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A’s: Visit with Braves underscores Oakland stadium issues

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum complex

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum complex

With the selection of Rob Manfred as Major League Baseball’s next commissioner, the plight of the A’s and the prolonged saga of their search for a new stadium is once again the subject of review.

And it comes into the sharp focus with Oakland’s three-game series in Turner Field this weekend.

Turner Field is the Braves’ second home in the last two decades, having moved into the facility originally built for the 1996 Olympic Games in 1997 after three decades in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

And in three years, the Braves will move into an as-yet unnamed new park in the northwest suburbs of Cobb County, a private/public partnership. The new park will cost $622 million, of which the Braves will be fronting 230 million.

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A’s: Abad continues as the A’s secret weapon out of bullpen

A's lefty Fernando Abad has been perfect this year when it comes to stranding inherited base runners.

A’s lefty Fernando Abad has been perfect this year when it comes to stranding inherited base runners.

There may be no unsung hero on the A’s whose praises have been sung less than Fernando Abad.

The left-handed reliever has toiled mostly in anonymity while being just a part of one of the best bullpens in baseball.

The numbers he’s putting up this year are anything but the performance of just an anonymous reliever, however.

He came into Sunday’s game with one out in the seventh inning for starter Jason Hammel, who was in a jam with men at first at third and one out. It wasn’t an easy situation to face, but Abad has faced worse.

He threw an unhittable slider that foiled the Twins’ plan for a squeeze bunt in what was at the time a tie game, 1-1. Once the runner, Eduardo Nunez, was trapped for the inning’s second out, Abad then struck out Jordan Schafer for the final out.

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A’s: Hammel finds himself again thanks to his slider

Jason Hammel is confident he's back pitching the way he wants to with A's.

Jason Hammel is confident he’s back pitching the way he wants to with A’s.

It’s not like Jason Hammel has been born again in his last two starts.

But the veteran starting has come back home, metaphorically at least.

Home is where his slider crosses the plate at the knees or a little lower. Home is where his sinking two-seam fastball clips the corners instead of crossing the fat part of the plate.

And Hammel is now pitching like he did when the A’s traded with the Cubs five weeks ago. When Hammel and Jeff Samardzija came over in the deal that sent Addison Russell and Billy McKinney to Chicago, Hammel had a 2.98 ERA and an 8-5 record for a bad team.

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A’s: Sogard a bit of an intimidator at the plate these days

Eric Sogard surprised himself and everyone else with four walks Saturday night.

Eric Sogard surprised himself and everyone else with four walks Saturday night.

Second baseman (and sometimes shortstop) Eric Sogard has been hitting up a storm since the All-Star break, but not even he expected what happened Saturday night – walks in his first four plate trips.

He was batting ninth, and he became just the 14th No.9 hitter since 1914 to draw four walks in a game.

“I must have looked intimidating,’’ Sogard said, laughing. “If I’d known that 1914 thing, I might have looked at a couple more pitches in my last at-bat.’’

Sogard, who said “three walks was probably my max,’’ bounced back to the pitcher in his final plate trip in the eighth inning of the A’s 9-4 win. He’d never walked more than twice in a game this year and his career best was three walk against the cardinals on June 28, 2013.

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A’s: Norris’s homer swing keeps showing up with men on

Derek Norris's power number skyrocket with multiple men on base

Derek Norris’s power numbers skyrocket with multiple men on base

Derek Norris doesn’t expect to hit home runs in the kinds of numbers that Josh Donaldson or Brandon Moss might put up.

He does expect that his home runs will have an impact. Time and again, they have, including Saturday when he capped a 9-4 A’s win over the Twins with a three-run homer in the sixth inning.

The score when he hit it was 6-2, and the extra three runs that made the differential seven runs was vitally important to the A’s in cruising home in this one.

It was the seventh time this year he’s hit a home run with at least two men on base. Three-run homers and grand slams are game-changers, and Norris has those locked in.

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A’s: Bullpen is bullying opposing offenses these days

Ryan Cook is on a major roll, unscored upon in his last 18 games, pacing a red-hot a's bullpen.

Ryan Cook is on a major roll, unscored upon in his last 18 games, pacing a red-hot a’s bullpen.

In the middle of a tight pennant race there’s a tendency to look at the things that should be better than they are.

The things that are better than they should be can get glossed over.

That brings us to the A’s, who, it is true, have been struggling to score runs. And that’s an issue.

Equally a part of the equation, however, is just how difficult Oakland pitchers are at making it difficult for other teams to score.

Eric O’Flaherty, Ryan Cook, Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle combined to throw 3.1 perfect innings in relief of winning pitcher Jason Hammel Tuesday.

It’s just part of a bigger picture.

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A’s: Crisp delighted to join the team in a victory again

Coco Crisp returned to the A's lineup in a big way Tuesday.

Coco Crisp returned to the A’s lineup in a big way Tuesday.

It had been less than two weeks since the last time Coco Crisp had been in the A’s starting lineup.

Quite a lot has happened in that seven-game interval. The A’s traded Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. The Angels have crept closer in the standings. The Oakland offense had stalled.    Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays doesn’t change all of that. It does modify it some, though.

The offense is still struggling, but it was Crisp who came up in the fifth inning, looked for the biggest whole on the infield and guided the ball into right-center field for the game’s first RBI.

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A’s: Parrino, Sizemore, Rosales among possible infield help

The A's need a backup shortstop now that their backup, Nick Punto, is headed for the disabled list.

The A’s need a backup shortstop now that their backup, Nick Punto, is headed for the disabled list.

The A’s aren’t done rearranging their roster.

They knew that as soon as they saw Nick Punto round third base, then scramble on all fours to get back to third base.

Punto had to be helped off the field, and manager Bob Melvin said after the game that the consensus was that Punto was heading to the disabled list. He was the A’s second baseman Saturday, but he’s their top backup at shortstop to Jed Lowrie, and the club is going to need a replacement pronto.

In the short term at least, the A’s can promote Andy Parrino from Triple-A Sacramento. He’s been up before and he can play all three infield positions. He’s been playing shortstop for the River Cats while batting .286, and he could fill in at second, third or short, as needed.

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A’s: Lester addition forces Tigers to play catchup

Yoenis Cespedes is heading to Boston after big trade deadline deal Thursday.

Yoenis Cespedes is heading to Boston after big trade deadline deal Thursday.

Deny them what you will, the Oakland A’s aren’t boring.

They could have settled for just having made the Independence Day trade for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, but in the final six hours before the trade deadline they went out and completely rebuilt their roster.

At that point, the Tigers’ Justin Verlander said Oakland made the trade because of the A’s had to come through Detroit in the post-season.

But after the A’s moved Yoenis Cespedes from left field and shipped him to Boston in exchange for All-Star starter Jon Lester and platoon left fielder Jonny Gomes, it seemed like the Tigers were playing catch up with the A’s when Detroit made a three-team deal for the other big name starting pitcher out there, David Price.

With it being obvious there was no room at the inn for Tommy Milone in the A’s rotation near term, they traded the minor league starter to the Twins for center fielder Sam Fuld.

The moves spoke about the A’s on several levels.

One. They didn’t believe they could re-sign Cespedes to a long-term contract when his four-year deal ran out after next year.

Two. They didn’t see Jason Hammel or Jesse Chavez as giving them their best chance to win in a post-season start.

Three. Center field is a problem. Coco Crisp has trouble staying in the lineup ever since running into a pole holding up the Coliseum outfield fence and suffered whiplash. And Craig Gentry has a broken right hand that will keep him out two more weeks at a minimum.

Four. There is no time like the present. The A’s are playing to go to the World Series this season. Next season will have to take care of itself.

Things could change, but Lester seems to be a two-month purchase. He gives the A’s something that, with all their pitching, they didn’t have – experience pitching in the World Series. He was 2-0 in the series last year with a 0.59 and 4-1 in the three rounds of the playoffs overall and his career ERA in the playoffs is 2.11.

The A’s have the best record in baseball four months into the season, but that gets you nothing, particularly when the team with the second-best record in the majors is in your division. Because of that, general manager Billy Beane keeps pushing forward.

Since Jan. 1, Beane has added a left-handed reliever who has been one of the best in the game, Eric O’Flaherty; added a right-handed hitting first baseman in Kyle Blanks, claimed lefty pitcher Jeff Francis from the Reds, traded for left-handed starter Brad Mills, traded for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, then traded for Lester and Gomes and reacquired Fuld.

That nine additions this year already, and even with Blanks injured and Francis no longer around, as A’s co-owner Lew Wolff told me Thursday, “there’s time yet.’’

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A’s: Moss’s one last at-bat dissolves a night of frustration

Brandon Moss bounced back from pop-fly central Tuesday to deliver the go-ahead hit in 7-4 win over the Astros.

Brandon Moss bounced back from pop-fly central Tuesday to deliver the go-ahead hit in 7-4 win over the Astros.

Brandon Moss didn’t believe he could get much more frustrated in one game than he did in the first eight innings Tuesday.

The A’s right field flew out to left field four times. And the words “flew out’’ scarcely describe the at-bats.

“It had been a pretty frustrating day for me so far; I hit four straight weak, weak popups to the left,’’ Moss said. “ Two of them should have been to the shortstop. It hadn’t been a very good day until the last at-bat.’’

Moss had a career-best 10-game hitting streak come to an end Sunday. Since the single that got him to double digits, he’d gone hitless in 14 consecutive at-bats before coming up in the ninth. He was given the chance because Yoenis Cespedes’ single to right fell in to tie the game.

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