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Game of inches goes against the A’s early in loss to Mariners

A's third baseman Josh Donaldson dives in vain for a line drive off the bat of Seattle Mariners' Michael Saunders. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson dives in vain for a line drive off the bat of Seattle Mariners’ Michael Saunders. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

The whole “baseball is a game of inches” is about as old a cliché as there is in baseball. There’s probably a good reason why.

In a matter of four batters on Monday night at the Coliseum, there were three plays that were decided by a few inches that dramatically altered the game. Michael Saunders led off with a sharp liner that deflected off the glove of third baseman Josh Donaldson. Then Stefen Romero singled on a grounder that went off the glove of pitcher Scott Kazmir.

Two batters later, Corey Hart delivered a seeing-eyed single and the Mariners had a 1-0 lead. A second run scored on an RBI groundout, Seattle was up 2-0 early and those two runs were the difference in a 4-2 win.

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Reddick says awesome throw was one of his two best

Josh Reddick has a T-shirt he likes to wear from time to time.

It says simply, “Don’t Run on Reddick.’’

It may be time to break that one out again after the otherworldly throw that Reddick unleashed Saturday night, a bullet from deep right to third base on the fly, enabling third baseman Josh Donaldson to slap a tag on the suitable surprised base runner, George Springer.

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For one night, Johnson was set to be A’s closer again

Jim Johnson was in position to get the save Friday, only the A's scored too many runs.

Jim Johnson was in position to get the save Friday, only the A’s scored too many runs.

In case you were wondering, yes, Jim Johnson was going to get the save opportunity in the ninth inning Friday.

For that to happen, Oakland would have had to score one, two or three runs. Instead they scored seven runs and Johnson wound up not pitching at all.

But the one-time closer would have gotten the call, manager Bob Melvin said.

“It was set up for Johnson tonight,’’ Melvin said. “It was his game to close.’’

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Crisp’s ribs sore, not broken

Lead-off hitter Coco Crisp emerged from Monday’s game with only sore ribs as a result of his dive for a fly ball in the eighth inning. That’s better than the alternative, of course.

Crisp felt so well that he started Tuesday’s game. manager Bob Melvin said he might be inclined to give Crisp the day off Wednesday, in part because the A’s play a day game on the heels of a night game.

“He’s a guy, based on our experiences here with him, (that) plays at a very high level, he plays hard, he’s always diving and on the ground,” Melvin said. “We got to make sure that he’s healthy to get through the season.”

Crisp had an X-ray on his ribs after Monday’s game. The X-ray returned negative, Melvin said. He also has battled wrist and hamstring injuries the first part of the season.

 

– Michael Choice, the A’s first-round pick from 2010, batted leadoff for the Rangers on Tuesday night in a rare start.

Choice replaced the injured Shin-Soo Choo atop the order, and he played left field.

The A’s traded Choice to the Rangers for outfielder Craig Gentry during the offseason, three months after Choice made his major-league debut against the Rangers at the Coliseum.

 

– Rangers left-hander Martin Perez made his first major-league start against the A’s almost two years ago. On Wednesday, the A’s face Perez again. Only this time, Perez has matured into one of the game’s top prospects.

The A’s counter with their top prospect, Sonny Gray, in a game between two pitchers with almost identical stats this season. Perez and Gray are 3-0, though Gray’s 1.80 ERA is a shade better than Martin’s (1.86).

“Yeah, no doubt about it,” Melvin said, when asked about the hype surrounding the marquee pairing. “Two youngsters, one left-handed, one right-handed, and they’ll probably match up a few times over the years coming up. … If you are looking at the matchups for this series, you’re probably looking at that one to be the closest as far as pitching matchup goes.“

 

– Reliever Eric O’Flaherty ramped up his rehab Tuesday with his most intensive bullpen session to date.

Melvin said O’Flaherty looked “really good” while throwing all his pitches from the regulation 60 feet, 6 inches, both firsts since O’Flaherty started throwing in his recovery from elbow surgery.

“As a matter of fact, I asked him if he’s got an inning in him today,” Melvin said. It’s the first time he threw 35 pitches, with the catcher all the way back, breaking ball, he threw everything. … It was pretty impressive.”

Regardless how well O’Flaherty feels, he isn’t eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list until May 29.

 

– Two interesting stats, courtesy of A’s baseball information manager Mike Selleck:

One, catcher John Jaso on Monday became the first catcher since at least 1914 with four strikeouts and a stolen base in a nine-inning game. Two, A’s pitcher Dan Straily has gone 38 straight starts of at least three innings and without allowing more than eight hits, the longest by an A’s pitcher since at least 1914.

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A’s 4, Astros 3

Josh Reddick’s season-long slump officially ended Saturday when he backed up a three-hit game with another three-hit performance, including a game-winning single with one out in the ninth inning in a 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros.

In collecting three of the A’s 14 hits, Reddick upped his average to .200, or more than double where he sat at the start of the three-game series against the Astros.

Sure, right fielder Reddick has put in plenty of hard work in trying to bust out of a 4 for 41 funk to start the season. But, the answer to regaining his stroke might have been as simple as stumbling across a box of his bats stashed above teammate Alberto Callaspo’s locker.

Reddick used one of those bats Friday and banged out three hits in four at-bats. So, naturally, he snagged another one of his bats from that once-hidden box Saturday and hammered three more Saturday.

“We were blaming it on that,” Reddick said of his slump before finding the stash.

Reddick started Saturday’s game 0 for 2. He finished with three straight singles, with the third one scoring Yoenis Cespedes with the decisive run.

Cespedes’ run was the only time the A’s held an advantage on the scoreboard. As he touched home, it set off a wild celebration in the middle of the infield, with Reddick somewhere in the middle.

“We often talk about guys who are in deep slumps, sometimes it only takes one game where you get a couple of hits or a couple of balls up, you start to feel a lot better about yourself,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Reddick.

It wasn’t just Reddick who made a winner out of Dan Otero and prevented starter Scott Kazmir from being saddled with his first loss of the season.

Shortstop Jed Lowrie ignited the three-run rally in the ninth with a leadoff home run. Callaspo tied the game with a run-scoring single that also enabled Cespedes to get to third.

Perhaps most impressive, Reddick’s hits Saturday were to the left side, the right side and up the middle, respectively. He now is dictating at-bats.

“It’s showing me it’s where I want to be in the box with every pitch,” Reddick said. “ … Being able to not be so pull-happy or go-the-other-way-happy shows me that I’m where I need to be and I have enough confidence in myself to do everything.”

Kazmir’s confidence hasn’t wavered from the time he signed with the A’s. He turned in his fourth straight impressive outing and kept the A’s within striking distance through eight innings of six-hit, no-walk ball.

Melvin said, “He pitched great again. He threw over 100 pitches today, basically in the same fashion we’ve seen him every time. He certainly didn’t deserve to get a loss.”

The Astros scratched out runs in the third, fourth and fifth. Meanwhile, the A’s weren’t having much success against Brett Oberholtzer and two relievers.

Yet, Kazmir said, he felt as if it was just a matter of time, as long as he kept the game close.

“Just go as deep as I can,” Kazmir said, “and as long we got it close, I feel like we got a good chance.”

 

– Center fielder Coco Crisp made it through Friday night’s game without any flare-up with his sore wrist. Yet, Melvin isn’t taking any chances with his leadoff hitter, so he gave Crisp another day off Saturday.

Melvin is worried most about Crisp’s wrist holding up well when batting right-handed – Crisp’s four at-bats Friday came from the left side.

“We’ll get into it slowly,” Melvin said. “He felt a lot better swinging right-handed (Friday) in the cage.”

Crisp entered Saturday’s game in the sixth as a pinch-hitter for Craig Gentry because the Astros went to a left-handed pitcher. He got two at-bats.

 

– A’s reliever Eric O’Flaherty threw a bullpen session at the Coliseum for the first time Saturday as he continues his rehab from an elbow injury that required surgery.

O’Flaherty isn’t expected back from Tommy John surgery, anytime soon. He isn’t eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list until May 29.

However, it’s possible that he will face batters when the A’s return from their next road trip, Melvin said.

Melvin watched O’Flaherty’s bullpen session. He said O’Flaherty threw some sliders and looked good.

“What he’s got to offer is pretty exciting,” Melvin said.

 

– Kazmir made it 15 times in 17 games that A’s starting pitchers allowed three runs or fewer this season. Four of those games were Kazmir outings.