Game 61 wrapup: Donaldson finding might doesn’t make right; Cespedes can’t enjoy multi-homer game; Moss feeling better about swing; Doolittle gets vote of confidence
By John Hickey
Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 at 6:09 pm in 2013 regular season.
There seems to be no shortage of hits in Josh Donaldson’s bat these days.
He had three more Wednesday and for the month of June is 9-for-21 (.429), getting his overall average up to .332.
Meet the pull hitter-who-wasn’t.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever hit this well,’’ the right-handed Donaldson said. “I know that I’ve never had so many hits to right field in an entire season as I’ve had already right now.’’
Four of the nine hits for Donaldson this month are to right. Baseball-reference.com has him with 19 hits to right field already this season. In 75 games last year, just 10 went to the opposite field.
The change may be the Donaldson isn’t trying to pull the ball the way power hitters are wont to do. He’s had episodes with the A’s and in the minor leagues where he would get on a roll. Then the temptation to swing for the fences would get him off-kilter for a spell.
So far this year, at least, that hasn’t happened. It’s not that he’s become a singles hitter. With eight homers, he’s third on the A’s roster. With 18 doubles he’s tied for the team lead. He’s hitting the ball in the gap, hitting the ball hard and taking whatever happens.
And whatever happens has been pretty good.
“What is it that Josh can’t do?’’ manager Bob Melvin asked after his team finished off the Brewers 6-1 Wednesday, the team’s 16th win in 19 games. “
Melvin was particularly impressed by the first of Donaldson’s hits Wednesday, a single to right with Jed Lowrie on first base.
“He uses his head there, sees the whole field and goes to right and we’ve got guys on first and third and a chance to score a run,’’ Melvin said. “You can say he’s a little bit of a flake, and I’m not saying he’s not, but he’s very, very aware of what happens on the field.’’
One man’s flakiness is another man’s free spiriting, but however you define it, Donaldson does enjoy himself. He put on a show on MLB-TV’s Intentional Talk Tuesday, a performance that had his teammates howling.
He enjoys playing the game, and it shows – and not just on defense.
“He’s as good a defensive player at third base as there is,’’ Melvin said. “He’s done a great job for us there.’’
The one thing Donaldson will not do is come out of a game. Melvin keeps pressuring Donaldson to see if he needs a day off, so far without success.
“I talk to him about it all the time,’’ Melvin said. “He just doesn’t want to come out.’’
And so far, at least, he’s not wearing down. He seems to be warming up.
–Yoenis Cespedes hit a couple of home runs Tuesday, a two-run shot in the first and a solo blast in the sixth, and for most of the night it seemed like they would stand up for the win.
They didn’t. Bullpen breakdowns led to a 4-3 loss in 10 innings.
And that impacted how Cespedes thinks of his first-ever multiple-homer game in the big leagues.
“I was so happy, for almost the whole game,’’ Cespedes said Wednesday through interpreter Ariel Prieto. “Until the end of the game. I wasn’t happy at the end of the game because we lost.’’
–Brandon Moss hasn’t gotten many hits lately.
When he’s gotten them, however, they’ve had some impact.
The first baseman has three hits in his last 33 at-bats (0.91), but each of the three has been a home run. Wednesday’s homer was a monster, a first-pitch blast into the far reaches of the right field stands.
It turned a 3-1 game into a 6-1 game and kept the A’s on a roll by getting Oakland back to a season-best 11 games over .500.
And while the homers by themselves don’t suggest that he’s coming out of a slump that has him having fallen from .295 at the end of April to .225 now, the line drive shot that was caught by third baseman Juan Francisco suggested to Moss that happier days are just around the corner.
“In the first two at-bats today I felt like I’d taken a step backwards,’’ Moss said. “I can in (the clubhouse) and told myself to let it go. I’m at my best when I’m pulling the ball, but right now that’s not working.
“So I told Jed (shortstop Jed Lowrie) that I was going to swing when I saw a pitch that was in the zone. I was able to do that and hit it hard.’’
It may be a while before Moss gets a chance to see if his swing really is coming around. The A’s first three games in Chicago, at least, will be started by left-handed pitchers. That means rookie Nate Freiman, who is hitting .340 against lefties, will get those starts.
And Moss is cool with that.
“It’s a great thing we picked up Nate,’’ Moss said. “He’s been a great part of our team. And he’s done a lot of damage. Whether it’s three days a week (of playing) or seven days a week, you just want to have competitive at-bats.
And that, Moss said, defines the A’s.
“We aren’t building for (the future),’’ he said. “We’re trying to win right now. We have guys who understand that nothing is owed to us.
“It’s not owed to me because I hit a homer off a lefty today that I start against the lefty tomorrow.’’
–Reliever Sean Doolittle, who was told in a sitdown with Melvin early Wednesday that the club would be sticking with Doolittle as the lefty setup man, was happy to hear that.
He was even happier to go over video of his last three performances and come up with a reason for his recent troubles. After allowing just two runs in 23 games, he’s allowed seven runs in the last three games, including blowing a 3-0 lead Tuesday that led to speculation Melvin might find a different role for him.
“Watching the video I see I’m flying open with my hips (during his delivery),’’ Doolittle said. “We did some mechanical work and maybe I’ve got it worked out.’’
Doolittle was gratified by the support he felt leaving Melvin’s office after their meeting early in the day.
“It’s good to know that I’ll stay in the same role,’’ Doolittle said. “But most of all it’s good to know that he’s in my corner.’’
Doolittle didn’t pitch in Wednesday’s win over the Brewers, but expect to see him at his old post in the seventh or eighth inning, as needed, in a four-game set in Chicago. He will have lots of friends and family in U.S. Cellular Field, and he can’t wait.
“A lot of my support system is going to be there,’’ he said. “I’m looking forward to that and looking forward to getting out there again.’’
–Hideki Okajima continues to wear an iceberg-sized wrap on his left forearm after games. It’s so big that the left-hander has to eat the post-game meal with just his right hand.
Even so, he’s close to being ready to pitch and, in a pinch, could have pitched for the A’s Wednesday, two days after taking a line drive off his left forearm.
“I really wanted to give him a couple of days off,’’ Melvin said. The manager had a spot that would have been ideal for the lefty in the eighth inning, but with Okajima not quite himself, Melvin had Ryan Cook pitch the eighth instead.
“I think he’ll be ready to go (Thursday in Chicago),’’ the manager said.