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PREGAME NOTES: Be wary of Rangers in a tight race, Rosales on his new duds, Anderson throws a live BP

In for John Hickey …

It seems like the A’s and Rangers have already played something like 20 times this season. Actually, it’s only been 10, and Oakland is 4-6 against them. After this three-game weekend set, they’ll still have home and home series to play, so while this series is big, it’s not edge of the dugout crucial.

What the A’s would like this weekend is to expand their cushion just a bit. In case you haven’t noticed, the A.L. playoff race is getting crowded and it’ll pay to stay in front in your division, because the wild card could become a real frenzy over the final two months.  You’ve got four A.L. East teams still in the hunt. Cleveland entered Friday a game behind Detroit in the Central. Kansas City had won 9 of 10. So this is only starting to get interesting, and the A’s have assured themselves of absolutely nothing just yet.

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Game 107 wrapup: Mere minor deal shows Beane satisfied this club has what it needs

In for John Hickey …

Well, the less said about this one, the better. A rare clunker after winning 24 of 30 at the Coliseum, and the A’s will quickly turn the page and hand the ball to Bartolo Colon Wednesday.

So, no Jake Peavy. No middle of the order hitter. In the end, unless some other team calls the A’s with an offer Billy Beane can’t refuse, the A’s will likely watch the trade deadline pass without a blockbuster deal to bolster the roster down the stretch.

Guess what? They don’t really have to. Peavy might have been nice insurance in the event of a Colon suspension (seems unlikely, but until Friday comes and goes, hold your breath) or another starter injury. But the A’s have plenty of pitching depth with Brett Anderson looking like he may be just a few weeks away if that and Sonny Gray at the ready in the minors. As for the hitting part, the guys here have the wherewithal, they just have to get it done.

So, Alberto Callaspo for Grant Green. That’s your deadline deal. Not impressed? Hey, admittedly, it’s not an earth-shaker, but Callaspo should help against left-handed pitching. He’s a career .300 hitter against lefties, and he can also spell Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie, with Callaspo filling in at third when needed and Eric Sogard at short.

The only real question mark here is how quickly Callaspo can adjust to playing second base after not playing the position for three years, and actually a bit longer than that. His last extended work there came in 2009 with Kansas City, when he played 146 games at second (and made 17 errors). Can he still turn the double play? Guess we’ll see. But you can bet he’ll be getting a crash refresher course with infield coach Mike Gallego over the next week or so.

He won’t be playing there a ton. Eric Sogard will still man the position against righties, which means the majority of the time, so the defense shouldn’t suffer too much. And considering Callaspo has some pop and is lethal against lefties, he’s definitely an upgrade, even if a minor one, and he gives Oakland a righty pinch-hitter off the bench who isn’t named Nate Freiman.

Shame about Grant Green, of course, but for all of his potential as a future major-league  hitter, he just never found a position with Oakland. He may not find one anywhere, although he did show signs that first base may be in his future. The A’s don’t have time to find out, especially since Green is now 25, not exactly a youngster in prospect years.

Beane was very clear he made this deal because this club deserves every chance to win now, and Callaspo provides much needed infield depth. Can’t disagree with that. Adam Rosales is not a good shortstop option, and he has struggled at the plate as well. He’s almost certainly a goner.

The team that has posted a 63-44 record to this point is the one that will have to take it the rest of the way, Callaspo and perhaps a waiver deal at some point down the line excepted. With that in mind, it bears repeating what manager Bob Melvin said before the game.

“I always expect other teams to do something and don’t get too caught up in what we’re trying to do because we’re playing pretty well, we have a good team, and regardless of what happens, we’re going to have a good team,” he said. “Billy’s been through this many times before and he’ll do the right thing.”

Fifty-five games to go and a five-game lead. They should have enough to close it out. The real question is if they have enough to go deep into the playoffs (especially with the Red Sox getting Peavy). Let’s get August and September out of the way first, and then it can be debated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PREGAME NOTES: Anderson very pleased with snappy bullpen session

In for Hickey …

A remarkably quiet night at the O-Dot-Co before the A’s and Jays square it up. Back in the late ’80s when these two teams met, it was THE matchup in the American League. That could change at any time with less than 24 hours before the trade deadline, and knowing Billy Beane, I would expect something from him, even if it’s not Jake Peavy.

For now, it’s about Brett Anderson. The lefthander threw his latest bullpen sssion before the game — 57 pitches — and he was really popping it. He looks close to being ready to pitch in a rehab game, perhaps by early next week, and he said as much after B.P.

“I threw all my pitches and it went well,” Anderson said. “I’ll come in tomorrow and see how I feel and go from there. I have a live BP set up for Friday. It will be good to get some swings against me and see how hitters react to my pitches. Now, I’m just honing in and making sure my arm strength’s good and make sure all my pitches are doing what they’re supposed to.”

What is he most pleased about at this stage?

“That my foot doesn’t hurt,” Anderson said. “Going from where I was a couple weeks or a month ago to where I am now has been a big jump. My body feels good, my arm feels good.”

Said manager Bob Melvin, “He was little more worried about the foot, but at this point, he really has no issues with it at all. He really got after it today.”

Melvin said he would announce Wednesday what the next step would be, but Anderson pretty much spilled the beans, unless the A’s decide he’s so ready, they put him in a rehab game right away.

Miscellany:

–Even though the A’s have three off days coming up over the next 10, they won’t change their rotation, said Melvin. “As we are right now, we’ll stay on turn,” he said.

–Melvin on the trade deadline: “I always expect other teams to do something and don’t get too caught up in what we’re trying to do because we’re playing pretty well, we have a good team, and regardless of what happens, we’re going to have a good team. So, Billy’s been through this many times before and he’ll do the right thing.”

–A double bit of good news for Eric Sogard, even if he isn’t in the lineup. First, the pitch he took on the elbow is sore but he’s more than well enough to play. Second, there was a scoring change from Monday night’s game that reversed an error and gave him a hit, reigniting a hitting streak that now stands at eight games.

–Melvin isn’t too worried about A.J. Griffin having surrendered 26 homers, most in the AL. He said Griffin pitches to the situation, and very few of the homers have really hurt him other than inflating his ERA. Of the 26 homers allowed, by the way, only 7 have come with men on base. That’s the way Catfish Hunter used to do it. He gave 39 homers (26 of those solo) in 1973 and finished 21-5 with a 3.34 ERA. Griffin’s 10-7 with a 3.90.

Finally, congrats to former Athletic Jason Giambi for becoming the oldest player ever to hit a walkoff homer for the Indians last night. That was great to see. What’s hard to believe is that the guy is 42.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Game 80 recap: Best may still be to come for Griffin, Donaldson reaffirms All-Star candidacy, and a pair of golden sombreros

In for John Hickey …

I’ve seen the golden sombrero before — that would be four strikeouts by a hitter in four at-bats — but I’ve never seen two in the same nine-inning game. So there’s a first for everything at the ol’ ballyard. Chris Young fanned four times for the A’s and Jay Bruce went for the  quadruple whiff for Cincinnati.

Bruce obviously felt a lot worse about his. He struck out with runners at second and third in the first inning, a development that could have changed everything about A.J. Griffin’s glorious day on the mound. He also fanned as the last out in Griffin’s first complete game, a two-hit shutout.

Young took his in good humor. Following the game, he retweeted a fan who dubbed him KKKKhris Young on Twitter. That’s pretty upstanding for a guy who is now hitting .188 with 47 strikeouts in 181 at-bats.

It’s always easier to deal with personal failure when you win. Hey, talk to Stephen Vogt, who could be making history if he hangs around with the A’s after Wednesday. He has an RBI and he’s caught a shutout in the bigs, but as a hitter, he’s drawing a bead on a dubious record — most at-bats to start a big-league career by a position player without a hit. He’s at 0-for-31 with his 0-for-6 the past two days (he went 0-for-25 over three stints with Tampa Bay last year). The thing is, he’s not clueless. He’s made good contact in every at-bat so far, hasn’t struck out. He just hasn’t had any luck. To wit, Reds second baseman Cesar Izturis caught what looked to be a sure hit over his shoulder in the second inning.

The modern-day record is 0-for-35 set by Vic Harris of the Texas Rangers in 1972. Dolph Camilli had an 0-for-34 to start his career, and former A’s first baseman is third on the list with an 0-for-33.  Everybody’s rooting for the guy not to break it, even us scribes. Hopefully, the A’s keep him up long enough to get that first hit. Heck, they might consider keeping him up anyway. He looks to be a solid catcher with a good knack for calling a game. Griffin praised his work behind the plate Wednesday, noting he only shook him off a couple of times. And he’s a left-handed bat.

Melvin hinted he might stick around, and praised his work behind the plate.

“He’s done a nice job, whether it’s setting up, blocking or working with the pitcher,” Melvin said. “Everything he’s done has been really good. For his confidence, that goes a long way knowing that even if you don’t get a hit, you’re contributing. As a catcher, I don’t think there’s anything you find more prideful than calling a shutout.”

It’s easy to think of Griffin as an old hand — same for Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily — but these guys are still so young with so much episode. Griffin is 25 with a year and two days in the big leagues and he shuts down one of the best hitting clubs in baseball on two hits? It just speaks to what his future could be once he can be consistent with his command, and he’s not bad now.

Griffin has every ingredient for large success — four quality pitches, superior control, a good head on his shoulders and a hyper-competitive attitude. Don’t let the surfer hair and laid-back lingo fool you. Griffin hates to lose and he’d had more than enough of it after a month without a victory. Burning him even more is the A’s hadn’t won in his last five starts. He’s a team guy and is always alluding to that in his comments.

“I want us to win every single game no matter who’s pitching,” he said. “I don’t like losing. I don’t think any of the guys on this team like losing. I don’t want to count the chickens before their hatched or anything, but I feel like we’ve changed the culture a little bit around here and we expect to win every day.”

Josh Donaldson is back on the beam. Homers on back-to-back days, and first-pitch blasts at that. He’s hitting .308 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs, and while no one expects him to beat out Miguel Cabrera for the third base starting job on the American League All-Star team, he’s got to be a strong candidate for the game.

It’d be a great reward for a guy who has worked hard to improve his game both at the plate and in the field. He’s become a superior third baseman and a consistent clutch hitter. He takes his walks when we’re there, but unlike some past patient A’s we’ll leave nameless, he’s not stuck in the walk mentality. He’ll be aggressive when the situation calls for it. Early in the year, he was swinging at a lot of first pitches with good results, but when pitchers started wasting their first pitches to him based on that, he laid off. Now they’re coming in again, and he’s not missing.

“The last week or so, guys have been throwing more first-pitch fastballs,” he said.

The key is Donaldson’s making adjustments. He’s just becoming a complete, valuable major leaguer for the A’s, a long way from where he started at the beginning of 2012.

Nate Freiman had had two at-bats in 11 days leading up to his pinch double in the seventh that drove in the A’s final run. It was an impressive hit, particularly considering the lack of activity. How is he staying sharp?

“I get as much work in the cage as I can,” he said. “Pitchers are nice about letting me stand in during their bullpens occasionally. The most important thing, I come to the park every day, even if I know I’m not in the starting lineup, prepared to play.”

In short, a good day for the A’s on all fronts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Game 79 wrapup: An impressive win to start a telltale homestand, bullpen bolsters its morale

With a quick day game turnaround Wednesday, this will be an ultra-brief recap …

The A’s offense looked as good as it has over the first four innings Tuesday night as it has all season. Maybe not the total production. Just the rhythm of a lineup that is pretty much back together as intended at season’s outset, showing its strength up and down the lineup. As Josh Donaldson keenly noted afterward, the A’s are not unlike the Reds in their makeup when they’re close to full strength. They work pitchers. They have speed at the top. Then they have guys who can do damage throughout the order. And when it’s all humming as it was early in the game, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. Many players contributed with key hits and RBIs — Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick, Seth Smith, and of course, Donaldson with his two-run homer in the third. Coco Crisp didn’t get a hit but he walked twice and scored both times.

The Reds are a hell of a team. I picked them to win the National League this year, and still believe they will. So a 7-3 victory in which the A’s simply took it to starter Bronson Arroyo was a terrific way to start an eight-game homestand against the N.L. Central, including two of its best teams in Cincinnati and St. Louis. These five games against the Reds and Cardinals are going to tell us a lot about Oakland’s legitimacy, because quite frankly, I don’t see any teams in the A.L. as good as these two N.L. clubs.

The A’s got through it even though starter Tommy Milone struggled, largely because the bullpen got back on its horse and pitched like it can. Pat Neshek, who hasn’t had as many righty-righty situational confrontations as he did last year after coming to the A’s, finally got a big one in this game and he nailed it. Bases loaded, tying run at the plate in the fifth, he came in and threw three straight strikes to Chris Heisey to nail down the final out.

Just as impressive — maybe more so considering the hitter — Jerry Blevins faced the same bases-loaded situation in the sixth with two out against the lethal Joey Votto. Blevins got ahead quickly 0-2 and then finally retired Votto on a short popup to left field. Huge.

The bullpen needed that after a rough patch in recent games. Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle each pitched a scoreless inning, which they needed as well, and Dan Otero finished it off with a 1-2-3 ninth. Didn’t even need Grant Balfour.

It will be interesting to see if Oakland can back it up Wednesday behind A.J. Griffin, who will be facing Homer Bailey. If nothing else, the A’s got Cincinnati’s attention in a very entertaining first game. Too bad it’s just a two-game series, because this is a dynamite matchup, as will be the weekend series against St. Louis. A successful run against these two teams could go a long way to catapulting the A’s to a fabulous second half. If they can keep the lineup they fielded Tuesday night healthy, I like their chances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PREGAME NOTES: A’s do a bit of a catching shuffle in their cleaned-up digs

In for John Hickey …

Catcher Stephen Vogt was called up from Triple-A Tuesday to firm up the catching corps. John Jaso has a hand injury that may preclude him from catching until Friday and Derek Norris has struggled of late.

Vogt got to the Coliseum plenty early to begin his new duties and “get my feet wet.” When someone reminded him of the sewage mess from last Sunday, Vogt amended getting his feet wet “not the way I heard.”

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Game 71 wrapup: Sewage leak could spur substantive movement on new A’s stadium

In for John Hickey, who missed all of Sunday’s fun …

Lew Wolff has to be leaping in the air and clicking his heels after Sunday. His team is leading the American League West by three games. Bartolo Colon is making a serious bid for an All-Star Game spot. The A’s rolled out 17 hits, including four home runs, in a 10-2 romp over Seattle before  sellout crowd of 36,067 at the Coliseum.

But the best gift of all to Wolff was the most powerful – and most powerful smelling — development that came afterward, when the A’s came bounding into their clubhouse to discover that a raw sewage leak had been pouring out the shower drains for nearly the entire game. The geysers of watery waste not only erupted in Oakland’s clubhouse. but the visiting clubhouse and umpire’s dressing room as well.

The A’s and Mariners had to seek higher ground a level up and shower together in the Oakland Raiders’ locker room. The umpires and members of the Seattle coaching staff left the park without showering at all. According to an Associated Press report, Seattle manager Eric Wedge’s office was so deep in tainted sludge that he had to hold his postgame press conference in a nearby hallway. Somehow, the A’s coaches’ shower room was the only one in the bowels of the stadium not affected. Colon said he took his shower there.

A’s officials maintained that the sewage flood was caused by the overtaxing of the stadium’s aging drainage system during this homestand that was attended by more than 170,000 people, culminating with Sunday’s sellout. There have been sewage issues at the Coliseum in recent years, but according to A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich, this was the first major problem in the baseball clubhouses. Vucinich would know — he’s been working at the stadium, which opened in 1968, for 46 years.

In short, it was a mess and a stink that only figures to get messier and stinkier — figuratively speaking — in the coming days and weeks. News of the sewage leak prompted the expected flood of jokes among players and folks on Twitter, but in truth, this is no laughing matter. With any kind of sewage leak comes the potential for harmful bacteria and disease. Josh Reddick, for one, rescued his shower shoes from the muck, probably not the smartest thing to do. Vucinich said it was very likely that the carpets in the clubhouses would have to be ripped out and replaced while the A’s head out on a six-game, week-long road trip, and surely the whole lower level will have to be disinfected and then inspected by the health department.

Bottom line, at long last, Wolff has his lightning rod for movement on a new stadium. Mt. Davis and tarps are one thing. A faulty, decaying sewage system is quite another. Bud Selig surely will be appalled when he hears the details of Sunday’s postgame scene. He might even be pressed to act after 4-plus years of hemming and hawwing on the A’s stadium situation with his blue-ribbon panel and the whole territorial rights matter. This is a major wakeup call for the city of Oakland and Alameda County as well. If it wants to keep the A’s, it needs to act – now. Major League Baseball needs to act — now.

A’s pitcher A.J. Griffin threw the obvious against the wall in surveying the disgusting evidence: “Make sure everybody finds out about this sewage thing. We need to get a new stadium.”

Getting the news out won’t be a problem. It was spreading faster than the leak itself — and around the country – within hours of its discovery. Count on Wolff using the development, as he should, to force some long-needed action. If any more evidence was needed, the Coliseum just got flushed as a major sports venue Sunday, at least for baseball anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

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Game 70 wrapup: A’s get blanked, and Blanco-ed

In for John Hickey this weekend …

Not much novel to say about this one, other than it was a weird 4:15 p.m. start. Felix Hernandez did yet another number on the A’s. He’s 15-6 against them lifetime, 2-0 this year, and hasn’t given up a run to them in 14 2/3 innings with just two walks and 16 strikeouts.

That wasn’t surprising. The real surprise was the game’s big blow, by 41-year-old journeyman catcher Henry Blanco, who turned on an A.J. Griffin first-pitch inside fastball in the sixth inning and hit a grand slam, his first in more than 13 years in the big leagues, and with his 11th big league team.

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Game 51 wrapup: Colon cranks up the heat as A’s complete 5-1 trip

In for John Hickey one last time this week, completing a 5-1 trip through Texas. Heading out of town, so this’ll be a short one …

It was Grade A Bartolo Colon on this day. Pitching for the first time since turning 40 on Friday, he must have had a good meal or something like that Saturday night. He came out blazing, consistently throwing 94-95 mph with pretty much pinpoint control. I don’t know what’s more phenomenal, the fact that he’s throwing that hard at age 40 or the fact that he’s the most accurate pitcher in baseball right now. He’s walked precisely four guys in 61 1/3 innings. How amazing is that? Matt Cain walked five in the first two innings of the Giants game Sunday, and he’s regarded as a control guy.

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Pregame notes: Melvin loves the Bay Bridge, Donaldson building an All-Star resume and Wally Haas on his dad

 

Bob Melvin never likes to get drawn into deep conversation about games beyond the one on the schedule that day, but he couldn’t resist Sunday on the eve of this year’s interleague clash with the crossbay San Francisco Giants.

Melvin loves the Bay Bridge Series, to the degree that he’s a bit sad that it’s only four games this year instead of six, and that all four of those games will be played in a row, two in Oakland Monday and Tuesday, and two in San Francisco Wednesday and Thursday.

“I’ve often said for people in the Bay Area, it’s an exciting time of the baseball season for them because everybody’s watching it,” Melvin said. “You can say all you want that it’s just four games against another team, but in the Bay Area, it takes on more importance than that. The stands are packed, whether it’s our place or their place, it’s a raucous crowd for both sides, and there are a lot of people who are fighting and arguing in bars and restaurants for their team. It’s kind of cool.”

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