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Game 91 wrapup: Cespedes wants to `bring the win’ in Home Run Derby; Gallego to sub for Melvin (and mom) as batting practice thrower

There will be no pressure on Yoenis Cespedes Monday night as he takes part in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby.

No pressure from first baseman Brandon Moss, who said after Tuesday’s game “if he doesn’t win the Home Run Derby, I’m going to be disappointed.’’

No pressure from manager Bob Melvin, who is Cespedes’s favorite batting practice pitcher but who is bowing out of making a quick cross-country jaunt to New York City.

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Game 90 wrapup: Balfour holds out hope of All-Star nod after setting A’s consecutive saves record

Grant Balfour now has the Oakland club record for consecutive saves with 41 after pitching a 1-2-3 ninth to hold off the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 Monday.

He took the record from Dennis Eckersley, who compiled his in 1991 (the last four saves) and 1992 (the first 36 saves).

Eckersley, now a Hall of Famer, was an All-Star in both of those seasons. Balfour wasn’t an All-Star last year and he isn’t an All-Star now.

He’s not happy about that. But he does hold out hope that the situation may change.

“It is what it is,’’ Balfour said after closing out Bartolo Colon’s 12th win. “It would be good to be an All-Star. You accept it and you see what happens.’’

Does that mean Balfour is holding out hope that he may get a call to join the All-Star ranks for the American League in the next week?

“There is a little hope, of course,’’ Balfour said.

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Game 89 wrapup: Chavez develops as unsung hero; foul balls keep Griffin from going deep in game

Jesse Chavez has got to be in the mid-season running for the A’s unsung hero.

A journeyman pitcher six weeks shy of his 30th birthday, Chavez stepped in Sunday and pitched four shutout innings to cut off Kansas City’s attempt at a comeback, in the process earning his first big league save.

He took over with one run in, two men on base and the A’s up 8-3. He gave up a run charged to Jerry Blevins, but only because first base umpire Eric Cooper missed a call at first base. Chavez came off the mound quickly enough to take a feed from first baseman Brandon Moss, but he didn’t get the call and a run scored.

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Colon may yet be ready to pitch an inning as an All-Star; if not, will closer Grant Balfour be his sub?

UPDATING EARLY FILE

Once he’d been named to the American League All-Star team, it seemed clear that Bartolo Colon would not pitch in next Tuesday game in New York.

That’s because he’s scheduled to start for the A’s on Sunday, which under rules precludes him from pitching from more than one inning on Tuesday. Colon could theoretically choose to make himself available to pitch one inning, but he wasn’t expected to do that.

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Game 88 wrapup: All-Star snub of Oakland suggests contributing to winning isn’t a valued commodity

Maybe it’s that West Coast night games don’t get much play back East.

Maybe it’s that ESPN doesn’t show enough highlights of the Oakland A’s.

Maybe it’s that other teams have a couple of great players and the A’s only have a whole bunch of good players.

Whatever the reason, the American League All-Star team announced Saturday is a slap in the face. Not just to the A’s or to the East Bay. But it’s a slap in the face to putting winning teams on the field

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Game 87 wrapup: Reddick value is more than a bat

The A’s have gone a long way (51 wins) without a lot offensively from Josh Reddick this season, but now is as good a time as any to remember that Reddick is not a one-dimensional ballplayer.

He had two hits – and Oakland manager Bob Melvin would argue that he should have had a third – and a sacrifice fly in the A’s 6-3 win over Kansas City Friday. He scored three of the A’s six runs and drove in two others.

Still, that’s been the kind of game that’s been an anomaly for Reddick this season. What hasn’t been weird has been the rest of his game. He plays first-rate defense and on Friday he showed that he hasn’t lost his edge when running the bases.

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A’s find a kindred soul in Nick LeGrande

photo2Ryan Cook, Jerry Blevins and Sean Doolittle know their video games.

Friday they found out that Nick LeGrande does, too.

LeGrande, a 14-year-old from suburban Kansas City who has a rare blood disorder that keeps him from spending much time in crowd and who is waiting for a bone marrow donor for a match, plays a pretty good game, too.

During the visit Friday, Cook and LeGrande played NHL Hockey, and not just a scrimmage, either. They went at it in LeGrande’s room with Blevins and Doolittle watching, and Cook scored a late goal to force overtime.

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A’s 1, Cubs 0 — final version

OAKLAND – Dan Straily has logged more miles on trips to and from Sacramento this year than some politicians. He won’t have to make the drive anymore if he pitches as well over a sustained period as he did Thursday.

Straily allowed one hit and three walks in seven innings of a 1-0 victory by the A’s over the Chicago Cubs before 26,967 at the Coliseum.

Straily improved to 5-2 on the season, and he lowered his ERA to 4.52. In the process, he showed once again that he has the stuff to stick in the majors and not bounce between Oakland and Sacramento.

To that end, A’s catcher Derek Norris spoke with Straily before the game. Norris said he told Straily to let his pitching do the talking.

“He looked like he wanted to prove something … he looked like he wanted to come out today and make a statement that he deserves to be here, and stay,” Norris said.

Manager Bob Melvin said before the game that Straily is in the team’s long-term plans as a fixture of the rotation. He added that he expected Straily to pitch Thursday as well as he did earlier this season, when Straily recorded three straight impressive outings.

Straily, in his fourth stint with the A’s this season, made a prophet of Melvin when he plowed through the Cubs order with little difficulty.

The A’s scored the game’s lone run when a Matt Guerrier pitch sailed through the legs of catcher Welington Castillo with two outs in the seventh.

Castillo had his glove turned the wrong way on the pivotal pitch. By the time he adjusted, the ball was on its way to the backstop, with Norris streaking home.

The run was unearned, for the record. The win was quite the opposite, with the A’s doing everything right from the outset.

Straily downplayed his impressive outing. In fact, he said he persevered despite not having his “best stuff.”

Reliever Ryan Cook said he didn’t notice Straily being off his game. Then again, he added, the most successful pitchers make do without their best stuff more times than not.

“We’ve seen that from him multiple times this year,” Cook said of Straily’s dominance. “It’s not a question of if he can do it. For him to go out there and do it is a big statement.”

Straily praised Norris as the “hero of the day” for the numerous ways in which Norris affected the game.

Straily arrived at the stadium without a firm grasp of the Cubs lineup. Norris brought him up to speed in prompt fashion.

Norris also tagged out Starlin Castro in the fourth inning when Castro attempted to score from second on a hit by Alfonso Soriano. He then threw out Soriano when he attempted to steal second base.

“That’s the ball game, otherwise we’re still playing right now,” Straily said of the fourth inning heroics. “I was pretty jacked up in that sequence. … That reminds us (pitchers) we don’t have to do it ourselves.”

Maybe so, but Straily looked capable of doing whatever he pleased for most of the day against the Cubs.

“After the second inning, you could just see he was on it,” Melvin said. “His mechanics were great, his release point was real consistent.”

 

– Grant Balfour recorded his 21st save in as many opportunities this season. His streak improved to 39 dating to last season. He moved within one save of Dennis Eckersley’s club record for most in a row (Sept. 15, 1991 to Aug. 7, 1992).

 

– Castro said he was shocked that A’s left fielder Yoenis Cespedes nailed him at the plate.

“It surprised me,” Castro said. “I thought I’d score easy, and I never stopped. I ran hard right away from second base and I’m surprised he got me out.  I said ‘Wow.’ ”

 

– The A’s improved to 50-36 for the season. This marks the ninth time in Oakland history, and first since 1992, that the A’s won 50 games this early in the season.

 

– The A’s won two of three games from the Cubs and six of eight on the home stand. They play the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates on the road, beginning Friday night, the next six days.

 

– This was a game Castillo likely would just as soon forget. In addition to the passed ball, he struck out in all three of his at-bats.

 

– As expected, the A’s sent down catcher Stephen Vogt to Triple-A Sacramento to make room on roster for Straily, who started Thursday.

Melvin praised Vogt for how well he acclimated to the majors and handled the pitching staff when he played.

“He came up here and did a great job for us,” Melvin said. “Every game he played, we won. He had the confidence of the staff. … It was a good showing for him.”

 

– Left-handed starter Brett Anderson is slated to undergo a CT-scan on his right foot Friday, Melvin said.

Anderson has been out since April 30, when he suffered a right ankle sprain while pitching in relief of a 19-inning game. He suffered a stress fracture of his right foot while running in the outfield May 13.

“Hopefully we’re getting some good news there, then he gets the boot off, then starts going in a positive direction where he can do some baseball activities, weight-bearing activities,” Melvin said.

Anderson is 1-4 with a 6.21 ERA so far this season.

 

– As impressive as the A’s sellout was Wednesday, it’s not a rarity. The A’s sold out two midweek home games against the Giants on May 27 and 28.

 

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Cubs manager, A’s bench coach go way back

OAKLAND — Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum and A’s bench coach Chip Hale this week added yet another chapter to a connection that dates more than three decades.

Sveum and Hale first crossed paths when Sveum played for PinoleValleyHigh School and Hale starred for Campolindo High. The prep standouts faced off at least once in high school and several other times in summer leagues, Hale recalled Thursday.

Sveum, who graduated in 1982, was only one grade ahead of Hale, yet he was revered by Hale for his prowess as a baseball and football player.

“Dale was sort of like that mythical guy, when you’re in high school,” Hale said.

Sveum turned down a scholarship to ArizonaState so that he could sign with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Like many others, Hale said he was surprised that Sveum opted against a dual-sport career, given Sveum was regarded as a top-flight quarterback prospect.

“I thought he was going to be like one of those John Elway-like guys,” Hale said. “But looking back it was a good decision for him. He had a great career with the Brewers.”

Hale spent parts of seven seasons in the majors. Sveum retired in 1999 after a 12-year career. His best season came in 1987, when he hit 25 home runs and drove in 95 runs for the Brewers.

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Game 85 wrapup: A’s need Cespedes to pick it up

This is clearly not the year that Yoenis Cespedes had in mind as he tries to establish his brand on U.S. soil.

After an 0-for-3 night Wednesday, Cespedes heads into the July 4 holiday game against the Cubs with a .224 batting average. He does lead the A’s with 15 homers, but he’s spent some time on the disabled list and he’s 13 RBIs behind team leader Josh Donaldson.

A year ago heading into Independence Day, the one-time Cuban National Team star was a .270 hitter with nine homers and 35 RBIs.

Would he trade either the homer or RBI numbers from this year? Probably not. But the batting average, which includes a .164 average over the course of his last 14 games, is in need of serious work.

It will take a serious surge to get Cespedes up to .270 by season’s end, but he’s clearly capable of better. From July 4 on last year, Cespedes hit .305 down the stretch with 14 homers. He was one of the major reasons the A’s wound up tracking down the Texas Rangers and winning the American League West title.

The A’s are going to need Cespedes to lead the way in 2013, too. True, the A’s are a first place team now, one-half game up on Texas, where 12 months ago they were 10.5 games behind the Rangers.

Oakland has done well getting by without Cespedes taking charge, but it’s time for Cespedes to turn it around.

“If you look at his numbers and his average,’’ manager Bob Melvin said, “he’s not where he expects to be.

“But every time you think that he needs a day to regroup with a day off, he goes out and hits a couple of home runs.’’

Cespedes has three two-homer games in the last month, but since the last time it happened on June 21, he’s a .167 hitter.

With the A’s having had three days off in the last 10 days, giving Cespedes time off doesn’t seem to be the answer.

The trouble is, the A’s don’t know what the answer is.