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Balfour headed to All-Star Game

A’s closer Grant Balfour has been added to the American League All-Star Game roster, the A’s just announced.

Balfour will take the place of teammate Bartolo Colon, who is starting today against the Boston Red Sox and likely wouldn’t have been tabbed by manager Jim Leyland as a result.

Balfour is the only closer in the league without a blown save this season. He has converted all 25 of his save opportunities this season and 43 in a row overall, an ongoing franchise record.

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Red Sox vs. A’s pre-game notes

The Boston Red Sox and A’s are about to begin the finale of their three-game series. In the interim, here’s a few notes to tide you over until we have more to write about:

 

– Brandon Workman is making the first start of his major-league career today. He made his major-league debut Wednesday in relief. Workman, a right-hander, was Boston’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2012.

 

– Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury arrived in Oakland as one of the game’s hottest hitters and riding a majors-best 19-game hitting streak. He went hitless the first two games of the three-game series.

 

– A’s manager Bob Melvin sympathized with what Giants manager Bruce Bochy endured during Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter Saturday night.

Lincecum needed 148 pitches to complete his first no-hitter. That’s the most pitches thrown by a Giants pitcher in 35 years.

“You’d like to be able to enjoy that, but I’m sure Bruce Bochy wasn’t enjoying that with (Lincecum’s) pitch count where it was,” Melvin said. “Again, it’s very difficult to take a guy out of a no-hitter. … I don’t blame him what he did last night. You want to see a guy like him get a no-hitter.”

Melvin hasn’t been in quite as dramatic a situation as what Bochy experienced three times in recent years, with Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez.

Yet, he recalled leaving in Guillermo Moscoso for 129 pitches in an attempt to get Moscoso a complete game.

“It’s tough,” Melvin said. “Nowadays, you just want to make sure you take care of those starting pitchers, who are awfully important to you.”

 

– Jim Leyland is adamant about not wanting to use pitchers in the All-Star Game that started games Sunday.

Colon started for the A’s on Sunday, which would seem to preclude him from getting the nod from American League manager Leyland on Tuesday.

Melvin said he is in lock step with Leyland’s hard-line stance.

“I don’t blame him,” Melvin said. “I wouldn’t want to put anybody in a position, especially a starting pitcher, like that. There are some complications that potentially come from that. Those aren’t your guys, so you definitely want to stay away from them. I don’t blame him at all.”

 

– Melvin said his players need the four-day break that comes with the All-Star Game.

“Everybody is ready for a break,” Melvin said. “We’ve put a lot into this thing. We’ve been in (many) close games. … Everybody knows where the All-Star break is on the schedule.”

 

– Injured starting pitcher Brett Anderson might throw off a mound on the next road trip, Melvin said.

Once Anderson reaches the next step in his recovery from a right ankle sprain, Melvin will have a better grasp on Anderson’s time frame for a return.

 

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Red Sox-A’s starting lineups for Sunday’s game

Here are the lineups for the Boston Red Sox and A’s in the final game of the three-game series Sunday between the teams with the two best records in the American League:

 

Red Sox

CF Ellsbury

RF Nava

2B Pedroia

DH Ortiz

LF Gomes

1B Carp

C Lavarnway

3B Holt

SS Iglesias

 

A’s

CF Crisp

C Jaso

3B Donaldson

SS Lowrie

LF Cespedes

RF Reddick

1B Moss

DH Smith

2B Sogard

 

 

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Game 95 wrapup: The no-freebie A’s get it done

Sunday will be the final day before the All-Star break, the traditional end of the first half of the season.

And with the A’s playing the Red Sox, it will wind up having been an excellent first half for Oakland, win or lose.

Consider that a week ago the A’s were facing the toughest run-up to the break for anybody in the Major Leagues. Oakland had the fourth-best win total at the time, 52, and had to play two of the three teams with more wins, Pittsburgh (53) on the road and Boston (54) at home.

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A’s 3, Red Sox 0

OAKLAND – The A’s snapped a two-game losing streak with a 3-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd at the Coliseum.

 

They turned to a tried-and-true formula, one that keyed their run to the American League West title last season and has them in first place again this season: Impressive starting pitching, timely hitting and air tight relief pitching.

 

In the process, the A’s maintained their one-game lead over the Texas Rangers and assured themselves at least a share of the division lead at the break.

 

“You’re going to win a lot of games if your starters give you that kind of effort every night,” A’s first baseman Nate Freiman said of A.J. Griffin, who blanked the Red Sox over eight innings. “That was more than solid pitching, it was awesome.”

 

Griffin’s blanking of the Red Sox marked the 10th straight time an A’s starter allowed three or fewer runs.

 

The victory had far more to do with superb pitching than it did with the A’s hitters roughing up starter Jon Lester and the Red Sox bullpen, though the A’s recorded more timely hits than in recent games.

 

The A’s hit just enough to overcome a Red Sox offense that failed to solve Griffin for eight innings. They have scored nine runs in the past five games combined, or one fewer than they did against the Kansas City Royals last Sunday.

 

A’s manager Bob Melvin said his team’s drop in offensive production in recent games owes just as much to the quality of the opposing pitching.

 

When you face guys such as John Lackey on Friday and Lester on Saturday, runs are at a “premium,” Melvin said.

 

So it was that Freiman called catcher Derek Norris’ solo home run in the sixth inning “huge” and run-scoring singles by left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and designated hitter Coco Crisp “big,” especially with the way Griffin was dealing.

 

Norris watched video of Griffin’s outing against the Red Sox on April 22 before Saturday’s game and told Griffin that he didn’t need to change much. In that first meeting, the Red Sox scored nine runs off Griffin.

 

“I told him, ‘When you got in trouble, you just missed location. Anytime you get your location with your pitches, you were fine,’ ” Norris said. “So, stay on location was our No. 1 thing.”

 

To that end, Griffin said he followed Norris’ lead and pitched to the location called for time after time.

 

“I was just trying to go out there and keep them off the board for as long as (possible),” Griffin said.

 

Griffin seemed to get stronger as the game progressed, too. He retired the Red Sox in order in the seventh and eighth before he turned over the ball to closer Grant Balfour.

 

The A’s are tough to beat on most nights because of their reliable pitching. As the Red Sox found out Saturday, it’s even more difficult to break through when the A’s primary catalysts are on point.

 

Crisp entered the game with 12 hits in his past 72 at-bats, but he made his one hit Saturday count by giving Griffin a two-run lead.

 

Cespedes entered Saturday’s game with six hits and no RBI in 36 at-bats in July. He contributed two hits and a walk, with his lone out being a line drive that required a diving catch.

 

 

 

– Rookie Grant Green started for the third time since being called up from Triple-A Sacramento. As was the case the first two times, Green started against a left-handed pitcher. He went 0 for 3 and remains hitless in nine at-bats.

 

 

 

– Melvin said his players will reconvene Friday after the All-Star break and get in a workout five hours before their game that night against the Angels.

 

 

 

– There’s still no word on whether Bartolo Colon will make himself available to pitch in the All-Star Game, Melvin said. Therefore, Melvin won’t set his pitching rotation for second half until he knows whether Colon is pitching for the AL squad Tuesday.

 

 

 

– Cespedes hammered ball after ball over the outfield fence during an extended batting session that mirrored the setup at the home-run derby.

 

 

 

– Third baseman Josh Donaldson still was somewhat of a curiosity at this point last season, his first full year in the majors. Now, he’s one of Melvin’s sure things every day.

 

“He’s nailed down the position, there’s no doubt about that,” Melvin said. “It’s always nice to be able to write out the lineup everyday knowing that Josh Donaldson is going to be at third base and he’s going to hit in the middle of the order somewhere.”

 

 

 

– Melvin was among those who presented All-Star Game jerseys to Cespedes and Colon before Saturday’s game.

 

 

 

– The A’s sold out a game for the ninth time this season, with 36,097 the announced figure.

 

 

 

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A’s-Red Sox pre-game notes

Here’s a few tidbits to tide you over until the A’s and Red Sox actually play a game Saturday, here at the Coliseum:

 

– Grant Green tonight is starting for the third time since being called up from Triple-A Sacramento. As was the case the first two times, Green is starting against a left-handed pitcher, this time Jon Lester. He entered the game 0-for-6 with four strikeouts.

 

– A’s manager Bob Melvin said his players will reconvene Friday after the All-Star break and get in a workout five hours before their game that night against the Angels.

 

– There’s still no word on whether Bartolo Colon will make himself available to pitch in the All-Star Game, Melvin said.

Therefore, Melvin won’t set his pitching rotation for second half until he knows whether Colon is pitching for the AL squad Tuesday.

 

– Yoenis Cespedes isn’t kidding about his desire to win the home-run derby Monday, the day before the All-Star Game.

On Saturday, Cespedes hammered ball after ball over the outfield fence during an extended batting session that mirrored the setup at the home-run derby.

Mike Gallego pitched to a catcher, without the backstop in place, and Cespedes offered only at pitches he deemed capable of being smacked a long way.

 

– Josh Donaldson still was somewhat of a curiosity at this point last season, his first full year in the majors. Now, he’s one of Melvin’s sure things every day.

“He’s nailed down the position, there’s no doubt about that,” Melvin said. “It’s always nice to be able to write out the lineup everyday knowing that Josh Donaldson is going to be at third base and he’s going to hit in the middle of the order somewhere.”

Donaldson already has shattered every meaningful stat from last season, when he hit nine home runs and batted in 33. So far, he has 15 home runs and 58 RBI this season.

Melvin said he and others A’s brass expected a solid showing from Donaldson this season, yet few envisioned this kind of success.

“He’s probably taken that to a level that I don’t think anybody expected, to this point, the numbers that he’s put up,” Melvin said. “That’s a very confident player that’s played well, has a lot of athletic ability, and he’s finally getting to show it at the big-league level for the first time on a consistent basis.”

 

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Red Sox-A’s starting lineups for Saturday’s game

Here are the starting lineups for the Red Sox-A’s game Saturday night:

 

RED SOX

CF Ellsbury

RF Victorino

2B Pedroia

DH Ortiz

1B Napoli

LF Nava

C Saltalamacchia

SS Iglesias

3B Holt

 

 

 

 

A’S

DH Crisp

SS Lowrie

3B Donaldson

LF Cespedes

1B Freiman

CF Young

RF Reddick

C Norris

2B Green

 

 

Notes: Green is making his third start since being called up from Triple-A Sacramento. As was the case the first two times, Green is starting against a left-handed pitcher, Jon Lester. He went 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in his first two starts.

Lowrie is batting second, one night after he batted fourth and hit a home run. Yoenis Cespedes is batting clean-up tonight. Crisp is the designated hitter, which enables Chris Young to get a start in center field.

 

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Red Sox 4, A’s 2

OAKLAND – Call it a scheduling quirk, coincidence, whatever, but the A’s will enter the All-Star Game break with a pretty fair idea of what awaits them if they make it to the postseason again based on their most recent opponents.

On Friday night they got their latest look at the Boston Red Sox, the team with best record in the American League. The Red Sox looked every bit as good as they did the first time the teams met, beating the A’s, 4-2, for the third time in four games overall.

This marked the first of three games for the A’s against the Red Sox, on the heels of a three-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that has pushed the St. Louis Cardinals for the best record in the National League.

As expected, not much separated the two teams. In the end, the Red Sox used a pair of two-out, two run singles to get past the A’s at the Coliseum.

“They capitalized on some of the mistakes we made … ,” said A’s reliever Sean Doolittle, who was charged with the loss after the two base runners he allowed scored on a Dustin Pedroia single that snapped a 2-2 tie in the eighth. “That’s what a good team does. Any little thing we did (wrong), they capitalized on it.”

The victory assured the Red Sox of entering the break with a better record than the A’s.

And, even though these games count the same as any other this season, there’s no denying that these are the kind of games where the A’s measure themselves, despite the fact A’s manager Bob Melvin downplayed the significance.

It wasn’t much of a comparison for the first four innings when Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey held the A’s without a hit and the Red Sox made every play defensively, while the A’s chased down errant throws all over the field.

Yet, as the A’s are wont to do, they hung around until things went their way and made things interesting for the 27.084 in attendance.

Credit Jarrod Parker for keeping the A’s in the game. He matched Lackey almost pitch for pitch, with the big difference a two-out, two-run single in the second inning.

“We know we need to play our game,” Parker said. “That’s pitching well and getting a couple of big hits. … We were in that game the whole time.”

Parker retired the final 16 batters he faced. During that time, the A’s chipped away at Lackey until they forged a 2-2 tie.

That score held until two outs in the eighth, when Pedroia lined his big hit off reliever Ryan Cook.

Pedroia also turned in a fine defensive play in the fifth, with the A’s trailing 2-1 and Josh Donaldson at bat with runners on first and third.

Donaldson hit a line shot to the right of second base, where Pedroia fielded the ball on the short hop and initiated an inning-ending double play on a ball that seemed destined for a game-tying single.

“That’s one of those momentum shifts that we’re talking about,” Melvin said. “That was probably the biggest play of the game.”

As Doolittle said, those are the kinds of plays that teams such as the Red Sox and A’s make. On Friday, the Red Sox just made more, especially when it counted most.

 

– The A’s outrighted infielder Adam Rosales to Triple-A Sacramento on Friday. Melvin said Rosales will get playing time at several positions. Rosales was designated for assignment after batting only .200 in 48 games.

 

– Some teams frown upon their players participating in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game. Melvin said outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has his full blessing when he represents the A’s on Monday.

In fact, going for broke every swing just might benefit Cespedes the rest of the season, Melvin said. Cespedes entered Friday’s game hitting .176 in July (6 for 34).

“I wouldn’t argue that,” Melvin said. “He’s a guy that is a spotlight type guy, as we’ve seen since he first got here. I know he’s excited about it and rightly so. … It will be good for him to be in that spotlight. He likes the spotlight.”

 

– Pitcher Brett Anderson is throwing in excess of 100 feet these days, Melvin said. The next step in Anderson’s rehab from a sprained right ankle is throwing off a mound.

“Once we get on the mound, then you have a better indication of how far away you are. … We’re not there yet,” Melvin said.

Anderson has missed the past 65 games.

 

– Melvin waited for the right situation to use pitcher Sonny Gray in his major-league debut. The gloves are off now.

Melvin said the way Gray comported himself in a two-inning stint against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday showed that Gray is ready for anything.

“He impressed to the point where we could potentially use him in any situation,” Melvin said. “It didn’t look like he was nervous about anything.”

 

– The A’s and Red Sox played most of Friday night’s game with only three umpires. A Parker pitch in the top of the second grazed Daniel Nava and then drilled plate umpire C.B. Bucknor’s facemask. A’s trainers tended to Bucknor for a couple of minutes before Bucknor exited the field under his own power.

 

– Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury entered Friday’s game with a majors-best 19-game hitting streak. The A’s snapped that streak by retiring Ellsbury all four at-bats.

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Pre-game notes Red Sox-A’s

The A’s outrighted infielder Adam Rosales to Triple-A Sacramento on Friday. A’s manager Bob Melvin said Rosales will get playing time at several positions. Rosales was designated for assignment after batting only .200 in 48 games.

“Last year, when he went through some struggles, we were able to send him down and get him going again, get him back up here again and rotate that position,” Melvin said. “So, he’s excited about just getting to play some and stay with the organization.”

 

– Some teams frown upon their players participating in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game. Melvin said outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has his full blessing when he represents the A’s on Monday.

In fact, going for broke every swing just might benefit Cespedes the rest of the season, Melvin said.

“I wouldn’t argue that,” Melvin said. “He’s a guy that is a spotlight type guy, as we’ve seen since he first got here. I know he’s excited about it and rightly so. … It will be good for him to be in that spotlight. He likes the spotlight.”

Cespedes looked in peak form Friday afternoon, when he deposited numerous balls well beyond the left and centerfield walls. One prodigious blast hit off the Plexiglas of a suite in straightaway centerfield.

Cespedes typically takes batting practice off Melvin. He recently switched to third base coach Mike Gallego. And that’s just fine with Melvin, he said, because Melvin held two participants without a home run the only time he pitched in a home run derby.

 

– Pitcher Brett Anderson is throwing in excess of 100 feet these days, Melvin said. The next step in Anderson’s rehab from a sprained right ankle is throwing off a mound.

“Once we get on the mound, then you have a better indication of how far away you are. … We’re not there yet,” Melvin said.

Anderson has missed the past 65 games.

 

– Melvin waited for the right situation to use pitcher Sonny Gray in his major-league debut. The gloves are off now.

Melvin said the way Gray comported himself in a two-inning stint against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday showed that Gray is ready for anything.

“He impressed to the point where we could potentially use him in any situation,” Melvin said. “It didn’t look like he was nervous about anything.”

 

– Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury enters tonight’s game with a majors-best 19-game hitting streak. He is hitting .308 overall.

 

– Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey is 18-6, with a 2.91 ERA in 33 career starts against the A’s. The 18 wins are the most against one team by Lackey. He opposes Jarrod Parker tonight.

 

– Parker went 2-0, with a 1.35 ERA against the Red Sox in 2012. He is 4-0 with a 2.24 ERA in his past eight starts overall this season.

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Red Sox-A’s starting lineups

Here’s the starting lineups for Friday night’s game between the Boston Red Sox and A’s at the Coliseum:

 

RED SOX

CB Ellsbury

RF Victorino

2B Pedroia

DH Ortiz

1B Napoli

LF Nava

C Saltalamacchia

SS Iglesias

3B Holt

 

A’S

CF Crisp

C Jaso

3B Donaldson

SS Lowrie

LF Cespedes

1B Moss

RF Reddick

DH Smith

2B Sogard