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Game 56 wrapup: Freiman scrambling for a TV to watch his wife compete in LPGA tournament

Ask anybody and you’ll quickly find there is a consensus in sports that timing is everything.

When that timing has to be spread out over two sports, however, that timing gets muddled.

Exhibit A is Oakland first baseman Nate Freiman. He’s probably going to be in the lineup Saturday for the A’s with Chicago throwing a left-hander, Jose Quintana. The game will start at 1:05 p.m.

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Moss will cede crown as Loganville’s top athlete

Brandon Moss isn’t bragging when he says he’s probably the most accomplished professional athlete ever to come from Loganville, GA.

“It’s just not that big a place,’’ Moss said. The 2009 census had it with a population of just under 11,000.

Moss said that ranking is temporary. According to Baseball America rankings, two of the top five players eligible for the baseball draft come from Loganville, Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows.

The A’s first baseman doesn’t know Meadows, but he’s known Frazier for five years, and he sees nothing but stardom for the product of Loganville High (Meadows goes to nearby Grayson High).

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Game 55 wrapup: Moss heartened by strikeout

Brandon Moss’s swing has been so off-key that manager Bob Melvin felt the need to pull Moss aside before Thursday’s game to talk about it.

In the 31 games coming into Thursday’s series finale against the Giants at AT&T Park, Moss was hitting just .191. Before that, he was at .302.

The manager asked Moss what his approach was at the plate.

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Doolittle has done plenty to raise expectations

When Sean Doolittle gave up two runs Wednesday night in the eighth inning, it came as a surprise to the A’s.

It’s not that his manager and teammates believe Doolittle to be infallible. It’s that the A’s expectations are such that they’ve grown comfortable watching him rack up scoreless inning after scoreless inning.

Perhaps it was just as well that Doolittle allowed three hits in an inning for the first time in 2013. After all, the runs and the hits didn’t matter. They did make the game closer, but Oakland pulled out a 96- win, the club’s sixth in succession.

Better to have Doolittle stub his toes that way than to give up runs that cost a win.

“When Doolittle gives up a hit, let alone a run, you think `What happened?’ ’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “He did his job. It’s just that we’re not used to seeing him give up anything.’’

Before giving up two runs Wednesday, Doolittle had given up two runs total in the course of 20 2013 appearances. Before allowing three hits Wednesday, he’d allowed more than one hit in an appearance just once all year.

Doolittle’s ERA was 0.78 before jumping to 1.48. Either way, he’s going to get some serious consideration for the American League All-Star team. True, he’s not a closer, but he’s as good a left-handed setup man as you’ll find.

 

–A’s first baseman Brandon Moss got day off Thursday, the third time in the last four games that’s happened.

In happier times, he might have gotten a start against one of the slew of left-handed starters Oakland has seen lately – four of the last five opposing hurlers have been lefties, and two of the three starters the A’s will see from the White Sox this weekend will be southpaws as well – but these aren’t happier times.

In his last 31 games, Moss has a .191 average, dragging his overall mark from .302 on April 23 to the .236 mark he brings into Thursday.

All spring training long, Melvin talked about his belief that Moss is a left-handed hitter who can hit left-handed pitching. He still believes that, but for the moment, he’s trying to put Moss in the best position to succeed, which means starting him against right-handers and having rookie Nate Freiman go against lefties.

“He’s not immune to struggling,’’ Melvin said. “And he’s not the only one who is. He will get hot, maybe hit six homers in 10 days, something like that.’’

 

–Josh Reddick is likely to join the A’s for Friday’s series opener against the White Sox.  The right fielder was due to get a fourth game on an injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Sacramento.

Reddick’s injured right hand seems to be heal, and if there is no pain Thursday, that will be music to the A’s ears.

“We talked about four games (on the rehab assignment),’’ Melvin said. “That’s probably still where we’re at.’’

No decision has been made, but it seems likley catcher Luke Montz will be the odd man out to make room on the roster for Reddick.

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A’s 9, Giants 6

SAN FRANCISCO – Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan must smile whenever they watch the A’s these days, no doubt mindful that the formula they see working for the current A’s is the one they mastered during the late 80s as the A’s manager and pitching coach, respectively.

That tried-and-true recipe was on full display again Wednesday, as the A’s parlayed a solid outing from starting pitcher Tommy Milone, effective pitching from their relievers and several timely hits into a 9-6 victory over the Giants in front of a sold-out crowd at AT&Park.

That’s the formula that carried the A’s to the American League West title last season, and it’s the one that propelled them to wins in six straight games and 11 of their past 12.

“That’s probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson said about a game that never quite seemed in hand until Grant Balfour nailed down the final out.

Tommy Milone made his 11th start of the season for the A’s on Wednesday night. As if on cue, he pitched well enough to give the A’s a chance to win, just as he has in all his odd-numbered starts this season.

On Wednesday, Milone struggled at times. Yet, he pitched well enough to get the win as the A’s outlasted the Giants

Milone has been nothing short of efficient and dependable in his six odd-numbered starts. He allowed five earned runs during his first five such starts. In his five others starts, he allowed 22 earned runs – at least four in each game.

He said it was nice getting plenty of run support. It was just as nice playing in an intense setting.

“Every time we come here, the atmosphere is always awesome,” Milone said. “As an athlete, in general, that’s the kind of atmosphere that you want to play in front of every day.”

Now, if Milone can just find a way to string together back-to-back impressive outings. The A’s aren’t complaining, though, not after beating the Giants for the third straight time.

The A’s staked Milone to a 2-0 lead before he delivered his first pitch and enabled him to pitch with a lead until he departed after five-plus innings.

From the outset, Milone did what he does best by combining a high-80s fastball with an array of change-ups and curves and pinpoint control.

Even so, the Giants still managed a few decent threats beyond Hunter Pence’s solo home run in the second that cut the lead to 2-1..

Time and again, though, Milone and a host of relievers made just enough quality pitches to get outs when it mattered. Balfour closed out the game for his 12th save in as many chances.

“You get the momentum going in the other direction here and sometimes it’s tough to stem the tide,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.

 

– A’s left fielder Yoenis Cespedes continued his resurgence with a line-drive triple to straightaway center in the top of the first. His run-scoring hit gave the A’s a 1-0 lead and extended his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games.

 

– Melvin called on Nate Freiman to pinch-hit for first baseman Brandon Moss in the fifth after Moss struck out his first two at-bats. Moss now is mired in an 8-for-60 slump. Freiman delivered a two-run single that extended the A’s lead to 6-1. He added a run-scoring single in the ninth.

 

– Outfielder Josh Reddick made it through nine innings and four at-bats Wednesday in a rehab stint without any lingering effects from the sore right wrist that landed him on the 15-day disabled list May 8.

To that end, Melvin said, the plan calls for Reddick to play another game Thursday, as the designated hitter, and then be activated in time for Friday’s game against the Chicago White Sox.

 

– Reliever Sean Doolittle allowed a run for the first time in 14 appearances when the Giants scored twice in the eighth.

 

– Melvin said he expected more of a one-sided crowd in the Giants home park. That appeared to be the case, yet plenty of A’s fan could be heard chanting, “Let’s go, Oakland” throughout the game. “We heard them out there,” Melvin said.

 

– A.J. Griffin (5-3) faces the Giants Barry Zito (3-3) in the finale of the four-game run between these two teams Thursday afternoon.

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Reddick likely to be activated from DL on Friday

Outfielder Josh Reddick made it through nine innings and four at-bats Wednesday in a rehab stint without any lingering effects from the sore right wrist that landed him on the 15-day disabled list May 8.

To that end, A’s manager Bob Melvin said, the plan calls for Reddick to play another game Thursday, as the designated hitter, and then be activated in time for Friday’s game against the Chicago White Sox.

Reddick batted .152 with one home run and 14 RBI in 29 games before the A’s sidelined him in an attempt to get him healthy enough to play the rest of the season.

Had the pain not subsided, Reddick said he intended to undergo surgery. Fortunately for the A’s and Reddick, rest and rehab worked out in their favor.

Once Reddick returns, the A’s are going to have a surplus of outfielders now that Coco Crisp and Chris Young are back from injuries that landed them on the disabled list.

 

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Writer, Doolittle engage in war of words over O.Co

SAN FRANCISCO – Long-time baseball writer Jon Heyman riled up A’s players and fans by Tweeting that it’s a “shame” the Giants and A’s don’t play all their games at AT&TPark.

A’s reliever Sean Doolittle wasted little time in responding via Twitter, saying: “I can see why you don’t like it. We have a strict No High Horse policy at O.Co.”

The A’s hosted the Giants at O.Co on Monday and Tuesday. The two teams played in San Francisco on Wednesday and Thursday. When asked about Heyman’s stance, A’s manager Bob Melvin said he takes issue.

“If you come out and experience the atmosphere at our ballpark, maybe you wouldn’t say that,” Melvin said, “because it’s a pretty dynamic atmosphere, with those fans being very vocal there. It’s unlike anywhere else.”

So, what’s it like playing in Oakland with the Giants as the opponent?

“It was like a big, 35,000 capacity bar, going back and forth with the fans as much as on the field,” Melvin said.

Heyman, who writes for CBS, backtracked a tad after Doolittle’s initial Tweet. However, Doolittle ramped up the rhetoric.

“Also, your Sistine Chapel that is AT&TPark forgot the bullpens when they built the stadium.”

 

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Game 53 wrapup: Norris earning pitchers’ trust

The way the season started, John Jaso was going to be the regular behind the plate against right-handed pitchers for the A’s and Derek Norris would be there against lefties.

Norris is still there against lefties, witness his starts the last two nights against San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner and Mike Kickham, but he’s getting more playing time against right-handers, too.

It’s not that Jaso isn’t playing. It’s that with Luke Montz on the roster as a third catcher, manager Bob Melvin can feel safe using two catchers in the same lineup, so Jaso frequently serves as DH when Norris catches.

That combination has been trotted out seven times in the A’s last 21 games.

What it’s meant is that Norris is getting more time behind the plate than he would have expected coming out of spring training, and that’s made him more confident, and his pitchers more confident in him.

“I think the way things have been going, it shows that the pitchers have a lot of trust in what I’m doing,’’ he said. “I know each guy goes in with a game plan, but I spend a lot of time in the video room studying the other hitters, I do my homework, and they can be confident when I put down the signal that it’s the right pitch.’’

Pitchers haven’t shaken off many of Norris’ pitches lately – Jarrod Parker shook off Norris just twice Tuesday – although you wouldn’t always know that.

“I’ll give them a `fake shake,’ ’’ Norris said, letting his pitchers appear to be shaking him off when they really aren’t. “It gets the hitters thinking. Mostly, it shows that the pitchers have a lot of trust in me.’’

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Freiman finds split-second decision was right one

Nate Freiman was faced with a split-second decision in the sixth inning of Monday’s game.

For a while it haunted him, concerned that he’d made the wrong call, but upon further review, the A’s first baseman is content he made the right call

The Giants’ Pablo Sandoval was up with men on first and third and none out and hit a sharp grounder to Freiman at first. Here’s the question – do you go for the double play and concede the run or do you try and keep the run from scoring?

With the A’s up 2-0 at the time, Freiman decided it was more important to try and keep the run from scoring. So he took a few steps to first base and got the out there without taking his eye off the runner at third, Gregor Blanco, who looked as if he wanted to run but didn’t.

What that meant was that the runner at first base, Marco Scutaro, was now at second as the potential tying run.

A’s starter Dan Straily eventually gave up Blanco’s run on a grounder hit by Buster Posey, but he pitched out of the inning and the A’s went on to a 4-1 win in the first game of the series.

“At the time, I decided to make sure I got at least one out and to see if I could keep the runner from scoring,’’ Freiman said. “It was going to be a tough double play to turn, although the ball got to me quicker than I thought it would at first.

“At the time I wasn’t sure that it was the right play. But with the way in inning played out, Gregor Blanco was going to score, and so we were going to give up one run, regardless. It all goes back to the fact that the most important thing was that we got at least one out for sure on that (Sandoval) grounder.

“The thing that you can’t allow to happen is that you come out of that situation not getting any outs.’’

 

–Brett Anderson is still wearing his walking cast and is still using crutches to avoid putting too much pressure on the stress fracture in his right foot.

He’s probably got at least two more weeks of that, but no one can say for sure. Bones tend to heal at their own pace. So Anderson is learning to adapt while his A’s teammates do their thing.

“It’s different, sort of like being a fan,’’ he said. “Baseball is still fun to watch, especially the way this pitching staff is going. Yesterday I was able to watch two good baseball teams collide.’’

Just how well have A’s pitchers been doing? Coming into Tuesday’s start by Jarrod Parker, Oakland pitchers have a 2.33 ERA in their last 10 games and the team has won nine of those 10.

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Game 52 wrapup: Donaldson amazed by Doolittle, and is more than a little amazing himself

Josh Donaldson can’t help but shake his head when he watches what Sean Doolittle does his magic on the mound.

It happened again Monday when Doolittle, who is challenging the rest of the competition for the title of best left-handed setup man in the Major Leagues, faced six men and retired them all in helping the A’s beat the Giants 4-1 in the Coliseum.

It’s not a new scenario. Doolittle has retired 16 of the last 17 batters he’s faced, and his ERA, which peaked at 1.86 on April 28, is at 0.78 a month later.

In his last 13 games over the course of a month he’s faced 43 batters, allowing four hits and no walks in 13.1 innings.

Not bad for a one-time Cubs prospect as a first baseman/outfielder.

“It’s amazing when I look back to when we were playing in the Arizona Fall League together (in 2008),’’ Donaldson said. “He was one of the best hitters in the entire league. He was a tremendous hitting prospect. If he hadn’t gotten hurt, he would have been in the big leagues as a hitter in 2010.

“But he had knee troubles, and so now he’s pitching. For what he’s doing now, he deserves all the accolades he can get. He makes left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters look pretty bad.’’

There was some thought that Doolittle might find the going a little rough in 2013 after a good rookie season in which he had a 3.04 ERA in 44 games. But if the league has adjusted to Doolittle, it’s not at all evident.

He throws his fastball between 95-97 mph and balances it out with a slider that moves devilishly through the strike zone.

Normally manager Bob Melvin uses him for one inning, but when Doolittle needed just eight pitches to get through the seventh, there was no question that Doolittle was going to go out for the eighth inning as well.

“There was no chance for me to be surprised about that,’’ Doolittle said. “I was coming off the field and I was still maybe 10 feet from the dugout when Bob said I was going back out. So I was able to stay in it mentally.’’

It’s not a matter of Doolittle’s pitches being so much better than anybody else’s. It’s more that he has confidence that he can call on any of them – in, out, up, down – to go exactly where and his catcher want.

“The key is that I’m just able to get ahead in the count,’’ Doolittle said. “When you get ahead, when you get that first out, that’s important.’’

 

–Donaldson, himself a third baseman converted from catcher, has turned out to be the most valuable A’s hitter the first two months of the season.

With his home run Monday, he’s hitting a team-best .324 with eight homers and 33 RBIs. Only Yoenis Cespedes (nine) has more homers among the Oakland batters, and no one can touch Donaldson’s 33 RBIs.

He’s been particularly tough against left-handed pitchers, even ones as good as the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner.

Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti came to the mound in the fourth inning with one on and no one out in the fourth and Donaldson at the plate. Righetti returned to the bench after his chat with Bumgarner and Donaldson hit the next pitch out to center field for a 2-0 lead the A’s never relinquished.

“I felt he was locating his pitches well the whole game,’’ Donaldson said. “He just got behind me in that one case, and I thought he might challenge me with a fastball right there.’’

Challenge accepted.

Donaldson is among the top hitters against lefties in the league with a 397 average and half of his eight homers have come against them in just 58 at-bats.