The A’s started Friday with a good idea of how they’d be structuring their starting lineup in the playoffs.
Then they played the first game of their final series with the Mariners and things changed dramatically.
The idea was that Yoenis Cespedes, who hadn’t been in left field since Sept. 13, was once again healthy, able to throw and ready to man his position. He’d play all three games in left this weekend to get himself ready for the playoffs.
That meant the resurrected Daric Barton was ready to play first base and Brandon Moss, who can play both first base and the outfield, was going to be the designated hitter. He was in Friday’s lineup as the DH, the first time all season that’s happened.
Two Cespedes at-bats into the game, all that changed. He never had to make a throw in left field, but after grounding out to second in the top of the fourth, the pain was back in his shoulder.
Manager Bob Melvin said it was unlikely that Cespedes would play Saturday, and the outlook for Sunday isn’t much better.
This has a number of permutations for the A’s going forward.
–Cespedes has gone from being limited to DH to being able to play in left field to maybe not being able to do either.
–Moss, who was going to be the DH, likely is back in left field.
–Seth Smith is likely to be the DH against right-handed pitching and Chris Young against lefties.
This thing is, the A’s lineup isn’t nearly as productive without Cespedes in there. He and Josh Donaldson are formidable right-handed threats in the top half of the lineup. Without Cespedes, it’s much easier for opposing teams to set up their relievers to attack the Oakland lineup.
–Derek Norris says there’s nothing quite as difficult as being a pinch-hitter.
It may seem an odd thing for someone to say after just tying the club record (three) for home runs coming off the bench.
Norris seemed to be making a joke when he said he thought those homers were his only pinch-hits this year, but they are. He’s 3-for-15 as a pinch-hitter, all homers.
He had the advantage of facing Oliver Perez, a pitcher he knows from having caught him in Double-A ball.
“I know all his arm angles, the way the ball moves,’’ Norris said. “That didn’t come as a surprise.’’
What does come as a surprise is the success in the pinch.
“It’s a very tough job,’’ he said. “Look at the way we hit as a team in that situation.’’
The A’s are 20-for-137 (.146) when they use pinch-hitters, but six of the 20 hits are homers, the three by Norris and one each by Alberto Callaspo, John Jaso and Seth Smith. The average is the second-worst in the American League and the rivaling the single-season A’s worst (.141 in 1994)
“You’ve got to get lucky,’’ Norris said of the homers.
–Ryan Cook had been looking for this one for a while.
Cook has been struggling, but the pitched an almost clean seventh inning, allowing just a two-out single, a ball that was hit off the left field wall but played well by Seth Smith.
“The ball was really moving for him today,’’ Melvin said. “It was good for him to have a nice clean inning.’’