Game 162 wrapup: Melvin makes sure Donaldson finishes over .300; Gray tunes up for ALDS start; Norris has smooth sailing playing first base
By John Hickey
Sunday, September 29th, 2013 at 6:26 pm in 2013 regular season.
What’s in a number?
On Saturday, Brandon Moss got to the 30-homer level. On Sunday, Josh Donaldson was taken out of the game in part to preserve a plus-.300 batting average and Chris Young came out with his average at .200.
There’s something about round numbers that baseball likes.
Donaldson likes his .301 average, too, but he was loathe to be taken out of the game after just one plate trip.
Before the game in a chat with his manager, Donaldson learned the plan was to take him out of after the one plate trip.
“He told me if he gets a hit, he was going to stay in the game,’’ Bob Melvin said.
It wasn’t Donaldson’s call. He walked in the first inning, which didn’t impact his average at all, but still came out of the game in favor of pinch-runner Jemile Weeks.
“There were still some things I wanted to do,’’ Donaldson said. “I wanted to go match the tie for multiple-hit games.’’
Donaldson had two or more hits 56 times this season in leading the team with 174 total hits. The club record for multiple-hit games is 57, shared by Miguel Tejada (2002) and Mark Kotsay (2004).
“There were some RBI things I wanted to try to do, too,’’ Donaldson said, smiling. “But there are some bigger things we’re gunning for.’’
That there are. The A’s have 96 wins, one of only 10 Oakland clubs to have reached that level. But they’d like to get to 107 by winning the American League Division Series against Detroit and follow it up with the AL Championship Series and the World Series, a title that has not belonged to Oakland since 1989.
“Ninety-six wins is pretty awesome,’’ Donaldson said. “We were right there for the best record in the American League. During spring training Bob (Melvin) talked to us about expecting to go deep into the playoffs. That’s what we want to do.’’
–Sonny Gray says he doesn’t know if he’s going to be starting in the ALDS against the Tigers, but the expectation is that he will, and Melvin all but let the cat out of the bag when he called Gray’s five shutout innings “a good tuneup.’’
The A’s will come to a decision on the starters for the playoffs Monday and probably announce them on Tuesday.
The rookie right-handed threw five innings, walked three, allowed three hits but didn’t allow any runs. He had the bases loaded with the Mariners’ most dangerous hitter, Raul Ibanez, at the plate in the third inning, but he struck Ibanez out.
“I feel like I’ve learned so much this year,’’ Gray said. “It means a lot to go to the playoffs.’’
Gray walked two in the third inning, loading the bases before striking out Ibanez. Gray was unhappy at putting himself in that situation with the walks and suggested it would be a deal-breaker in a playoff game.
“That can’t happen,’’ he said, “if I’m fortunate enough to pitch in a post-season game.’’
His catcher, Derek Norris, said the walks were correctable.
“He’s got a good arm; he’ll give you six strong innings,’’ Norris said. “He was phenomenal today. His curve was effecting. His fastball was hit-and-miss at times.’’
Donaldson compared Gray to a young Tim Hudson, saying Gray might have a better curve at this stage.
“He has all the tools,’’ Donaldson said. “He’s got a real big league arm.’’
Because of that arm, Gray seems to be among the starters for the A’s in the post-season along with Bartolo Colon and Jarrod Parker. The A’s will have to decide between A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily for the final rotation spot, a decision that probably will become known Tuesday.
–Catcher Derek Norris had never played first base in the big leagues.
He can’t say that any more. He took over in the sixth inning and played the final four innings there on defense. The A’s have been working him there just in case they needed a right-hander to play first base and Nate Freiman wasn’t available.
Freiman is healthy, Melvin said Sunday, but he only got one at-bat over the weekend after missing time thanks to abdominal pain.
Norris’s first inning as the first baseman, the sixth, went without incident, but the seventh started with a nasty one-hopper. Norris gloved it and made a potentially difficult play look easy.
“I’m surprised it took that long for the ball to find me,’’ Norris said.
Melvin said he liked what he saw from Norris at the new position.
“He looked pretty natural there,’’ the manager said. “Even on that in-between ball.’’