Daric Barton couldn’t see the play at first base in the ninth inning.
He could feel it, though, and that was good enough for him.
Moments after John Jaso’s homer put the A’s in position to score a 3-2 win over the Angels, Oakland reliever Luke Gregerson came out of the bullpen and got two quick ground balls.
The first one was routine. The second was bobbled at second base by Nick Punto, who quickly regrouped and fired a throw to Barton. Umpire Chris Segal called base runner Howie Kendrick out, and the Angels howled.
With all the calls being overturned with balls being accidentally dropped in the transfer from glove to hand in Major League Baseball these days, A’s center fielder Coco Crisp was asked Monday how long before someone drops the ball during the transfer on purpose?
After all, runs have to hold and retreat to their bases once they see the ball being caught. But with umpires consistently ruling “no catch’’ even after players have taken three or four strides following the catch, how long before someone opts to make a catch and then drop the ball on purpose to maybe force a very fast runner to get a double play?
Crisp wouldn’t advise it.
“I wouldn’t do it,’’ he said. “You’ve got to make the catch, make the play.’’
The same question was put to Oakland first base coach Tye Waller.
“I know it’s been talked about,’’ Waller said. “So far, nothing I’ve seen has been like that. I think everybody wants to get the outs they can get.’’
As part of their start-of-series scouting meeting before the game Monday, the A’s spent extra time talking about how they want to handle fly balls to the outfield that are no longer as routine as they once were.
“We need to have guys peaking over their shoulders,’’ Melvin said.
Waller said that he’s told his base runners he’d divide the responsibility with them.
“I told them, `I’ll watch the ball,’’ he said. “They have to run heads up.’’
Waller took his eye off the ball over the weekend in Seattle when Yoenis Cespedes lined out to Dustin Ackley. Ackley dropped the ball making the transfer, and neither coach nor base runner realized it. So Waller is going to be watching the ball until the transfer is successfully made, which will put more responsibility on the runners.
“A play like that can never happen again,’’ he said. “You can’t undo what’s been done. But you can make sure it never happens again. It’s an adjustment process for all of us.’’Will
There are certain advantages to being a designated hitter, not the least of which is the time between plate appearances when you can polish your game.
For the most part, Josh Donaldson isn’t interested in those advantages. He’d rather be in the field at third base every day.
But when he launched his third homer in four games, a solo shot in the ninth inning of the A’s 3-0 win over the Mariners Sunday, he gave credit to the time the DH has available during the game.
“I went to the cage before that last at-bat,’’ Donaldson said. “I was trying to get my swing smoother and allow the ball to travel deep. When I try to pull the ball, that’s not what I want to be doing.’’
John Jaso didn’t know for certain that he was catching Sunday until a few hours before the game.
He was told Saturday night that he might, so he was prepared, but since he’d never caught Scott Kazmir, he couldn’t be sure.
“Not even for a stretch in batting practice,’’ Jaso said. “I’ve never caught him. And I was lucky, because Scott is so easy to catch. Now if it had been Sonny Gray, that would have been different.’’
Brandon Moss never felt more at odds with an RBI single than Saturday when he became entangled in one of baseball’s new rules.
Batting in the third inning with men on first and third and one out, Moss hit a ball out to right on which the Mariners’ Dustin Ackley made a nice catch. But when Ackley came up to make the throw to try to prevent a run from scoring, he dropped the ball.
Under the latest interpretation of baseball runs, the decision was that Ackley hadn’t caught the ball at all. He needed to make a clean transfer to his throwing hand, and he hadn’t. Moss got credit for a single and an RBI.
“I should have been out. It should have just been a sacrifice fly,’’ Moss said of Ackley’s performance. “That was an incredible catch.’’
As it was, Moss was out anyway, because he ran to first, then turned to second base and passed Josh Donaldson, the runner at first base who had retreated on what he thought was a caught ball.
“It’s a case of danged if you do and danged if you don’t,’’ said Moss, who really does use words like “danged.’’ “When you see a catch like that, you just react like you always have. The new rules are really having an effect on us that way.
“You would think they can’t go on like this. It’s only been 10 or 11 games we’ve played, and we’ve already seen a lot of plays like that. Look, it worked out very good for me, but if I’m honest, he caught that ball. I should have a sacrifice fly, nothing else. ‘’
The rule was primarily instituted to deal with force plays making the double play turn at second base. Moving the requirement to hold onto the ball until a clean transfer to the throwing hand goes against decades of baseball history.
“I know the rule is meant to simplify the game, but it’s not. It’s making the game more confusing. They have taken away the umpire’s judgment, and their judgment has always been pretty good.
“I’m worried now at first base to take a second and make sure I made the transfer clean. It slows you down, but sometimes you will drop the ball. It happens. I know if I do (drop the ball now), the runner is safe, no matter if I caught the ball.’’
Sonny Gray has only made 13 big league starts. three of them this year.
He commands the game as if he’d made 130.
Once again the A’s 24-year-old was the best pitcher on the field Saturday, throwing seven innings of one-run ball, giving up a first-inning run then almost nothing else in what Gray called “my best game of the year.’’
What he didn’t say was “so far.’’
Alberto Callaspo made his fifth start as the A’s designated hitter Saturday in Safeco Field.
To say that’s a bid odd completely understates the case. Callaspo came into the season with 869 career big league games played, and in only 11 of them had he been the DH.
And the A’s knew who their DH was going to be – Brandon Moss, unless he was playing first base and the other first baseman, Daric Barton, got the call.
But Barton hasn’t hit, just two hits in 20 at-bats (.100), and so a one-game experiment last week that had Callaspo filling in at DH has turned into a full-time job, at least for the moment.
As manager Bob Melvin says, “right now, he’s our best hitter.’’
One day after his demotion from the closer’s role with Oakland, Jim Johnson gave the A’s a tantalizing look at what he could offer as the closer.
Johnson pitched two innings of relief in a game that wasn’t close when he came in and retired all six batters he faced. He struck out four of the six.
“That’s the best we’ve seen him,’’ manager Bob Melvin said.
That came a day after Melvin said that he was going to go with a closer by committee. And when it seemed the A’s might need a closer after whittling their deficit to the A’s from 6-0 to 6-4, it was Sean Doolittle who was warming up in the ninth.
What happened in the eighth inning and what almost happened in the ninth inning is why Willie Bloomquist really hates Oakland.
And, to be fair, it’s why he really likes Oakland.
The A’s, down 6-0 to Felix Hernandez, scored four times in the eighth to knock the Mariners’ ace out of the game. The A’s would have six at-bats with the batter being the potential tying run before Coco Crisp struck out for the game’s final out.
Talking about the A’s before the game, the Mariners’ veteran backup infielder said the Mariners have to take Oakland as seriously as any team in the game.
“These guys are the scrappiest little (expletives) you’ll ever see,’’ Bloomquist said admiringly. “Gol dang, it’s just who they are. They are in every game.
“And they’ve got bulldogs pitching for them. It doesn’t matter if they are (throwing) 86, 89 (mph), they come out, and they pitch. They play defense and they get timely hits. They are freaking pesky. They are good.
“I like how they play. I hate ‘em, but I like ‘em. I like how they play.’’
Friday’s game wasn’t perhaps the best example of what Bloomquist was talking about. The A’s didn’t win, and they didn’t play the kind of clean defense he generally credits them with. But the Mariners went from having an easy win to having to grind out the last six outs with Oakland one swing away from tying the game.
“We still came out there the entire time,’’ third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “That’s how we play.’’