There are few places where baseball tickets cost less than in Oakland, and since the demise of the Hudson/Zito/Mulder rotation you could say fans have gotten their money’s worth.
But with the trade deadline approaching, and general manager Billy Beane’s trigger-finger itching, the Athletics suddenly are turning into one of the game’s best bargains. They have become a stealth contender with healthy Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes, a flair for the dramatic, an impressive collection of rookie pitchers and the best record in the majors in July.
Brandon Hicks’ ninth-inning homer off the Texas Rangers’ Michael Kirkman on Wednesday was their ninth walk-off victory this season, which leads the majors. It was their fourth in a string of seven home games, helping to raise their record to 22-9 since June 12.
“Pretty close to amazing,” third baseman Brandon Inge said.
Injuries have cost the A’s pitchers Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson all season, and opening day starter Brandon McCarthy has been in and out of the rotation all season. But inexpensive rookies Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone have carried a large load and manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young have done a good job improvising.
“Everyone calls us scrappy and it’s true — we are,” Australian left-hander and former Mariners farmhand Travis Blackley said. “Don’t sleep on us. All 27 outs, we’re going to keep coming.”
When the A’s outbid the Cubs for Cespedes, the idea seemed to be to sell tickets, not jump into contention after 88 losses in 2011. But the Athletics have climbed above .500, which puts them in the jumbled pack contending for the American League’s two wild-card spots.
KISS MY PLAQUE, REG
Bert Blyleven was relaxed, a year after his induction into the Hall of Fame. He did not have to worry about making a speech, and he sure wasn’t worried about remarks made about him by fellow Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson.
Blyleven had been at the top of Jackson’s list of inductees who don’t belong in the Hall — a list the well-traveled slugger gave in an interview with Sports Illustrated. When he was asked at the Hall of Fame golf outing what it was like to return and see his plaque, Blyleven said, “I just wanted to make sure it’s still there, make sure Reggie didn’t take it down or anything.”
So what did he really think about Jackson’s comment? “I didn’t,” the former pitcher said. “I just said God gives us many holes in our body and he just spoke out of the wrong one.”
Indians pitcher Roberto Hernandez was suspended for three weeks by Major League Baseball for age and identity fraud. Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said that Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, has received a visa to return to the United States and that he would be eligible to rejoin the team Aug. 11. … Johan Santana was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right ankle, the latest setback for the fading New York Mets since the All-Star break. … The White Sox acquired Houston reliever Brett Myers for two minor league pitchers and a player to be named. Myers had 19 saves and a 3.52 ERA for the Astros this season and will try to bolster an inexperienced Chicago bullpen. … The Rays placed designated hitter Luke Scott on the 15-day DL with an injury to his right side. … Justin Morneau was placed on the paternity list by the Twins. His wife, Krista, is expecting their second child. … White Sox manager Robin Ventura says right-hander Gavin Floyd should be ready to pitch Monday after recovering from right elbow tendinitis.