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Jaso finds catching Kazmir for first time a breeze

After never having caught Scott Kazmir, John Jaso found working with the lefty easy as could be.

After never having caught Scott Kazmir, John Jaso found working with the lefty easy as could be.

John Jaso didn’t know for certain that he was catching Sunday until a few hours before the game.

He was told Saturday night that he might, so he was prepared, but since he’d never caught Scott Kazmir, he couldn’t be sure.

“Not even for a stretch in batting practice,’’ Jaso said. “I’ve never caught him. And I was lucky, because Scott is so easy to catch. Now if it had been Sonny Gray, that would have been different.’’

How’s that?

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New rule gives Moss a hit, but he doesn’t like it

Brandon Moss is no fan of the rule change that gave him a hit Saturady

Brandon Moss is no fan of the rule change that gave him a hit Saturady

Brandon Moss never felt more at odds with an RBI single than Saturday when he became entangled in one of baseball’s new rules.

Batting in the third inning with men on first and third and one out, Moss hit a ball out to right on which the Mariners’ Dustin Ackley made a nice catch. But when Ackley came up to make the throw to try to prevent a run from scoring, he dropped the ball.

Under the latest interpretation of baseball runs, the decision was that Ackley hadn’t caught the ball at all. He needed to make a clean transfer to his throwing hand, and he hadn’t. Moss got credit for a single and an RBI.

“I should have been out. It should have just been a sacrifice fly,’’ Moss said of Ackley’s performance. “That was an incredible catch.’’

As it was, Moss was out anyway, because he ran to first, then turned to second base and passed Josh Donaldson, the runner at first base who had retreated on what he thought was a caught ball.

“It’s a case of danged if you do and danged if you don’t,’’ said Moss, who really does use words like “danged.’’ “When you see a catch like that, you just react like you always have. The new rules are really having an effect on us that way.

“You would think they can’t go on like this. It’s only been 10 or 11 games we’ve played, and we’ve already seen a lot of plays like that. Look, it worked out very good for me, but if I’m honest, he caught that ball. I should have a sacrifice fly, nothing else. ‘’

The rule was primarily instituted to deal with force plays making the double play turn at second base. Moving the requirement to hold onto the ball until a clean transfer to the throwing hand goes against decades of baseball history.

“I know the rule is meant to simplify the game, but it’s not. It’s making the game more confusing. They have taken away the umpire’s judgment, and their judgment has always been pretty good.

“I’m worried now at first base to take a second and make sure I made the transfer clean. It slows you down, but sometimes you will drop the ball. It happens. I know if I do (drop the ball now), the runner is safe, no matter if I caught the ball.’’

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Gray pitching like a proven commodity in first full season

Sonny Gray is 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three starts after Saturday's win

Sonny Gray is 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three starts after Saturday’s win

Sonny Gray has only made 13 big league starts. three of them this year.

He commands the game as if he’d made 130.

Once again the A’s 24-year-old was the best pitcher on the field Saturday, throwing seven innings of one-run ball, giving up a first-inning run then almost nothing else in what Gray called “my best game of the year.’’

What he didn’t say was “so far.’’

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Callaspo would rather be in the field, but he’s a force as DH

Alberto Callaspo getting used to DH role

Alberto Callaspo getting used to DH role

Alberto Callaspo made his fifth start as the A’s designated hitter Saturday in Safeco Field.

To say that’s a bid odd completely understates the case. Callaspo came into the season with 869 career big league games played, and in only 11 of them had he been the DH.

And the A’s knew who their DH was going to be – Brandon Moss, unless he was playing first base and the other first baseman, Daric Barton, got the call.

But Barton hasn’t hit, just two hits in 20 at-bats (.100), and so a one-game experiment last week that had Callaspo filling in at DH has turned into a full-time job, at least for the moment.

As manager Bob Melvin says, “right now, he’s our best hitter.’’

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Johnson’s perfect innings won’t change closer situation

Jim Johnson would like nothing better than to be the A's closer again

Jim Johnson would like nothing better than to be the A’s closer again

One day after his demotion from the closer’s role with Oakland, Jim Johnson gave the A’s a tantalizing look at what he could offer as the closer.

Johnson pitched two innings of relief in a game that wasn’t close when he came in and retired all six batters he faced. He struck out four of the six.

“That’s the best we’ve seen him,’’ manager Bob Melvin said.

That came a day after Melvin said that he was going to go with a closer by committee. And when it seemed the A’s might need a closer after whittling their deficit to the A’s from 6-0 to 6-4, it was Sean Doolittle who was warming up in the ninth.

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Mariners’ Bloomquist a big fan of A’s style of play

What happened in the eighth inning and what almost happened in the ninth inning is why Willie Bloomquist really hates Oakland.

And, to be fair, it’s why he really likes Oakland.

The A’s, down 6-0 to Felix Hernandez, scored four times in the eighth to knock the Mariners’ ace out of the game. The A’s would have six at-bats with the batter being the potential tying run before Coco Crisp struck out for the game’s final out.

Talking about the A’s before the game, the Mariners’ veteran backup infielder said the Mariners have to take Oakland as seriously as any team in the game.

“These guys are the scrappiest little (expletives) you’ll ever see,’’ Bloomquist said admiringly. “Gol dang, it’s just who they are. They are in every game.

“And they’ve got bulldogs pitching for them. It doesn’t matter if they are (throwing) 86, 89 (mph), they come out, and they pitch. They play defense and they get timely hits. They are freaking pesky. They are good.

“I like how they play. I hate ‘em, but I like ‘em. I like how they play.’’

Friday’s game wasn’t perhaps the best example of what Bloomquist was talking about. The A’s didn’t win, and they didn’t play the kind of clean defense he generally credits them with. But the Mariners went from having an easy win to having to grind out the last six outs with Oakland one swing away from tying the game.

“We still came out there the entire time,’’ third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “That’s how we play.’’

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Donaldson’s six hits vs. Twins suggests he’s getting closer

Josh Donaldson finished up the Twins series with six hits but still isn't quite where he wants to be.

Josh Donaldson finished up the Twins series with six hits but still isn’t quite where he wants to be.

By most ways of accounting, Josh Donaldson had a pretty big series in Target Field this week.

He doubled and singled Monday, doubled twice Tuesday and homered and singled in the finale, a 6-1 win over the Twins, leaving him with six hits in 15 at-bats to go with four RBIs, three off them Thursday, and four runs scored.

For all of that, he’s not feeling like he’s quite at the top of his game.

He said he’s missing some pitches he believes he should hit and said that part of his success this week was being able to capitalize on Minnesota pitchers being willing to challenge him.

“When they did that I was able to put some pretty good swings on it,’’ Donaldson said. “I’m starting to feel better, but it’s a little frustrating that I’m still swinging at pitches out of the zone.’’

The home run, all three of the doubles and one of the two singles went to right field or right-center, and that means something to him.

“That’s where the ball goes when I’m going good,’’ he said. “That’s step one of the process.’’

But as his .220 batting average would suggest, there are more steps ahead.

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Straily the latest of the brotherhood to give A’s top quality

Dan Straily enjoying being part of the brotherhood of A's starters

Dan Straily enjoying being part of the brotherhood of A’s starters

Dan Straily says there’s a reason the A’s starting pitching keeps getting better.

With Straily throwing seven one-run innings Thursday in a 6-1 win over the Twins, Oakland starters have allowed three runs or fewer in all nine of their games this year. The last time they did that, 1990, they wound up in the World Series.

It’s way too early to be thinking such lofty thoughts now, but the fact is that while pitching is a very individual pursuit, the A’s starting corps of Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez and Straily – No. 5 starter Tommy Milone makes his debut Friday in Seattle – have a nice bond.

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Jim Johnson taken out of the closer’s role for now

To the surprise of almost no one, the A’s are taking the closer’s role away from Jim Johnson for the time being.

Oakland manager Bob Melvin said Thursday morning that he would use a number of other relievers – Luke Gregerson, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Dan Otero – in that role while the club focuses on helping Johnson find his 50-save stuff of the last two seasons.

For the third time in five appearances Wednesday Johnson struggled with his control to the point where he couldn’t hold the 4-2 lead he was given in the ninth inning. He faced five batters, got just one out, and had to be replaced by Otero, who allowed a sacrifice fly but otherwise pitched well enough to get the win when Derek Norris homered in the 11th inning.

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Donaldson, Perkins ninth-inning scuffle is pretty shortlived; Otero appreciates Melvin’s faith in him to finish up

Josh Donaldson thought he’d hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning Wednesday, only to watch it go foul.

When he subsequently struck out, he flipped his bat away and was suddenly confronted by Twins’ lefty reliever Glen Perkins, pointed an index finger at him and saying some things Donaldson didn’t much care to hear.

So as such things go in baseball, both benches emptied. No real damage was done, several of the Twins, including coach Paul Molitor and infielders Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe, got between the two at-odds parties.

“He struck me out on a pretty good pitch,’’ Donaldson said. “I flipped the bat and then I heard him barking. He was dropping some (expletives).’’

Donaldson said he didn’t feel that he’d disrespected Perkins, and Perkins mostly seemed content to go with the no-harm, no-foul defense and move on, although he wasn’t happy about the way Donaldson stood near the plate and watched his foul homer.

“I’m up there trying to win a game for my team,’’ Donaldson said. “He’s trying to win a game for his team. Juices are flowing.’’

 

–Dan Otero has saved games in the minor leagues.

And he’s not saved games in the minor leagues, too, so he knows a little about what closer Jim Johnson is going through.

With the A’s holding a 4-2 lead in the ninth, Johnson gave up one run and loaded the bases with one out. Otero took over, allowed a sacrifice fly that let the tying run come home, then hung on for the win by pitching 2.2 scoreless innings.

Otero was in position to be replaced himself when he put two men on base with one out in the 11th after Derek Norris’ three-run homer in the top of the inning had given the A’s back the lead.

But with men on first and third, two out and Twins’ All-Star Joe Mauer at the plate, manager Bob Melvin decided against going to Fernando Abad, his lefty in the bullpen. Instead, he let Otero pitch to Mauer. Which he did, carefully, ultimately giving him an intentional walk to load the bases.

Trevor Plouffe then lined out to end the game.

“I knew they had a chance to bring in a lefty (to face the left-handed Mauer),’’ Otero said. “I could tell they had the confidence in me to get the job done. It was all about making good pitches. I expanded the strike zone, and if I walked him, that was OK. You don’t want their best player to beat you.’’

There’s no telling yet if the A’s are going to give Johnson some time pitching somewhere other than the ninth inning. If they do, Otero would have to be one of the fill-in candidates.

Melvin wouldn’t go there, but he was unstinting in his praise of Otero, even in the face of the Mauer challenge.

“It was a decision with Mauer to bring in Abad,’’ he said. “But Otero’s been so good, he’s closed games before. That’s how good we feel about Dan Otero.’’