephen Piscotty carried the load in a career year — and for him after dealing with the heartbreak of losing his mother, Gretchen, in May to ALS.Piscotty, acquired from the Cardinals last December, batted .267 and had eight of his 27 home runs and 25 of his 88 RBIs in 25 September games.COMEBACK KIDS: After dropping so far back of the Mariners in mid-June, the A’s answered by going 63-29 from June 16 through the rest of the season. It was the best record during that stretch in baseball — ahead of Boston’s 60-31.Oakland also went a majors-best 31-14 in one-run games and had 10 walkoff victories.TREINEN SHINES: Treinen, who knew of him before this season started?Then the unassuming closer went 9-2, saved 38 games, finished with a career-low 0.78 ERA and career-high 100 strikeouts. He didn’t allow an earned run over his last 15 outings.The right-hander is the first pitcher to finish with at least 30 saves, an ERA below 1.00 and 100 strikeouts.OCTOBER TROUBLE: Oakland has lost eight straight winner-take-all postseason games since beating Willie Mays and the New York Mets in Game 7 of the 1973 World Series. The A’s are also 1-14 in potential clinchers since 2000. They reached the AL Championship Series in 2006, the lone time since 2000 the club has advanced past the first round of the playoffs.Since losing in the ’14 wild-card game to the eventual AL champion Royals 9-8 in 12 innings, low-budget Oakland had won just 68, 69 and 75 games the past three seasons. This year, the A’s shined while still playing at the rundown Oakland Coliseum they share with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders.This was considered a significant step to getting back to the big October stage. BOSTON — A year ago, Justin Verlander won two games for the Houston Astros in the American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox, one as a starter and one in relief.Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale was the loser in both of those games — also one as a starter and the other in relief.The two aces, former foes in the American League Central, match up again when their teams square off in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night at Fenway Park.Article continues below ...“This is a rematch of last year,” Sale said Friday. “Obviously, the winner of this one goes to the World Series. So like I’ve been saying the whole time Craig Biggio Jersey , just keep playing the same game, not trying to reach for more, not trying to be better than I am. We shouldn’t play as a team like that, either.”As far as making up for last year, Sale said, “It’s one of those things that you learn more from your mistakes than you do sometimes your successes. You try to flip the script and be better from it, and try to keep the momentum rolling forward.”Sale went 12-4 with a 2.11 ERA during the 2018 regular season, and he is 1-2 with a 6.19 ERA in the postseason in his career.Verlander, who was 16-9 with a 2.52 ERA in the regular season, is 12-6 with a 3.08 ERA lifetime in the postseason, including 12-2 in the LDS and LCS.The Astros, who swept the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS, are seeking to become the first repeat World Series champions since the 2000 New York Yankees.“The fun part about this team is that the bar is so high for these guys,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch, “and they continue to try to work toward exceeding expectations, either personally or as a team. It’s a great attribute for these guys to continue to reach for it.”The Red Sox have home field advantage for this best-of-seven series but the Astros had a major league-best 57-24 road record this season. They had the lowest ERA in baseball for both their starters (3.16) and relievers (3.03).This will be the eighth time Sale and Verlander will faces each other as starters — and Verlander has the clear advantage over the first seven.In this postseason, both won Game 1 of his respective series.Sale, who had pitched only 17 innings since July 27 thanks to shoulder trouble, went 5 1/3 innings, yielding two runs on five hits and striking out eight to beat the Yankees. He also pitched a perfect eighth inning in the Game 4 finale.Verlander beat the Indians in his team’s Game 1 George Springer Jersey , going 5 1/3 inning and allowing two runs on two hits, striking out seven and taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning.According to STATS, in those seven previous games, Verlander is 3-0 with a 2.06 ERA, an 0.98 WHIP and .207 opponents’ batting average against Sale’s teams. Sale is 1-3 with a 3.97 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP and .261 batting average against when pitching against Verlander’s teams.Sale is 5-2 with a 1.83 ERA in seven career regular season starts against the Astros. Verlander is 5-5 with a 2.89 ERA in 18 career regular season starts against the Red Sox – including 3-3 with a 3.51 ERA in 10 starts at Fenway. Both have pitched once against the Saturday night opponent this season.June 1 at Houston, Sale was the loser, allowing four runs on six hits in six innings. The next night, Verlander didn’t get a decision against Boston, going six innings and yielding two runs on three hits in a solid start. The Astros won the game, part of their 4-3 season series win over the Red Sox.Boston’s J.D. Martinez, happy to no longer have to face Sale, squares off against his former team in this series. Martinez, like David Ortiz a decade before, was released, only to wind up a hero in Boston.“My failures in Houston made me who I am,” Martinez said Friday, adding he has “no animosity” towards the Astros.For the record, Martinez is 9-for-38 (.237) with 16 strikeouts, three homers and six RBIs lifetime against Sale.George Springer http://www.astrosfanproshop.com/authentic-evan-gattis-jersey , who is fast turning into the new Mr. October, is 5-for-14 (.357) with a homer and Jose Altuve 8-for-24 (.333) lifetime against Sale. But Jake Marisnick is 1-for-11 (.091), Marwin Gonzalez 1-for-9 (.111), Evan Gattis 2-for-12 (.167), Josh Reddick 3-for-14 (.214) and Carlos Correa 3-for-13 (.231).Eduardo Nunez leads the Red Sox against Verlander, going 6-for-18 (.333), while Mitch Moreland is 10-for-32 (.313) and Brock Holt 3-for-10 (.300). But Mookie Betts is 0-for-13 (.000), Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. are both 1-for-9 (.111), Ian Kinsler 6-for-38 (.158), Sandy Leon 2-for-9 (.222) and Xander Bogaerts 4-for-17 (.235).Moreland, who sustained a hamstring injury in the ALDS, went through a full workout Friday and his spot on the LCS roster will be determined Saturday.For the Astros, Hector Rondon and Joe Smith have replaced Will Harris and Myles Straw on the roster.Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright, out with a knee injury, will undergo the same arthroscopic procedure that Dustin Pedroia had in July (from the same doctor) and still hopes to be available for a potential World Series. Pedroia was not able to make it back.
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