Source: Red Sox hire Davis as hitting coach

Source: Red Sox hire Davis as hitting coach

Chili Davis, Oakland's hitting coach the last three seasons, has been hired to the same position by the Boston Red Sox, according to a Major League source. The club has not confirmed the hiring.

The Red Sox are believed to have agreed to a multiyear contract with Davis, who had also been courted by the Yankees and Rangers for their vacant hitting coach jobs.

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Davis, 55, served as hitting coach for Boston's Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket in 2011 before returning to the Majors as Bob Melvin's hitting coach.

The Red Sox have been seeking a replacement since Greg Colbrunn resigned on Oct. 3.

Under Colbrunn, the Red Sox rode one of the American League's strongest offenses to the 2013 World Series championship. In 2014, Boston scored 219 fewer runs, tying for 11th in the American League with 634.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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A's prospect Powell goes yard in AFL action

Mesa gets back on track in Fall League action behind long ball, solid mound effort

A's prospect Powell goes yard in AFL action

SURPRISE -- After dropping each of their past two Arizona Fall League games, the Mesa Solar Sox are back in the win column following a 5-2 victory over the Peoria Javelinas on Wednesday.

The Solar Sox, who have won both matchups against the Javelinas this season, powered their way to victory with four extra-base hits.

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Mesa center fielder Boog Powell, the No. 20 prospect in the Oakland Athletics system according to MLBpipeline.com, highlighted the offense with a three-run homer in the top of the seventh off Brandon Cunniff.

"It was a 2-2 count and I was just trying to go the other way," Powell said. "He was throwing pretty hard. I got a fastball up and in, extended my hands and it worked well for me."

Powell was selected in the 20th round of the 2012 Draft and hit .343 in 83 games between Class A Beloit and Class A Advanced Stockton.

During the 2014 season, Powell also had an on-base percentage of .451, so it's no surprise to see him atop the Mesa lineup and getting on base. Powell is hitting .353 with a .421 OBP through five games in the AFL.

The homer was Powell's second in three days, which was a bit of a shock as Powell hit just three homers all season.

"It's amazing," Powell said. "I'm not trying to hit home runs. I never try to hit home runs. I just try to get on-base for the 2-3-4 guys and I've just ran into both of them."

Powell's homer provided the Solar Sox with three crucial runs, but Angels prospect Cal Towey and Cubs prospect Addison Russell also contributed with back-to-back RBI doubles in the second.

While the Solar Sox were hitting for extra bases, Cubs pitching prospect C.J. Edwards was shutting down the Javelinas -- who have now lost four straight, although their game on Monday was suspended after 11 innings.

"It was pretty good," Edwards, the No. 53 prospect on MLBpipeline.com, said about his start. "I went in today just focused on throwing strikes, trying to get ahead and stay ahead."

Edwards allowed one hit in three shutout innings against a Peoria team that began the game without having scored in 19 consecutive innings.

Peoria ultimately scratched across a run in the fifth, ending their scoreless drought at 23 innings.

As in all AFL games this season, new pace of play rules are being monitored.

There was no pitch clock in Surprise on Wednesday, but the other time-saving rules were in place and the game was officially completed in two hours and 36 minutes.

While the pace of play has impacted some, Edwards has been unfazed.

"I'm always working fast," Edwards said. "I try to get in, get out and get my team in to hit. I try to keep my defense on their toes, not on their heels.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Meeting with young A's fan a treat for Vogt

Catcher hangs out with 11-year-old who made special request via letter

Meeting with young A's fan a treat for Vogt

LAKE FOREST, Calif. -- Harrison Gomes had already made Stephen Vogt's day. On Monday, it was Vogt's turn to return the favor.

Vogt met with Gomes -- who penned a September letter to Oakland general manager Billy Beane that asked the A's to play "extra hard" on his birthday -- on Monday evening, playing catch, lobbing balls to hit, signing autographs and taking photos at Quakes Baseball Academy in Orange County.

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"It was really cool, because I got to play baseball with an amazing player on my favorite team," Gomes said. "I really never thought I would ever do something like that unless I actually became a professional baseball player. It's really cool."

Gomes wanted the A's to give a little extra effort on Sept. 23, his 11th birthday, against the division-rival Angels, so he could "stick it to the Angel fans at school" in nearby Orange, Calif.

"I just wanted them to win, because all the Angels fans at school annoy me," Gomes said. "At that time, a lot of fans were upset because of the [Yoenis] Cespedes trade, so I wanted them to know that there was still a fan out there."

The then-10-year-old ended his letter with a familiar refrain to Oakland fans: "I believe in Stephen Vogt."

"We honestly thought it was awesome," Vogt said. "The whole clubhouse saw it on Twitter and we said, 'This is cool.' This kid is living in Angels territory, and he's like 'Hey, play extra hard on my birthday to get a win so I can brag to my friends.'"

Although the A's lost, 2-0, on Sept. 23, Gomes said he still reminds Angels fans "that the A's have more championships than the Angels."

"Just stuff like that, it's a little pick-me-up for everybody in the clubhouse," Vogt said. "You see something like that from a kid who's that passionate and who believes in the team that much, it's pretty special. And to have him mention me in the letter is pretty cool."

Vogt was the only A's player mentioned in Gomes' letter, which the club posted on its Instagram account. On Monday, he became the only one to meet and play with Gomes.

Vogt (who is scheduled to undergo surgery on his right foot Tuesday in Los Angeles) wore a yellow alternate Oakland jersey, one that seemingly mirrored Gomes' yellow and green getup. The pair tossed the ball around as Gomes showed off his fastball to the longtime catcher, before Vogt offered hitting tips to Gomes after some soft tosses.

Before the unlikely duo parted ways, Vogt signed both a game-worn jersey and a game-used bat for Gomes.

"It's so special," Vogt said, "to see a look like that on a kid's face, because we're fortunate we get to do this every day and you never know who we're affecting or what we're doing. But to see the joy on the kid's face just by doing a little something like coming and hanging out with him for 45 minutes to an hour, it's the easiest thing that we can do. It was pretty special."

Domingo Gomes, Harrison's father, is originally from the Bay Area and said the family roots for anything Oakland.

"My father told me stories," Domingo Gomes said. "I'm telling [Harrison] stories, and now, he'll have stories to tell his children."

Matthew DeFranks is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MDeFranks. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Moss, Vogt scheduled for surgery this month

Both are expected to be ready for start of 2015 season

Moss, Vogt scheduled for surgery this month

OAKLAND -- The A's Brandon Moss (right hip) and Stephen Vogt (right foot) are scheduled for surgery within the next two weeks, the club announced Wednesday. Both are expected to be ready by the start of the 2015 season.

Los Angeles-based orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kenneth Jung will repair a plantar plate tear in Vogt's foot, which kept him away from catching duties for the majority of the season. The surgery is slated for Tuesday.

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Moss' procedure is scheduled for Oct. 21 in Nashville with Dr. Thomas Byrd, who will ultimately decide what is best: a minor cleanup procedure or microfracture surgery, which would sideline Moss through the majority of Spring Training.

Moss, like Vogt, played with the injury throughout the season, and though he refused to use it as an excuse for his second-half struggles at the plate, there was no denying the impact a September cortisone shot had on his at-bats thereafter -- particularly in the team's Sept. 30 AL Wild Card Game loss, in which he hit two homers. He totaled that many in his final 154 regular-season at-bats.

The 31-year-old infielder/outfielder, who finished with 25 home runs and 81 RBIs, is arbitration-eligible for a second time this winter, after making $4.1 million this season. He's compiled at least 20 homers in three consecutive years with Oakland.

Vogt is also under club control and will again be able to provide a left-handed bat at catcher in a platoon with Derek Norris.

John Jaso, who also bats from the left side, has yet to be cleared by MLB to play following his August concussion. Once he is, Jaso will have to decide whether he wants to catch again. The A's would welcome his bat back at DH.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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A's 2014 proves to be a tale of two seasons

A's 2014 proves to be a tale of two seasons

OAKLAND -- The 2014 A's so often resembled a bulkier version of the green and gold club that prematurely bowed out of the postseason in consecutive seasons. They had a rotation built for October and a lineup thought deep enough to support it, two fundamental weapons that were going to get them in and out of the first round alive.

But they didn't even get so far this time, suffering that same unsettling heartache a week earlier at the conclusion of a 12-inning escapade with the Royals in a Wild Card Game for the ages -- the kind of haunting loss that makes the rest of postseason play barely watchable.

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"Might turn it on, watch a little bit," said A's manager Bob Melvin, "and then you get that uncomfortable feeling and walk away."

A's fans were subjected to similar disappointment for nearly the entirety of a nightmarish second half that nearly voided Oakland's postseason return altogether, save for the final day of the regular season that resulted in a clinching victory in Texas. That they had to wait so long for it, though, after bolting to baseball's best record in the first half, reflects just how far this club tumbled.

Their near-epic collapse, propelled by reasons that will long be debated, among them injuries and a pair of blockbuster trades, the A's not only lost grasp of another AL West crown, but of all the good that had defined a remarkable first half. For this was a tale of two seasons, and it's important to recognize each one.

The A's surely deserve plenty of credit for dominating the league in the first half, despite losing 40 percent of their rotation in the spring amid season-ending elbow injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, both of whom underwent Tommy John surgery before Opening Day even commenced. Jesse Chavez was plucked from the bullpen to assume a starting role, and he did so admirably. And with Tommy Milone and Drew Pomeranz assisting in the rotation, too, the A's didn't miss a beat, instead creating a rhythmic winning atmosphere.

Chavez, though fantastic early, was worn down by the All-Star break, as had been predicted. Pomeranz was shelved when he broke his right hand by punching a wooden chair after his worst outing of the season, and the club's other starters, Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir, were climbing the innings chart fast and furiously. This is when general manager Billy Beane, sensing trouble, made his first move, swapping out his two best prospects -- first-rounders Addison Russell and Billy McKinney -- for National League pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs.

Samardzija was one of seven A's named to the All-Star team, joining Kazmir, Sean Doolittle, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Derek Norris at Minnesota's Target Field. Days later, they returned to play, already boasting the Majors' best record and run differential, when the baseball community woke to another Beane bonanza. Overnight, he had sent Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox to acquire ace Jon Lester, cementing his win-now mantra.

Lester was excellent in 11 regular-season starts for the A's, before allowing six runs in seven-plus innings in the Wild Card Game, but a Cespedes-less offense cracked at the same time its Cuban slugger left them, and everything that could go wrong for this club did.

Moss, hampered by a hip issue, endured the most prolonged slump. Norris' production took a big hit, too, after being exposed to more right-handers in the wake of platoon partner John Jaso's season-ending concussion. Coco Crisp, battling an ongoing neck injury first incurred in May, was mostly just a shell of his sparkplug self. Doolittle, Jed Lowrie and Craig Gentry also missed time because of injuries, disrupting a carefully crafted lineup, and Gray and Kazmir faltered at the worst of times.

The A's were a season-high 28 games over .500 at the conclusion of play Aug. 9 and had a four-game lead on the Angels in the AL West. They went 16-30 the rest of the way, finishing 10 games out of first place and stumbling into the Wild Card Game.

Beane believes they wouldn't have even reached the Wild Card Game "had we not made those moves."

"We can debate that all day long," he said. "We made the playoffs, and that was the goal.

"You always, at the end of the year, want to be the last man standing, but overall, under the circumstances, I think we're proud of the fact we made it to the playoffs a third straight year. It wasn't easy, and it looked like it would've been back in spring."

Record: 88-74, second in the AL West

Defining moment: The A's trudged into a four-game series in Anaheim on Aug. 28 just one game behind the Angels in the division. They were promptly swept with ease, scoring four runs total and suffering shutouts twice in a series that concluded with a closed-door team meeting, met with a furious Melvin who deemed his club's play "embarrassing" and "pathetic," saying, "I feel bad for our fans who have to watch that." The A's proceeded to go 10-16 over their final 26 games, while the Angels surged ahead and finished with baseball's best record.

What went right: Lots, in the first half at least: Chavez proved highly effective in the starting rotation, as did Tommy Milone before he was optioned upon the Samardzija/Hammel trade and ultimately dealt to Minnesota. … Doolittle emerged as the closer midseason, not long after being rewarded a five-year contract, and responded with 22 saves. … This helped solidify the remaining parts of the bullpen, which included Dan Otero. The righty racked up eight wins out of the bullpen, providing quality innings, and in different roles, as the Swiss Army knife of the A's relief corps. … Donaldson played through numerous injuries, but still managed to up his home run total while providing stellar defense, proving his 2013 breakout season, which culminated in a fourth-place MVP finish, was no fluke. … Josh Reddick bounced back from early-season knee issues and enjoyed a productive offensive second half. … Gray suffered his own lumps, but was mostly impressive in his first full big league season, earning AL Pitcher of the Month honors on two occasions and pitching his team into the playoffs with a shutout victory in Texas on the final day of the season.

What went wrong: Plenty. Second-half injuries to Lowrie, Crisp, Jaso and Gentry wreaked havoc to the lineup, and several others, including Donaldson, Moss, Norris and Stephen Vogt, played hurt down the stretch. … Kazmir, though tremendous in the first half, disintegrated in the second half, minus a couple of starts, and his place in a potential Division Series, particularly against an Angels team that mauled him all year, was up in the air. … Adding a $10 million closer in Jim Johnson proved to be a futile move. The right-hander coughed up one too many leads and lost the closer job within two weeks of the season. … To say the Lester/Cespedes trade went wrong, as some would argue, is simply debatable.

Biggest surprise: Chavez, though nearly forgotten in the bullpen by year's end, was a major factor in the A's first-half success -- posting seven wins and compiling 114 2/3 innings over 19 starts by the All-Star break -- and pitched himself into competition for a starting role again in 2015.

Hitter of the Year: Donaldson. Though his overall average took a hit amid some rough stretches, the same could be said of nearly every other hitter on the A's roster, and the third baseman was arguably the most productive of the bunch throughout, despite nursing hip, hamstring and knee injuries. He belted a personal-best 29 home runs, which will earn him a hefty pay raise in his first year of arbitration eligibility.

Pitcher of the Year: Lester was every bit as magnificent as expected when he came over, but Gray was in green and gold all year and thus gets the nod here. Much was expected of the baby-faced righty in his first full big league season, particularly after he rounded out his rookie campaign with two terrific Division Series starts, and Gray delivered with 14 wins and a 3.08 ERA, giving the A's a career-high 219 innings. He endured a handful of rough outings along the way, but was otherwise a model of consistency, allowing three earned runs or less in 26 of his 33 starts.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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A's prospect Olson powers Mesa to first victory

A's prospect Olson powers Mesa to first victory

Matt Olson's 37 home runs during the regular season with Class A Advanced Stockton ranked third in the Minor Leagues. So it was no surprise when he bashed two homers Saturday night for Mesa, becoming the first player this season in the Arizona Fall League to record a multi-homer game.

Olson's home runs powered Mesa to a 6-3 victory against Peoria. The victory snapped the Solar Sox's three-game losing streak to open the season.

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Olson also had started the fall slowly. Going into Saturday's game, he was 0-for-7 in two games. That quickly changed as Mesa's big first baseman homered in his first two plate appearances. He finished the night 2-for-3 with a walk, three runs and two RBIs.

"I felt pretty good, pretty relaxed up there," said Olson, the A's No. 2 prospect. "I got a couple pitches to hit."

Olson's first homer came in the first inning against right-hander Dylan Baker, the Indians' No. 15 prospect. He then led off the fourth inning with a drive out to center field off right-hander Miguel Almonte, the Royals' No. 5 prospect.

Olson, ranked No. 98 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, has been punishing good pitchers all year. He hit .262/.404/.543 and drew 117 walks in 138 games to go with his 37 home runs. Among Minor Leaguers, only Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo hit more homers.

It was a breakout season for Olson. In 2013, he finished second in the Midwest League with 23 home runs as a 19-year old with Class A Beloit, but he hit .225/.326/.435 in 134 games.

While trading the pitcher-friendly Midwest League for the hitter's haven of the California League may have helped Olson's statistics this season, he said he thinks he matured as a hitter and took better at-bats.

"I had a lot of walks this year, and I think that in turn helped my power numbers in the end," he said. "Being selective and making guys come to me."

With Olson anchoring the middle of their lineup Saturday, the Solar Sox set season highs with six runs and 10 hits. Center fielder Dalton Pompey, the Blue Jays' No. 3 prospect and No. 88 overall on the top-100 list, went 1-for-4 with a triple, a run and an RBI. Shortstop Eric Stamets finished the night 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI.

As Mesa's offense came alive, left-hander Nate Smith, the Angels' No. 18 prospect, delivered a strong start. He struck out two batters in three scoreless innings and held the Javelinas to one hit and one walk.

Peoria eventually got on the scoreboard in the seventh inning. Catcher Tony Wolters hit a bases-clearing, two-out double off right-hander Austin House, cutting Mesa's lead to one run. But the Javelinas would get no closer. The Solar Sox added two insurance runs in the bottom of the inning and right-hander Mark Sappington, the Angels' No. 9 prospect, threw a scoreless ninth for the save.

Shortstop Francisco Lindor, the Indians' top prospect and No. 4 on the Top 100, led the Javelinas offense, going 2-for-4 with a walk and a run. The 20-year old went 7-for-14 with two walks, four runs and three RBIs in three games in the first week of the AFL.

But the early lead Olson gave to the Solar Sox proved to be too much for the Javelinas to overcome. As a result, Mesa goes into Sunday's off-day on a positive note.

"It's definitely good to get our first win under the belt," Olson said. "After the off day, hopefully we'll be able to keep winning baseball going into Monday."

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lowrie leads A's free-agent crop

Oakland has decision to make at shortstop position along with other impending FAs

Lowrie leads A's free-agent crop

OAKLAND -- The A's could lose as many as eight free agents this winter -- chief among them Jed Lowrie, with no everyday big league shortstop waiting in the wings.

For so long, the plan was for Addison Russell to take the reins at this position upon Lowrie's expected departure, but that was washed away when he was traded to the Cubs in the deal that gave the A's Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. That leaves top prospect Daniel Robertson, who won't be ready until at least 2016, and Andy Parrino, who, though defensively sound, has yet to prove he can hit at the Major League level.

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"We've got a kid coming up that we think very highly of, but he's not ready," said general manager Billy Beane. "That is a position of need and concern, at least right now, particularly since Jed's a free agent."

Beane has yet to speak with Lowrie's camp, though it's expected the sides will at least have a discussion. The A's could potentially present him a qualifying offer that, if rejected, would net them a compensation Draft pick from the team that signs him. But Lowrie, 30, is likely eying a multiyear deal.

Lowrie was still processing the A's heartbreaking 9-8 loss in the American League Wild Card Game to the Royals when asked about the factors most important to him when going through this process, but he does already have a few in mind.

"The opportunity for me professionally, where I fit into any potential organization, that's obviously important, and then the situation for my family, as well," Lowrie said. "I think that's a factor. Money is obviously a factor. I'd be lying if I didn't say it was.

"I think the unknown is exciting, and I think every player plays for the opportunity to get to free agency."

Playing shortstop was important to Lowrie when he joined an A's team that considered him at second base while evaluating highly touted Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. Lowrie, though, says he wouldn't rule out an opportunity at second base on the premise it was on a full-time basis.

"I'm not going to go into the offseason saying I'm only going to play shortstop, but what I do want is the chance to play the same position, whether that's shortstop or whether that's second base," Lowrie said. "Flip-flopping back and forth, that just doesn't interest me at all. I'd like to be able to play one position."

Lowrie was a model of consistency at the plate in '13, hitting .290 with a .344 on-base percentage in his first full healthy season in the big leagues. But he had his share of lumps this year and battled a fractured finger in the second half, finishing with a .249/.321/.355 batting line. On the defensive side, he compiled three fewer errors at shortstop than last season, but his range often proved limited.

"I'm certainly open to hearing what the A's have to say," Lowrie said. "I enjoy playing for [manager] Bob [Melvin], and I like the guys in this clubhouse. I'm certainly hoping to hear what their plans are and where I would fit in the equation if they choose to include me."

Rounding out the list of Oakland's impending free agents are Jon Lester, bound for a big-money, long-term deal elsewhere, and fellow pitchers Hammel and Luke Gregerson, along with outfielder Jonny Gomes, infielder Alberto Callaspo, catcher Geovany Soto and designated hitter Adam Dunn, who said he will likely retire.

Beane wasn't ready to discuss any one player, noting, "I don't know that we're really in a position to make any individual statements on players that may or may not be back," but of Lester, who no doubt has pitched his last game in green and gold, said, "He was great. We've had some great pitchers here. We had Jon for a short amount of time, but he's as good as any I've ever had here.

"Just the way he approaches the game, he's such a professional. He's gonna get paid a lot of money, and you know what? I can see why, having had him. He was a class act."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Over its 23-year history, the Arizona Fall League has developed a reputation as a finishing school for baseball's top prospects. This year, once again, many of the game's best young players will gather in the desert, hoping to prove themselves in the same league that helped catapult Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Trout to stardom.

When the AFL opens play Tuesday, the concentration of talent will again be readily apparent. Two of the three Opening Day games feature premium pitching matchups, and the third game is highlighted by two of the best shortstops in the Minor Leagues.

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The action begins at 3:35 p.m. ET when Peoria and right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' No. 2 prospect, visits Surprise and right-hander Taijuan Walker, whose last start was a complete game for the Mariners in the midst of their pennant race.

At the same time Tuesday afternoon, Glendale and shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect, will host Mesa and shortstop Addison Russell, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect. The day ends with another pitchers' duel, as right-hander Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, will take the mound for Scottsdale at 9:35 p.m. ET at Salt River, facing right-hander Archie Bradley, the D-backs' No. 1 prospect.

Games with that level of talent are commonplace in the AFL, where 23 players ranked on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list will play this season.

For the second year in a row, Byron Buxton, baseball's top ranked prospect, is among the top prospects playing in the desert this fall. Last year, the Twins' No. 1 prospect hit .212/.288/.404 in 12 games as a 19-year-old for Glendale. This year, he will be playing for Salt River as he tries to make up for lost time after missing most of the regular season due to injuries.

Buxton played in just 31 games during the regular season. A wrist injury he suffered during Spring Training delayed his start to the season and continued to hamper him throughout the first half with Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Then, in his first game after being promoted to Double-A New Britain in August, he suffered a concussion in a harrowing outfield collision and was sidelined for the final three weeks of the season.

Now healthy again, Buxton will be one of the most-watched players in the AFL. But his is far from the only storyline to watch over the next six weeks.

Making up for lost time
Like Buxton, several other players are headed to Arizona to make up for time they lost to injury during the regular season. Others who are taking advantage of the extra developmental time include outfielder Jesse Winker, the Reds' No. 2 prospect, and shortstop Tim Anderson, the White Sox's No. 2 prospect.

Many of the starting pitchers in the AFL are there because injuries prevented them from reaching their innings caps during the regular season. Bradley, Glasnow, Zimmer and Walker all spent part of this season on the disabled list, as did right-handers C.J. Edwards, the Cubs' No. 5 prospect, and Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect.

Recent Draft picks
Last year, just four months after he was selected second overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, the Cubs sent third baseman Kris Bryant to the AFL. He hit .364/.457/.727 with six home runs in 20 games. He was named MVP and helped Mesa to the league championship game. That performance helped serve as a springboard for his historic '14 season, when he hit 43 home runs and reached Triple-A.

It is unlikely any player will be able to repeat Bryant's spectacular performance this season. But three members of the '14 Draft class will play in the AFL, led by shortstop Trea Turner, the Padres' No. 5 prospect. He was selected 13th overall in June and hit .323/.406/.448 with five home runs and 23 stolen bases in 69 games between short-season Eugene and Class A Fort Wayne.

In addition to the small group of '14 draftees, several members of the '13 Draft class will play in the AFL. Right-hander Mark Appel, the first overall pick last year, headlines the group. The Astros' No. 2 prospect had a rocky start to his first full professional season, but pitched much better after his promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi in July. He will try to build on that progress while pitching with Salt River this fall, where he joins Bradley and Buxton to form one of the most star-studded rosters in the league.

Pace of play
Major League Baseball announced last week a set of experimental rules designed to speed up the pace of play would be used in the AFL this year.

• A hitter must keep one foot inside the batter's box throughout his plate appearance, unless one of a few exceptions, such as a foul ball, occurs.

• Intentional walks will be called for by the manager and the batter will automatically take first base.

• There will be a maximum break of two minutes, five seconds between innings, with hitters required to be in the batter's box by the one-minute, 45-second mark. If either team doesn't comply, a ball or strike will be assessed accordingly.

• There will be a maximum of two minutes, 30 seconds allowed for pitching changes, including those that occur during an inning break. A ball will be called if a team takes too long.

• Each team will be permitted three "timeout" conferences covering any meeting involving pitchers and catchers, managers, coaches and batters. Timeouts during pitching changes and those that result from an injury or other emergency will not be counted toward the limit. Additionally, at Salt River home games, a 20-second pitch clock will be used. Those games will also include instant replay, as MLB continues to study potential modifications to the review system.

The experimental pace of play initiatives continue the AFL's tradition of being a testing lab for MLB's potential rule changes. Last year, the instant replay system was debuted in the AFL.

Defensive moves
Position changes often happen in a less-competitive environment than the AFL, but the league gives players who are moving around the diamond another chance to get experience.

This year, Josh Bell, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect, will be the most prominent player learning a new position. He has exclusively played the outfield in the Minor Leagues, but the Pirates already have a star-studded trio of young outfielders in the big leagues. So, this fall, Bell will try out first base, where he began taking ground balls during the regular season.

Although Peter O'Brien, the D-backs' No. 7 prospect, won't be changing positions when he catches for Salt River this fall, his progress defensively will be closely watched by evaluators. The 24-year old was a catcher in college, but has played four positions since the Yankees drafted him in the second round in '12.

The D-backs acquired O'Brien at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for Martin Prado, but injuries limited him to four games with his new club. The D-backs are sending him to the AFL as a catcher, and how he performs behind the plate over the next six weeks could inform his ultimate defensive home.

No matter where O'Brien ends up defensively, his offensive prowess gives him a chance to reach the Major Leagues. He hit 34 home runs in 106 games this season, ranking fifth among Minor Leaguers.

MLB.com's Top Prospects in AFL
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
5. Addison Russell, SS, Cubs
9. Archie Bradley, RHP, D-backs
13. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
16. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates
29. Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates
38. Raul Mondesi, SS, Royals
40. Jesse Winker, OF, Reds
41. Mark Appel, RHP, Astros
47. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals
49. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners
53. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Cubs
60. Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets
71. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres
82. Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
84. Nick Williams, OF, Rangers
85. Daniel Robertson, SS, A's
86. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Royals
87. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals
88. Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays
96. Trea Turner, SS, Padres
98. Matt Olson, 1B, A's

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Beane defends trades after A's postseason exit

GM asserts Oakland's Wild Card appearance tied to acquiring Lester

Beane defends trades after A's postseason exit

OAKLAND -- A's general manager Billy Beane is standing behind both of his July blockbuster trades, particularly the one that gave him 12 Jon Lester starts. This, he's adamant about. There's less certainty what his next move will be.

Following another early exit from the postseason, after a frenzied 12-inning loss to the Royals in Tuesday's winner-take-all American League Wild Card Game, the A's now must calculate just how much that window of opportunity for competing remains open.

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"The cycles here are very short," said Beane, speaking in his Wednesday postmortem session with the media.

That's why Tuesday's loss stung a little more.

"This was as empty as you can be, because there was never a point in time for me that I thought we were going to lose the game," said manager Bob Melvin. "I didn't. I thought we were going to be in Anaheim today, and it never even occurred to me that we would be sitting here right now having this nice conversation."

If the A's weren't already considered one of the World Series favorites entering the season, they positioned themselves as such in July, when, despite already carrying baseball's best record and one of the league's most formidable rotations, they added Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel and Lester to the mix. Lester and Hammel are set to become free agents this offseason, while Samardzija can hit the open market after the 2015 season.

Beane insists he forecasted trouble on the horizon, which is why he let go of his cleanup hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, and his two best prospects, Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, to get the deals done. 

"Once it started to get the middle of the season, there was this sense of, we need to make sure that it won't collapse on us, which is a reason why we were so aggressive," he said. "Grasping the opportunity this year was important for us because we had so many questions going into this offseason."

Beane won't apologize for this. The Lester-Cespedes trade was met with much debate from the second it broke, and even though Lester wasn't Lester in the Wild Card Game, allowing six runs, Beane would do it all over again.

"Simply put, if we don't have Jon Lester, I don't think we make the playoffs," he said. "We made it on the last day. We don't have him, I don't believe we make the playoffs."

Pressed more, Beane said, "It's always tough losing a middle-of-the lineup bat, there's no question, but I think having Jon allowed us to get to the playoffs."

He never budged, again saying, "If we didn't have Lester, we wouldn't have had that game yesterday. Jon put us in the position to win the game, which is what his job was, and then the ball was handed off. I don't think it was any fault of his. We can debate all you want but I truly believe we don't make the playoffs extracting Lester."

"Look," Melvin said, "the trades we made for the pitching were key in where we went. Look at how they pitched down the stretch. Very instrumental in where we got."

Beane also didn't buy into popular thinking that Cespedes' sudden absence affected team chemistry.

"I think production ultimately creates chemistry," he said.

That the A's went 16-30 down the stretch after spending most of the first half of the season with baseball's best record had less to do with Cespedes and chemistry, Beane believes, and more to do with a laundry list of injuries, notably to Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie, John Jaso and Craig Gentry. Brandon Moss and Derek Norris' lengthy struggles at the plate only further disrupted the carefully crafted A's lineup.

All the while, the Angels were running away with the division.

"The Angels were going to catch us," Beane said. "They played nearly .700 ball from a certain point on. If you go back to my quotes when we made those trades despite the fact of where we were, at no point were those trades made for the playoffs. I was adamant about it and couldn't have been more adamant about both those trades. I could feel the Angels breathing down our necks. I knew they were good, and I knew Seattle was good, too. Seattle scared me just as much as they did, and for good reason as it turned out.

"What I didn't reveal was I was also concerned about us at the point of the trades. It was both those teams and our own concerns internally, despite where we were. I've said this multiple times. It's not where you are, it's where you're headed, and I like to think, being here every day, I have to feel where we're headed."

There's no telling in which direction he leads them now.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Athletics' season ends in Wild Card heartbreak

Moss homers twice to build four-run lead, but Royals win in 12

Athletics' season ends in Wild Card heartbreak

KANSAS CITY -- Nearly five hours of grueling, gritty, great baseball was played at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday night, the type of postseason game that will be talked for a long time. The A's, though, losers of a 9-8 thriller to the Royals in the American League Wild Card Game, will feel it for a long time, that familiar heartache that has attached itself to every one of their playoff series under general manager Billy Beane.

Oakland has reached the postseason eight times since the start of 2000, advancing as far as the AL Championship Series just once, and never beyond it. Another AL Division Series was at least in sight, following a five-run sixth inning that erased a 3-2 deficit, but the Royals, playing in the postseason for the first time in nearly 30 years, fought back to the soundtrack of a deafening crowd to tie the game and, ultimately, win it in the bottom of the 12th.

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A pair of homers and five RBIs from Brandon Moss went to waste, as did a season that began with so much promise and ended so miserably. Tuesday's affair was simply a short version of this, even with Jon Lester on the mound.

Beane reeled in Lester from the Red Sox at the Trade Deadline, albeit at the cost of Yoenis Cespedes, for exactly such a game. But the lefty far from resembled his sharp self at the beginning or end of his 7 1/3-inning outing, coughing up six runs total, after allowing no more than three since June 7.

By the time closer Sean Doolittle entered the ninth, the A's were clinging to a one-run lead, erased on Nori Aoki's sacrifice fly.

"We got off to a fast start. We were able to get a significant lead and unfortunately down the stretch we weren't able to nail it down," said Doolittle. "It's kind of the way the season went as a whole."

The A's were prematurely heralded winners of the AL West in the first half, entering the All-Star break with baseball's best record before plummeting down the standings and falling into the AL Wild Card Game with a win on the final day of the regular season, a champagne-soaked celebration that's now a distant memory. For it's the Royals, the first team to come back from at least four runs down in the eighth inning or later in an elimination playoff game, who now head to Anaheim for a best-of-five ALDS with the Angels.

"Initial thoughts are: The season's a failure," said Dan Otero. "We didn't get to our ultimate goal. We had this game right where we wanted it, didn't get the job done."

The 12th inning began with Otero on the mound, after an unlikely hero, Alberto Callaspo had provided a go-ahead RBI hit in the top of the frame. Eric Hosmer tripled, with Jonny Gomes and Sam Fuld nearly colliding at the wall, and he scored on Christian Colon's high chopper toward third base with the infield in. Colon stole second, the Royals' seventh stolen base of the game, and scored on Salvador Perez's game-winning liner down the third-base line off Jason Hammel.

Mayhem ensued on the field. Silence filled the A's clubhouse, as it did at the conclusion of ALDS Game 5 losses to Justin Verlander and the Tigers the previous two years.

"This is way worse. It hurts way more," said Doolittle. "Knowing that it's a must-win game, and in the position that we had them in, not being able to get it done, it's way worse than the last two years.

"It's tough to put into words right now. It was an absolute battle all night long. It's tough, but a team like that, playing at home with this crowd they had here tonight, in a way, you expected them to come back and make a push."

"That's the best game I've ever been a part of," said Jed Lowrie. "I've never seen two teams want that game more and leave it all out there. It's too bad someone had to lose."

The fact that the A's did despite handing Lester a four-run lead made it that more perplexing.

"For a lineup that didn't produce most of the second half, you score eight runs, you feel like you're going to win this ballgame," said Josh Reddick. "You have one of the best guys in baseball on the mound for you, score seven in the first five, you know you're winning that game. This game is unpredictable."

Consider this: Moss had just two home runs in 154 regular-season at-bats since July 24 and only five RBIs in September. Now, he's the first Oakland batter in history to notch at least two homers and five RBIs in a postseason game.

Then there's Lester, who had not allowed more than three earned runs in a postseason game since Oct. 8, 2009. Having carried his new team on his shoulders so many times in that trying second half, it was their turn to pick him up.

That they did, though the end didn't go according to plan. Then again, nothing did for the A's this year.

"It's a weird game," said Lester, now a free agent. "You don't see games like that in the playoffs very often. Unfortunately, we're on the bad end of it. That's a tough one to end on."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Big-picture view of A's quite amazing

Despite painful knockout punch, Oakland club a perennial contender

Big-picture view of A's quite amazing

If we can remove ourselves from the reality of the way it ended, we can take a moment to reflect on the A-mazement of a ballclub ranking 29th, 27th and 25th the last three years in Opening Day payroll making the postseason in each of those years.

If Oakland fans can divorce themselves from the disappointment of Tuesday night's Wild Card result in Kansas City, maybe they'll take comfort in the way a club that lost two-fifths of its starting rotation in Spring Training somehow stayed ahead of the curve in the season's first half and ran out to the best record in baseball for a significant percentage of the season.

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But of course, it's not that easy. Not for the A's or their fans.

What transpired these past six weeks, when that best record in baseball morphed into the fifth-best record in the AL and a quick exit from the postseason stage, will be the lingering memory. What happened Tuesday night, when a 7-3 lead went to waste and an extra-innings loss to the Royals truly felt like a microcosm of the overall second-half slide, will provide a persistent sting.

And all of this, we can be certain, is going to lead to much discussion and dissection on the part of those otherwise forward-thinking members of the Oakland front office.

Billy Beane once said his stuff doesn't work in the playoffs (only he didn't use the word "stuff"), and what he meant is that no matter how much you plan or prognosticate or put your ballclub in the best position to succeed, October is a total crapshoot. Things change in a hurry.

Tuesday night, we saw a great example of that.

  Date   Result Highlights
  Sept. 30   KC 9, OAK 8 video

What Beane could not have envisioned, though, was how quickly things would turn in this regular season, too. Only now, with the benefit of hindsight, do the decisions to go all-in on Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel look truly dubious. At the time those deals went down, even if you questioned the decision to give up a future asset like Addison Russell and a prime-time piece like Yoenis Cespedes, you had to respect Beane's sense of urgency, his will to win and, above all else, his guts.

The trades did not deliver the anticipated OAK-tober prize. That hurts. And while Samardzija is under control for another year, the pending free agency of Lester and the second-half sag of the offense will cast a cloud of concern over the A's as they approach the offseason.

Remember, though, how they got to this point in the first place. How they defied all reasonable projection and prediction to become AL elite these last few seasons. The A's put together a blend of platoons to thwart matchups, fly-ball tendencies to counter shifts and ego-free attitudes to create clubhouse cohesion. For the bulk of this season, it worked beautifully, and you'd better believe there were other clubs jotting down notes along the way. I spoke to several scouts in the first half who praised the A's for having the most craftily, most smartly constructed roster in the game. The skill it took to get to that point will continue to serve the A's well moving forward in an ever-changing game.

I don't think it's crazy to suggest, as many (including some opponents) have, that the midseason moves affected the unique culture the A's had worked so hard to create. You run that risk with any drastic shakeup. Having said that, though, I think there was enough lingering uncertainty about the second-half prospects for the rotation (with the 2013 innings totals of Sonny Gray, Jesse Chavez and Scott Kazmir inspiring questions about how well they'd hold up) to inspire aggression from Beane.

Moving Cespedes at a time when run production is at such a premium might qualify as overly aggressive. That's certainly easy to assert at the moment, because a decline in run production is a big reason why the A's fell so far in the standings in such a short amount of time.

Still, you saw them generate plenty of offense in that Wild Card Game, didn't you? Had the bullpen preserved things late in the game and later in the game, we'd be talking about the A's opportunity to rewrite the story of their 2014 season, beginning with the Division Series against the Angels.

That's the ultimate lesson here. The path is never linear, the target is never stable. Baseball organizations are always looking for "inefficiencies" that can be exploited, and it's no secret that Beane and his crew often tend to be the ones to find them first.

Ultimately, October is not the only crapshoot. Baseball itself is a crapshoot. It might be easy for some to bash Oakland right now for failing to meet their World Series expectations, and I get that. The last six weeks were puzzling, to say the least.

But if we look at things through a wider frame, the fact that this club could even realistically entertain such expectations is still pretty remarkable.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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No regrets, Dunn eyes retirement

A's veteran slugger isn't called on in first postseason game

No regrets, Dunn eyes retirement

KANSAS CITY -- Beyond the obvious sorrow clouding yet another A's postseason gone wrong on Tuesday night in the visitors' clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium was sincere disappointment for a man who waited 14 seasons to get there and exited it without a single at-bat.

Adam Dunn, on a postseason roster for the first time in his career, watched the American League Wild Card Game from the bench, not once stepping on the field in the A's 9-8, 12-inning loss to the Royals. Now, he plans to retire.

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"That's probably it," said Dunn, he of 462 career homers.

The veteran slugger, who joined the A's for the final month of regular-season play, extended his time as a player as long as he could, remaining dressed in uniform more than an hour after the game had ended, long past midnight, when all of his teammates had already filed out of the clubhouse.

He played in 2,001 regular-season games without a postseason appearance, the most among active players and 14th most in Major League history among players with zero postseason games.

Dunn insisted he wasn't disappointed.

"Not at all," he said. "Let's not make a bigger deal out of it. I love Bob [Melvin]. He's one of the best managers I've ever played for. He's as good as there is out there. You wish the best for a guy like that. He's awesome. Awesome."

Melvin considered using Dunn in the 12th inning with a runner on second and one out. He knew the Royals would walk Dunn, though, and thus went with Alberto Callaspo, who came through with the go-ahead hit. The Royals plated two in the bottom half of the inning to win a wild one.

"From a fan's perspective," said Dunn, "probably one of the best I've ever seen. It was exciting. We just came up short."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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A's bullpen picks wrong time for rough night

A's bullpen picks wrong time for rough night

KANSAS CITY -- Words were hard to come by and emotions were heavy for A's closer Sean Doolittle, whose voice trailed off a couple of times on Tuesday night after an American League Wild Card Game vs. the Royals that was every bit as demoralizing for the Oakland bullpen as it was a thriller for both teams.

How does one explain one of the best-performing bullpens in the AL not being able to hold not just one but two late-game leads in a 9-8 defeat in 12 innings?

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"Every time we thought we had them down, they came back," Doolittle said. "It's a testament to the kind of team they are, the kind of character they have. I think the bottom line is, we had opportunities to put that game away, and we just weren't able to do it."

The A's had a four-run lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning and a one-run lead in the top of the 12th after an RBI single by pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo.

Oakland, which had the second-best bullpen ERA in the AL, at 2.91, also had a 37-1 record when scoring seven runs or more.

Loss No. 2 stung far worse.

All but one of the five relievers who entered after starter Jon Lester exited in the eighth inning either gave up a run or allowed inherited runners to score.

"It's tough," said Doolittle, who had a 6.14 ERA and one blown save after coming off the disabled list on Sept. 12. "A team like that, playing at home with this crowd they had here tonight, in a way you expected them to come back and make a push. It was 7-3 at one point in the game, and we knew there was a lot of baseball left to be played. They were going to fight back. They were going to make a push."

Replacing Lester after he'd allowed a run in the eighth, Luke Gregerson gave up two inherited runs to make it a one-run game. Doolittle took over in the ninth and gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Josh Willingham. Following a sacrifice bunt and a steal of third base by pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson, Nori Aoki's sacrifice fly to right field made it a 7-7 game and forced extras.

Dan Otero, who took over in the 11th inning, escaped after having a runner on third base and two outs, then returned for the 12th. Eric Hosmer hit a one-out drive to left-center; it looked as though Jonny Gomes had it tracked before center fielder Sam Fuld ran into him, and the ball dropped in for a triple.

A chopper by Christian Colon went to third base, but Josh Donaldson couldn't barehand the ball, and Hosmer scored. Lefty Fernando Abad got Alex Gordon, the only batter he faced, to pop out.

Right-hander Jason Hammel was called in to face Salvador Perez. Normally a starter, Hammel had a 2-2 count when Perez hit a single through the left side for the walk-off game-ender that sent the A's to the offseason.

According to Elias, the Royals are the first team to come back from at least four runs down in the eighth inning or later in a winner-take-all playoff game.

"Initial thoughts are, the season's a failure," said Otero, who was charged with the loss. "We didn't get to our ultimate goal. I'm sure I'll be able to look back and think otherwise on a personal level, but as a team, we just didn't reach the ultimate goal. We had this game right where we wanted it, didn't get the job done."

"To go ahead in extra innings, and be just a couple of outs away, the way Otero had thrown the ball, everyone was feeling really good about it," Doolittle said. "Give [the Royals] credit. They found a way to stay on the roller coaster and find a way to get it done."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Moss' record-setting night isn't enough for A's

DH homers twice, sets club mark with five RBIs in AL Wild Card Game

Moss' record-setting night isn't enough for A's

KANSAS CITY -- Amid a deafening Kauffman Stadium crowd overjoyed with seeing the Royals' first postseason appearance in 29 years, A's designated hitter Brandon Moss did all he could to spoil their American League Wild Card party.

Even though Moss twice gave the A's a lead with two huge home runs for a team postseason record five RBIs, it wasn't enough to advance Oakland to the next round, as the Royals refused to lay down before finally ending the A's season with a 9-8 defeat in 12 innings.

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"That was definitely the best baseball game I've ever been a part of," Moss said. "It sucks to not be on the winning side of it. They played a great game. They came out on top."

Moss promptly silenced the 40,502 fans in the first inning. With two outs, he launched an 0-1 changeup from James Shields to right field for a two-run homer and 2-0 Oakland lead.

Coming into the at-bat, Moss had gone 3-for-14 with three singles and five strikeouts lifetime vs. Shields.

"What's so different about the postseason, especially in this thing, you know you're going to face one pitcher. You're not preparing for a philosophy or a way a staff is going to pitch you," Moss said. "You've got time to sit down and kind of build your own game plan against that pitcher. He pitched exactly how I thought he was going to pitch, and it worked out pretty well for me."

In the sixth inning with no outs and two men on while the A's were trailing, 3-2, Kansas City lifted Shields and summoned Yordano Ventura, a hard-throwing rookie starter who threw 73 pitches on Sunday. Ventura threw a 2-0, 98-mph fastball that was tattooed by Moss for a homer to straightaway center field.

"Mossy comes back and hits a three-run [homer] and puts us right back in the lead. We were able to get into a little bit of cruise control after that for a couple of innings," A's starting pitcher Jon Lester said.

"Unbelievable night by him," Josh Reddick said of Moss. "He stepped up on the biggest stage we've had all year.

"It had been tough for him, struggling so long, and to do what he did, especially on changeups from a guy like Shields, and a guy like Ventura, who's throwing 100, it makes it that much more impressive."

Moss was given the start as the DH so manager Bob Melvin could use Sam Fuld's superior glove in left field.

"You score a couple runs in the first inning and you feel like now we're on our way, and then we lose the lead, and then hits another three-run homer, and you feel like with our pitching it's going to hold up, but it didn't," Melvin said. "We've seen him make those swings before."

Moss now has three career postseason home runs. Oakland added three more runs in the sixth but saw Kansas City score four runs over the eighth and ninth innings.

"Obviously, with our pitching staff and our defense, we feel comfortable with a lead," Moss said. "But we know how much havoc they can create when they get guys on base. If you get an opportunity to add on, it's very good. After that [sixth] inning, they started bringing in their guys, and those three guys they bring in at the end of the games are pretty shut down. They're extremely hard to get anything done against. They ended up keeping us silent for those three innings and making a comeback right there."

Although his club fell short of heading to a third straight AL Division Series, Moss added some footprints to A's postseason history.

• Moss' five RBIs set a new postseason single-game record for the A's.

• Moss is the first AL batter with at least two homers and five RBIs in a postseason game since Nelson Cruz accomplished the feat for the Rangers vs. the Tigers on Oct. 10, 2011.

• It also marked the first two-homer game for the A's in the postseason since Game 2 of the 2006 AL Championship Series, when Milton Bradley hit two against the Tigers. Moss was the ninth A's player to hit multiple homers in a postseason game.

• The last player to hit multiple home runs in a postseason game against the Royals was Graig Nettles, who hit two for the Yankees in Game 4 of the 1976 ALCS.

Moss, who hit 25 homers during the regular season, has been hampered by torn cartilage in his right hip, a situation that will require surgery after the postseason. He finished with two homers over his final 154 at-bats. He had only two multihomer games during the regular season -- vs. the Yankees on June 3 and the White Sox on May 13.

There have been four other games in Moss' career in which he's had at least five RBIs. His career high is six, vs. the Tigers on Aug. 28, 2013.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Hero of past Octobers, Lester comes up short

Ace lacks dominant stuff in first postseason since midseason trade to A's

Hero of past Octobers, Lester comes up short

KANSAS CITY -- When the A's went for it all by making the huge Trade Deadline deal to get Jon Lester from the Red Sox on July 31, they felt the left-handed ace was just the perfect guy they could send to the mound for any do-or-die game in the postseason.

When that time came on Tuesday in the American League Wild Card Game, Lester fell short with his worst outing of his short tenure for Oakland. He allowed a postseason career-high six earned runs and eight hits over 7 1/3 innings during a 9-8 A's loss to the Royals in 12 innings.

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"I feel like I threw the ball better than what the linescore said, but when it's all said and done, it is what it is," said Lester, who walked two and struck out five. "I can sit here and say I felt better than what it said and had better stuff than what it said but that's not going to do anything. The bottom line was that we lost. Regardless of how we got there, we lost. Now we're packing our stuff and going home."

Things happened to Lester vs. the Royals that don't occur too often.

• Lester had been 85-1 in his career when given a three-run lead in a game.

• The last time Lester allowed three runs in a playoff game was Oct. 8, 2009, in a loss to the Angels.

• It was the first time Lester allowed more than three earned runs in a start for the A's and his first non-quality start since June 7.

  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video

• Coming in, Lester was 6-4 with a 1.97 ERA in 11 career postseason starts, including 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in five playoff games for Boston last year.

Throughout his start, the 40,502 fans at sold-out Kauffman Stadium roared loudly and often taunted Lester with chants of "Les-ter, Les-ter."

"It was awesome to be a part of," Lester said of the game. "Loud, good atmosphere; just a good baseball game. As far as the fans, the teams, the competitiveness, the will to not lose, we're on the bad side of it, but you couldn't ask for a better game. I would imagine the fans got what they paid for tonight."

Brandon Moss hit a first-inning two-run home run that gave Lester a 2-0 lead. Moss' three-run homer sparked a five-run sixth inning that made it a 7-3 game.

"Especially off a guy like [Royals starter James] Shields, giving us two runs early like that was just huge," Lester said. "In the first inning, I minimized damage a little bit. They came out with a really good approach, an approach I haven't seen from there before -- working counts and taking pitches. They scraped across one. After that, I felt like I got into a better rhythm. Mossy comes back and hits a three-run [homer] and puts us right back in the lead. We were able to get into a little bit of cruise control after that for a couple of innings."

After giving up two runs in the third inning, Lester retired his next 12 batters.

"He pitched good enough to get the win," A's catcher Derek Norris said. "That's what we got him for, these kinds of situations. They got a couple of ground balls that found some holes and started a rally in the eighth inning. It was back and forth after that."

Lester went back out for the eighth inning and ran into trouble when Alcides Escobar hit a single and stole second base. After a groundout moved Escobar to third base, Lorenzo Cain's RBI single went to center field. On Lester's 111th and final pitch, Eric Hosmer walked. Reliever Luke Gregerson allowed both inherited runners to score, making it a one-run game.

"Since the first day I first pitched against them, they were built on momentum, and we allowed that momentum to get back into the game in the eighth inning -- and you see where we're at," Lester said.

It's likely that this was the final start in an A's uniform for Lester, who is expected to be perhaps the most in-demand starting pitcher to hit the free-agent market this offseason. Oakland took its chances knowing it wouldn't have Lester for long. The A's just hoped their run with him would last longer than one postseason game -- as did Lester.

"These guys are awesome," Lester said. "It's an honor and privilege, and I thank the A's organization for believing in me and trading for me and getting the privilege to play with this great group of guys who put [themselves] on the line every single night and compete. Unfortunately, we're on the bad end tonight -- never for a lack of competing and trying and being prepared. I've never been around a group like this before."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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KC's historic comeback and other crazy stats

KC's historic comeback and other crazy stats

The American League Wild Card Game could not have been any wilder. The Royals defeated the A's, 9-8, in 12 innings after erasing a four-run deficit over the eighth and ninth frames and a one-run deficit in the 12th in a contest that featured an entire season's worth of twists and turns.

After the drama unfolded and the dust settled, we were left with some remarkable stats to help tell the story.

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• Kansas City became the first team to come back from at least four runs down in the eighth inning or later of a winner-take-all playoff game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

• Seven Royals stole a base, setting a postseason record. The thieves: Nori Aoki, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Terrance Gore, Alex Gordon, Jarrod Dyson and Christian Colon. Five of the seven scored.

• Per ESPN Stats & Info, the Royals in the eighth became the first team with four stolen bases in one inning of a postseason game. The seven total steals tied a single-game postseason record, matching the 1907 Cubs and '75 Reds. Six of those steals came off A's catcher Derek Norris, who had replaced Geovany Soto in the third inning after Soto jammed his left thumb.

• The Royals put down four sacrifice bunts, the most in a playoff game since 2007, when the Indians produced four against the Yankees in Game 2 of the AL Division Series. The MLB record, five, was set by the Cubs in Game 4 of the 1906 World Series, a 1-0 victory over the White Sox.

• A's designated hitter Brandon Moss, who finished the regular season with two home runs in his last 154 at-bats, hit two in five at-bats, one each off James Shields and Yordano Ventura, on Tuesday, becoming the eighth player with two long balls in a decisive playoff game.

• Moss also became the first Oakland player to have at least two home runs and five RBIs in a postseason contest, and those five RBIs set an A's single-game postseason record.

• Shields was pulled by Royals manager Ned Yost after 88 pitches, the fewest he had thrown since July 27, 2011. On that day, as a member of the Rays, he gave up a career-high-tying 10 runs to ... the A's.

• Ventura, who replaced Shields and served up a three-run homer to Moss, threw 73 pitches in the Royals' final regular-season game, against the White Sox, on Sunday.

Jon Lester allowed six earned runs, the most he has ever allowed in 14 playoff appearances (12 starts) and the second most he allowed in 2014 (following the seven he gave up on May 22 vs. Toronto). It was the only time he gave up more than three runs with the A's, and it was his first non-quality start since June 7, when he was still with the Red Sox.

• According to the TBS broadcast, Lester was 85-1 in his career when given a lead of three runs or more. He was handed a four-run lead on Tuesday, and although he was in line for the win when he exited, he could only watch the Royals pull close in the eighth and ultimately leave him with a no-decision.

• Before he contributed a go-ahead RBI for the A's in the top of the 12th, Alberto Callaspo's last RBI had come on Aug. 24. He finished the regular season 4-for-his-last-50.

• Per ESPN Stats & Info, the A's were 36-1 in the regular season when scoring seven runs or more. Only the Angels (38-1) were better.

• And one more amazing note, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau: The Royals played their first postseason game in almost 29 years on Tuesday night (Oct. 27, 1985, World Series Game 7). In 2012, the Nationals ended a span of 31 years between postseason games by the franchise (since the 1981 Expos), but Kansas City's 29-year gap between postseason games is the longest for a franchise that played in one city since the Indians went 41 years between the 1954 World Series and 1995 American League Division Series.

Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Crisp exits in 11th inning with hamstring injury

A's center fielder unable to finish AL Wild Card Game vs. Royals

Crisp exits in 11th inning with hamstring injury

KANSAS CITY -- A's center fielder Coco Crisp came out of Tuesday night's American League Wild Card Game against the Royals just prior to the bottom of the 11th inning with a right hamstring injury.

Crisp appeared to be favoring his right leg on a swing he took during an at-bat in the top of the inning with the game tied at 7. He struck out.

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Crisp tried to take center field for the home half of the inning, but called for a replacement from the dugout and limped off the field. Jonny Gomes came into the game, going to left field, while Sam Fuld moved from left to center.

Crisp went 2-for-6 with an RBI and run scored.

Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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A's Soto leaves Wild Card Game with injured thumb

A's Soto leaves Wild Card Game with injured thumb

KANSAS CITY -- A's catcher Geovany Soto was forced to exit Tuesday night's 9-8 loss to the Royals in the American League Wild Card Game in the bottom of the third inning because of a left thumb injury.

In the bottom of the first, Soto applied a tag with his glove hand on Eric Hosmer as he attempted to steal home for the third out. Soto batted in the second inning and was called out on strikes.

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"He kind of pulled his thumb back on the jersey on the play at the plate, and after that it kept getting worse and worse," manager Bob Melvin said. "Certainly as a catcher you need your thumb, especially when Jon Lester is throwing cutters."

Unable to receive pitches, Soto was replaced behind the plate by Derek Norris,

Soto, who was purchased from the Rangers on Aug. 24 to help Oakland down the stretch, was given the start over Norris because Melvin wanted to exploit his skills at cutting down Kansas City's running game.

The Royals stole six of their seven bases on Tuesday night with Norris behind the plate.

During an on-air interview during the bottom of the fourth inning, A's pitching coach Curt Young was asked if he expected the change at catcher to give Oakland problems.

"Well basically this was Soto's first time catching [Lester] this year," Young said. "D-No's been his catcher all the starts that he's been here, so they're real comfortable together and they work very well together."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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A's escape first inning with pick-off play

Lester catches Butler off first base; Hosmer thrown out at home

KANSAS CITY -- The American League Wild Card Game got off to a confusing start, as the Royals ran into an out in the first inning.

Billy Butler drove in Kansas City's first run with a single in the first, but he also contributed to the third out of the inning when he wandered too far off first base with two outs and Eric Hosmer at third. Hosmer responded to Butler's rundown by breaking to home plate, where he was thrown out. At the time, the Athletics led, 2-1.

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  Date   Result Highlights
  Sept. 30   KC 9, OAK 8 video

The play left many wondering what had just occurred as the circumstances certainly did not call for a steal. Butler has not attempted to swipe a bag since 2012 and one of Kansas City's best hitters, Alex Gordon, was at the plate.

"Well that play broke down on both ends," Royals manager Ned Yost told the TBS crew during an in-game interview. "Billy left too soon. He was supposed to wait till Lester threw the ball home, take a second, break it down, and then Hos was gonna come to the plate. We had to find other ways to score some runs."

According to fangraphs.com, Athletics starter Jon Lester did not attempt a pick-off throw to first all season, leading to speculation that the Royals would test the left-hander on the bases.

Replays show first-base coach Rusty Kuntz and Butler discussing something before the pick-off play and after the inning in the dugout.

The Royals overcame the mistake later, grabbing a 3-2 lead in the third inning.

Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Elbow pain keeps O'Flaherty off A's WC roster

Elbow pain keeps O'Flaherty off A's WC roster

KANSAS CITY -- A's reliever Eric O'Flaherty was forced off the roster for Tuesday night's American League Wild Card Game because of ongoing discomfort in his surgically repaired left elbow.

The southpaw, who underwent Tommy John surgery last year, has been dealing with the issue for nearly two weeks. O'Flaherty last pitched in a game on Sept. 20, and although he threw to hitters on Monday, he "didn't love the way the ball was coming out of his hand," said manager Bob Melvin, "so it just didn't seem prudent to put him on the playoff roster right now."

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  Date   Result Highlights
  Sept. 30   KC 9, OAK 8 video
That leaves the A's with three lefties in their bullpen for the Wild Card Game: closer Sean Doolittle, Fernando Abad and Drew Pomeranz. It's not known whether O'Flaherty would be available for a potential AL Division Series against the Angels, but the elbow issue, at least, isn't believed to be serious.

"It's natural when you've had a surgery like that and you feel something, that it scares you a little bit," said Melvin. "I think that's the case for him right now, but I'm not sure. But we weren't going to run him out there when he's not feeling great, and that is the case right now."

O'Flaherty posted a 2.25 ERA in 20 regular-season innings for the A's.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lineup breakdown: A's-Royals, AL Wild Card Game

Lineup breakdown: A's-Royals, AL Wild Card Game

Here's a look at the starting lineups for Tuesday's American League Wild Card Game (8 p.m. ET, TBS) between the A's and Royals at Kauffman Stadium:

Royals

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Kansas City fans have been waiting 29 years for this moment, and the lineup they'll see in the franchise's first postseason action since 1985 is akin to what they've been seeing all season.

Against Oakland left-hander Jon Lester, manager Ned Yost has a lineup of nine regulars led by All-Stars Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon. Five of his starting nine are right-handed (Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Billy Butler, Perez and Omar Infante) and four are lefties (Nori Aoki, Eric Hosmer, Gordon and Mike Moustakas).

Lester is 9-3 with a 1.84 ERA against the Royals in his career, but a handful of Royals hitters have success against him in the last five years. Aoki is hitting .444 in nine at-bats, Cain is batting .313 in 16 at-bats, Escobar is batting .353 in 17 at-bats, Hosmer is batting .308 in 13 and Perez is batting .500 in six at-bats against the Oakland ace.

1. Alcides Escobar, SS
2. Nori Aoki, RF
3. Lorenzo Cain, CF
4. Eric Hosmer, 1B
5. Billy Butler, DH
6. Alex Gordon, LF
7. Salvador Perez, C
8. Omar Infante, 2B
9. Mike Moustakas, 3B

A's

With the right-handed James Shields on the mound against the A's on Tuesday night, Oakland manager Bob Melvin worked deep into his depth chart to put together his lineup for the AL Wild Card Game.

  Date   Result Highlights
  Sept. 30   KC 9, OAK 8 video

Sam Fuld is in left field in favor of Jonny Gomes (a .165 hitter against righties, as opposed to .276 against lefties), while Brandon Moss is the designated hitter with Adam Dunn (still searching for his first postseason at-bat) on the bench. Stephen Vogt is playing first base, and Geovany Soto is catching in favor of All-Star Derek Norris. While Norris has caught all 11 of Lester's starts with the A's since the lefty was traded from Boston, Soto is in the lineup for defensive purposes to curb Kansas City's formidable basestealing. Soto has thrown out 43 percent of attempted stealers to Norris' 17 percent this year, and has saved an additional three defensive runs this year, according to FanGraphs.

"They steal a lot of bases. Soto has done a great job with that," said Melvin. "He's worked very well with all the pitchers on our staff since he's come over. He's acclimated very quickly. They like throwing to him, and he's got a better history right now of throwing guys out. And swinging the bat well, too.

"Certainly we look at all sides of it, and that was definitely one of the sides we looked at."

Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick will hold down their regular spots in center and right field, respectively, with Josh Donaldson at third base and Jed Lowrie at shortstop. Eric Sogard gets the nod at second base in favor of Alberto Callaspo.

1. Coco Crisp, CF
2. Sam Fuld, LF
3. Josh Donaldson, 3B
4. Brandon Moss, DH
5. Josh Reddick, RF
6. Jed Lowrie, SS
7. Stephen Vogt, 1B
8. Geovany Soto, C
9. Eric Sogard, 2B

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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In moments like this, Lester wants the ball

In moments like this, Lester wants the ball

KANSAS CITY -- Don't look at the calendar, don't look at the uniforms and don't check the ticket stub. It doesn't matter that Jon Lester is pitching in a tense postseason elimination game Tuesday, because he doesn't need to turn it up a notch -- ever.

The intensity Lester will bring to the mound in a marquee matchup with the Royals' James Shields in the winner-take-all American League Wild Card Game on TBS at 5 p.m. PT is much the same as he brought to pickup basketball games as a kid growing up in Washington state. The attitude, he said, will be the same one he had in his starts at the beginning of the season, when the stakes weren't so high.

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That's just how he rolls. He's on the mound, so it's on, all the way. Right now, way back then or the next time.

"Believe or not, I've kind of always tried to take this approach, whether it's a start April 15 or if it's this game now," Lester said on the eve of the biggest start in his short A's tenure. "The competitiveness in me does not allow me to throttle back or throttle more.

  Date   Result Highlights
  Sept. 30   KC 9, OAK 8 video

"I try to take that same mentality into every game, whether it's April 15 against the Royals or Sept. 30. It's the same mentality, same preparation, same routine. Nothing changes because the game means more. I think that keeps me even-keeled."

It's with that background that Lester will make the type of start the A's envisioned when they acquired him from the Red Sox along with outfielder Jonny Gomes for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Much has been made about how the A's went 22-33 the final two months after the deal, but Lester's performance since the swap has been unquestioned.

While in A's colors, Lester finished out what stands as his best regular season of his nine in the Majors, his 2.46 ERA a career standard by the better part of a run to go along with several other career bests. With a 2.35 ERA in 11 starts with the A's and a 1.80 ERA in his final 19 starts, his 2.46 ERA for the season was the second lowest since 1920 by a Major Leaguer who pitched for two or more teams in one season (John Tudor, 2.32, Cardinals/Dodgers, 1988).

Add in a sparkling postseason resume, and this guy at this moment is the dictionary definition of an ace perfectly suited for this type of game.

"It's one of those things you can't help but see what he's done -- he's pitched in the World Series, he's pitched in big games," said A's third baseman Josh Donaldson, the team's leader on the lineup side. "He's going to pitch in another big game for us [Tuesday]."

Certainly, A's manager Bob Melvin is glad to have the veteran left-hander on the mound for the most important game of the year.

"This is why you get a Jon Lester, to pitch in big games," Melvin said Monday. "The way we set up our rotation coming down the stretch had this game in mind."

Lester's history on the mound in the postseason takes his ace status to a whole new level. He has gone 6-4 with a 2.11 ERA in 13 postseason appearances overall, including a 1.97 ERA in his 11 starting assignments. Last October, he was 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts as the Red Sox rolled to the World Series title.

"Last year if David Ortiz hadn't done what he did, Jon Lester would have probably been the World Series MVP with the way he steps up in the postseason," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

And then there's Lester's history against the Royals -- his best results against any team he has faced.

Lester is 9-3 with a 1.84 ERA in 13 career starts vs. the Royals, covering 88 innings of work, no small sample size. He is 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA in three starts vs. Kansas City this year -- the first with the Red Sox and the other two accounting for the only victories the A's had in seven regular-season meetings with the Royals this season.

His career ERA vs. Kansas City is his best against any American league team, and it ranks as the lowest career ERA vs. the Royals for any pitcher with 75 innings pitched or more. Lester obviously has made his presence known in Kansas City.

"We know we have a tough situation tomorrow with him," said Royals veteran left fielder Alex Gordon, who is 4-for-25 (.160) vs. Lester for his career. "We faced him three or four times this year, and he's been tough on us every time. So it's going to be a fight, but we're up for the challenge."

The Royals, and anybody else who has followed the left-hander the past several years, know for sure Lester will be up for it, too. He's always up for a challenge.

Lester takes on each challenge with the same intensity and focus, something the Royals have seen plenty of over the years entering this matchup on the postseason stage.

"But 9-3 and all that other stuff doesn't really matter now," Lester said. "It's the postseason. Start back at zero and see what happens."

John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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A's WC roster features long men, versatile offense

Oakland carrying eight pitchers as well as speed, switch-hitting options

A's WC roster features long men, versatile offense

KANSAS CITY -- The A's have opted to go with eight pitchers on their 25-man roster for tonight's winner-take-all AL Wild Card Game in Kansas City.

  Date   Result Highlights
  Sept. 30   KC 9, OAK 8 video

As expected, Oakland is carrying just one extra starter not named Jon Lester, who will take the bump against the Royals for his 12th career postseason start. That would be right-hander Jason Hammel, who last pitched Thursday.

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Lefty Drew Pomeranz is also on the roster, giving the A's two true long men in their bullpen for the affair. They'll be joined by closer Sean Doolittle, right-handers Luke Gregerson, Dan Otero and Ryan Cook, and left-hander Fernando Abad. Fellow southpaw Eric O'Flaherty is not on the roster because of a reported arm injury.

Starters Sonny Gray, Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir, all of whom pitched over the weekend, were left off the list, because clubs can alter rosters for a potential AL Division Series.

With just eight roster spots allotted to pitchers, the A's have a deep bench on hand for the crucial game, featuring a slew of right-handed batters not expected to be in the starting lineup against Kansas City ace James Shields, including Derek Norris, Jonny Gomes and Nate Freiman. Oakland can also counter with switch-hitters Nick Punto and Alberto Callaspo.

Speed is there in pinch-run options Billy Burns and Sam Fuld, and so is infielder Andy Parrino, who provides excellent defense as a backup option to starting shortstop Jed Lowrie.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lester keeps battling back, winning admirers

Cancer survivor has never met challenge he can't handle, including postseason

Lester keeps battling back, winning admirers

Jon Lester, LHP, Athletics
Hometown:
Tacoma, Wash.

When Jon Lester takes the mound for his latest big game tonight in Kansas City, they will be rooting for him in Oakland, Boston, Tacoma, Wash., and various places in between.

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Quite simply, Lester -- who will try to pitch the A's to victory in the Wild Card Game on TBS at 5 p.m. PT -- is an easy guy to root not just for what he has accomplished, but for who he is and what he has been through.

Back in 2006, while at the age of 22, Lester was rocked with the news that he had anaplastic large cell lymphoma. After discussing his diagnosis with amazing poise and courage for someone his age, Lester overcame the cancer, battling through chemotherapy treatments with the same resilience that has made him such a success story on the mound.

"When our whole team was done with practice, he would stick around afterwards and run extras corners and things like that," said Rick Barnhart, Lester's high school coach at Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma. "You wouldn't know he was this stand-out talent, because he was always working harder than everyone else. That was always a pretty cool thing."

  Date   Result Highlights
  Sept. 30   KC 9, OAK 8 video

It was a trait Lester took with him through every level of the Red Sox's farm system after being selected in the second round by Boston in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft.

Even as a young pitcher in the Majors, Lester became someone all the other pitchers were told to emulate.

"He's an easy guy to follow," said Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz. "He does everything right. Obviously he makes every start he's asked to make."

And in those starts, Lester never gives an inch. It was true for all those years in Boston, and it has happened again in Oakland, where he was traded on July 31 for Yoenis Cespedes.

"He's a really fierce competitor," said Buchholz. "When he's out on the mound, he's an emotional guy and he wants to do so well and he's a perfectionist to some extent and that's probably the best thing for a pitcher to want to be perfect. Nobody can be perfect, but you want to be as close as you can to that. He's been a horse for a long time."

This start against the Royals will be one that should draw interest from a lot of fans and teams because Lester is up for grabs come November as a free agent. Of course, the lefty is simply relishing another shot at the postseason, and will be making his 12th career playoff start, which is sixth most among active starters.

"I'll never take for granted that I get to go to the postseason," Lester said.

But once that postseason ends, expect a flurry of teams to get in the bidding, considering that Lester is in the prime of his career at 30 years old. Even now, after having won a pair of World Series championships with Boston and been the author of a no-hitter, there has never been a hint of arrogance from Lester. His even demeanor is just like it was back at Bellarmine Prep.

"The cool thing really was as it kind of got more and more obvious that he was going to be a real high-round pick, there would be 25 scouts at every game and phone calls all the time," Barnhart said. "But you wouldn't really know it necessarily from him. He was just the same hard-working guy."

If Lester can pitch the A's past the Royals, perhaps he will get on the same kind of run he did last October, when he went 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts in helping the Red Sox win their third World Series title in nine years.

"It's a great story," said Barnhart. "Sometimes you think it's like a made-for-TV movie. This kid comes walking in and does so great and he gets knocked off his feet. Then he comes back."

Now Lester is back where he's most comfortable -- pitching with his team's entire season at stake.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Numbers favor Aoki, Reddick against WC aces

Stats reveal plenty of variables that could factor into Lester-Shields matchup

Numbers favor Aoki, Reddick against WC aces

With aces Jon Lester and James Shields starting and both teams featuring strong bullpens, Tuesday night's American League Wild Card Game (8 ET, TBS) between the A's and Royals has all the makings of a low-scoring affair in which even the smallest advantage could be the difference.

One key angle to watch is how KC will fare against the left-handed Lester. While the Royals have generally handled lefties pretty well this year -- .710 OPS as a team, eighth in the AL -- their lineup will likely feature a handful of hitters who struggle against southpaws (more on that below). Of course, Lester was actually tougher on righties this year than ever before, holding them to a .230/.273/.344 line. Lefties actually fared better, hitting .258/.307/.389.

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On the flip side, the Royals may be the best run-prevention team in baseball. According to Ultimate Zone Rating, they have the best defense in MLB, and Kaufman Stadium is a notoriously tough park in which to go deep, ranking 12th in the AL this season in home run park factor. In other words, it's hard to hit one out, and the Royals defense will get to everything else, making it extremely tough to score on them.

In the fight to advance to an AL Division Series matchup with the Angels, one favorable matchup might be enough to turn the tide for one team or the other. Here's a look at some other numbers that could make an impact.

Nori Aoki fared the best of any Royals hitter against Lester this season, going 4-for-9 with two RBIs. Lorenzo Cain was 3-for-8 with a pair of doubles, while Alcides Escobar was 3-for-7 with one two-bagger.

• Lester, on the other hand, held both Omar Infante and Billy Butler hitless in nine at-bats, while Mike Moustakas went 0-for-5 against him.

• Shields has faced Adam Dunn more than any other A's hitter, since the slugger spent plenty of time in the AL Central with the White Sox. As a member of the Royals, Shields has held Dunn to a .240 average (6-for-25) with one home run, two walks and 11 strikeouts.

• In the last two seasons, Josh Reddick has enjoyed the most success against Shields among current A's, going 4-for-6 with four extra-base hits. Reddick homered twice off Shields on Aug. 3, then reached him for a double and a triple Aug. 14.

  Date   Result Highlights
  Sept. 30   KC 9, OAK 8 video

Coco Crisp has struggled the most against Shields during his time with Kansas City, going 0-for-7 with no walks and one strikeout.

• Though the Royals certainly are glad to have the game at home, Shields actually posted a better ERA on the road (2.97) than at Kauffman Stadium (3.51). However, Shields produced a superior strikeout-to-walk ratio in Kansas City (4.5, compared with 3.9).

• Both starting pitchers excelled in key spots this season. Shields held batters to a .545 OPS in high-leverage situations, as determined by Baseball-Reference.com, while Lester gave up a .613 mark.

• Batters hit .227 against Lester through his 75th pitch this season, but .262 afterward, with six of their 16 home runs.

• Among likely Royals starters, Aoki (.863 OPS), Butler (.847) and Cain (.827) have done the most damage against left-handers, while Salvador Perez (.632), Infante (.584) and Moustakas (.554) had the most trouble.

• Aoki was the Royals' best hitter at Kauffman Stadium, posting a .322/.383/.419 line. Moustakas, on the other hand, hit .185/.259/.306 at home.

• When the Royals need a big hit, Alex Gordon has been their man, batting .338 with seven homers and 58 RBIs with runners in scoring position.

• Reddick (.849) was the only A's player with finish with an OPS of at least .800 against righties.

• With Geovany Soto likely to start at catcher for Oakland, Derek Norris could be a weapon off the bench, especially against a left-handed reliever. Norris hit .311/.393/.470 off lefties this year and went 4-for-15 with a double, a home run and three walks as a pinch-hitter.

• Norris (.995 OPS), Josh Donaldson (.908), Brandon Moss (.858) and Dunn (.824) all have mashed with runners in scoring position.

• In the A's bullpen, Ryan Cook (.442 opponents' OPS), Fernando Abad (.475), Dan Otero (.539) and closer Sean Doolittle enjoyed the most success against right-handed batters. Doolittle (.276), Luke Gregerson (.526), Abad (.527) and Eric O'Flaherty (.536) all owned left-handed batters.

• The Royals have the last three innings of the game covered with the trio of right-handers Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and closer Greg Holland. They combined to hold right-handed batters to a .153 average, while lefties managed only a .203 mark.

Any of these numbers, small samples or not, could come into play at a critical moment Tuesday.

Perhaps it will be Aoki continuing his recent success against Lester, or Reddick doing the same against Shields. Perhaps it will be one of those starters bearing down to get an out with the game on the line. Or it could be Norris getting a crucial hit off the bench or Gordon bringing home the winning run from third.

The answer could dictate which club moves on and which begins its offseason on Wednesday.

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

After a 2,001-game drought, Dunn finally reaches postseason

After a 2,001-game drought, Dunn finally reaches postseason

KANSAS CITY -- At first, Adam Dunn didn't know what to do. But once he figured out how to celebrate, he was a wildly enthusiastic participant in the Athletics' clubhouse party at Globe Life Ballpark in Arlington.

Last seen Sunday afternoon, Dunn was sliding across a beer soaked piece of plastic in his baseball gear and ski goggles. He might even have gulped a little from some of the bigger puddles.

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If you think he's going to apologize, you don't know Dunn and how much he coveted the chance to play in a postseason game.

"Long time, man,'' Dunn said after the A's workout on Monday. "Long time. Didn't get to pop champagne in high school.''

When the 34-year-old slugger steps in to face Kansas City's James Shields in the first inning of tonight's American League Wild Card Game on TBS at 5 p.m. PT at Kauffman Stadium, he'll end his career-long drought of never playing in a postseason game.

Dunn's 2,001-game streak had been the longest among active players. That distinction will pass to his former White Sox teammate Alex Rios, who has played 1,586 without getting a chance in October.

"I hope he gets in,'' Dunn said. "That's bad. That's such a bad thing.''

Dunn spent most of the last four seasons with the White Sox after short stints with the Nationals and Diamondbacks. He started his career with the Reds, when they were in the middle of a 14-year postseason drought.

When he was traded to Oakland on Aug. 31, just in time to be eligible to play in the postseason, the A's had slipped five games behind the Angels in the AL West had a seemingly comfortable cushion of 4 1/2 games for a Wild Card spot. It seemed his ship had come in, yet then came a 4-11 stretch that knocked one of baseball's most ambitious teams -- one that traded for Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija in July -- into a precarious position.

Suddenly there was a possibility that Dunn could once again miss out on October as the Mariners threatened to overtake the A's.

"When we were [sitting in the clubhouse] watching those Seattle games, and they ended up winning them, you could see something was up with Adam,'' Samardzija said. "He usually talks, he's usually vocal, likes to have a good time, but he wasn't saying a word.''

  Date   Result Highlights
  Sept. 30   KC 9, OAK 8 video

Dunn admits it was painful to experience September angst with a new team. He fought off a sense of deja vu, as the Tigers had passed his White Sox in September two years ago, leaving him on the outside looking in at the postseason.

"It was pretty stressful,'' Dunn said. "You had opportunities to get in and not wait until the last day. But you could almost see after that third out [on Sunday], the weight was lifted off everybody's chest. The ultimate goal is to make it, and we made it. Well, they made it. I just sort of jumped on, reaping the fruits of their labor for five months.''

While Dunn downplays his significance on the A's, Samardzija says he was welcomed because of both his presence in the lineup and solid character in the clubhouse. How many other guys would even still be playing after having a year like Dunn did in 2011, when he batted .159 with 177 strikeouts in the first year of a four-year contract?

"He's always done it the right way,'' Samardzija said. "Played every day, never complained, never whined. I was in Chicago when he had that tough [season]. They couldn't run him out of town fast enough. He never said a thing. Never made an excuse. To have a guy like him on this team when we were going through what we were going through was outstanding.''

The Royals know that Dunn could turn around a game that they expect to be a pitchers' duel between James Shields and Lester. He has hit 462 career home runs [tied for 35th all-time], including 22 this season.

"I like the matchup with him and Shields but it's scary too,'' Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Adam Dunn can hit the ball out of the ballpark to any field, even in our big park here. He's crushed balls here. We know he's a high on-base percentage guy, and he's a guy who can catch one and put three runs on the board in a hurry. He's a guy you're going to have to pitch carefully.''

Dunn is a career .200 hitter against Shields, with only one home run in 35 at-bats.

"He's very tough,'' Dunn said. "But if you're in the playoffs, you're going to face really good pitching every day you're fortunate enough to move on. He's an ace, and I don't throw that term around too often.''

Dunn is known for working deep counts and drawing walks, which is largely why the A's are using him as their No. 2 hitter. He had 71 this year but has had 100-plus eight times in his 14-year career.

"He's got a very good eye,'' Shields said. "Very disciplined. He's a tough out.''

This is the moment, the game, that Dunn has waited for throughout his career, which is in its late stages. He's talked about retiring after the season but seems likely to listen to job offers before making a decision.

On the way to Kansas City from Texas on Sunday night, Dunn got a call from his old friend Jake Peavy, who earned a World Series ring with the Red Sox last October.

They talked about how much fun it would be to face each other in a Bay Area World Series, now that Peavy is with the Giants. But Peavy's message was to enjoy the ride, how ever long it lasts.

"Obviously he's happy for me,'' Dunn said. "I'm not dumb. I know what's on the line. I'm going to have fun and enjoy it. I'm not going to put so much pressure on [myself] that it's not enjoyable. That's not how I do things.''

Word of advice if he gets another chance to do a beer slide on Tuesday night: Don't get in his way.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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October Confidential: How to beat Royals

Rival players offer inside look at facing the AL champions

October Confidential: How to beat Royals

How do you beat the Royals? MLB.com asked rival players from around Major League baseball to offer an inside look at how best to face the AL champions.

James Shields
"His best pitch is his changeup. He'll throw that at any time in any count. You know he's going to battle. He's not going to give in or groove one over the plate to you. You have to worry about his cutter, his curveball and his changeup, basically. You just have to get him over the plate and get the ball. If you get that curveball or changeup down, you're going to have a tough time."
-- AL Central infielder

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Jason Vargas
"He's another guy who is not going to give in. He has a good changeup. He'll kind of lull you to sleep nibbling. And then he'll throw you a cutter in to get you off the changeup. For me, I pick a side of the plate. If he has his cutter working, you just have to stay out over the plate and get the changeup up."
-- AL Central infielder

  Date Air time First pitch Matchup Network
Gm 1 Oct. 21 7:30 ET 8:07 ET SF vs. KC FOX
Gm 2 Oct. 22 7:30 ET 8:07 ET SF vs. KC FOX
Gm 3 Oct. 24 7:30 ET 8:07 ET KC vs. SF FOX
Gm 4 Oct. 25 7:30 ET 8:07 ET KC vs. SF FOX
Gm 5* Oct. 26 7:30 ET 8:07 ET KC vs. SF FOX
Gm 6* Oct. 28 7 ET 8:07 ET SF vs. KC FOX
Gm 7* Oct. 29 7:30 ET 8:07 ET SF vs. KC FOX

Danny Duffy
"He has a great fastball and a great curveball. Another guy with a changeup. I think they like those over there. He's a guy you have to make throw strikes. He likes the fastball up and then will backdoor the curveball. So you have to get a fastball over the plate and be aggressive with that. His other stuff is pretty good."
-- AL Central infielder

Greg Holland
"A lot of guys don't pick up his slider but I see it pretty well. You just have to lay off the slider. If he beats you with it and throws three strikes with it, you just tip your cap. So you try to get a heater. If he throws one over, you gotta jump on that. Because you're not going to make a living hitting his slider or his splitter."
-- AL Central infielder

Kelvin Herrera
"You have to get him out over the plate and be aggressive with the fastball. Or a changeup up. He's a guy that throws hard but he has that changeup, too. So I just look for his fastball."
-- AL Central infielder

Wade Davis
"His main pitch is his cutter right now. He has a good curveball. He'll ride his four-seamer up. So you have to lay off that pitch. You have to look for that cutter early middle-in and you can hit that. But again, you have to make throw strikes."
-- AL Central infielder

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Billy Butler
"He's a patient hitter. I stay in on him. He likes to hit the ball the other way and shoot the ball. He's a gap-to-gap guy. He's not going to beat you with homers, I don't think. He doesn't swing and miss much off me. I think the times I've gotten him I've either jammed him inside with a fastball or to flare a slider."
-- AL Central pitcher 2

Eric Hosmer
"He's beaten me when I've gone away. He has a long swing, but it's quick. So if you throw a slider, it's got to be down and in front of home plate. He can chase that. You can tie him up early and late inside. He's a guy who maybe you go fastball in and then go slider down in the dirt and hope he swings and it falls off. And then maybe elevate a fastball up and in."
-- AL Central pitcher 2

Alex Gordon
"If you can get him looking for a breaking ball, you can get a fastball by him. I've done that a few times. He can hit a hanging breaking ball well, and he did off me this year. But he's a guy you can go in and then expand away late. Try to get him to look for a slider and then go with a fastball. If you can get him looking for something, you can get him with another one. And I think people know that."
-- AL Central pitcher 2

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A's opt for flexible 'pen, bench on Wild Card roster

A's opt for flexible 'pen, bench on Wild Card roster

  Date   Result Highlights
  Sept. 30   KC 9, OAK 8 video

KANSAS CITY -- Outside of Jon Lester, the A's are expected to carry just one other starter on their 25-man roster for Tuesday's American League Wild Card Game against the Royals, ensuring plenty of flexibility in their bullpen and on the bench.

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A's manager Bob Melvin said he is likely to name a total of eight or nine pitchers to his roster, which will be officially announced on Tuesday morning, and most are obvious selections. Lester, of course, is one, and right-hander Jason Hammel, because he has more rest than any other starter not named Lester, probably gets in based on his availability to give the club several innings if needed.

Elsewhere in the bullpen, Sean Doolittle, Luke Gregerson, Dan Otero, Ryan Cook, Eric O'Flaherty and Fernando Abad will probably be joined by one or both of right-hander Jesse Chavez and lefty Drew Pomeranz, as each can fill a long-relief role.

On the field, Melvin is expected to start his usual left handed-heavy lineup consisting of Coco Crisp, Adam Dunn, Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick, Stephen Vogt, Geovany Soto and Eric Sogard, leaving plenty of right-handed bats available on the bench.

The players to look for there are catcher Derek Norris, infielders Alberto Callaspo, Nick Punto and Nate Freiman, and outfielders Jonny Gomes and Sam Fuld. Should the A's go with just eight pitchers, rather than nine, they'd likely be inclined to carry some speedy legs, paving the way for a potential Billy Burns appearance.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Let's break down the A's-Royals Wild Card Game

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Let's break down the A's-Royals Wild Card Game

Comparing postseason teams based on WAR and UZR is fun, but so is comparing them based on their celebrity fans. Let's take a look at the AL Wild Card Game: Oakland Athletics vs. Kansas City Royals

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