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McGwire awash in memories on night of his bobblehead

Mark McGwire said "how cool is that" to having A's honor him with a bobblehead of his 1987 self.

Mark McGwire said “how cool is that” to having A’s honor him with a bobblehead of his 1987 self.

Mark McGwire returned to the Oakland Coliseum Tuesday, lean, clean-shaven, short reddish hair. In all, not at all as you probably remember him.

Of course, that McGwire was a bobblehead giveaway on the occasion of the Los Angeles Dodgers making their only visit this season to the Coliseum.

That trim and yet powerful McGwire circa 1987 was the one the A’s chose to commemorate McGwire’s 12-year Oakland career, the dozen years in which he hit 363 homers and won the 1987 Rookie of the Year award with a rookie record 49 bombs.

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Canha has a season full of base running crazy in one inning

Mark Canha signals that he's safe after beating out an infielder grounder to get A's winning rally started.

Mark Canha signals that he’s safe after beating out an infielder grounder to get A’s winning rally started.

Mark Canha is no sprinter. He’s not Billy Butler slow, but he’s not Billy Burns fast. You will probably find him somewhere in the middle.

Whatever speed he has was put on display in the ninth inning Sunday when the A’s scored twice to beat the Astros after Houston had scored three times in the top of the inning to take a 4-3 lead.

The inning began with Canha hitting a grounder to shortstop. It seemed routine, so much so that the Astros’ Carlos Correa made a routine play. With Canha busting it down the line, he was safe.

“There was some adrenalin being a factor there,’’ Canha said. “I went as hard as I could. I don’t think Correa probably thought I could run like that.’’

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Valencia fitting in nicely as A’s latest cleanup hitter option; Monday game to end up coming road trip raises Melvin’s ire

Danny Valencia is making his mark quickly with the A's as a cleanup hitter.

Danny Valencia is making his mark quickly with the A’s as a cleanup hitter.

For the third day running, Danny Valencia is the A’s cleanup hitter Sunday, not bad for a hitter that Toronto had to jettison in their mad dash to rework their roster at the trade deadline.

And for the second day running, Valencia is in the lineup while Billy Butler isn’t.

The cleanup hitter thing may stick, although Butler isn’t in danger of losing his DH job, manager Bob Melvin said.

“He’s got an opportunity, and he’s taken advantage of it,’’ Melvin said of Valencia. “We’ve won a couple of games, and we’ll leave him there for the time being.’’

Valencia, claimed on waivers from Toronto Monday, has started three of the last four games, has hit safely in all three games and as the cleanup hitter has been a hit – four-for-seven with a double, a homer and three RBI.

Butler, meanwhile, is 9-for-55 (.164) with no homers and three RBI over his last 17 games. For the season he’s at .239 with nine homers and 47 RBI, not the production Oakland was hoping for when signing him to a three-year contract as a free agent this off-season.

“It’s the last couple of days I wanted Valencia to DH yesterday and Vogt needs a day off his feet today with a day off tomorrow. So (Butler) is just not in the lineup the next couple of days, but he’ll continue to be in the lineup.’’

There is at least a chance that Valencia will return Tuesday to Toronto, where the A’s will make the first stop of their upcoming seven-game road trip, as the A’s regular third baseman.

Eric Sogard has been losing some playing time with Valencia having made three starts at third and Brett Lawrie moving to second base, taking playing time away from Sogard. At the same time, Melvin is in position to use Sogard some at shortstop to give Marcus Semien some time off, Semien having played in all but one of Oakland’s games this season.

 

–The A’s have a tough road trip coming up, and not just because they play Toronto and Baltimore, the two teams who are pushing the Yankees in the quest to win the AL East title.

There are three games with the Blue Jays first, played in Rogers Centre, which has artificial turf that is tough on the body.

That’s followed with four games in Baltimore, including a Monday night game to end the trip followed by a late-night flight back to Oakland and a Tuesday night game against the Dodgers that will be a tough turnaround, especially with Los Angeles have a day off Monday.

Melvin said he would use his roster liberally, giving days off to Coco Crisp and Lawrie, among others, to keep the turf from having too much of an impact.

There’s not too much he can do about the Baltimore schedule fiasco, however. He won’t pretend it’s not a problem.

“That’s tough. I don’t know how we are playing a night game there on a Monday,’’ Melvin said. “But that’s the way it is. We come back here, get in late, play a night game, then a day game.

“The scheduling for me, especially for AL West teams, is awful. Look at Baltimore. They came out here, took care of playing all three West Coast teams and doesn’t have to come out here again.  This division has it tough.’’

This is the fourth trip this season into the Eastern time zone for the A’s, something that is an issue for the Mariners and Angels as well.

The National League West has similar problems, one reason the Giants’ players brought scheduling up as a concern when they talked to Commissioner Rob Manfred earlier this season.

 

NOTES

–Left fielder Coco Crisp, who came out of the Saturday game apparently with a bad reaction to some medicine, was feeling better Saturday night and was good to go in center fielder Sunday.

–Closer Sean Doolittle will leave Monday to fly to Iowa, where he will continue his injury rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville. Doolittle, who threw a bullpen session before Sunday’s game, will pitch Tuesday and could throw in several games as he tests his left shoulder to see if it’s ready for a return to the big leagues. Melvin said it’s possible Doolittle, who has only pitched in one big league game this season, could be back with the club sometime on the next homestand.

–The A’s won’t use the day off to change the pitching rotation, so all the Oakland starters will get an extra day off before their next games.

 

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Gray’s Cy Young hopes may well rest on A’s offense

Sonny Gray has positioned himself for the AL Cy Young race, but he's going to need some help.

Sonny Gray has positioned himself for the AL Cy Young race, but he’s going to need some help.

The A’s helped Sonny Gray make another move toward staking claim on the American League Cy Young Award Friday by beating Dallas Keuchel, a left-hander who’d beaten them six consecutive starts.

There isn’t much to play for in Oakland this year, but Gray’s Cy Young is one of them. He’s 12-4 with a 2.06 ERA, the win total one off the AL lead and the ERA the best in the league at this point.

It’s far from certain that Gray will be able to win the Cy Young. Keuchel has one more win, has 18 quality starts, the same as Gray, and he’s backed by an Astros offense that generally has no trouble scoring for him.

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Chalk this one up to the Bermuda Triangle at Coliseum

Coco Crisp has his teammates were sure he'd hit a game-winning walkoff homer Thursday, but it wasn't to be.

Coco Crisp has his teammates were sure he’d hit a game-winning walkoff homer Thursday, but it wasn’t to be.

In their current state, the A’s shouldn’t head for Vegas anytime soon.

Plays they think are sure things turn out to be anything but, and, anyway, there’s no betting in baseball.

If there was, the A’s would have put down their last Euro that Coco Crisp’s shot in the ninth inning was the game winner.

It came in a 4-4 tie with two men on base. Manager Bob Melvin said he thought it was “at least off the wall, but probably over the fence.’’

Crisp and his teammates to a man said they thought the wall wouldn’t contain it. In the end, however, Colby Rasmus caught the ball, extending a 4-all tie for another inning, and the A’s would lose the game on former teammate Jed Lowrie’s two-out double off Edward Mujica.

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AL Cy Young, ERA elite meet Friday with Gray facing Keuchel; Crisp getting the lowdown, sliding instead of diving

Sonny Gray has one of his ERA, Cy Young rivals on tap Friday in Dallas Keuchel

Sonny Gray has one of his ERA, Cy Young rivals on tap Friday in Dallas Keuchel

The A’s aren’t going to see their recently traded teammate, American League ERA leader Scott Kazmir, throw against them in this series against Houston, that doesn’t mean they won’t be facing one of the best left-handers in the game.

And soon.

Houston will send the other lefty who has been flirting with the ERA title Friday night in Dallas Keuchel. Facing him will be the A’s remaining ace, Sonny Gray.

Between them, Kazmir, Keuchel and Gray have dominated the AL ERA leaderboard for months now. Kazmir is at 2.08, Gray is 2.12 and Keuchel is at 2.35, the top three spots.

At 2.35, Keuchel is at his ERA high point of the year. Gray has never been over 2.20. Kazmir was at 3.14 one start into June, but he’s been just lethal against AL hitters ever since.

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Melvin’s new reality: win now and develop for the future

Bob Melvin is trying to balance winning with developing for the future.

Bob Melvin is trying to balance winning with developing for the future.

It’s a balancing act these days for A’s manager Bob Melvin.

On the one hand, every day he is driven to put a lineup together that gives his team the best chance to win.

The flip side says that the A’s are not contenders this year, that the last two months of the season might best be given over to seeing what players of the future might do.

Melvin made it clear Wednesday that he’s not ready to simply have his team play out the string as a spoiler.

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Ailing Crisp, Reddick held out of A’s Wednesday lineup; Valencia gets the start at third, Lawrie going to second

Coco Crisp was in the original starting lineup Wednesday, but was scratched because of neck stiffness.

Coco Crisp was in the original starting lineup Wednesday, but was scratched because of neck stiffness.

The A’s outfield took a couple of hits when manager Bob Melvin put together the lineup for Wednesday’s series finale against the Baltimore Orioles.

Coco Crisp was in the original starting lineup, but he had to be scratched because of a bout of neck stiffness. Melvin said the club was always going to err on the side of caution when Crisp is having neck problems.

“Coco had a little neck stiffness last night, but he got it treated,’’ Melvin said. “Today it was a little stiff again. If there’s any stiffness we’re going to give him some time off.’’

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Orioles won’t pitch to Sogard and Semien makes them pay; Crisp shows he can’t keep from trying for diving catches

Marcus Semien celebrates the three-run homer he hit with Brett Lawrie and Eric Sogard after Sogard had been intentionally walked.

Marcus Semien celebrates the three-run homer he hit with Brett Lawrie and Eric Sogard after Sogard had been intentionally walked.

Eric Sogard had been walked intentional before Tuesday, twice in fact.

The turnover of the A’s roster has been such, however, that almost none of his current teammates had seen it happen.

The A’s were holding a 2-0 lead over the White Sox in the sixth inning after a Brett Lawrie triple. Reliever Chaz Roe, taking over for Miguel Gonzalez, struck out Mark Canha, then saw Sogard step to the plate.

He’s not a particularly imposing hitter, not at 5-10 and wearing glasses, and he doesn’t have big numbers, just a .246 average to start the night with no homers. Sogard does have a knack of the occasional big hit, however, and he is left-handed. So the order came from manager Buck Showalter. Roe was to walk Sogard intentionally and pitch instead to the right-handed Marcus Semien.

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A’s send O’Flaherty to Mets for player to be named later

The A’s packed left-handed reliever Eric O’Flaherty and cash and sent him to the Mets Tuesday in a deal announced in the third inning of the A’s-Orioles game at the Coliseum.

The Mets had been looking for someone to serve as a specialist to get left-handed hitters out, and the A’s, who were not going to resign him at the end of the season, had been looking to get rid of what was left of O’Flaherty’s two-year, $7 million contract.

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