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Game 45 wrapup: Donaldson has no fear in throwing body around; Okajima returns in style; Cook changes nothing to close a game

Josh Donaldson went diving over the tarp in foul territory behind third base in what turned out to be a futile pursuit of a ninth inning foul ball that, if caught, would have ended Sunday’s game.

The batter, Mike Moustakas, grounded out to end it a few moments later, but Donaldson said he had no regrets about throwing his body out in pursuit of the foul pop fly.

“It was the last out,’’ he said. “Of course I’m going to go for it there.’’

    Donaldson said next time, instead of diving over the tarp, he’ll jump on top of it with his spikes and try to stay upright and catch the ball.

“(Bench coach) Chip (Hale) told me that was legal to do,’’ Donaldson said. “But a while ago one of the umpires said I couldn’t do it. I’m trying to get a ruling on it. But before this year is out, I’ll do it. I’m sure of that.’’

Donaldson emerged from the ordeal without injury, but he said he wasn’t worried about getting hurt when he had the chance to close the game out.

“It was the third out of the ninth inning,’’ he said. “I felt pretty good about it. I’d do it again.’’

Ryan Cook, who closed the game, was properly appreciative.

“As a pitcher, you’ll take that kind of effort every time,’’ he said. “I don’t know if he had a chance to catch it.’’

 

–Hideki Okajima had taken the walk from the bullpen to the mound in a Major League game 261 times before Sunday.

But when he went from the left field bullpen to the mound this time, it was different.

For one thing, it was the first time this year that he’d been in an MLB game, having spent all of Aril and most of May honing his game with Triple-A Sacramento.

For another, he was wearing an A’s uniform. Before Sunday, he’d only ever pitched as a big leaguer for the Boston Red Sox.

And for a third thing, it was the culmination of a long road back after getting into just seven games with the Red Sox in 2011, then being let go in spring training 2012 by the Yankees, after which he pitched for Soft Bank in Japan.

“It was very special,’’ Okajima said through interpreter Jason Eda. “I was excited. And I’m very happy to be back. It felt really good to be out on the mound.’’

The A’s are glad to have him. He’s got plenty of big league experience, which is something most members of the Oakland bullpen don’t have. And while the A’s relievers generally think in terms of overpowering pitchers, Okajima is all about deception.

“I don’t know how he can throw the ball without looking at it,’’ fellow reliever Jerry Blevins, Sunday’s winning pitcher, said. “It works for him, though.’’

Okajima gave up one of Alex Gordon’s four hits, a barely-fair grounder for a double with one out in the seventh with Oakland down 3-2. After an intentional walk to avoid having to pitch to Billy Butler, Okajima got two lefty batters, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, on routine grounders.

“The guy had some bad luck with that end-of-the-bat grounder for the hit,’’ closer Grant Balfour, who got Sunday off, said, “and then he’s got to walk the next guy to set up the double play. But he dealt with the tough situation and got out of it. He did well to get out of that jam.’’

With Okajima turning the Royals away, Blevins (3-0) and Cook (save No. 1) did the same to secure the one-run win. In the three games of the series, A’s relievers pitched eight times for a total of eight innings, not allowing a run. They had two wins and three saves.

 

–Cook had been in the closer’s role before. He did well enough in it last year to make it to the All-Star team as Oakland’s representative.

For now, however, he’s part of a three-headed monster in the A’s bullpen along with closer Grant Balfour and left-hander Sean Doolittle.

Manager Bob Melvin said he’s comfortable using any of the three in a closing role, and with Doolittle and Balfour having pitched in the first two games of the series, the chance to close in the ninth fell to Cook.

He had some trouble with a couple of two-out hits, but after a long battle with lefty third baseman Moustakas, Cook got the Royals’ No. 6 hitter to ground out to Adam Rosales at second for the final out.

“I actually felt the best I’ve felt all year,’’ Cook said. “My trouble has been when I’m over-throwing, but that wasn’t the case today.

“(Being the closer) doesn’t change my approach,’’ Cook, predominantly a power pitcher, said. “It is what it is.’’

John Hickey

Returning to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.