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Melvin move to get Moss in over Dunn results in early A’s lead

Adam Dunn wasn't in the A's lineup Tuesday vs. Royals. Manager Bob Melvin likes him as an option off the bench.

Adam Dunn wasn’t in the A’s lineup Tuesday vs. Royals. Manager Bob Melvin likes him as an option off the bench.

Manager Bob Melvin made one prudent choice (with an asterisk) and one surprising choice in setting his lineup for the A’s wild card game tonight with the Royals.

The surprise is that DH Adam Dunn is on the bench. Brandon Moss, who generally plays left field when Dunn is the DH, is the designated hitter tonight and Sam Fuld is in left.

Then came the big surprise. Moss homered to give the A’s a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. He had no homers in his previous 25 at-bats (11 games) and just two since July 24 (154 at-bats).

Is Moss feeling better now since his cortisone shot in the waning days of the regular season? Maybe so.

It’s clearly a move to put the A’s best defense on the field. Kansas City runs as well as any team in the game, and with Fuld and right fielder Josh Reddick flanking center fielder Coco Crisp, the A’s have their best coverage outfield going.

“It was a tough decision, but it’s a big outfield and it’s a fast opponent,’’ Melvin said. “(Fuld) plays the corners great. And when you’re talking about (starting pitcher) Jon Lester, there are righties that pull the ball and lefties that goes the other way.

“At times we’ll go offense early, defense late at other times we’ll do defense early. It allows us to match up a little latter in the game with Adam on the bench.’’

Still, choosing Moss over Dunn is not at all clear-cut. Dunn, whose streak of 2,001 games without a post-season appearance, the 14th-longest in Major League history, will end if he gets in the game, is a career .200 hitter against Kansas City starter James Shields.

The thing is, Moss is just .214 against Shields, so not much of an improvement. And Dunn has gone deep once and has five RBIs off Shields. Moss has zero and zero, respectively, although he only has 14 at-bats off Shields as opposed to Dunn’s 35.

“Adam took it well when I told him,’’ Melvin said. “He’s all about the team. He knows how we

The prudent choice is in going with Geovany Soto behind the plate over Derek Norris, who had a miserable time controlling, or not controlling if you prefer, the running game. Norris’s 8-for-68 (11.8) success rate in throwing out attempted stealers was the worst in the Major Leagues this year.

Soto was 0-for-5 in that regard when he was with the Rangers, but when the A’s picked him up after losing John Jaso and Stephen Vogt as catching options, he threw out half of attempted stealers – eight of 16.

Asked if the running game impacted his decision, Melvin said “It does some.’’

“They steal a lot of bases. Soto’s done a great job with that,’’ the manager said. “(Soto) has worked very well with all our pitchers since he came over, acclimated very quickly. They like throwing to him. And he’s got a better history right now of throwing guys out.’’

The asterisk comes with Soto having never caught Lester in a game. Lester knows what he’s doing, but at the same time, he had a regular catcher (David Ross) in Boston and Norris caught every inning Lester threw in compiling a 6-4 record and 2.35 ERA for the A’s once the deal came down.

“I did talk to Jon about it yesterday, and he’s comfortable with it,’’ Melvin said. “When he came over, he hadn’t thrown to Norris either. At this point, I think I could catch Jon Lester.’’

The A’s lineup: CF Coco Crisp, LF Sam Fuld, 3B Josh Donaldson, DH Brandon Moss, RF Josh Reddick, SS Jed Lowrie, 1B Stephen Vogt,  Geovany Soto, 2B Eric Sogard, LHP Jon Lester.

The Royals lineup: SS Alcides Escobar, RF Nori Aoki, F Lorenzo Cain, 1B Eric Hosmer, DH Billy Butler, LF Alex Gordon, C Salvador Perez, 2B Omar Infante, 3B mike Moustakas, RHP James Shields.

John Hickey

A longtime baseball writer three years into in his second go-round covering to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.