Jemile Weeks sits with groin injury; Melvin gives A’s freedom on the bases

That loss Sunday in Baltimore seemed a pretty devastating blow, but if the A’s win tonight, they’ll have taken two of three from Boston, be back at .500, and things don’t seem quite as bleak as they head to Tampa Bay for a weekend series. …

The A’s will take the field tonight without Jemile Weeks, who felt some groin tightness after stealing third base last night. Manager Bob Melvin wanted to hold him out as a precaution, and Weeks said he expects to be back in the lineup Friday. It’s pretty unfortunate timing for Weeks, considering he had a good game last night at the plate. But Melvin said it was an easy call. “You don’t want to mess around with a guy who uses his legs in the fashion that he does.” It seems like it’s been tough for the A’s to get Weeks and Coco Crisp in the lineup together on a regular basis, and I think those two remain the biggest key to getting Oakland’s offense rolling on a consistent basis.

Speaking of the offense, it’s interesting that Melvin is giving his team a lot of freedom on the base paths. Were you surprised to see Kila Ka’aihue steal third base last night? I was, everyone in the press box was, and Melvin was too. “I was watching him and I was like, ‘Man, he looks a little different, like he’s got something on his mind,’” Melvin said today. “And as soon as I was thinking that, there he goes.” But Melvin says most players on the team – that includes the not-so-fleet-footed Ka’aihue – have the green light to steal when they think the chance is there.

I have to think it’s unusual around the majors. But for the A’s – who don’t exactly light up the scoreboard with their hitting – it probably makes sense to give guys leeway to get the running game going. And so far it hasn’t burned them very often. The A’s enter play tonight leading the majors with 25 stolen bases, and they’ve been caught just seven times. That 78.1 % success rate ranks third in the A.L. Last night, the A’s became just the second team since 1969 to steal third base four times in a game (the Montreal Expos did it in 1988 against St. Louis). Melvin thinks giving players the green light makes them study pitchers more and learn their tendencies better.

“It’s more, we’re going to work backward,” Melvin said. “It’s gonna be, ‘You’ve got a green light until the red light is put on.’ I think it lends a little more to guys being aware of what’s going on, knowing you have the opportunity to do it.”

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp LF, Pennington SS, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Smith DH, Ka’aihue 1B, Suzuki C, Inge 3B, Sogard 2B; McCarthy RHP.

Red Sox – Aviles SS, Sweeney RF, Pedroia 2B, Gonzalez 1B, Ortiz DH, Ross LF, Saltalamacchia C, Middlebrooks 3B, Byrd CF; Bard RHP.

–Watch how Brandon McCarthy fares tonight. He’s 1-3 with a 6.29 ERA in seven games (four starts) against the Red Sox. A key for him is throwing strikes. He’s walked 13 in 24 1/3 innings against Boston, and McCarthy has issued three walks in each of his past two outings.

Joe Stiglich