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Gray gets pushed back, Melvin wants to see Colon run and Coco sits on gnome day

Jimmy Durkin in for John Hickey on getaway day as the A’s try to complete the sweep of the Red Sox before heading to New York.

Sonny Gray will get pushed back four days and make his next start Saturday against the Miami Marlins.  (Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

Sonny Gray will get pushed back four days and make his next start Saturday against the Miami Marlins. (Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

The biggest news today is that the A’s will push Sonny Gray’s next start back four days to give their young ace some extra rest. Instead of starting Tuesday against the New York Mets, Gray will go Saturday against the Miami Marlins.

“Just giving Sonny a little bit of a break,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said in explaining the decision.

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Bullpen finally rounding into shape, which is going to make A’s that much tougher to beat

Thursday night at the Coliseum was pretty much another chapter in the Scott Kazmir first-half roll (9-2), and the lefthander’s latest gem is detailed in full in the game story here.

But the real development of the A's in recent weeks has been the stabilization of the bullpen after a shaky first two months. Suddenly, the roles are rounding into shape and Oakland is making it even tougher on opponents as they start to close down on leads in the late innings.

Sean Doolittle settling into the closer's role was the first step. The A's really needed that ninth-inning stopper, and Doolittle has so far been up to the task and then some. But now the A's are also building an effective bridge to the ninth.

Luke Gregerson got off to a slow start with the A's but of late he's become a lockdown eighth inning guy. Adding another 1-2-3 eighth Thursday night in which he struck out pinch-hitters Daniel Nava and David Ortiz in succession and then got a routine grounder to second by Boston leadoff man Brock Holt, Gregerson now has 12 consecutive scoreless appearances during which he has thrown 13 2/3 innings, allowed just six hits and three walks and struck out 17. Opposing hitters are just 6 for 45 (.133) over that span.
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Quite an achievement for the A’s to have baseball’s best record near halfway point

The A’s are not likely to stop to applaud themselves after just 72 games, but by all rights, they should. Who would have expected a team that lost two-fifths of its starting rotation at the outset of the season to have the best record in baseball nine games shy of the midway point?

Think of all the other things that haven’t gone so swimmingly. Jim Johnson, for instance, and the bullpen as a whole early on. Dan Straily, a rotation mainstay last year, has spent most of the season in the minors. Remember how horribly Josh Reddick started the year, and then came the Josh Donaldson slump. Jed Lowrie still hasn’t hit a hot streak all year and he’s currently hitting just .222. Ryan Cook still hasn’t found his old self yet, and we have yet to see Kevin O’Flaherty. Eric Sogard, despite playing consistently on defense, is hitting .199.
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PREGAME NOTES: Reddick to begin rehab, Pomeranz replacement still up in the air

Just a few quick notes before Wednesday’s afternoon affair pitting the A’s Sonny Gray (6-3, 2.93) against Texas’ Nick Tepesch (2-2, 3.94):

–Josh Reddick (knee) will begin his minor league rehab tonight. He’ll DH the first game, play right field the second, then get a day off. The A’s will reevaluate after four days, manager Bob Melvin said.

–Brad Mills, acquired from Milwaukee, will be in Oakland Thursday but not necessarily placed on the roster. The A’s want to work him out first, then make a decision. If it isn’t Mills, other candidates for the fifth spot to replace injured Drew Pomeranz are Dan Straily, Arnold Leon and Josh Lindblom, all at Triple-A Sacramento.

–Coco Crisp is out of the lineup after running into the wall and also making a diving catch try in vain Tuesday night. Melvin said Crisp is “a little banged up again” but he was scheduled to be off Wednesday anyway. The manager was unsure if Crisp would be available off the bench; he hadn’t talked to the player yet.

–After a five-game stint with the Class A Stockton Ports, shortstop prospect Addison Russell was bumped up to Double-A Midland and went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored Tuesday night. Russell is back after missing nearly 2 1/2 months with a hamstring tear.

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A’s postgame: Oakland gets a lights-out win; Josh Donaldson’s woes continue

Darren Sabedra here again, wrapping up the A’s lights-out win Saturday night over the Yankees before handing this gig back to beat man John Hickey

The A’s got the expected Saturday night, another gem from Scott Kazmir, a pitcher whom manager Bob Melvin says has been nothing but consistent since joining the club.

And (sort of) the unexpected, a bank of lights at O.co Coliseum going out in left field, prompting nearly a 40-minute delay in the middle of the fourth inning.

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A’s pregame: Michael Taylor traded to Chicago White Sox

This is Darren Sabedra, filling in John Hickey as the A’s play host to the Yankees on Saturday in the second game of a three-game weekend series.

Before I hit the pregame clubhouse, I wanted to pass along a little news.

The A’s traded former top prospect Michael Taylor on Saturday to the Chicago White Sox for minor-league right-hander Jake Sanchez.

Taylor, 28, played in only 26 games for Oakland and was currently with Triple A Sacramento, where the outfielder was the RiverCats’ franchise leader in games (511), at-bats (1,900), hits (521), and RBI (325).

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Bob Welch leaves eddies of emotion in old teammates

When I returned to the A’s beat in the spring of 2013, I hadn’t seen Bob Welch in about five years, maybe more.

I’d hit the road for a dozen-plus years in Seattle and he’d spent time away from the A’s working for the Arizona Diamondbacks but ultimately had been lured back to the Oakland organization by longtime buddy Curt Young.

We’d almost always gotten along well enough, although there are going to be rocky patches between reporters and players, and that’s never going to change.

We started talking, rehashing old times and I was completely unprepared for what happened next. Welch called longtime A’s photographer Michael Zagaris over from the far side of the clubhouse, put his arm around my shoulder and told Zagaris, `I want a picture with this guy.’ ’’

That’s sort of the way it was with Bobby Welch. He liked people. He loved baseball. And anything that brought the two of them together was all right by him.

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Donaldson’s walk-off home run gives A’s playoff-like victory over Tigers

 

 

 

By Steve Corkran

scorkran@bayareanewsgroup.com

OAKLAND – Close your eyes, allow your mind to wander and revel in the thought as the A’s and Detroit Tigers do their part to foster ideas of an October playoffs matchup once again.

Sure, it’s not even June but it’s never too early to get excited about the prospect of the two American League powers squaring off in a win-or-go-home series.

Lest anyone forget what that feels like, the Tigers and A’s treated 15,590 fans to another sneak peek Wednesday in a game that had all the makings of a postseason classic, with the A’s prevailing on a Josh Donaldson three-run, walk-off home run in a 3-1 victory.

“For a fan, that was a fun game to watch right there,” A’s starter Scott Kazmir said. “Throughout the whole game, Anibal and I, it just seemed like we were just battling it out, out for out.”

Kazmir and counterpart Anibal Sanchez went toe to toe for almost the entire game, with neither pitcher giving the other team much reason to believe.

It’s the kind of game that’s almost expected when the A’s and Tigers meet and they play their best.

A’s closer Sean Doolittle said the past two games reminded him of playoff games.

“The last two games of this series definitely had that playoff energy, that electricity, that feel,” Doolittle said. “The fans were into it. … When you’re going up against a team like that, it’s fun. This could be a big character-building win for us moving forward.”

This game also showed why the A’s and Tigers lead their respective divisions and why many expect them to meet again in the fall.

Stellar starting pitching, great defense and both teams waiting for the other to blink, fully aware that the first opportunity that presents itself just might be the only one that game.

For the Tigers, that meant a fastball that Kazmir left over the plate in the fourth inning. And Torii Hunter was ready to pounce on it, which he did for a home run that broke up the scoreless game.

One run isn’t much, of course. But when the Tigers have Sanchez on the mound, sometimes that’s plenty.

That almost was the case Wednesday, as Sanchez confounded the A’s for 8 1/3 innings. He didn’t allow a base runner until the third. He didn’t give up a hit until the fourth. No A’s runner made it past first base until Eric Sogard doubled in the sixth.

The A’s finally got Sanchez out of the game after he allowed a one-out double to Coco Crisp on his 111th pitch.

Doolittle, Melvin and others said they sensed that something good was about to happen after a night of hoping against hope.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus summoned closer Joe Nathan at that point. John Jaso followed with a line drive that hit off third baseman Nick Castellanos’ glove and continued into left field. Crisp advanced to third on the play.

Donaldson promptly deposited Nathan’s first pitch well over the left-field wall. It was just a matter of if the ball was fair. It turned out to be plenty fair, which set off a wild celebration on and off the field.

“He just kind of missed in that area where I could hit it,” Donaldson said of Nathan’s slider. “Thankfully, I didn’t miss it.”

No, he didn’t. The ball had plenty of distance and sailed to the right side of the foul pole with room to spare.

Donaldson’s second career walk-off home run gave Kazmir his sixth victory in eight decisions. Kazmir pitched a complete game for the first time since July 3, 2006.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said this was just another in a long line of well-pitched games by Kazmir. What set it apart is that Kazmir didn’t have much room for error.

“When you’re pitching against a guy who is throwing the ball that well and you’re not scoring any runs, you know you have to be pitching perfect,” Melvin said. “He was close to that.”

Kazmir said he fed off the intensity of the game and how well Sanchez pitched.

“You have to pitch like it’s 1-0,” Kazmir said. “You say that whenever you have the lead but that was the case (Wednesday) night. So, every pitch was crucial. You had to focus every pitch, every inning.”

Much as you might expect in a playoff game.