Tag: Pat Neshek

Tigers vs. Athletics: How Pat Neshek’s Courage Shows Us Baseball’s Just a Game

We use the words “courage” and “hero” much too often in sports to describe some of the amazing things we see from day to day that defy our expectations.

While for some, it’s the iconic image of Willis Reed limping onto the Madison Square Garden court in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals or Emmitt Smith’s running all over the New York Giants with a busted shoulder New Year’s weekend to give the Dallas Cowboys the 1993 NFC East crown, Pat Neshek‘s seventh-inning relief appearance Saturday should join that list.

Tuesday, in the middle of Oakland’s season-ending series against the Texas Rangers, Neshek left the team to be with his wife as they celebrated the birth of their son Gehrig John.

Wednesday, the day the Athletics clinched the AL West division by beating the Rangers, their little boy passes for unknown reasons 23 hours after birth.

The celebration that Oakland and Neshek deserved in coming back from 13.5 games back to win their division had turned tragic. As Neshek had earned the highest high on the field, he had been dealt the lowest low off it.

Parents are not supposed to outlive their children. Not at birth. Not at 20. Not ever. For Pat and his wife Stephanee, that nightmare had just become very real.

Oakland management tried to do the right thing and excuse Neshek from the postseason. While we all take our sports and professions very seriously, in the end baseball is just a game and a full ton of real life had just hit.

Stephanee not only said no to Oakland’s offer, she pleaded with them to include the grieving pitcher on their roster.

They did. Saturday, in a tense Game 1 that Oakland was still in, down 3-1, Neshek started warming up to back up stater Jarrod Parker in the bottom of the seventh.

After Parker allowed a base runner, manager Bob Melvin called for his right-hander.

Oakland put a patch with the baby’s initials on their jersey for the series and will wear it for as long as the playoffs take them. It was obvious that Neshek and all at Comerica Park were caught up with a run of emotions.

Neshek did his job and retired the two batters he faced and then looked skyward to the little boy he barely had time to know.

The Nesheks wanted to be with their baseball family in their hour of need and Stephanee was there in the crowd and watched and healed as much as one can heal so quickly after that kind of tragedy.

Pat Neshek just did his job on Saturday night—nothing really fancy or exciting about his stint, just an average relief appearance in a baseball game. But for his family, it was so much more than that. It was a time to take that small first step forward.

While the Tigers won the game, Neshek stole the show. His grief will go on long beyond his career and our public view, but for one night, we all had the chance to help him share it.

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Tigers vs. Athletics: How Pat Neshek Is an Inspiration Far Beyond Baseball

Pat Neshek came into Saturday night’s American League Divisional Series game in the same tight situation that he’s seen many times before in his six-year career.

With men on first and second for the Detroit Tigers, the Oakland Athletics reliever’s main job was to escape the jam with a two-run deficit intact.

At first glance, it seemed like a regular appearance for Neshek. However, when you look at what Neshek has had to go through in the past week, it was so much more.

The reliever has had to go through a lot in his career. After beginning with his home town Minnesota Twins in 2006, Neshek soared off to an 11-4 start with a 2.68 earned run average in his first two seasons.

Armed with a quirky delivery, he had 10.6 strike outs per nine innings and looked to have a bright future with the Twins.

In 2008, Neshek felt something pop in his elbow and needed to undergo Tommy John surgery.

After missing the entire 2009 season, he returned in 2010, but didn’t have the same velocity that he had pre-surgery.

Since his return, Neshek has bounced back-and-forth between the minors and the San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics organizations.

Although Neshek had been bruised, cut, and demoted, there was the joy of expecting his first child with his wife, Stephanee.

As the Athletics began their rise from the ashes late this year, the arrival of his son drew closer and closer. The day finally came on October 2nd, and Gehrig John Neshek was born.

The following day, after a 12-5 victory over the Texas Rangers, the Athletics became the third team in major league history to win a division after being in soul possession of first place for a single day.

With the playoffs on the horizon, this had to be one of the happiest moments of Neshek‘s career.

But things turned sour quickly and just 23 hours after Gehrig’s birth, Neshek‘s infant son died “with no explanation.”

The days following were excruciating as he continued to get congratulatory messages after Gehrig had stopped breathing. With that, Neshek announced the news on Twitter.

According to Susan Slusser’s article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Neshek said that the support after Gehrig’s death was “amazing” and that the one day with his son was “probably the best day I’ve ever had.”

It’s hard to imagine what was running through his mind as the Athletics manager, Bob Melvin, decided to make Neshek the first call out of the Oakland bullpen Saturday night.   But the 32-year-old righty was able to compose himself and get the Athletics out of a jam.

As he walked off the field, he smiled toward the sky and tapped the patch the Athletics had added to their uniform in Gehrig’s memory.

The pain was still there, but the healing process had started.

Many of us will never know what it’s like to lose a newborn child, and hopefully never will. To see Neshek on the field after all of that is amazing.

If he can lead the Athletics to complete their Cinderella story, it’s something that all of us could use as an inspiration outside of baseball.

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Jarrod Parker Proved A’s Rookies Are Up to the Challenge

The bottom line of Game One in Detroit: Justin Verlander continued his dominance of the A’s offense.

The Tigers won 3-1, largely on Verlander’s powerful right arm. But in a series that could very well be a matter of Oakland needing to win the three games he doesn’t start, there was a positive to take away—the poise of rookie starter Jarrod Parker.

The overall line won’t blow you away: 6 1/3 innings, seven hits, three runs (two earned) with a walk and five strikeouts. But it was not the numbers as much as how well Parker managed to limit Detroit that gives Oakland hope for tomorrow’s matinee.

Early on, the Tigers had a chance at a big inning. First and third with no one out and the Triple Crown winning Miguel Cabrera at the plate. Yet Parker promptly induced a double play to limit the damage. Though he rarely had a clean inning (only going 1-2-3 in the second and sixth innings), Parker made high quality pitches time and time again. 

And with a big assist from the inspirational Pat Neshek, the A’s very nearly kept themselves in the game long enough. In the bottom of the eighth, Brandon Moss hit a moonshot that off his bat seemed like it may have tied the game. Instead, the ball died at the base of the right field wall and the A’s best chance was gone.

So give credit where credit is due. The Tigers held their home field, powered by their ace, a potential back-to-back Cy Young Award winner. And yet, the A’s where close to tying the game late.

Now the onus shifts to Tom Milone, who has not performed well on the road this season. His last start in Detroit was a poor outing, taking the loss while allowing three runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings.

For the A’s, the hope is that Milone can look more like the guy who kept Texas at bay in his last road start (September 25th). Better yet, the pitcher who beat Detroit on May 11th, going seven strong innings.

It’s the biggest start of the year, but today’s effort showed it won’t be about the A’s youth as much as their ability to simply execute. 

Tomorrow is another gut check for the Oakland A’s. Something tells me they will respond once again.

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2012 ALDS: A’s Fail to Ignite Offense, Fall Behind Tigers with 3-1 Loss

Coco Crisp boosted the Oakland A’s early on, giving them a lead four pitches into the game. Then, the A’s couldn’t do anything right on offense.

Despite struggling to keep his pitch count to a minimum, Justin Verlander struck out 11 through seven strong innings as the Detroit Tigers beat the A’s 3-1 in Game 1 of the ALDS. Verlander picked up the win, while Jarrod Parker, who allowed three runs (two earned) in over six innings, took the loss.

Parker made an error that brought home a run for the Tigers, and he allowed a home run to Alex Avila. Despite having decent stats for the game, he didn’t pitch well. A lot of good contact was made, and his defense made some nice plays behind him. Yoenis Cespedes couldn’t make a great play on the ball that Avila hit, though. Parker made one of many mistakes, and Avila pounced.

He threw a high fastball, and Avila hit it the opposite way. It was a first-pitch meatball, right in Avila’s wheelhouse (it was right over the plate, too). The ball went over the left field fence for a home run, doubling Detroit’s lead.

Parker allowed two early hits to Austin Jackson and Quintin Berry to start the game, before inducing a double play to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. However, it brought home the tying run and negated Crisp’s home run.

Verlander woke up after his mistakes, although it took him a lot of pitches. He made some mistakes early, but he took advantage of a large strike zone, got ahead of counts and finished off hitters. He settled in during the middle innings, striking out five batters total in the sixth and seventh innings. More than half of the outs he got were by way of the strikeout, which isn’t rare for Verlander.

Joaquin Benoit came in during the eighth, and he struggled. Cespedes singled and Brandon Moss hit the first pitch he saw to deep right field. However, Andy Dirks caught it at the warning track, as Moss just got under the pitch.

Jose Valverde, who is known as an exciting but erratic closer, located his pitches and struck out two batters while jamming George Kottaras on a pop-up to finish off the game.

In the third, Berry hit a slow grounder to the right side, and Parker fielded it. He flipped the ball to first base only to realize no one was there.

Omar Infante rushed home with the go-ahead run, although a spectacular running catch by Cliff Pennington allowed Parker to escape further damage. Parker got a lot of help from his defense, as they made three great plays behind him.

It wasn’t enough for the A’s to win, though. There weren’t many bright spots aside from the defense in this game, but Pat Neshek was one of them. His son lived less than 24 hours and died suddenly Wednesday night, which deeply saddened Neshek, his family, the A’s, MLB and the baseball world. However, he bounced back and was able to pitch.

He did well, too, which was great for the team. Unfortunately for the A’s, it wasn’t enough. They failed to figure out Verlander, who was able to throw heat in the later innings and stop the A’s while keeping his bullpen fresh. They couldn’t capitalize on a chance against Benoit, and they couldn’t start a rally against Valverde, who isn’t known for 1-2-3 innings.

They’ve been doing it all year, but they couldn’t do it against the Tigers. Will it matter? Will they learn from their mistakes? What’s next for the A’s?

Those are all reasonable questions, and they will probably be answered in Game 2. However, if the A’s can’t start capitalizing on chances, if they can’t stop striking out (they went down 14 times by way of the strikeout) and if they can’t figure out Verlander (who will start Game 5 if there is one), this magical season may come to an end.

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

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A’s Can’t Hold 9th-Inning Lead and Fall in 11 Innings 3-1

Ryan Cook allowed a ninth-inning game-tying home run for the second straight game. Toronto scored twice in the 11th inning to stun the Oakland A’s 3-1 Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum.

David Cooper blasted Cook’s 1-1 fastball to right center field to tie the game at one. The A’s had a chance to win in the 10th inning, but Josh Reddick struck out looking with the bases loaded. 

Oakland got a great performance from their bullpen until the ninth inning, as starter A.J. Griffin left after just 1.2 innings with tightness in his right shoulder.

Jordan Norberto was fantastic, going 3.2 shutout innings. The A’s scored their only run in the second inning after a Brandon Inge walk and wild pitch. Derek Norris hit an opposite-field slicing double to right field to make it 1-0.

With great relief from Norberto, Pat Neshek and Grant Balfour, it appeared the one run would hold up. But Cook could not hold the lead, blowing his seventh save in 18 chances.

Jerry Blevins took the tough loss, giving up two runs in the top of the 11th inning.

The A’s appeared to have a chance to escape damage, as Blevins struck out Jeff Mathis swinging with runners on first and second.

However, the throw by George Kottaras to third base was wild, allowing the running Edwin Encarnacion to score. On the next pitch, Moises Sierra doubled to left field, plating the final run of the game.

The loss drops the A’s to 58-49 and Oakland will try to win the series Sunday afternoon. Tom Milone looks for his 10th win and to bounce back from a rough start last weekend against the Blue Jays.

He will be opposed by fellow southpaw Aaron Laffey.

First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m.

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