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A’s 5, Rays 1 — game story and notes

OAKLAND – Games first took on a playoff-like feel when the A’s arrived in Baltimore in late August, A’s manager Bob Melvin said. One can only imagine what it’s going to feel like now that the red-hot A’s are making their move.

The A’s completed a sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday with a 5-1 victory in front of 18,639 at the Coliseum. That marked Oakland’s first three-game sweep since Jun 11-13, when they did the trick against the Yankees.

The A’s also moved within one game of the Texas Rangers in the American League West, with the Rangers rolling into town for a three-game series that starts Monday.

“Texas probably brings it to another level,” Melvin said of the intensity of games from here on out.

The Rays went from a one-half game lead over the A’s in the wild-card standings Friday to 2 ½ games behind after Sunday’s decisive defeat.

Yet, Melvin and his players aren’t concerned about a wild-card berth right now. They have their sights set upon defending their AL West title.

“That’s what we look for,” third baseman Josh Donaldson said of the much-awaited series against the Rangers. “We got a chance right now to control our own destiny and hopefully get where we want to be … and that’s winning our division.”

The A’s and Rangers play six times during the next two weeks. Sunday’s winning pitcher A.J. Griffin said the A’s are capable of beating any team if they play to their potential.

The Rays can attest to that after getting shut down by A’s starters three straight games and doing little damage against their relievers.

Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray and Griffin allowed four runs in 20 2/3 innings combined.

“We have a really good pitching staff,” center fielder Coco Crisp said. “We lean on them. That’s been our M.O. since I’ve been here. It’s our backbone. And now we have some scrappy guys here that can kind of help them out when they get in trouble.”

Crisp failed to mention the critical role he plays in the A’s overall success. Then again, he didn’t have to with Melvin and Crisp’s teammates trumpeting his importance.

Crisp hit a home run in his final at-bat Saturday night and then added another solo blast leading off the first Sunday/

“What he does to lead off a game like that, all of a sudden the momentum is in our dugout right away,” Melvin said.

The Rays tied the game in the second. The A’s regained the lead in the third on a Brandon Moss run-scoring single. The score remained that way until catcher Stephen Vogt turned on his former team for the second straight game.

Vogt tripled and scored the game’s first run Saturday night. On Sunday, he hit a solo home run in the eighth to give the A’s an insurance run. He also played a pivotal role defensively.

In the seventh, Rays right fielder Wil Myers laced a two-out double. He then attempted to score on a sharp single by Desmond Jennings.

Left fielder Yoenes Cespedes fielded the ball cleanly, delivered a strike to cutoff man Josh Donaldson, who fired to catcher Vogt.

Myers eluded Vogt’s initial tag attempt with a wide slide. However, Vogt alertly tagged Myers before he could touch the plate.

“Defense has always been my No. 1 priority,” Vogt said. “Whatever I can do offensively is icing on the cake. Obviously, the home run felt great. It was a big run for us and it was a great personal moment for me.”

Vogt has made the most of his opportunity while Derek Norris and John Jaso are injured.

“For a guy who has not played much in the big leagues to be in this type of position right now, playing against his former team like that, he has to feel pretty good,” Melvin said. As do we.”

 

– The only run allowed by Griffin, naturally, came on a home run. That marked the 33rd home run allowed by Griffin this season, most in the league.

 

– Shortstop Jed Lowrie doubled in the fifth inning for his league-high 18th double since the All-Star break. He set an Oakland record for most doubles in August with 13.

 

– Crisp hit a home run for the sixth time in 11 games. He now has 16 for the season, which matches his career-high (2005, Cleveland Indians)

 

– Right fielder Josh Reddick said his right wrist has been pain free since Friday and that he is hopeful of being activated from the disabled list Sept. 10.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s taking some batting practice a little bit later in the week,” Melvin said. “Once he starts to do that, then it’s a day-by-day process.”

Reddick said he intends to hit in a batting cage soon, perhaps as soon as Monday.

“That’s the plan,” Reddick said.

 

– Norris made it through seven innings in a rehab stint without any issue from the broken left big toe he suffered Aug. 21.

Norris was slated to be the designated hitter Sunday – he hit a two-run home run — and then play nine innings at catcher Monday, Melvin said.

 

 

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Choice, Weeks among minor-leaguers promoted

OAKLAN — The A’s called up four minor-leaguers Sunday, including outfielder Michael Choice and infielder Jemile Weeks as major league rosters expand to 40 for the final month of the season.

Choice, 23, is rated one of the A’s top prospects, and Weeks was a rookie of the year contender in 2011 who has seemed to fall out of favor with the club.

“It’s a nice reward for a guy that’s had a good year and is a prominent player in our organization,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Choice. “There are times you reward people, there are times you bring them in to be a piece (of the equation), and he’s both.”

The A’s selected Choice with the 10th pick of the 2010 Major League draft. Choice played in 132 games for Triple-A Sacramento this season, where he batted .302, with 14 home runs and 89 RBI.

“I felt like I had a pretty good year, so I definitely thought there was a possibility that it would happen,” Choice said.

Melvin said Choice, Weeks, shortstop Andy Parrino and left-handed pitcher Pedro Figueroa were called up to help out the final month-plus of the season and not just to get a taste of the majors.

“All these guys are here for a reason,” Melvin said. “How much playing time they get, I’m not sure at this point.”

Choice played all three outfield spots during spring training. Melvin said he likely will use Choice at one of the corner outfield spots against left-handers.

Choice said he became a more consistency player this season, which enabled him to “just go out there and play and be comfortable.”

His parents, wife and son are scheduled to be at the A’s game Monday. It’s unclear whether Choice will be in the lineup that day.

Weeks and Parrino are versatile enough to play infield and outfield, though Weeks is a natural second baseman and Parrino a shortstop.

Weeks once was one of the A’s top prospects. However, his batting average dipped from .303 in 2011 to .221 in 2012, when he got demoted.

He spent all season with Sacramento this year and batted .271. He also stole 17 bases in 19 attempts, walked 80 times for a .376 on-base percentage. Overall, he focused on honing his all-around game.

“It’s refreshing,” Weeks said of his return. “I’ve been gone awhile. I put a lot of work in down there. … I’m just trying to affect the game in any type of way I can.”

Figueroa likely will be used against certain left-handers and, at times, for as long as an inning, Melvin said.

“Figueroa has a 97 mph fastball that can make some lefties uncomfortable,” Melvin said.

Minor-league catcher Luke Montz was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Choice.

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A’s 2, Rays 1 — game story and notes

OAKLAND – The A’s saved most of the fireworks for after their game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night, when fans were treated to a pyrotechnics show.

Such is the luxury when rookie right-hander Sonny Gray is on his game, mixing up his pitches, hitting his spots and generally having his way with hitters.

Hence, the only offense the A’s needed came on a Coco Crisp RBI single and solo home run as the A’s beat the Rays for the second straight night, this time 2-1 in front of a sellout crowd of 35,067 at the Coliseum.

Gray allowed five hits and one walk over 6 2/3 innings, while striking out seven. That qualifies as quite a turnaround from his previous start, when he allowed eight hits, two walks and six runs in half as many innings pitched.

“He was great again,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Gray, who improved to 2-2 and lowered his ERA to 2.57. “In a game like that, you had the feeling pretty early on that both guys were going to pitch pretty well and runs might be hard to come by.”

The A’s moved 1 ½ games ahead of the Rays for the first wild-card spot. They also remained two games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West.

Gray was making only his fifth major-league start Saturday night, but he displayed the composure of a seasoned veteran.

Such makeup isn’t uncommon among A’s pitchers, Crisp said. In fact, he expects the kind of maturity Gray shows every time he pitches.

“Oakland does a good job of grooming their young guys, getting them in the right mind-set to come up here,” Crisp said. “Since I’ve been here, everybody who has come up has had a fantastic outlook on how to play the game. … He’s just another product of a good farm system.”

Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt is a product of the Rays, having been selected in the 12th round of the 2007 draft. He joined the A’s earlier this season.

On Saturday, Vogt started against his former team and delivered a lead-off triple in the sixth. Crisp singled home Vogt one batter later for the game’s first run.

“The Vogt triple felt like a three-run homer at the time … ,” Melvin said. “Vogt had a nice night.”

Vogt starting likely had far more to do with his familiarity with Gray than it did with Melvin hoping to tap into Vogt’s eagerness to stick it to his old team.

Vogt caught Gray numerous times at Triple-A Sacramento. Saturday marked their first time as battery mates in the majors.

“It’s nice to contribute to a win,” Vogt said. “This was huge for me personally.”

Gray said he enjoyed seeing Vogt play such a critical role in the A’s victory. Gray did his part, thanks to a mastery of four pitches, primarily his fastball.

“The big thing was fastball command, keeping it down,” Gray said. “That’s something I struggled with last start.”

Against the Rays, Gray struck out five of the first six batters he faced. His sixth strikeout ended a two-on, two-out threat in the fourth.

With Rays starter Alex Cobb matching Gray through the first five innings, it became apparent that it wasn’t going to take much offense to turn a scoreless game into a hard-fought victory.

“We got just enough,” Melvin said.

 

– The A’s send A.J. Griffin to the mound Sunday as they go for a sweep of the Rays. The Rays swept the A’s at home earlier this season in the teams’ only other series.

 

– Grant Balfour closed out the game for his 35th save of the season, and second in two games, despite allowing a run. He pitched in his third straight game. Therefore, he won’t be used Sunday, Melvin said.

 

– Gray boosted his record to 2-0 at home. He has allowed only two runs in 21 2/3 innings in his three starts at the Coliseum.

 

– Melvin said left-hander Brett Anderson will be ready to pitch again Sunday, if needed.

 

– The A’s intend to call up three players from the minors Sunday, Melvin said. Two or more are expected to join the ranks Tuesday.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser said it’s “likely” that second baseman Jamile Weeks and outfielder Michael Choice will be among those called up Sunday.

Weeks entered Saturday’s game batting .273 for Triple-A Sacramento in the lead-off spot. Choice was hitting fourth and batting .298 for the same team.

 

– Catcher John Jaso is “feeling a bit better,” Melvin said. Jaso has been on the disabled list since July 25 after he suffered a concussion.

“He’s pretty antsy about getting out and hopefully getting some at-bats somewhere,” Melvin said. “We still haven’t ruled him out potentially being a piece for us in September.”

 

– The A’s are a majors-best 49-6 when they hit more home runs in a game than their opponent. Two of those victories came in the first two games of this series.

 

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Rays creating memories on three-day stay in Bay Area

OAKLAND — The Tampa Bay Rays are going to leave town with plenty of stories to tell, with the best ones having nothing to do about playing the A’s for three games.

On Friday, Rays starting pitcher David Price spent well over an hour in a cab, to the tune of $202, on his trek from the team hotel in San   Francisco to the Coliseum.

In the top of the eighth inning, Rays closer Fernando Rodney entered the bathroom in the dugout. For what happened next, we’ll turn to Rays manager Joe Maddon.

“All of a sudden, I hear voices coming from behind me,” Maddon said. “What is going on? Then, of course, you hear Fernando with his little Fernandoisms coming out of the bathroom.”

Rodney was locked in the bathroom and unable to extricate himself without help. Ultimately, a Coliseum security guard and a Rays trainer destroyed the door knob with a weighted bat and freed Rodney.

“Kind of funny, I guess, if it’s not you,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “There’s some events that take place in this building that maybe (don’t) so much in others.”

Earlier this year, a sewage backup forced the A’s and Seattle Mariners to share a locker room after the game.

The Rays trailed 3-1 when Rodney entered the bathroom. He was stuck in there for 15 minutes or so, according to Maddon. The score was tied at 3 when Rodney rejoined his teammates.

“It was pretty funny, actually,” Maddon said. “And actually we should have put him back in there for another two runs. That would have been fine. … It was pretty entertaining. Hey, listen, it got us back in the ball game.”

As for getting to the Coliseum, Maddon said it took him and his players only 20 minutes by BART on Saturday, whereas they spent one hour, 45 minutes by bus Friday.

Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said he was one of the few players to take BART both days, so he isn’t sure what the fuss is about.

“Once I heard that the (Bay) bridge was closed, I didn’t want to sit on the bus for two hours,” Longoria said. “So, I hopped on BART. It was quick and easy, very nice public transportation. It was uneventful. It was a lot like riding a bus, just a lot quicker, that’s for sure.”

Longoria said no one noticed him and his teammates during the ride to the Coliseum.

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Starting lineups Rays-A’s — Saturday’s game

Here are the starting lineups for the Tampa Bay Rays-A’s game Saturday night. First pitch is 6:05 p.m., with fireworks afterward.

 

RAYS

LF David Dejesus

SS Yunel Escobar

2B Ben Zobrist

3B Evan Longoria

DH Matt Joyce

RF Wil Myers

1B James Loney

C Jose Lobaton

CF Desmond Jennings

P Alex Cobb

 

 

A’S

 

CF Coco Crisp

3B Josh Donaldson

SS Jed Lowrie

RF Brandon Moss

LF Yoenes Cespedes

DH Seth Smith

1B Daric Barton

2B Eric Sogard

C Stephen Vogt

P Sonny Gray

 

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A’s 4, Rays 3 — game story

OAKLAND – If you let your thoughts wander during the TampaBay Rays-A’s game Friday night, it would have been easy to convince yourself that you were getting a glimpse into the future.

Both teams still entertain visions of winning their respective divisions. For now, they are the two teams currently in possession of the wild-card playoff spots in the American League.

The A’s beat the Rays 4-3 on Friday and moved one-half game ahead of them in the wild-card standings, not to mention within two games of the Texas Rangers in the American League West.

Catcher Kurt Suzuki and shortstop Jed Lowrie delivered the big hits, with Suzuki erasing a 1-0 deficit with a three-run home run and Lowrie breaking a 3-3 tie.

Suzuki was traded to the A’s by the Washington Nationals on Aug. 23, just as the A’s departed for a seven-game road trip. He played at the Coliseum on Friday for the first time since the trade.

“You couldn’t write that,” A’s starting pitcher Parker said of Suzuki’s timely blast. “You couldn’t make that stuff up.”

Who says you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression?

“It was pretty special,” Suzuki said. “That felt really good. For it to be off a pitcher like (David) Price, who’s arguably one of the best pitchers in the game right now, is pretty neat.”

As usual, the A’s kept things in perspective and their focus on the playoff race.

There’s a sizable margin between the A’s and Rays and the teams chasing them for the two wild-card berths.

Therefore, it isn’t difficult to envision these teams holding on and playing an even more meaningful game in October, with the winner advancing.

Seeing Parker and Price on the mound further validated the feeling that this three-game series merely is a prelude.

Price is the reigning American League Cy Young winner and Parker on Friday increased his streak to 17 straight starts without a loss, including a 4-0 mark in six August games.

Price and Parker delivered the kind of game commensurate with their resumes in what A’s manager Bob Melvin called “one of those marquee matchups as far starting pitchers go.”

The two aces engaged in a well-pitched game from the outset, with Parker allowing a two-out, run-scoring RBI single in the second for his lone blemish through five innings.

The A’s managed only two hits off Price through the first four innings. It seemed as if they were going to need some unlikely occurrences to break through against Price.

Sure enough, that’s what happened.

In the fifth, Alberto Callaspo reached base on a throwing error by Ben Zobrist, who entered the game with an 81-game errorless streak, a Rays record for second basemen.

Chris Young followed with a walk despite being hitless against the Rays all season and batting under .200.

Then came the capper, with Suzuki smashing Price’s first pitch of the at-bat over the left-field wall for a game-altering home run.

“Suzuki’s hit was huge because it didn’t look like we were going to be able to string too many hits together against Price,” Melvin said.

However, it wasn’t enough to ensure victory as the Rays rallied for two runs in the eighth to tie the game. For that, the A’s needed Lowrie and Grant Balfour.

Lowrie delivered a one-out, RBI double in the bottom of the eighth that broke a 3-3 tie. He also made a nifty grab on an errant throw by first baseman Daric Barton in the ninth that turned a potential disaster into a force out at second.

“Sometimes you got to make plays like that to win games,” Lowrie said.

Balfour closed out the game for his 34th save of the season. It came one day after he allowed four runs to the Detroit Tigers in the ninth and blew a save opportunity for only the second time this season.

“His stuff was really good tonight,” Melvin said. “Admittedly, he didn’t have his best stuff (Thursday) but he was on it tonight. His velocity was up, you could see the intensity, and he was throwing the ball where he wanted to. All the stuff he does well when he shuts it down.”

 

– Parker last lost May 22, against the Rangers. That was 86 games ago.

His string of 17 starts without a loss is tied with Jim “Catfish” Hunter (1973) for the most in Oakland history.

 

– Right fielder Josh Reddick had a cortisone injection in his right wrist Wednesday, Melvin said.

Reddick is eligible to return from the disabled list Sept. 10. Melvin said he is hopeful that the shot is enough to get Reddick past his second stint on the disabled list this season.

“It certainly did the trick for Coco, so maybe that does the trick for him,” Melvin said in reference to center fielder Coco Crisp’s injured wrist responding well to a cortisone shot earlier this season.

 

– Speaking of Crisp, Melvin said it’s no coincidence that the A’s offense performed well during a seven-game road trip that ended Thursday during a time when Crisp batted .345 (10 for 29).

“We get a lot of our moxie from him,” Melvin said of Crisp. “I’ve said often that he’s our engine”

Crisp started Oakland’s game-winning rally with a lead-off single, and he advanced to second because he was running before the pitch on a grounder to short.

 

– Catcher Derek Norris (broken toe) is slated to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday, Melvin said. Norris is eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday.

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Rays-A’s starting lineups for Friday’s game

Here are the starting lineups for the Tampa Bay Rays and A’s for the first game of their three-game series, which kicks off Friday night at the Coliseum:

 

RAYS

RF David Dejesus

2B Ben Zobrist

3B Evan Longoria

LF Matt Joyce

1B James Loney

CF Desmond Jennings

DH Kelly Johnson

C Jose Molina

SS Yunel Escobar

P David Price

 

 

 

A’S

DH Coco Crisp

3B Josh Donaldson

SS Jed Lowrie

LF Yoenis Cespedes

1B Nate Freiman

2B Alberto Callaspo

CF Chris Young

RF Brandon Moss

C Kurt Suzuki

P Jarrod Parker

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Rays Price peeved at Bay Bridge closure

OAKLAND — The Tampa Bay Rays apparently didn’t get word that the Bay Bridge would be closed during their three-game series against the A’s this weekend.

On Friday, starting pitcher David Price fired off several Tweets about his nightmarish commute from the team hotel in San Francisco to the Oakland Coliseum.

“Already an hour down on this ride to Oakland Coliseum, my phone says I have a solid 40 (percent) more,” Price said via Twitter. “Safe to say, I’m not in the best mood now.”

Price later Tweeted that the time-consuming ride cost him $202. He is slated to pitch against the A’s on Friday night, so the longer-than-expected ride no doubt also threw off his routine.

The Bay Bridge is scheduled to open Tuesday morning. By that time, the Rays will be long gone.

In the interim, Price came up with a solution for avoiding a repeat commute Saturday and Sunday.

“Don’t worry, I have a helicopter rented for tomorrow!!,” Price Tweeted “I’ll get to the field in an estimated time of 8 minutes 24 seconds.”

 

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Astros 2, A’s 1 (11 innings) game story

OAKLAND – Athletics manager Bob Melvin warned of the Houston Astros being a much different team than the one his squad overwhelmed the first dozen times they played this season.

Melvin talked of an Astros team that isn’t afraid to take chances, one that has settled on a new assemblage of talent and can’t be taken lightly.

As if on cue, the Astros beat the A’s in the opening game of the teams’ three-game series and backed it up with a 2-1 victory Wednesday night before 18,278 at the Coliseum.

The Astros scored the decisive run on a double in the 11th inning by backup catcher Carlos Corporan off A’s reliever Sean Doolittle.

The A’s now trail the Rangers by two games in the American League West, the first time they have been that far back since June 2.

For that, the A’s owe back-to-back losses to an Astros team that they beat 11 of the first 12 times they played this season.

Coincidentally, the A’s lost both games this series right after noted Astros killer Chris Young came within inches of adding to his lore.

Center fielder Young hit what he thought was a game-winning home run both times, only to be stunned by the actual outcome.

Astros left fielder Robbie Grossman on Wednesday night leaped above the left-field wall to snare a Young drive with two outs in the 10th. He waited until he got near first base before he displayed the ball Young thought disappeared into the night.

On Tuesday night, Young hit what he thought was a game-ending, two-run home run in the ninth. However, the third-base umpire signaled foul ball. A review of the play supported the initial call.

Both times, Young looked on in disbelief, with both hands on his helmet.

The Astros relied upon a barrage of hits and five runs off A’s ace Bartolo Colon in the first game. On Wednesday, the Astros trotted out one of their top prospects in right-hander Jarred Cosart.

Fortunately for the A’s, they had Jarrod Parker on the mound to counter Cosart’s mastery. He entered the game with a career-high six-game win streak over his previous 13 starts. He last lost a game May 22.

Parker and Cosart matched each other almost pitch for pitch through the first six innings, with neither pitcher getting into much trouble.

Former A’s top prospect Chris Carter ended a scoreless game with a towering home run to left field on the first pitch from Parker in the seventh inning.

Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes gave brief chase before he stopped and watched the ball land well into the bleachers for Carter’s 22nd home run of the season.

Again, Parker got victimized by the long ball. The one he allowed to Carter marked the 18th of the season. He allowed only 11 all last season.

The A’s responded with a run off reliever Philip Humber in the bottom of the seventh, courtesy of an RBI double by Brandon Moss. Humber worked out of the jam afterward.

Parker faced the minimum number of hitters through the first three innings, and he allowed only two singles and a walk through five innings.

The Astros managed three singles in the sixth. However, the A’s turned a double play after the first hit and got out of the inning on a grounder to first baseman Moss.

 

– Corporan also is the guy that broke up Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish’s no-hitter in the eighth inning Monday. He entered the game against the A’s on Wednesday as a defensive replacement for Jason Castro.

– Regular lead-off hitter and center fielder Coco Crisp didn’t start for the third straight game as a result of a sore left wrist.

“We gave him a little injection last night, which probably sets him back a day or two,” Melvin said.

Crisp is available to pinch-run until his return to the lineup. Alberto Callaspo batted lead-off Wednesday night for the first time since he signed with the A’s.

Callaspo failed to bunt over Eric Sogard in the eighth and 11th innings after Sogard led off both innings with a double.

 

– Jed Lowrie received a day off Wednesday. Melvin said the rest for his starting shortstop had more to do with how much Lowrie has played this season than it did with Lowrie getting hit in the right knee on a pick-off throw at second base Tuesday night.

Eric Sogard started at shortstop Wednesday. Lowrie pinch-hit in the 11th and struck out looking on a 3-2 pitch.

1

A’s-Astros pre-game notes

OAKLAND — Here are some pregame notes to tide you over until the Astros and A’s complete their game tonight at the Coliseum.

– Catcher John Jaso still hasn’t been cleared to do baseball-related activities, manager Bob Melvin said. However, he was informed by noted concussion expert Dr. Michael Collins that “he’s going to be fully recovered from this.”

Melvin said Jaso is permitted to do physical activities such as weightlifting and riding a stationary bike. There is no timetable for Jaso’s return. He will remain on the disabled list “for the foreseeable future,” Melvin said.

 

– Melvin said ace Bartolo Colon isn’t going to receive any additional rest on the heels of back-to-back rough outings.

Colon allowed five runs each against the Reds and Astros and got removed before the fifth inning both times.

“He’s just going through a rough patch right now,” Melvin said.

Melvin said he was encouraged by Colon’s “uptick” in velocity against the Astros on Tuesday night. He is hopeful that the movement on Colon’s pitches picks up the next start.

 

– Jed Lowrie received a day off Wednesday. Melvin said the rest for his starting shortstop had more to do with how much Lowrie has played this season than it did with Lowrie getting hit in the right knee on a pick-off throw at second base Tuesday night. Eric Sogard started at shortstop.

 

– Regular lead-off hitter and center fielder Coco Crisp didn’t start for the third straight game as a result of a sore left wrist.

“We gave him a little injection last night, which probably sets him back a day or two,” Melvin said.

Crisp is available to pinch-run until his return to the lineup. Alberto Callaspo batted lead-off Wednesday night for the first time since he signed with the A’s.