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Game 159 wrapup: Last two games aside, A’s have done well vs. top pitchers; It’s rookie hazing day for flight to Seattle

Dan Straily as Wolverine

Dan Straily as Wolverine

This is perhaps an odd time to concern oneself with the Oakland offense, but the A’s have gone from scoring early and often in game after game to having scored one run in the last two starts.

That in itself wouldn’t be too miserable if it were not for the fact that the A’s face Felix Hernandez in Seattle Friday and they haven’t scored a run off the King in two starts this year.

Having three of the final five games before the playoffs start be games in which they haven’t been able to score much is not the tone the A’s want to set.

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Blevins finding his game again, just in time for playoffs; A’s like progress Griffin has made

NOTE: this was written Tuesday night with the plan to post it then, but technical issues with the posting software cropped up.

Here it is, 12 hours late.

 

Jerry Blevins limped into the end of August in one of those everything-goes-wrong slumps that athletes sometimes must endure.
The A’s left-handed reliever pitched in five games, had a 6.75 ERA after giving up five runs on five hits and two walks in 6.2 innings. His overall ERA skied from 3.15 to 3.61.
That was then. The Blevins who pitched Tuesday in Angels Stadium was the pitcher he has most often been the last two seasons with Oakland – concise with his pitches, effective in the strike zone and able to shut down the other side.
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Game 157 wrapup: Milone pitches for roster spot; A’s have the numbers to run down Red Sox

Tommy Milone started Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers after having what was, for him, a so-so September.

A year later he’s not even guaranteed a spot on the Oakland roster despite the fact that he is, by his own admission “feeling like I’m pitching better this September than last year.’’

The difference is that last year he was in the starting rotation for virtually the entire season, finishing 13-10 with a 3.74 ERA.

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Lowrie needs some respect at end of strong season

Someone I’ve known for a long time, someone who has an annual vote for baseball’s glamour awards – the MVP and the Cy Young – just asked me who, other than Josh Donaldson was worthy of a “bottom vote’’ for MVP

That would be eighth, ninth or 10th on a ballot that asks voters to go 10 players deep.

I forwarded Jed Lowrie’s name.

“Really?’’ he asked.

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Game 156 wrapup: Beane says depth crucial to A’s West title; Crisp surprises himself with 20-20 output; This celebration means more to Sogard

The fact that the A’s were able to clinch the American League West title on Sunday, the final home date of the regular season, worked out well for Billy Beane.

Securing the title meant the A’s general manager could stay at home and not join the team Monday in Anaheim for a possible clinching party there. Beane isn’t much for road trips these days.

As it was, Beane stayed mostly out of the clubhouse celebration Sunday and was uncontaminated by the sprays of champagne and beer that coated most of the rest of the members of his organization.

He was with his twins, Brayden and Tinsley, when I caught up with him far from the madding crowd.

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Game 155 wrapup: A’s watch Rangers win, then prepare to go out and lock down AL West crown

The A’s were perfectly willing to let Kansas City shoulder some of the work in the American League West Saturday.

The Royals were down 3-0 to Texas after the A’s finished taking care of Minnesota 9-1 when a Rangers loss would have secured the West title for Oakland.

That being the case, none of the A’s players or coaches left the Coliseum clubhouse. The lockers were all covered by plastic sheeting to make sure the worst of a champagne celebration didn’t get into the players’ and coaches’ lockers.

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Steinbach suggests A’s not sweat it if Oakland winds up clinching AL West Division title off the field

The last time the A’s were in a situation at all closely resembling the one they faced today – a possible chance to clinch while not on the field – was in 1992.

Back then, the A’s had a day off at home, but the second-place Twins were playing. A loss and the A’s would be in the post-season.

On Saturday, the A’s were in the spot where they had to win a day game on the West Coast against the Twins, then the second-place Rangers had to lose a night game in Kansas City.

One of the players who was on that 1992 team, catcher Terry Steinbach, is now the bench coach for the Twins, and he said that if the A’s don’t get the chance to celebrate on the field, don’t obsess about it.

“One thing I learned from Tony (then-A’s manager Tony La Russa) was that there are three goals you set at the start of every season,’’ Steinbach said Saturday morning. “When you win the division, no matter when you win it or where you are when you win it, you’ve accomplished the first of those.

“Maybe they won’t get a chance to jump up and down on the field after clinching. But the important thing is that they’ve clinched. And one game doesn’t change the importance of what you’ve done for six months. Tony always said this was the hardest of the three things to do, they need to enjoy that they’ve done it.’’

The second task is to win the division series and the third is to win the Championship Series. If that’s done, you’ve gotten to the World Series. Those games will take care of themselves.

Steinbach has some memories of sitting with his teammates in a rented private room of a bar/restaurant near Jack London Square back in 1992. When the Twins lost that night, the celebrating wasn’t quite the same. But it was still a celebration.

“I remember sitting and watching the game with Carney (Lansford) and a bunch of the guys,’’ he said. “When it was over, it was great. It wasn’t any less of an accomplishment because we didn’t win it on the field.

“These guys (the A’s), they should know that. They’ve had a great year.’’

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Game 153 wrapup: Bad luck compounds Cook’s woes; Straily makes bid for post-season rotation

There’s a tendency to jump on a player when he’s down that pervades all sports. Baseball is no different in that regard.

A’s reliever Ryan Cook is in a bad slump, no doubt about it.

But sometimes it’s not bad pitching as much as it is bad luck.

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Game 152 wrapup: A long, strange two games for Donaldson; Griffin’s tempo and delivery are back

To say that it was a strange 24 hours for Josh Donaldson may understate it some.

In the ninth inning Tuesday he delivered a game-winning hit on an 0-2 pitch that cut the A’s magic number for winning the American League West to six games.

He was hit in the face by a couple of pies in typical A’s fashion, and also had the contents of the Gatorade cooler dumped on him.

In the first inning Wednesday he was drilled in the back by a pitch from Angels’ starter Jason Vargas, an apparent purpose pitch that had the umpiring crew warning both benches about further retaliation.

Three hours later, the third baseman muffed the pickup of a sacrifice bunt attempt, giving the Angels an extra out they were able to convert into the winning run in a 5-4, 11-inning victory, denying Oakland a chance to cut further into its magic number.

“I felt I came in too aggressively,’’ Donaldson said of the failure to handle Erick Aybar’s bunt attempt. It set up Josh Hamilton’s game-winning sacrifice fly a few minutes later. If Donaldson had made the play, Hamilton’s fly ball would have been the inning’s third out. “My feet weren’t right.

“I expect to make that play every time.’’

What he may not have expected was to get smoked by a pitch in the back. But he’s the A’s best hitter at this point, and that means something. The Angels’ best hitter, Mike Trout, was hit by a pitch in his final plate appearance Tuesday, and the Angels apparently felt retribution was needed.

Since Trout getting hit loaded the bases with two out in a 1-all tie, it’s likely that Ryan Cook wasn’t going out of his way to hit him.

“Was it intentional? I don’t know,’’ Donaldson said. “Trout took that one pretty hard yesterday.’’

The umpiring crew led by Gary Darling wasn’t taking any chances and both benches were warned against further incursions, which A’s manager Bob Melvin felt was unnecessary.

“That’s a very experienced crew of umpires,’’ Donaldson said. “They’ll try to take control of the game.’’

Donaldson said he wasn’t sure that Vargas was even throwing at him.

“He has to throw inside,’’ the third baseman said, “for guys to respect his changeup.’’

 

–Starter A.J. Griffin hit a slow spot in August, but he’s been close to at his best in his last four starts, including fiving up two runs and one hit in six innings Wednesday in a no-decision against the Angels.

The only hit he allowed was Mike Trout’s 26th homer, the center fielder’s third in the series. Beyond that, only two walks marred Griffin’s day.

Afterward he said he’s been able to recapture his tempo and delivery and repeat both time after time.

“It’s better now,’’ he said. “Before I was thinking too much. Now I get a sign and let it fly.’’

As for the homer, the 35th he’s allowed, he’s the big league leader in that category, something that’s an issue only when someone asked him about it.

“Trout’s good at baseball,’’ Griffin said, shrugging his shoulders. “It was a 3-2 fastball that caught too much of the plate.’’

As for being asked about all the home runs, he took it matter-of-factly.

“It’s only a problem when the press asks about it,’’ he said. “(Bert) Blyleven and Catfish (Hunter) gave up some homers and they were pretty good pitchers.’’

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Whether it’s in Oakland or San Jose, A’s boss Lew Wolff sees a downtown stadium as the answer

Lew Wolff, the managing partner of the Oakland A’s, was on the field before Wednesday’s game with the Coliseum awash in sunshine and his team having a magic number of six to win the American League West and all was good.

Yes, the A’s should draw better given their record (89-62) and their lead (6½ games) in the West. Yes, the leaky sewage that once more intruded into public consciousness raised more of a stink than Wolff would have like. And yes, there are stadium issues that face the club now and heading forward.

For this day on the green between the dugout and third base, Wolff was in his element – hoping that his troops could get the home field advantage for the first round of the playoffs. The A’s came into Wednesday with a one-game lead over the Tigers in the race to host three games in the first round instead of two.

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