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Lowrie’s `D’ isn’t suffering by alternating positions

Jed Lowrie doesn’t get defensive when he’s congratulated for his defensive prowess, which has been happening a lot lately.

He does wonder what the big deal is, however. Patrolling at shortstop is part of his job description, and he takes great pride in it.

But all you have to do is look at Thursday’s lineup against the Chicago White Sox, where Lowrie and his .319 batting average are batting second to see what the issue is.

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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

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.
What gives?
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.

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Doolittle will retain role as lefty setup man

Sean Doolittle, the embattled A’s reliever who has fallen on hard times at the mound, doesn’t have to worry for his job.

Doolittle met Wednesday morning with manager Bob Melvin who told Doolittle he would be remaining in his role as the A’s primary left-handed setup man to closer Grant Balfour.

That came the morning after Doolittle threw four pitches and gave up three runs in the eighth inning, letting a 3-0 Oakland lead slip away. The A’s went on to lose the game to the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 in 10 innings.

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Game 60 wrapup: Does Colon need to fear double jeopardy over PEDs? Griffin at top of his game; Cespedes puts on a power show

Does A’s starter Bartolo Colon have to fear double jeopardy?

It’s unclear, but Colon, who served the first 45 days of a 50-day suspension for performance-enhancing drug use last year and the final five days this year, had his name again crop up Tuesday in conjunction with PEDs.

According to espn.com, Major League Baseball is looking to hand down suspensions for players who have had dealings with Florida’s Biogenetics, a lab that has been charged with providing elite athletes with PEDs.

Colon’s name was linked to Biogenetics Tuesday, just as it was when the Biogenetics story first broke in the last week of January.

Unlike most of the other names on the list, names like Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, Colon was hit with a PED suspension and served his time.

What the story Tuesday didn’t say was if Colon and others who have served suspensions like Melky Cabrera have anything to worry about in terms of further suspensions.

“I think he’s already paid his dues, right?’’ Melvin said.

Melvin admitted he doesn’t know. No one does. For the moment, at least, it seems the pendulum could swing either way.

 

–A.J. Griffin didn’t get a win Tuesday, but it wasn’t for lack of performance on his part.

The second-year right-hander had the Brewers completely at a loss for seven innings. He walked one, gave up four hits and struck out five. The one inning he did get in trouble, a single and a walk putting him in a hole to start the fifth inning, he didn’t let the subsequent hitters get the ball out of the infield.

“Griffin was terrific,’’ Melvin said. “There was that one inning when he got in a little trouble, but he worked out of it.’’

Griffin, although denied his sixth win, threw seven shutout innings for the first time since May 3 when he did it in Yankee Stadium.

“He threw well, really well,’’ catcher John Jaso said.

Griffin allowed just four hits, and none of the first three were hit with much authority until Carlos Gomez opened the seventh with a liner to right.

Overall, A’s starting pitchers continue to outdo themselves. Over the course of the last 18 games, they have turned in 14 quality starts. Griffin’s performance Saturday marked the fifth time in that stretch when an Oakland starter went 6.1 or more scoreless innings.

The starters have a 2.50 ERA in those 18 games.

 

–Yoenis Cespedes hit a two-run homer in the first inning and a solo shot in the sixth.

Both came off Brewers’ starter Kyle Lohse and they accounted for all the A’s runs.

It was the first time in his career that Cespedes has had a multiple homer game.

“I didn’t know that,’’ Melvin said. “It seems like he’s had more than that.’’

Cespedes is on a bit of a roll of late, although the power wasn’t much in evidence before Tuesday. Since May 17, the day he went hitless to fall to .196, Cespedes has played in 17 games and is 22-for-72 (.306) to get his overall average to .239. Along the way he has 11 extra-base hits and 14 RBIs.

He had not hit a home run since May 21 when he turned on the first pitch he saw from Lohse, launching it into the left-center field seats for a 2-0 lead. He went deep to left-center again in the sixth and singled in the eighth.

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Healthy Crisp keeps passion for the game

The way A’s center fielder Coco Crisp ran to first base Monday after hitting a grounder to shortstop in the ninth inning served notice in two different areas.

First, he’s completely healthy. A little less than three weeks after returning from the disabled list, there is no semblance of the hamstring injury that cost him a couple of weeks on the disabled list. No one who is hobbled runs that fast.

Second, his passion for the game remains undiminished. The A’s were up 10-2 at the time. Crisp could have made a good-faith fast trot to first base and expended less energy. Instead he ran like he was leading off the Team USA 4×100 relay team in the Olympics. He finished with a single and a 4-for-5 night.

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Game 59 wrapup: Reddick lucky bad-look skid not worse; Milone runs bases with aplomb; Okajima the new Popeye; Crisp’s roll continues with four hits

Josh Reddick thought he was settling in four a routine try at a sliding catch. Instead he left a skid mark suitable for Grand Prix racing.

Reddick admitted the ball hit by Carlos Gomez of the Brewers was going to be tough to catch, but he didn’t expect to wind up “a foot deep in the earth’s core.’’

It turns out that Miller Park was a recent host to a Kenny Chesney concert, after which part of the outfield grass had to be replaced by sod. It apparently didn’t have enough time to firm up.

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Hot streak from A’s helping keep Hiro in minors

What, exactly, does it take to get to the big leagues with the Oakland A’s?

In the case of Hiro Nakajima, more of what he’s been doing of late. Maybe a lot more.

With two more hits, including his second home run Sunday in Tacoma for Triple-A Sacramento, Nakajima is on a roll that has seen his average get to new heights at .322. He came into Monday with a seven-game streak in which he’s 15-for-33 (.455).

That’s good, even if it’s not enough to get him to the majors right now.

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A’s out of position based on early All-Star vote

A’s fans may well be excited by the team having won 14 of its last 16 heading into Monday night in Miller Park.

If the All-Star vote totals are any indication, however, not many others are.

Shortstop Jed Lowrie is ranked fourth at his position while outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Coco Crisp are ranked 12th and 13th, respectively.

The man who has been arguably the best Oakland position player this year plays at what is arguably the most loaded position, which is why A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson isn’t ranked in the top five at his position despite owning a .319 average eight homers and 34 RBIs.

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A’s 2, White Sox 0 — final version, with quotes

OAKLAND – There wasn’t anything unusual about the A’s winning a game Sunday, given their recent hot streak. It’s the obstacle they overcame that made their 2-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox so noteworthy.

The A’s won their third straight game Sunday, and for the 14th time in 16 games, by doing something no other American League West team ever has done: beat White Sox ace Chris Sale.

In doing so, Jarrod Parker picked up his fourth victory and improved to 4-6 after a 0-4 start.

“As good as Jarrod was, he matched up and pitched better than Sale,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.

It took the A’s more than 100 pitches to get to Sale, but they agreed it was well worth the wait for them and the 23,413 fans at the Coliseum.

Sale and Parker engaged in a scoreless duel through the first 5 ½ innings, before Josh Donaldson broke the tie with a sacrifice fly that scored Coco Crisp with one out in the bottom of the sixth.

“I don’t know if anybody else scores on that,” Donaldson said of Crisp, who beat a strong throw from right fielder Casper Wells.

Crisp scored the A’s other run, too, when he scored from first in the eighth on a hit-and-run single by Jed Lowrie that centerfielder Jordan Danks bobbled.

Crisp had one of the A’s six hits and their lone walk. Melvin and several players said Crisp’s role in manufacturing runs is magnified in close games.

“It’s always nice to have him on base doing his thing,” Melvin said. “You’re just a little bit more on edge on the other side when he’s on base.”

Still, it’s the pitchers that shined most Sunday.

Sale won his first 10 career decisions against American League West teams. He also entered Sunday’s game with four straight wins, 23 consecutive scoreless innings and only five runs allowed his past five starts.

Sure enough, Sale delivered six solid innings before he departed down 1-0. Yet, Parker pitched even better, with two hits and two walks allowed in 6 1/3 innings. He also recorded seven strikeouts.

“Anytime a pitcher of his caliber gets ahead in the count and establishes the strike zone, he’s going to have success, especially when he’s got that sinker going,” A’s catcher Derek Norris said.

Parker credited his recent success to improved mechanics, better health and being more aggressive.

He pitched better as the game progressed, especially after escaping a first-and-second situation with back-to-back strikeouts in the first. He needed 29 pitches in the first frame.

“I knew I had to be efficient and shorten the game and try to get it to our pen as quick as I could,” Parker said.

Parker succeeded by pitching inside a great deal and relying upon his sinker instead of his changeup and slider, he said.

Melvin said Parker now is looking more and more like the pitcher that posted a 13-8 record last season.

“It feels like the Jarrod we’re used to seeing,” Melvin said. “When he gets hit around a little bit, it’s surprising.”

 

– Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour combined for the final 2 2/3 innings. Balfour notched his 13th save in as many opportunities this season, and 31st straight overall dating to last season.

 

– Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez hit Norris’ left index finger with his bat on the follow through of his swing in the sixth inning. Norris stayed in the game after being looked at by a team trainer. He said he’s “fine.”

 

– Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes got drilled in the right foot by a pitch from Sale in the fourth inning. Cespedes remained in the game.

 

– The A’s upped their winning streak at home to eight games, the longest such streak since 2006. They also improved to a season-high 10 games over .500 (34-24).

 

– The A’s now hit the road for seven games in seven days, three against the Milwaukee Brewers and four against the White Sox.