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Bullpen and defense burns the A’s again as they’re swept by the first-place Astros(!)

Bob Melvin was ejected in the fourth inning of the A's fourth straight loss, which completed a series sweep by the Houston Astros. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)

Bob Melvin was ejected in the fourth inning of the A’s fourth straight loss, which completed a series sweep by the Houston Astros. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)

The A’s were just swept by the first-place Houston Astros. (I’ll pause as you allow that to sink in for a moment).

No, it wasn’t a great weekend of baseball at O.co Coliseum for the green and gold. Manager Bob Melvin continues to bemoan the lack of consistency and the team continues to have the type of differential in wins and losses that doesn’t seem sustainable.

Through 20 games, the A’s have outscored teams 62-6 in their eight wins and have been outscored 79-34 in their 12 losses. About the only way they can win is if they get dominant pitching and the bats come alive.

The A’s are 0-7 in days games (bats do sleep during the day, right?), winless in games decided by two or fewer runs (0-8) and winless when allowing three or more runs (0-10). Simply put, if the game is a slug fest on both sides, the A’s don’t have a chance right now.

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Ryan Cook up, Kendall Graveman down and Jesse Chavez back in the rotation

Ryan Cook had a rough spring training, but after five strong outings in Triple-A, he's back in the big leagues. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Ryan Cook had a rough spring training, but after five strong outings in Triple-A, he’s back in the big leagues. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

OAKLAND — The A’s recalled former All-Star reliever Ryan Cook on Sunday and sent struggling starter Kendall Graveman to Triple-in the process.

Cook was expected to arrive before Sunday’s series finale with the Houston Astros and A’s manager Bob Melvin said he could be used in the seventh inning if his team has the lead.

The move solidifies Jesse Chavez’s spot in the starting rotation after he made a spot start Thursday and brings some help to a scuffling bullpen. The A’s are next to last in the American League with a 4.42 bullpen ERA entering play Sunday.

“This is a guy that’s been an integral part of our bullpen since 2012,” Melvin said of Cook. “He just had a tough time in spring training and he needed to re-group, work on some things. It’s nice to have him back because we’ve been a little bit in flux in our bullpen.” Continue Reading

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With 9 errors in 6 games, defensive woes continue unabated

The A’s came out of spring training convinced, among other things, that their defense was much improved.

They made moves to bring in Ike Davis at first base, Marcus Semien at shortstop, Ben Zobrist at second and Brett Lawrie at third. In the outfield, they were planning on Sam Fuld in center, flanked by Josh Reddick and Coco Crisp.

Just 19 games into the season, they are having to reevaluate things. With two errors committed in the outfield in the seventh inning by the usually reliable Reddick, then Cody Ross, Oakland has made 19 errors. That’s a prodigious pace, and the most errors made by any team in either league.

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Zobrist looking at a June 1 return from meniscus surgery; Muncy up; Hahn tries pickle juice to battle blister problem

Ben Zobrist will miss 4-6 weeks to have meniscus surgery in his left knee, getting the meniscus trimmed.

Ben Zobrist will miss 4-6 weeks to have meniscus surgery in his left knee, getting the meniscus trimmed.

Ben Zobrist hopes to be back in the A’s lineup by June 1 after the decision was made in the early hours Saturday that the second baseman/outfielder will need arthroscopic knee surgery to repair meniscus damage in his left knee.

The date for the surgery hasn’t been set, but Zobrist, who hurt himself in a slide Sunday in Kansas City, wants to get it done early this coming week, if possible.

“I can’t do the things the team needs me to do like this,’’ Zobrist said. “Hopefully if I’m back by June 1, I’ll have four solid months to be at 100 percent and help this team win.’’

Manager Bob Melvin is of a similar mindset, saying that a prompt surgery, which generally calls for a 4-6 week healing process, would mean “Ben would be here for a significant portion of the season.’’

Melvin and Zobrist both agree that it was necessary to have Zobrist to play Friday to test how his knee would hold up. The switch-hitter was the designated hitter, and he said that while running the bases was painful, worse was batting right-handed.

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With runs at a premium for A’s lately, Reddick figured it was worth a shot to try to win the game

Josh Reddick was tagged out at the plate as the potential winning run in the 10th inning Friday night. (Staff photo/Anda Chu)

Josh Reddick was tagged out at the plate as the potential winning run in the 10th inning Friday night. (Staff photo/Anda Chu)

Late night here at the Coliseum, so I’m just going to leave you with my final story I just filed for the web.

OAKLAND — The A’s fought back twice, but couldn’t overcome the first-place Houston Astros on Friday night and lost 5-4 in 11 innings.

Josh Reddick hit a two-run, two-out double to tie the game in the 10th inning and tried to end it when a throw home got away. But he was thrown out at the plate and the Astros scored three runs in the 11th and held on.

Reddick made a dash for the plate when Jose Altuve’s relay throw to try to nail Stephen Vogt got away from catcher Hank Conger. Pitcher Luke Gregerson tracked down the ball and threw Reddick out by 10 feet.

“Once I saw the ball get by, I figured why not try it,” Reddick said. “The ball’s soaking wet rolling around in the grass in the outfield. You’ve got to make a perfect throw to get me. I’m trying to win the ballgame. We haven’t been scoring runs the best the last two ballgames, so I don’t see the harm in trying it.” Continue Reading

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Parker has “a blast,” Doolittle throws off flat ground, Zobrist feels “OK” and plenty more pregame notes

Jarrod Parker felt great after making his first minor league rehabilitation start on Thursday.

Jarrod Parker felt great after making his first minor league rehabilitation start on Thursday.

A day after Jarrod Parker made his first minor league rehabilitation start, the A’s right-hander was all smiles about finally returning to the mound.

“I had a blast,” Parker said Friday. “I gave up a homer, hit somebody. It was fun just doing that stuff. I might not have been very sharp. My delivery was probably quick, but I was healthy enough to catch up and be where I wanted to be.”

Parker threw 56 pitches over 3 2/3 innings for Class A Stockton and allowed four hits and three runs with one strikeout. He’ll aim to pitch five innings and throw 75 pitches when he goes Tuesday for Stockton against Bakersfield.

This was his first appearance in a game since making three starts in spring training last season before needing Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career. He also had the procedure in 2009 while in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. His last regular season appearance came Sept. 28, 2013. Continue Reading

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Zobrist encouraged about health of knee after pinch-hitting

Ben Zobrist fouled out to end Thursday's game, but he's hoping his left knee will allow him to play Friday when the Astros visit.

Ben Zobrist fouled out to end Thursday’s game, but he’s hoping his left knee will allow him to play Friday when the Astros visit.

Almost lost in the windup to the A’s 2-0 loss to the Angels Thursday in which Oakland pitching allowed just one hit was the reappearance of second baseman Ben Zobrist.

He didn’t play second base, but Zobrist showed up as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning, standing in against Huston Street as the potential tying run. It was Zobrist’s first game appearance since Sunday, when he suffered a left knee injury while sliding.

He’s been limited to that one at-bat in the last 4½ games.

And it was not a move manager Bob Melvin wanted to make.

“I was pretty reluctant to use him today,’’ Melvin said. “I didn’t want to leave him in my pocket, so if we had the tying run up in the ninth, we were going to use him, but I was a little nervous sending him up there.’’

When Marcus Semien singled with two out, that was Zobrist’s cue. He wound up hitting a pop fly in foul territory that became the game’s final out.

“It was good to get into the game,’’ Zobrist said. “It didn’t bother me when I ran down to first base, but I was trying to be careful. In the box, taking a swing, it felt fine.’’

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Bassitt’s move across mound helps get him back to the bigs

It’s too soon to tell if moving from the third base side of the pitching rubber to the right side will change Chris Bassitt’s career, but the move has helped him get back to the big leagues with the A’s.

Bassitt was called up Thursday to be the long man in the A’s bullpen, taking the job held for one night by Arnold Leon, who was returned to Triple-A Nashville with Bassitt rested enough to take over the job.

The White sox moved Bassitt to the third base side of the mound last year, but come this spring, Bassitt found he wasn’t able to throw well enough inside to left-handed batters, so he moved back.

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Eric Chavez starts TV career with A’s, with Yankees blessing

Eric, Chavez, who with Mark Ellis threw out 2015's first pitch, starts a part-time gig on A's telecasts Friday.

Eric, Chavez (3), who with Mark Ellis threw out 2015′s first pitch to third base coach Mike Gallego, starts a part-time gig on A’s telecasts Friday.

Eric Chavez began this week in Detroit, doing some analysis for the Yankees. He’ll end the week in Oakland, doing A’s television broadcasts.

It may sounds like he’s got a split personality thing going, but the situation is more nuanced than that. But then between his offense, his defense and his knowledge of the game, the longtime A’s third baseman was always nuanced.

“I’m really intrigued by the whole broadcast thing,’’ Chavez said this week from Motown, where the Yankees were taking on the Tigers. “I want to test the water with a number of things, then at the end of the year go back and reevaluate. Do I want to do TV work long term? I don’t know.’’

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Gray seems to have mastered this how-to-win thing

Sonny Gray pitched out of a bases-loaded jam Wednesday, because that's what he does.

Sonny Gray pitched out of a bases-loaded jam Wednesday, because that’s what he does.

How to explain Sonny Gray?

He has a very good fastball, but not the best fastball.

He has very good secondary pitches, but not the best secondary pitches.

He is a very good defender and a very good athlete.

But mostly he’s figured out this how-to-win thing.

It’s something pitchers can go their whole career without solving. For Gray, it just seems he gets it.

Manager Bob Melvin and catcher Stephen Vogt both talk about Gray’s ability to “invent pitches.’’

Former A’s catcher John Jaso said catching Gray could be the easiest thing in the world, or it could be the most difficult, because the movement on Gray’s pitches could catch catchers by surprise as much as hitters.

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