1

Tommy Milone wraps up his 2012 regular season, but it might not be his final start

Tommy Milone’s final start of the 2012 regular season was not his strongest. He lasted just 4 2/3 innings and gave up nine hits in a 5-2 A’s victory over the Seattle Mariners to cap a three-game sweep. But Milone knows there’s a very good chance he hasn’t pitched his last game.

“The way we’ve been playing, there’s not a doubt in my mind that we’re going to be able to make it to at least one of the wild card spots,” Milone said.

If the A’s play in Friday’s do-or-die wild card game, Milone would be on turn to pitch that game, though the A’s also could bring back Jarrod Parker on three days’ rest. I’m guessing they wouldn’t do that since Parker has yet to pitch on three days’ rest all season. Brett Anderson? He’s scheduled to throw off the mound Monday, but I’m not sure the A’s would consider him ready by Friday since he’s been out since Sept. 19 with an oblique injury. So that likely leaves Milone, who is 13-10 with a 3.74 ERA in his rookie season. All things being equal, I’d take Parker from their current rotation as my first choice in a one-game, do-or-die type situation. He’s got more shutdown-type stuff than Milone, and I think Milone’s got less margin for error if his location isn’t on. But certainly, Milone has shown enough this season to warrant confidence that he can get the job done in a big game if he’s dialed in.

–You can’t say enough about the job the A’s bullpen did over the past couple of games. Ten shutout innings over Saturday and Sunday alone. Their work has been really important considering the A’s starters haven’t been pitching as deep into games lately as they did most of the season. And that’s why A’s manager Bob Melvin could probably feel good going into a potential wild card game Friday. Even if his starting pitcher didn’t go deep in that game, he could feel comfortable going to the bullpen early knowing that the relief corps can shut things down.

–A big play of Sunday’s game that was easy to overlook when all was said and done: Josh Donaldson’s diving stop at third base and throw to first to end the fifth, with runners on the corners. This guy continues to impress me with his glove. A converted catcher, Donaldson looks really natural at third now and you have to think that he’s got the A’s believing he can handle the position on an everyday basis next season, though a healthy Scott Sizemore would have something to say about that. Brandon Inge, sidelined with a shoulder injury, would also be an option if he re-signed with the A’s.

“He’s been good all year,” Melvin said of Donaldson. “He’s worked really hard this spring from the minute Sizemore went down (with a knee injury), working with Gags (Mike Gallego), Chip (Hale) and Phil Garner. Third base comes naturally for him now, and he’s contributing for us offensively. He’s been huge since (Brandon) Inge has gone down.”

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No wild card celebration (yet) for A’s, but they’re still alive in American League West race

There’s so much up in the air right now regarding the American League playoff situation. But what we know for sure: With the Angels beating the Rangers in the first game of a doubleheader, the A’s can’t clinch a playoff spot today. However, the Rangers’ loss means the A’s will still be alive for the division title as Texas arrives Monday for a three-game series to close the regular season. If the A’s win today and Texas loses its nightcap, the A’s will be just one game behind. If they win and Texas wins, they’ll be two out. And if the A’s lose and Texas wins, they would be three out and need to sweep the Rangers to force a Thursday tiebreaker.

Something worth considering: How much will the A’s celebrate (or should they celebrate) if they clinch a wild card spot while the division title is still a possibility? Would a champagne celebration take their focus away from trying to beat Texas and capture the A.L. West crown? I asked A’s manager Bob Melvin if he would want his team to let loose if they nail down a wild card while the division title hasn’t been decided.

“My feeling is if you get into the postseason, you should be able to celebrate, and that goes for any team,” Melvin said.

We’ll see how it unfolds. So little is set in stone, which makes things pretty exciting.

–Travis Blackley will start Tuesday against Texas despite struggling mightily in his past two starts, Melvin confirmed.

“I don’t know that we have any other options,” Melvin said. “And look, everybody goes through some tough stretches. I think there’s a lot more played on to it because (he’s struggled) recently. If it’s halfway through the season, he’s not coming out of the game in the second inning because we don’t have the resources to go that deep in our bullpen. He’s done some good things for us. I talked to him yesterday about redirecting his thoughts and trying to revert back and think about the good things he’s done this year and not get too consumed with the last couple of games.”

The lineups:

A’s — Crisp CF, Drew SS, Cespedes LF, Moss 1B, Reddick RF, Donaldson 3B, Smith DH, Kottaras C, Pennington 2B; Milone LHP.

Mariners — Gutierrez CF, Wells RF, Seager 3B, Montero C, Smoak 1B, Saunders LF, Olivo DH, Triunfel 2B, Ryan SS; Ramirez RHP.

3

It’s a math equation now for A’s and their pursuants

In for Joe Stiglich, who’ll be back Sunday …

It’s this easy: If the A’s simply go 3-2 over their final five games, it’ll force the Angels to run the table just to tie. It’ll eliminate the Tampa Bay Rays. Win today and the numbers become even more favorable for Oakland and they can even start thinking about getting greedy – snatching the A.L. West title from the Texas Rangers.

Are the A’s gripping about all these possibilities? Hardly. They don’t even know what they don’t know about playoff pressure. The club was out Saturday morning tossing around a football. Jemile Weeks was trying to defend Seth Smith on a pass pattern and failed (Smith was Eli Manning’s backup QB at the University of Mississippi). Josh Reddick was walking around the dugout in shorts, a sleeveless camouflage t-shirt, flip-flops and $2 green-and-white shades.

Not much pre-game news today. Coco Crisp, who was fretting about playing in the day because his eyes are still light sensitive, is in the lineup. No questions about anyone else.

Dave Stewart will be here today presenting Jonny Gomes the Dave Stewart Community Service Award. As I mentioned on Twitter, maybe he can give Dan Straily a quick lesson on the death stare.

Brett Anderson threw on flat ground from a distance of 120 feet, and he could be back on a mound throwing a bullpen session as early as Monday. Bob Melvin won’t speculate when Anderson might be ready. “We’re trying to keep our options open,” he said. “We don’t want to rush him.”

Here are today’s lineups:

OAK: CF Crisp, SS Drew, LF Cespedes, 1B Moss, DH Gomes, RF Reddick, 3B Donaldson, C Norris, 2B Rosales. RHP Straily

SEA: 2B Ackley, CF Gutierrez, 3B Seager, DH Jaso, 1B Smoak, LF Saunders, C Olivo, RF Wells, SS Triunfel. LHP Vargas

Keep up on the latest game happenings by following on Twitter: @stewardsfolly

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crisp back in the lineup, Gomes on winning the Stewart Award, other notes

In for Joe Stiglich …

First things first, Coco Crisp is finally back in the lineup after missing the better part of two weeks with a case of pinkeye. It’s a big boost to a team that could have used Crisp on this recently completed 10-game road trip.

Bob Melvin is being very careful not to addresss what players could be available in the postseason because he doesn’t want to talk about the postseason just yet. But he did say that left-hander reliever Jordan Norberto (shoulder tendinitis), whom the A’s have really missed the past month, could be back if the A’s advance into October. Brett Anderson (oblique), meanwhile, was scheduled to play catch again Friday, but it’s still unlikely he would be available before a prospective postseason series.

Yoenis Cespedes is still nursing a bruised foot but he’s in the lineup, playing left field.

Jonny Gomes is this year’s most deserving winner of the Dave Stewart Community Service Award, given annually to an A’s player in recognition of charitable contributions throughout Northern California and across the nation.

Stewart will be on hand to present Gomes with the award prior to Saturday’s game.  Among numerous efforts on behalf of several charities, Gomes helped raise money to defray travel expenses of the Petaluma Little League team that made it to the national finals and also hosted the team at the Coliseum prior to a game. Gomes, who grew up in Petaluma, said he wasn’t actively trying to win the Stewart award but said, “It’s nice to have an award that has his name on it with his work ethic both on and off the field.”

Gomes maintained he sees community service as “part of the job description” of being a major league player, providing the kinds of things that he wasn’t privy while growing up

Brandon McCarthy is scheduled to meet with the media before the game, his first press gathering since getting hit in the head with a line drive earlier this month.

Tonight’s lineups:

Oak: CF Crisp, SS Drew, LF Cespedes, 1B Moss, RF Reddick, 3B Donaldson, DH Smith, C Kottaras, 2B Pennington. P Griffin

Seattle: 2B Ackley, RF Wells, 3B Seager, DH Montero, C Jaso, 1B Smoak, CF Saunders, LF Robinson, SS Ryan. P Beavan

 

 

1

A’s left-hander Brett Anderson plays catch for first time since injuring oblique

Checking in on getaway day in Arlington, as the A’s wrap up a challenging 20-game stretch in which they played 17 times on the road …

–Brett Anderson played catch for the first time since being sidelined with a strained right oblique. He made 20 throws from 60 feet and 15 throws from 75 feet and simply stated, “It went well,” as he walked past reporters in the dugout.

No word yet on what step might be next for Anderson, but considering he hasn’t been out very long — he suffered the injury Sept. 19 — it’s conceivable Anderson could return for the postseason if he were to start throwing from the mound soon. Could he return for the A.L. wild card game on Oct. 5 were the A’s to play in that? When Anderson first suffered the injury, he expressed hope that maybe he could. That might be rushing it judging by the current timetable, but perhaps manager Bob Melvin will shed more light on the situation after today’s game.

The A’s are 12-7 so far on this 20-game stretch, 4-5 on the 10-game trip that concludes today.

“I’m proud of these guys, the way they’ve played,” Melvin said. “Seventeen out of 20, and even those three at home were really a road trip too. It’s just a three-game stop. These guys have battled really hard, lost some dramatic games, won some dramatic games right after that. There hasn’t been one game where they appeared to just be let down. That’s pretty impressive this time of year.”

The lineups:

A’s — Drew SS, Gomes LF, Cespedes DH, Carter 1B, Moss RF, Donaldson 3B, Reddick CF, Norris C, Rosales 2B; Blackley LHP.

Rangers — Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Hamilton LF, Beltre 3B, Cruz RF, Young 1B, Napoli DH, Soto C, Gentry CF; Harrison LHP.

0

A’s chasing unwanted history; veteran Travis Blackley discovers he’s … a rookie

The A’s are still without Coco Crisp in their lineup, but A’s manager Bob Melvin seems to think that Crisp is getting closer to a return. The switch-hitting center fielder took swings in an indoor cage for the second straight day.

Well, we’re likely to see history tonight. The A’s are just two strikeouts away from tying the American League single-season record held by the 2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays (1,324). How exactly should we view this “achievement”? Obviously, whiffing at such a historic rate is pretty bad. And that’s a lot of runners the A’s have left on base, when a more productive out would have scored more runs. But at the same time, I think most would agree the A’s are a much improved offensive team over the past few seasons. They rank sixth in the AL with 182 home runs after hitting 114 homers all of last season. They only rank 11th in runs scored, but they’ve scored the second-most in the league since the All-Star break (339).

–We got word today that the Elias Sports Bureau has classified Travis Blackley as a rookie, which is odd considering Blackley made his big league debut in 2004. It has to do with Blackley, 29, missing the entire 2005 season with an injury, and mistakingly having that counted as part of his service time. He’d spent very little time in the majors since then, and now finds himself with rookie status. He didn’t sound thrilled with the distinction when I asked him about today, and he knows that he’s in for some form of hazing, since he didn’t have to take part in rookie dress-up day. Even as we chatted, young pitcher Tommy Milone walked by Blackley and said, ‘What’s up rook?”

“See what I mean?” Blackley asked me.

Anyway, this distinction means all five of the A’s starting pitchers are rookies, which is pretty incredible for a team with a very good chance of making the postseason. Jarrod Parker is making the 94th start by an A’s rookie tonight. For some context, the most rookie starts by a playoff team was 69 by the 1952 Dodgers. Tip of the cap to David Feldman — @dfeldy, a solid follow on Twitter — for that information.

–In-game update: The A’s have scored five runs in the top of the first — helped by two horrible fielding mistakes by Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton — and Texas starter Martin Perez has been pulled after just one-third of an inning. Holy cow …

1

A’s reliever Evan Scribner lets his pitching do the talking

Evan Scribner is the silent weapon in the A’s bullpen. And when I say silent, I mean it. The guy doesn’t say all that much in a clubhouse that’s got some boisterous personalities. But he has come up big for the A’s in recent days, and he rang up his first major league victory in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Texas Rangers, throwing a 1-2-3 ninth and sending the game into extra innings. The A’s won it in the 10th with George Kottaras’ home run.

Scribner was one of those guys who flew under the radar on me in spring training. Every year, there are a couple guys who perform well but don’t necessarily stick out. Then all of a sudden, the team is getting ready to break camp, the roster is starting to form and you say, ‘Hey, he’s still here.’” Scribner accompanied the team to Japan, though he wasn’t on the active roster for that first series against the Mariners. He went to Triple-A Sacramento and didn’t get his first call-up this season until early June. He’s typically been a mop-up guy who gets in when the score is lopsided either for the A’s or against them. But he’s been called upon in clutch situations on this trip and responded. Scribner threw two shutout innings in that 14-inning marathon Saturday against the Yankees, then threw another scoreless inning Tuesday. A’s manager Bob Melvin was surprised to hear that Tuesday marked Scribner’s first career win. “It seems like he’s had more than that,” Melvin said.

Starting pitcher Tommy Milone sang Scribner’s praises after the game.

“He’s been huge for us. He came in in New York, and now here. Especially since we’ve had to use our bullpen a lot, guys like him have definitely stepped up and done their job.”

If Scribner keeps it up, he’ll earn the right to talk some trash like many of his wise-cracking teammates. I’ll believe it when I see it … or hear it :)

1

Josh Reddick sits for a day, and A’s appear to catch a break with Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish scratched

The A’s caught a break tonight with Texas starter Yu Darvish — 16-9 on the season — getting scratched with a stiff neck. Scott Feldman (6-11, 5.19) will start in his place. Can the A’s capitalize? They chased Derek Holland early last night but obviously that didn’t translate to the win column.

A’s manager Bob Melvin shook up today’s lineup, with Josh Reddick sitting, Cliff Pennington batting leadoff and Daric Barton getting a start at first base. The starting nine:

A’s — Pennington 2B, Drew SS, Cespedes CF, Moss RF, Smith LF, Carter DH, Barton 1B, Donaldson 3B, Kottaras C; Milone LHP.

Tex — Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Hamilton CF, Beltre 3B, Cruz RF, Young 1B, Murphy LF, Napoli DH, Soto C; Feldman RHP.

It’s not a huge surprise to me to see Reddick get a night off considering he’s mired in a 0 for 27 slump. Reddick said he was the one who approached Melvin about the idea. He cited the physical wear and tear he’s been feeling, but also acknowledged how much he’s struggled at the plate. In fact, I was a bit surprised at how honest he was in his assessment of his recent play.

“I’ve never been one to want a day off,” Reddick said. “But enough is enough. I’m not helping the team at all right now. Defensively, offensively, I’m not doing one bit of good for this team right now. I’ve just been an automatic out lately. I think I left, like, 16 runners on base in the Yankee series. Soemthing’s gotta change. Get Moss out there. He’s been swinging the bat well for us all year. You just gotta give someone else the opportunity to pick this team up right now.”

Having said all that, Reddick said he expects, or at least is hopeful, of being back in the lineup Wednesday. And despite the poor stats of late, he said he feels pretty good at the plate right now in terms of seeing the ball, recognizing pitches and the contact that he’s making.

“A lot of people may think I’m trying to (swing for the fences) just to get to 30 (homers), but that’s not the case,” Reddick said. “I’m just trying to get out of this thing to help my team win. That’s the biggest thing right now. I’m not worried about my personal numbers. I’m worried about helping this team win and get to the postseason.”

–It sounds as if Coco Crisp might be turning a corner. He hit in the cage and tracked fly balls during batting practice, though he wasn’t actually catching them. Melvin said Crisp is seeing better out of his left eye, but that the right eye is still an issue.

“This was the day we were targeting to get him some baseball activity. Certainly it’s more encouraging than we wre thinking yesterday.”

Melvin talked more about his bullpen decisions in Monday’s tough loss, when the A’s gave up a two-run lead in the seventh and lost it in walkoff fashion in the ninth. He said lefty Sean Doolittle wasn’t available and that he didn’t feel comfortable calling on Jeremy Accardo for his A’s debut in the ninth inning of a tie game.

“I don’t know if that’s fair, for a guy that hasn’t pitched in what, 11 days or whatever it’s been,” Melvin said. “Now, with his experience and so forth, I certainly thought about it. But I just didn’t think that would be fair to him. And I wasn’t sure if the command would be there, all of the above.”

3

Postgame thoughts after A’s lose another gut-wrencher

Talk about a roller coaster few days for the A’s bullpen. On Friday, Sean Doolittle gave up a walk-off homer. On Saturday, they combined for 10 innings of one-run ball before Pedro Figueroa and Pat Neshek gave up a four-run lead in the 13th inning of an eventual loss. Then on Sunday, the relievers bailed out A.J. Griffin and combined for 4 2/3 shutout innings to salt away a victory over the Yankees. And then came Monday’s 5-4 loss to the Texas Rangers. Starter Dan Straily left with a 4-2 lead in the seventh, only to see Jerry Blevins walk Josh Hamilton and Pat Neshek give up a two-run homer to Adrian Beltre. In the ninth, Tyson Ross allowed Beltre’s walk-off single.

It’s the worst time of the year for the A’s to fall short-handed on relief options in the late innings. But that’s happened because of back-to-back starts in which Travis Blackley lasted just two innings (in a game that eventually went 14 innings) and A.J. Griffin lasted just 4 1/3 innings. As a trickle-down effect, seldom-used relievers such as Ross and Figueroa are thrust into crucial situations.

Due to the above conditions, manager Bob Melvin’s hands were tied to an extent on who he called on from the bullpen Monday. Ryan Cook looked dominant in a 1-2-3 eighth inning, but because Cook was pitching for the third straight day, Melvin wasn’t going to use him for more than one inning. Closer Grant Balfour also had pitched the previous two days and was only going to enter if it was a save situation. Sean Doolittle did not get in the game. Melvin didn’t mention him as being unavailable, but the lefty had pitched in two of the previous three games, and the A’s are trying to be careful with him in his first full season of pitching professionally. So maybe Melvin wanted to stay away from him.

But with the decision to call on Ross, who is now 2-11 in the majors this season, you can question whether someone like Jeremy Accardo could have been a better option. We haven’t seen Accardo yet as he just got called up Sunday, and he hadn’t pitched competitively since the Triple-A season had ended. But he is an eight-year big league veteran, and if he wasn’t ready to be called upon in a game like Monday’s, why bring him up at all?

Anyway, it’s easy to second-guess after a game like Monday’s, but that’s what we do when September rolls around, a team is playing for a postseason spot and a lot is riding on every game. The A’s haven’t been in this situation for several years, and we’re seeing how much their fortunes can sway from one day to the next. …

1

Coco Crisp’s return date for A’s still unknown; Josh Hamilton back in Rangers lineup

The A’s and Rangers each made news with their starting lineups today, but it was better news for Texas fans than for Oakland’s. Josh Hamilton is back in the middle of the Rangers’ batting order after missing the past five games with what was diagnosed as ocular keratitis, a condition that dries the cornea in the eye and affects vision. The reasons for it include too much consumption of caffeine and energy drinks. Texas won three of those five games but averaged just three runs per game in doing so. They have scored in just one of their past 21 innings. So plug Hamilton back in — with his 42 homers and 123 RBIs — and it’s obviously a boost for the home team as this four-game series gets underway.

“He’s their guy, but it’s not like it’s their only guy,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “There is no easy part of that lineup to navigate through.”

It’s imperative that A’s starter Dan Straily keep the ball down in the zone, as he’s allowed eight home runs over his first five starts. It’s a warm but very breezy night at Rangers Ballpark, so we’ll see how that affects fly balls …

OK, so maybe the A’s news isn’t really all that new. Coco Crisp is out of the lineup for the sixth straight game and the seventh time in the past eight games. It’s the same issue — pink eye, or allergic conjunctivitis as the team is officially listing it. Unfortunately, all the information we’re getting on this is coming from Melvin. Crisp despises talking when he’s injured. I didn’t get much response when I tried asking him about it in Detroit. A’s trainer Nick Paparesta also declined to talk to reporters about it, saying through a spokesperson that Crisp’s condition hadn’t changed and that there was nothing new to report.

“He’s no better today unfortunately,” Melvin said. “He’s having a tough time of it. He’s seen three different doctors now and they’ve all given thesame diagnosis. I hold out hope every day, but we’re just not seeing much progress in both eyes.”

With 10 games left in the regular season counting tonight, you have to wonder how many Crisp will be able to play in. He hasn’t really been doing baseball activity since he’s been out. Melvin said when he is ready physically, it probably makes sense to give him a day of batting practice and defensive work — maybe using him off the bench that day — and then return him to the starting lineup the next day after that.

However Crisp’s situation shakes out, it’s not good for the A’s right now. They need all weapons possible at their disposal as they try to eat into the Rangers’ A.L. West lead this week.

Here’s the lineups, with Josh Reddick dropped one more spot to seventh in the A’s order as he tries to snap a 0 for 24 slump:

A’s — Drew SS, Gomes DH, Cespedes CF, Carter 1B, Moss LF, Donaldson 3B, Reddick RF, Norris C, Pennington 2B; Straily RHP.

Tex — Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Hamilton CF, Beltre 3B, Cruz RF, Young DH, Murphy LF, Napoli C, Moreland 1B; Holland LHP.

–There’s nothing new to report on Brett Anderson (strained oblique) right now, and there probably won’t be until he starts playing catch. No word when that will start …