Game 49 wrapup: A’s stretch the limit of their infield to preserve Young’s heroics

In for John Hickey …

Hard to say what was more thrilling to watch, Chris Young’s three-run blast that gave the A’s the ninth-inning lead Friday night against Houston or what Bob Melvin had to do to preserve it in the bottom of the ninth with closer Grant Balfour on the mound.

With Jed Lowrie still unable to play with a sore foot and infielders Nate Freiman and Adam Rosales having been lifted for pinch-hitters, manager Bob Melvin had to get ultra-creative with his infield. He wound up playing John Jaso at first base, Josh Donaldson at short and Brandon Moss at third. Only Jaso had major league experience playing his makeshift position, having played first in spring training in 2012 and one other time in the majors for four innings in 2010.

As the top of the ninth was playing out, the players were discussing with manager Bob Melvin about who was going to play where. It was pretty well settled that Donaldson would play short, but Jaso wanted to play third. Melvin asked them all about experience at the positions that needed to be filled.

“Moss had played a little bit more third, and more recently … unless he lied to me,” Melvin said.

Moss said the wealth of his experience at third base came his first year in pro ball … in 2002!

But after the game, Moss was walking around the clubhouse like Brooks Robinson, even though he was the one makeshift infielder who actually didn’t a play. Jaso caught the first out on a throw from second baseman Eric Sogard. Donaldson fielded the last out, making a nifty flip to Sogard for a force like he’d been playing the position all of his life.

When I suggested to Moss that perhaps they should start calling him Brooks, he replied, “Actually, if Adrian Beltre and Chipper Jones had a kid, it would be me.” Moss said perhaps he would have to call Wilson to order him a real third baseman’s glove. When he encountered Balfour in the hallway, the closer played along with his bragging and commended him for a job well done.

“Best third baseman in the league,” Balfour said.

Moss said when he was at Triple-A Sacramento early last year, he lobbied to play some third base.

“Last year I tried my hardest to let Bushie (Sacto manager Darren Bush) to let me play  third base some, just to play it,” he said. “He said no. He hold just to stay in my lane, and now I’m a big league third baseman. Book that!”

Said Jaso, “He (Melvin) asked if I could play third base and I said, `Yeah, why not?’ But they pretty much told me I’d play first, so I just went along with it.”

And he liked it.

“I will say one thing, playing first base in the ninth inning when you’re ahead by one run is a lot more relaxing than playing behind the plate,” Jaso said.

Jaso said it felt like a Little League game.

“We were all excited and happy (after Young’s homer),” he said. “When we all switched positions, we were all smiling and having a good time with it. It’d probably be a little different it were a tie ballgame and they’d just hit a homer or something. But it was kind of fun having a lead situation like that.”

Coco Crisp chimed in that he should have played second base, the position he played when he first came into pro ball. Hey, maybe Saturday, Coco. Sogard may not be able to handle another ninth inning flanked by Moss, Jaso and Donaldson.

“The first ball was hit to me,” he said. “And I was thinking, `Keep ’em coming.’ ”

Weird stat of the night: The A’s scored two more first-inning runs against the Astros, giving them 18 for the seven they’ve played against them. And how many runs had Oakland scored in the other 42 games against everybody else? Six.

Young’s heroics in his Houston hometown and Tommy Milone’s weird night are detailed game story here, which also includes the info on the end of the A’s consecutive solo homer streak. It ended at 15 but tied the all-time franchise record set in 1947: http://bit.ly/11gHwIk

Until tomorrow …




Carl Steward