Crisp out with eye issue, sweep would give A’s terrific momentum going into trip

In for Joe Stiglich, who is packing up the trunk for the 10-game junket  …

It’s only three games, but the A’s have gotten plenty of juice from their three-game stop in Oakland as they prepare for their 10-game road trip that very likely will decide their 2012 postseason fate. Quite frankly, I think the A’s are a virtual lock for the playoffs based on how well they’re playing and how well they’ve played away from home, but strange things can happen when you have eight teams vying for five playoff spots, and the A’s are also crossing time zones.

The crowds have been a big deal for this Baltimore series. Many players have commented on the fact that they feel like they have a fan base behind them now. I covered Friday night’s game, and I can’t remember a crowd so loud since 2006 that was wholly in support of the A’s. I think they may even like this team better than the ’06 model seeing as it’s such an unlikely success story. Or at least it seemed unlikely at season’s outset.

There was a sign on the players’ bulletin board in the clubhouse that read “Two out of three ain’t bad, but that’s not who we are.” Don’t know who put that up, but it’s clear the A’s understand just how important every game is at this point in the season and they’re every one like it’s their last. Certainly, if they can sweep the Orioles today and get out of town with that springboard, it should do wonders for this last long trip.

Not a whole not of newsy notes today other than Coco Crisp, who is not in the lineup due to a case of allergic conjunctivitis in one of his eyes. Bob Melvin wasn’t sure if Crisp would be available at all today. Quite honestly, it’s probably a blessing in disguise that Crisp gets today off and gets two full days of rest before this trip, because the A’s really need Coco at the top of his game in Detroit, New York and Arlington over the next 11 days.

The starters have been announced for the Detroit series and it’s a tough hoe for Oakland: A.J. Griffin vs. 16-6 Max Scherzer on Tuesday, Brett Anderson against 14-8 Justin Verlander Wednesday and Tommy Milone Thursday against Anibal Sanchez, who is only 3-5 but having seen that guy pitch many times for the Marlins, he could be just as tough as the other two.

Today’s lineups:

OAK: LF Cowgill, DH Gomes, RF Reddick, CF Cespedes, 1B Carter, 3B Donaldson, SS Drew, 2B Rosales, C Kottaras. P Straily

BALT: LF McLouth, SS Hardy, DH Davis, CF Jones, C Wieters, 1B Reynolds, 3B Machado, RF Chavez, 2B Andino. P Wolf

Follow along with my A’s tweets today @stewardsfolly







Postgame notes after the A’s take their second straight from Orioles

Assorted thoughts from the A’s 5-2 victory over Baltimore, their 17th win in the past 21 games.

–I’m not sure how long the A’s can keep their head in the sand (or at least pretend to) in regards to the whole postseason picture, but the approach is sure working right now. They have crept to within two games of Texas in the A.L. West, and they’ve opened up a three-game lead over Baltimore for the top wild card spot. The next team behind the Orioles is the Angels, who are 5 1/2 behind Oakland. If A’s manager Bob Melvin could stuff his players in one giant cocoon to keep them from reading any standings, I have no doubt he would. His don’t-look-past-today method of thinking is sinking in with his players.

“we know that stuff’s going on,” right-hander Jarrod Parker said in relation to the division race and how the A’s fit in it. “We just want to win. We control our own destiny. If we take care of our business, good things are gonna happen.”

It all sounds phony and cliche, but you get the feeling that this team really is buying into the “one day at a time” theory.

–Think Stephen Drew considers himself a lucky guy? He was traded from the Diamondbacks to the A’s on Aug. 20. From that day forward, Arizona has gone 9-15. The A’s? 19-6. They are a major league-best 41-18 since the All-Star break, and Drew is fitting in as a complementary piece to the well-oiled machine. His home run and fine defensive work Saturday night stood out, but really, he’s just another of many different players who have taken turns playing hero on any given night.

“It’s been fun being here,” Drew said. “It’s kind of crazy how this team works sometimes … This team, anybody, any time (can produce). It works out well.”

–Chris Carter’s two-run double in the third snapped his 0 for 14 streak and he also drew two walks among his four plate appearances. That had to feel good for the guy. Brandon Moss has been commanding most of the playing time at first base lately, and Carter went 0 for 3 in Friday’s series opener. He might get another start Sunday with the Orioles throwing lefty Randy Wolf. It would be big for the A’s to get his bat going again in the platoon with Moss.

One thing about Carter’s defense Saturday: I think he cost Parker an error. The pitcher made a low pickoff throw to first and the ball skipped past Carter. It wasn’t a real tough throw to handle, and though it was accurately ruled an “E-1,” that ball should have been caught.

–It wasn’t a great night offensively for catcher Derek Norris, who went 0 for 4 and saw his average fall to .195. On the other hand, he made a great tag on a 7-6-2 putout in the fourth, taking Drew’s relay throw and putting a swipe tag on Adam Jones all in the same motion. Pretty finish to a pretty play.

–That’s all for now. You’ll have Carl Steward back in the saddle Sunday while I gear up for that three-city, 10-game journey that begins Tuesday in Detroit.

Pressure-packed A’s games in September. Who saw this coming back in spring training???


Derek Norris shares his thoughts on A’s crowd, plus lineups and other notes

Tonight’s lineups from the Coliseum:

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

O’s — McLouth LF, Hardy SS, Wieters C, Jones CF, Davis DH, Reynolds 1B, Machado 3B, Chavez RF, Andino 2B; Britton LHP.

–I wasn’t at the game last night, but judging by all the animated facial expressions I saw on TV, that was as pumped up as I’ve seen A’s players this season. No doubt that a packed house at the Coliseum had its impact. I’d expect a significantly smaller turnout tonight, but it’s going to be interesting to see how the A’s draw on that final six-game homestand of the season against Seattle and Texas. Friday’s atmosphere still resonated with A’s catcher Derek Norris a day later.

“Any time we get a crowd like that that’s energetic, you’re obviously gonna rise to the occasion,” Norris said. “Oakland Raider fans have always been known for being crazy, loud fans, and it’s nice to get that same atmosphere.”

I guess that makes those fired-up right field bleacher bums the baseball-equivalent of the Black Hole?

Speaking of Norris, that was pretty big for him to come up with that throw to nail Xavier Avery at second that ended Friday night’s game. He’s tossed out just 5 of 33 runners this season. Norris said he’s worked on improving his footwork lately, and that’s helped his throws. A’s manager Bob Melvin, a former catcher, has worked with him, along with bench coach Chip Hale and Triple-A Sacramento manager Darren Bush when Norris was down with the River Cats.

–A couple injury updates: Reliever Jordan Norberto still hasn’t started throwing, and Melvin said he won’t speculate on whether the lefty might be available again this season until he does throw. But he said even if Norberto doesn’t pitch again, “he’s already had a spectacular year for us.” Norberto posted a 2.77 ERA in 39 appearances and allowed just 37 hits in 52 innings.

“He got righties out, he got lefties out, gave us length and he pitched late in games,” Melvin said. “He was as versatile as we had.” The A’s bullpen has continued to pitch well without him, taking an American League-best 2.80 ERA into tonight’s game. Rookie Sean Doolittle has emerged as an effective lefty setup man. But Norberto would provide some solid lefty depth looking ahead to possible postseason games. Inexperienced Pedro Figueroa and long man Travis Blackley are the only other lefty relief options on the current roster.

Infielder Eric Sogard (high ankle sprain) has jogged the past three days and is hitting off a tee. Sogard said he’s getting better but that the A’s want him to take it slow and make sure he’s fully recovered. As with Norberto, time is running short for him to make his way back this season …


Cespedes wrist scare quelled for now, McCarthy pays a visit to clubhouse

In for Joe Stiglich …

Surprisingly, Yoenis Cespedes is in the lineup tonight for the beginning of this crucial home series with the Baltimore Orioles.  When he left the game in Anaheim Thursday with his right wrist in extreme pain, it didn’t look good. But Cespedes, through interpreter Ariel Prieto, said he did nothing more than tweak the wrist, and while it did hurt, he’s much better today. Cespedes said he isn’t 100 percent, but as he put it, “I’m going to be in the lineup every day. I’m going to rest after we win the championship.”

Both of Cespedes’ wrists are tightly taped, and at least during batting practice, he showed no ill effects, using the Coliseum bleachers as his personal pinball machine.

Around 5 p.m., pitcher Brandon McCarthy paid a brief visit to the Oakland clubhouse and received a rousing reception from his teammates. McCarthy wasn’t available to speak to the media, but reliever Jerry Blevins said McCarthy was doing a crossword when the team came in from BP. Someone told he should fill all the letters in backwards as a prank, hand it to trainer Nick Paparesta nd ask him if it was OK. McCarthy countered by saying maybe he should fill in the blanks with smiley faces.

Said Blevins, “He looks normal. He just has a buzzed head and a cool scar now. He looks a lot tougher than he did.” Apparently, many hugs and good wishes exchanged.

In other news, third baseman Brandon Inge had successful arthroscopic surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder. Inge, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sept. 6, had the operation performed in Detroit by Dr. Stephen Lemos, the Tigers’ orthopedic surgeon.  While there is no timetable for Inge’s return, he is certain to miss the remainder of this season. He batted .218 with 14 doubles, 12 home runs and 54 RBI in 83 games with the Tigers and A’s this season.

Tonight’s lineups:

OAK: CF Crisp, DH Gomes, RF Reddick, LF Cespedes, 1B Carter, 3B Donaldson, C Norris, SS Drew, 2B Rosales. P Milone

BALT: LF McLouth, SS Hardy, CF Jones, C Wieters, RF Ford, 1B Reynolds, DH Davis, 3B Machado, 2B Andino. P Saunders







A’s try to cap off a perfect road trip

Matinee baseball in Anaheim, where it’s warm but not as hot as it could be for an afternoon game …

The A’s will attempt to complete an undefeated road trip of six or more games for just the third time in Oakland history. The 2002 squad went 10-0 on one trip and the 1981 team had an 8-0 trek.

More important is the distance the A’s have put between themselves and the Angels. Los Angeles entered this series having won 15 of their previous 18, and they trailed Oakland by just 2 1/2 games. The A’s have increased that to 5 1/2 games, and even if they lose today, they’ll return home with a 4 1/2 game edge over the Angels, which can be considered quite the productive series. They also enter today with a five-game lead on Tampa Bay. That’s the team to keep an eye on right now in terms of the wild card race. The Orioles and Yankees are both closer to the A’s, but if you slot in one of those teams as the AL East champ and the other one as a second wild card, it means the Rays are the team that Oakland currently needs to watch.

Jemile Weeks gets his first start at second base since returning from the minors. A’s manager Bob Melvin wanted to give Stephen Drew the day off, so Cliff Pennington slides over to short and Weeks plays second. That’s your opening night double-play combo from way back in March. “Weeks has been a big part of this team. I feel good that I could get him a start,” Melvin said.

The lineups:
A’s — Crisp CF, Smith DH, Reddick RF, Cespedes LF, Moss 1B, Donaldson 3B, Kottaras C, Pennington SS, Weeks 2B; Anderson LHP.

Angels — Trout CF, Callaspo 3B, Pujols DH, Hunter RF, Kendrick 2B, Aybar SS, Trumbo 1B, Wells LF, Iannetta C; Weaver RHP.


Bob Melvin sees signs of Josh Reddick coming around with the bat

It’s back to the usual weather you expect here in Anaheim. Last night it was unusually humid, almost like it was going to rain. Playing conditions are perfect tonight as A.J. Griffin puts his 5-0 record on the line against Ervin Santana.

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

Angels — Trout CF, Hunter RF, Pujols DH, Morales 1B, Kendrick 2B, Aybar SS, Wells LF, Callaspo 3B, Iannetta C; Santana RHP.

The A’s are getting some love from the national media. If you haven’t yet, check out these stories from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan on the A’s march toward a postseason spot.

Josh Reddick remains in the ‘3’ hole and says he isn’t getting down on himself during his current slump. “I feel great up there, that’s the worst part about it,” Reddick said. “I feel great. Stuff just isn’t happening. It’s just gotten to the point where it’s getting embarrassing, what I’ve not been able to do. But on a positive note, the team’s winning so I’m not gonna be the negative guy in the clubhouse.”

Manager Bob Melvin said Reddick took extra batting practice Tuesday night, working on staying back on the ball and keeping balanced. “Sometimes it’s OK to get jammed,” Melvin said. “His first time up he got jammed. We haven’t seen that in a while because he’s been trying to get the bat head out probably a little quick. Subtle things you see that you think a guy’s coming out of it, and I think he is.”

Melvin continued to talk up Reddick’s defense. Coaches and managers have already conducted Gold Glove voting, and Melvin said it’s his understanding that Reddick got good support in the voting. I’ll be interested to see those results after the season.

–Yoenis Cespedes gets a second straight game in the DH spot. Melvin has been trying to rest him, and being DH is at least a half-day off. Maybe with Cespedes homering last night, Melvin decided another half-day wasn’t a bad idea …


Postgame thoughts after the A’s 6-5 victory over the Angels

After a wild finish at Angel Stadium, I couldn’t fit everything into the game story from the A’s 6-5 victory over the Angels, so here’s some nuggets from the clubhouse:

–Raise your hand if you expected Jerry Blevins to earn tonight’s save at all, let alone do it in the dramatic fashion that he did? He inherited a mess from Grant Balfour — runners on the corners, 0 outs and a one-run lead — and got a strikeout and double-play grounder to end it. With Ryan Cook unavailable after pitching three of the previous four days, A’s manager Bob Melvin wanted to stay away from him.

It’s just another exciting chapter in this A’s season, but it could point to potential trouble in the final weeks. Are the A’s safe at the closer’s spot? Balfour had converted 10 straight save opportunities entering the night, but he nearly let a three-run lead slip away completely, and he lost his cool over the strike zone.

He took accountability of it afterward.

“He was right, there were a couple that were off,” Balfour said of home plate umpire Paul Schrieber. “I also looked at the video and saw some pitches that I thought were strikes too. These guys do a great job at what they do. It’s frustating sometimes when they see it one way and you see it another. At the end of the day, I gotta make better pitches and get out of that situation. That’s on me and I gotta be better out there.”

Melvin said it just wasn’t Balfour’s night: “He didn’t have his good stuff today and they hit him. You can’t walk guys with a three-run lead. He knows that.”

–Dan Straily’s start sort of got lost in the shuffle with the exciting finish, but he was solid in his fourth big league start: 6 2/3 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 8 K’s, 1 BB. True, he gave up two homers but you gotta like the way he dodged major trouble early in the game. Melvin had the bullpen up in the second inning. “I looked over my shoulder and saw the bullpen going. I was not going to be embarrassed again against these guys.”

How do you come away feeling about Straily’s outing? Encouraged? Worried about the homers he’s giving up? Bottom line, he kept it together, in a tough environment, when things could have unraveled early.

–Josh Reddick is struggling big-time at the plate, no way of getting around it. An 0 for 4 night leaves him in a 3 for 39 rut over his past 10 games. But, as he did Sunday in Seattle, he came up big defensively. He made a sliding catch of Albert Pujols’ foul pop with runners on the corners in the second, ending an inning in which Straily had already allowed two runs. That was a big lift for Straily, who steadied himself afterward.

Melvin said before the game he didn’t see a logical alternative to replace Reddick with in the No. 3 spot right now. It’s amazing how the A’s have continued to thrive with their most productive power hitter mired in such a slump. But when it comes to the A’s and their success this season, is it easy to make sense of anything?


No plans for shaking up the middle of the A’s lineup right now, Bob Melvin says

The general reaction in the A’s clubhouse to Brandon McCarthy being released from the hospital: Relief and joy. “I think it’s great,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s made some big strides here in a few days, and we’re very happy that he’s home.”

“Overwhelming positive feelings,” left-hander Brett Anderson said. “It’s such a quick turnaround. For a couple days you didn’t know what the outcome was going to be. Now he gets to go home, sleep in his own bed. Hang out with his dog and his wife, and not be confined to a hospital room. Obviously everybody’s excited about that.”

Amanda McCarthy tweeted a picture of her husband that dog lovers are really going to like.

On the baseball front, here’s tonight’s lineups:

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

Angels — Trout CF, Hunter RF, Pujols DH, Morales 1B, Kendrick 2B, Aybar SS, Wells LF, Callaspo 3B, Iannetta C; Williams RHP.

–The A’s have won four in a row despite getting little production from No. 3 hitter Josh Reddick, and cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes has cooled considerably too. But Melvin said he doesn’t have any plans, for now, to try experimenting at the 3-4 spots in the order. “Yoenis hasn’t been swinging it as well as he’s been swinging,” Melvin said. “I don’t really know where I’d go at this point (for the third spot). I don’t want to shake it up too much. Those guys have been very important to us, and you have to stick with them to an extent. There are times you do try to give them a change of scenery. At this point in time, I don’t know that I would do anything differently in those spots.”

I’m not sure who I would sub in right now either. As I’ve written, the A’s have been getting just enough contributions up and down the order — No. 9 hitter Cliff Pennington is in a groove right now — to compensate for the lack of production from their big boppers. We’ll see how things continue to play out.

George Kottaras draws another start at catcher with the Angels throwing a right-hander in Jerome Williams. “It’s nothing DiNo (Derek Norris) has done, he’ll get his share of time too,” Melvin said. “We just feel like if we have a particular matchup working or a guy who’s hot we’ll play that hot hand.”

Reliever Jordan Norberto (shoulder tendinitis) might start throwing soon, but Melvin acknowledged time is running short to be able to work him back into the bullpen mix …


A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy discharged from hospital

A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy was discharged from the hospital Tuesday.

His wife, Amanda, tweeted: “Today is the day that Hobbes and I play nurse at home!!,” she wrote, referring to the name of her dog. McCarthy broke the news in more sarcastic fashion from his own Twitter account: “Well, if being discharged from the hospital isn’t the best time to ask about a threesome then I’m fresh out of ideas,” he wrote, all in caps.

The A’s released a statement that McCarthy was discharged from California Pacific Medical Campus in San Francisco early Tuesday afternoon. McCarthy underwent emergency brain surgery Wednesday night after he was struck in the head by a line drive.

Dr. Peter Weber, the neurologist who performed the surgery at CPMC, and Dr. Allan Pont, A’s team physician, both felt that McCarthy had made an excellent recovery and could be safely released from the hospital, the A’s said.

McCarthy also issued a statement through the A’s, after leaving the hospital Tuesday:

“From the bottom of our hearts, (my wife) Amanda and I want to thank everyone who was involved in responding to and treating my injury, starting with Dr. Weber and all the team’s medical personnel from doctors Allan Pont, Elliott Schwartz and Jon Dickinson to the Oakland A’s athletic trainers, as well as the other physicians and nurses who were on duty around the clock in the Critical Care Unit at California Pacific. We feel the same way about the ambulance driver and those who first met us at the hospital. We could not have been in better hands.

“We also want to express our deep appreciation to our teammates, manager and coaching staff for their concern and encouragement during the uncertain times, and also want to thank all the A’s fans who wished us well. It’s times like these when you realize you have an extended family, and feel so fortunate. Now we look forward to continuing the healing process, and returning to baseball and our normal lives in the weeks and months ahead. Go A’s!”