Have the A’s gotten into heads of Rangers, Darvish?

Have the Oakland A’s gotten into the heads of the Texas Rangers?

Well, maybe.

It’s one thing that the A’s took the American League West by storm last year, winning six of the last seven games against the Rangers to win the West title by one game.

It’s another that the A’s were seven games back on May 15 this season and have stormed into a three-game lead in the division entering a four-game series that starts tonight.

And then there’s the case of Yu Darvish. He’s the Rangers’ best starting pitcher, but coming into his start Tuesday he is 1-3 with a 3.81 ERA against Oakland.

And, asked Sunday about facing the A’s, he sounded torn between being confident and being wary.

“I don’t think I have any difficulty facing them,’’ he told the Texas media. “It’s like facing a new team every time, because the condition of the team varies from each time I face them.’’

Well, yes, the A’s have made changes up and down the roster during Darvish’s time in Texas. But Oakland will mostly be healthy and have its roster intact heading into this series.

Asked about the significance of the series, Darvish wouldn’t make much of it.

“It’s only June. It’s too early in the season to be thinking about those things,’’ he said. “I don’t really have anything to say other than we’re going to have a meeting again and try and figure out how to win.’’

That sounds like something you say when the other team is in your head a little.


Game 71 wrapup: Sewage leak could spur substantive movement on new A’s stadium

In for John Hickey, who missed all of Sunday’s fun …

Lew Wolff has to be leaping in the air and clicking his heels after Sunday. His team is leading the American League West by three games. Bartolo Colon is making a serious bid for an All-Star Game spot. The A’s rolled out 17 hits, including four home runs, in a 10-2 romp over Seattle before  sellout crowd of 36,067 at the Coliseum.

But the best gift of all to Wolff was the most powerful — and most powerful smelling — development that came afterward, when the A’s came bounding into their clubhouse to discover that a raw sewage leak had been pouring out the shower drains for nearly the entire game. The geysers of watery waste not only erupted in Oakland’s clubhouse. but the visiting clubhouse and umpire’s dressing room as well.

The A’s and Mariners had to seek higher ground a level up and shower together in the Oakland Raiders’ locker room. The umpires and members of the Seattle coaching staff left the park without showering at all. According to an Associated Press report, Seattle manager Eric Wedge’s office was so deep in tainted sludge that he had to hold his postgame press conference in a nearby hallway. Somehow, the A’s coaches’ shower room was the only one in the bowels of the stadium not affected. Colon said he took his shower there.

A’s officials maintained that the sewage flood was caused by the overtaxing of the stadium’s aging drainage system during this homestand that was attended by more than 170,000 people, culminating with Sunday’s sellout. There have been sewage issues at the Coliseum in recent years, but according to A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich, this was the first major problem in the baseball clubhouses. Vucinich would know — he’s been working at the stadium, which opened in 1968, for 46 years.

In short, it was a mess and a stink that only figures to get messier and stinkier — figuratively speaking — in the coming days and weeks. News of the sewage leak prompted the expected flood of jokes among players and folks on Twitter, but in truth, this is no laughing matter. With any kind of sewage leak comes the potential for harmful bacteria and disease. Josh Reddick, for one, rescued his shower shoes from the muck, probably not the smartest thing to do. Vucinich said it was very likely that the carpets in the clubhouses would have to be ripped out and replaced while the A’s head out on a six-game, week-long road trip, and surely the whole lower level will have to be disinfected and then inspected by the health department.

Bottom line, at long last, Wolff has his lightning rod for movement on a new stadium. Mt. Davis and tarps are one thing. A faulty, decaying sewage system is quite another. Bud Selig surely will be appalled when he hears the details of Sunday’s postgame scene. He might even be pressed to act after 4-plus years of hemming and hawwing on the A’s stadium situation with his blue-ribbon panel and the whole territorial rights matter. This is a major wakeup call for the city of Oakland and Alameda County as well. If it wants to keep the A’s, it needs to act — now. Major League Baseball needs to act — now.

A’s pitcher A.J. Griffin threw the obvious against the wall in surveying the disgusting evidence: “Make sure everybody finds out about this sewage thing. We need to get a new stadium.”

Getting the news out won’t be a problem. It was spreading faster than the leak itself — and around the country — within hours of its discovery. Count on Wolff using the development, as he should, to force some long-needed action. If any more evidence was needed, the Coliseum just got flushed as a major sports venue Sunday, at least for baseball anyway.







Game 70 wrapup: A’s get blanked, and Blanco-ed

In for John Hickey this weekend …

Not much novel to say about this one, other than it was a weird 4:15 p.m. start. Felix Hernandez did yet another number on the A’s. He’s 15-6 against them lifetime, 2-0 this year, and hasn’t given up a run to them in 14 2/3 innings with just two walks and 16 strikeouts.

That wasn’t surprising. The real surprise was the game’s big blow, by 41-year-old journeyman catcher Henry Blanco, who turned on an A.J. Griffin first-pitch inside fastball in the sixth inning and hit a grand slam, his first in more than 13 years in the big leagues, and with his 11th big league team.

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Game 68 wrapup: Freiman please to share a bit of Young’s big day; Jaso on `Dino’s curse’

Much of the focus around Chris Young’s three-hit, one-walk night Friday was on the home run he hit.

And it was a monster, 419 feet to left field.

But it was his third-inning double that was at least as interesting. As he cruised into second base, he raised both of his fists to cranium level and pumped them in the direction of the A’s dugout.

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A’s honor Rivera, then ruin his last Coliseum game

Truth be told, the Oakland A’s didn’t want to see Mariano Rivera pitch against them one more time.

He’s that good – a legend, really. His 631 career saves is a number that boggles the mind.

The A’s would have been more than happy to honor Rivera in a pre-game ceremony, then make sure there was no situation where they’d actually have to face him.

Well, 18 innings of baseball can spoil any plan.

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Game 68 wrapup: Chavez the hero could wind up being the odd man out if A’s need bullpen help

The A’s Jesse Chavez may be about ready to face up with just how cruel a sport baseball can be.

Chavez was nothing but heroic in Thursday’s 18-inning win over the Yankees, pitching the final 5.2 innings without allowing a run and retiring the final 13 batters consecutively.

He was the winning pitcher and he lowered his ERA from 2.57 to 1.83.

And there is a reasonable chance that he will get word Friday that he’s being sent down to Triple-A Sacramento.

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It’s time for Oakland to say farewell to Rivera

Thursday’s series finale with the Yankees was the finale of another kind.

Unless the A’s and the Yankees were to meet in the 2013 post-season, it marks the last time Mariano Rivera will be an active player in the Coliseum. He’s retiring at the end of a career that can only be summed up as glorious, and the A’s and Yankees don’t play again this season.

Rivera won his first big league game in Oakland back in 1995, but it’s not for his wins that he’ll be remember but for the 631 (and counting) saves he’s piled up as the closer’s closer.

A’s manager Bob Melvin was in the Yankee organization when Rivera was coming up, and Melvin remembers a different pitcher than the one Major League fans have gotten used to, the one throwing perhaps as nasty a cutter as anyone has ever thrown.

“I caught him late in my career, and early in his, in (Triple-A) Columbus,’’ Melvin said Thursday morning. “When I caught him, he was throwing a four-seam fastball. The decision to go with the cutter was a good thing.

“But his four-seamer was good. It had a lot of late life. He liked to pitch up in the zone with it.’’

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Game 67 wrapup: Doolittle getting closer to being himself again; Ichiro skillfully dekes Moss, Reddick; Straily using extra rope with skill

Two games doesn’t make for a big sample size, but the A’s are feeling better about Sean Doolittle all the time.

For the second time in as many games, Doolittle came out of the A’s bullpen against the Yankees and retired every batter he faced. On Tuesday it was three men. On Friday it was four, including striking out Chris Stewart of the Yankees to end the seventh inning both nights.

Doolittle is not far removed from a stretch of five games in which he’d allowed 10 runs to score. But he said he feels no lack of confidence.

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Cook calls catching first pitch thrown by an ailing kid from 1,500 miles away `coolest thing ever’

UPDATED from earlier edition

It was just about six weeks ago that Ryan Cook learned from a friend about a new entry in the field of technology-driven medicine, a telerobotic machine that can follow a user’s movement.

When he heard that there was a plan in a fledging state to have a patient throw out a first pitch remotely using the system, Cook went to the A’s to get in on the ground floor. And Wednesday night, 13-year-old Nick LeGrande threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the A’s-Yankees game from 1,800 miles away.

Cook caught the pitch, and said after the A’s 5-2 win over the Yankees “it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done.’’

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Freiman making a name for himself against lefties

OAKLAND – For a player who wasn’t supposed to be in the big leagues this year, Nate Freiman is having a serious impact for the A’s.

That’s never been more true than in two starts against the Yankees’ former Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia.

Freiman had three singles off Sabathia back on May 3 in Yankee Stadium with his Boston-area family in the house. Then on Tuesday, he had two more singles off the veteran lefty before finally hitting a ball back up the middle that Sabathia deflected to turn into a groundout.

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