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The A’s are passing the chemistry test this season

I don’t know how many wins the A’s will finish with this season, and it seems a tall order for them to run down a playoff spot. But I can tell you that the clubhouse environment is the healthiest I’ve seen it since I began covering this team in 2007. Not that past teams had toxic chemistry. This club has been filled with nice guys ever since I’ve been around it. But it just felt like there was no identity, no real personality or fire to past teams. This team has it. Again, I don’t know how much it will ultimately be worth in the standings, but it’s a positive sign and bodes well for the future if a sizeable core of this team returns in 2013. Players talked about this element after Wednesday’s 3-2 victory that completed a sweep of the Red Sox.

Third baseman Brandon Inge, who spent his first 11-plus seasons with the Detroit Tigers, said it’s as good of a clubhouse as he has been around. “We have a lot of fun,” Inge said. “Win or lose, we still have a lot of fun. That’s the name of the game. Any job you’re at, you need to have fun at what you’re doing.”

“When I was (with Boston) in 2007 and 2008, it was one of the best clubhouses I’ve been in,” said first baseman Brandon Moss, who has spent time with four big league teams. “You came in and it was just a great place to be. Same here. We’ve got a lot of characters on this team. We all mix really well. It’s a good place to be.”

I think a lot of credit goes to manager Bob Melvin, in his first full season with the team, for instilling a positive culture. I also think the A’s have imported good clubhouse figures — Inge and Jonny Gomes are a couple that jump to mind. They also have a few more characters, as Moss indicated — guys who have a screw loose in a good way. Gomes and Josh Reddick are two examples. Ryan Cook has a bit of under-the-radar nuttiness to his personality, and that keeps things loose even in tough times, and Oakland has had some this season.

The A’s have always had good character guys — no one works harder or has more of a team-first attitude than Kurt Suzuki. But there’s an intangible with the 2012 club that is allowing it, thus far, to play better than most expected back in spring training.

Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday …

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Bob Melvin happy to reward sellout crowd with a victory

Happy 4th to everyone … It’s a warm afternoon at the Coliseum and there should be a big holiday crowd on hand. And that was part of the pregame discussion with A’s manager Bob Melvin today. It means a lot to Melvin for the A’s to play well when they do draw big home crowds, which isn’t often. The A’s have played some stinkers this year when the Coliseum is packed. But last night, they came through with a dramatic victory in front of a sellout crowd. “When we get it packed in here, it’s really a fun park to play in,” Melvin said. “I’ve talked quite a few times about being disappointed about playing poorly in front of big crowds. We’re starting to play better. We’re finally kind of rewarding our fans who come out on special days. If we can continue to do that, we’ll get more people in the stands.”

–A good start from A.J. Griffin will help the A’s chances of completing a sweep. Each of his first two career starts have come in what I’d consider “big” environments — a home game against the Giants, on the road at first-place Texas — and Griffin has pitched well. He’ll get another test today against the Red Sox, who will have a sizable contingent cheering for them as always …

The lineups:
A’s: Crisp CF, Weeks 2B, Reddick RF, Cespedes LF, Smith DH, Moss 1B, Norris C, Inge 3B, Pennington SS; Griffin RHP.

Red Sox: Nava LF, Kalish CF, Ortiz DH, Saltalamacchia C, Gonzalez 1B, Gomez 3B, Ross RF, Aviles SS, Punto 2B; Cook RHP.

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A’s return to encouraging injury news

Ben Enos filling in for Joltin’ Joe Stiglich

The A’s are back in Oakland, after a road trip that pretty much everyone said felt a lot longer than it was. They welcome Boston to town, with Jarrod Parker set to oppose Daisuke Matsuzaka in the series opener.

Couple injury notes to pass along from pregame. The most immediate revolves around Tuesday’s game, as manager Bob Melvin confirmed that Bartolo Colon will return from the disabled list to make the start. Colon has been on the shelf since June 18 with a strained right oblique. A corresponding roster move will come tomorrow, but my guess is it might be a bullpen arm heading back to Triple-A Sacramento.

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Ryan Cook’s big day and other A’s pregame notes

Ryan Cook was the center of attention this afternoon after he was selected to the American League All-Star team. He was humble, low-key, very appreciative … everything you’d expect based on his attitude up until now. It’s funny to imagine how many of his A.L. teammates will even know who he is when they arrive in Kansas City. Cook’s rise has been so quick since the start of the season, he hasn’t had a chance to break on to the national scene. Click on the above link for a story on Cook, and I’ll update that with quotes from others later.

–It poured rain for a short stretch earlier, but we’re scheduled for an on-time first pitch as the A’s try to avoid a four-game sweep.

–Bartolo Colon had no after-effects from Saturday’s bullpen session, so Bob Melvin considers him a go for Tuesday’s start against Boston, barring any unforeseen setbacks.

–Brett Anderson took another step forward in his rehab, throwing 40 pitches off the mound and mixing in all of his pitches for the first time since he’d been shut down with forearm soreness. Anderson said he will probably throw another time off the mound (TBA on the date) and then might face hitters in batting practice after that. Once he throws live B.P. a couple times, theoretically he should be close to a minor league rehab assignment. But Melvin offered no timetable for when that might happen.

–Tonight’s lineups:
A’s: Crisp DH, Weeks 2B, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Smith LF, Norris C, Moss 1B, Inge 3B, Pennington SS; Blackley LHP.

Rangers: Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Hamilton LF, Beltre DH, Young 3B, Cruz RF, Napoli 1B, Torrealba C, Gentry CF, Darvish RHP.