Doolittle bests Pujols in battle of ninth-inning warriors

Sean Doolittle collected his third save Wednesday and had to go through Albert Pujols to do it.

Sean Doolittle collected his third save Wednesday and had to go through Albert Pujols to do it.

Sean Doolittle throws fastballs. Albert Pujols hits fastballs.

That made Wednesday’s ninth-inning confrontation between the A’s reliever and the Angels’ DH a classic of the genre.

Or, in the words of A’s catcher Stephen Vogt, “It was fun.’’

Doolittle’s inning had started with Kole Calhoun taking him deep, the homer cutting Oakland’s lead over the playoff-hungry Angels a single run at 8-7. Then Mike Trout singled, meaning that Pujols and his 558 career homers was at the plate as the potential winning run.

“It was a kind of `Is this going to end’ thing,’’ Vogt said. “Is it going to be Pujols doing what Pujols does or Doolittle getting the popup like he does.’’

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Muncy will be adding second base, Spanish to resume

Max Muncy will work on his defensive versatility during winter ball playing in Guadalajara in Mexico.

Max Muncy will work on his defensive versatility during winter ball playing in Guadalajara in Mexico.

Max Muncy, who grew up in Texas, says his command of the Spanish language is a little shaky, but he expects that to change this winter.

Muncy will finish up the season with the A’s in Seattle this weekend, will fly home for two days, then will take off for Mexico where he will play at least the first half of the Mexican winter baseball league.

“I think the Spanish will get better when I’m in Guadalajara,’’ Munch said. He’ll be playing for Charros de Jalisco under manager Juan Navarrete, the A’s organization’s minor league defensive coordinator.

If all goes well, Spanish won’t be the only improvement. Muncy, a first baseman/third baseman with the A’s, will get a chance to play second base under Navarrete.

“There should be a lot of second base,’’ Muncy said. He’s been working pregame the last few months with A’s third base coach Ron Washington working on his middle infield skills.

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Bassitt down on himself after pitching `stupid’ vs. Angels; A’s hitters in a major funk with 13 strikeouts vs. Tropeano

A's starter Chris Bassitt said he's feeling too good to be giving up runs the way he did Tuesday in 8-1 loss to Angels

A’s starter Chris Bassitt said he’s feeling too good to be giving up runs the way he did Tuesday in 8-1 loss to Angels

Chris Bassitt took the ball, then threw the ball.

That’s not pitching, he admits.

“It’s just stupid,’’ Bassitt said after getting shelled for six runs in 3.2 innings Tuesday in the A’s 8-1 loss to the Angels.

“I feel so good,’’ the A’s 6-foot-5 power-prone right-hander said after his second start since a strain in his right shoulder cleared up. “I feel so good that I’m throwing instead of pitching, and that’s just being stupid.

“I feel too good to be doing what I’m doing.’’

Bassitt, 26, is one of the younger arms being groomed for a run at the A’s rotation next spring. And the A’s like much of what they see.

Manager Bob Melvin would gladly go with someone who has the quality of stuff belonging to Bassitt next year, but he would like to see more than he has from Bassitt, who is 1-8 with a 3.60 ERA after giving up a career-high six earned runs.

“His stuff was good, but his command wasn’t perfect,’’ Melvin said. “I saw some 97s, some 96s, some 95s.’’

The essence of the problem for Bassitt was pitching with two out. The Angels were 7-for-10 in that situation while Bassitt was in the game, and that stung. All six of the runs he allowed were brought home on two-out hits.

“It sucks that I couldn’t get the last out,’’ Bassitt said. “The fastball I felt I could blow by hitters. Instead of getting good natural sink and weak ground balls, I got the ball up a little and they hit hard ground balls.’’

Vogt hadn’t caught Bassitt since Aug. 26, both men having been sidelined by injuries, but he liked what he saw.

“He had good breaking pitches, a nice cutter and changeup,’’ Vogt said. But his command was a little off. But I thought other than the Johnny Giavotella double (producing two runs in the fourth) the other stuff hit off him wasn’t hit that hard.’’

Bassitt may get one more start before the season is over. His fifth day would be Sunday, the final day of the season in Seattle. And the A’s are short of starting pitchers, so it’s unlikely he’d get squeezed out by anyone else.

It will be one final chance for him to show why he needs a priority position in the running for the 2016 A’s rotation.

The A’s have Sonny Gray penciled it, but beyond that, most of the other prime contenders beyond Bassitt and Sean Nolin are currently injured – Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Jesse Hahn, Kendall Graveman and Jesse Chavez all are on the 60-day disabled list.

Oakland might be lucky enough or all five of those to come back healthy next spring, but given the nature of injuries, that seem unlikely. So Bassitt has one more chance to get a leg up on the completion Sunday.


–A’s hitters struck out 13 times Tuesday, a number that is tied for the fourth-highest total of the season.

Angels’ starter Nick Tropeano was good, but he hadn’t struck out more than nine in a game this year – a minor league game – before fanning at least two A’s hitters in five of the first six innings. He finished with a career-high 11 strikeouts.

“The first couple of times through the order, we didn’t even put good swings together,’’ Vogt said. “When you can fool Major League hitters like that, your stuff is pretty good.’’

Tropeano had struck out nine in a triple-A game this year but hadn’t fanned more than five in any of his previous 11 big league starts.

“We knew he’d throw his changeup and slider in off-counts, and he did,’’ Melvin said. “He kept us off balance. He had a little more velocity on his heater than we expected, but just a good slider.’’



A’s lose yet another pitcher with Pomeranz done

Drew Pomeranz's season is over; he'll have an MRI in the Bay Area this week to see if there is any damage to his left shoulder.

Drew Pomeranz’s season is over; he’ll have an MRI in the Bay Area this week to see if there is any damage to his left shoulder.

The A’s are going right down to the wire with pitching injuries with Drew Pomeranz pronounced done for the season Tuesday with just five games left on the schedule.

Pomeranz, a left-hander, began the season in the starting rotation but came down with a sprained left AC joint in his shoulder on May 18. When he came back on June 4, it was as a reliever, and he made just one start the rest of the season.

Manager Bob Melvin, who just announced Monday that starter Sonny Gray wouldn’t pitch again this year, said Pomeranz was returning to the Bay Area to have an MRI on his left shoulder. When the problem originally cropped up in May, a cortisone shot was used to help get Pomeranz back on the field.

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Hired for Instructional League stint, Siegel makes history

Justine Siegal, seen here throwing batting practice to the A's in 2011, is the first woman hired as a coach by an MLB team. She'll work withi A's Instructional League team from Oct. 4-17.

Justine Siegal, seen here throwing batting practice to the A’s in 2011, is the first woman hired as a coach by an MLB team. She’ll work withi A’s Instructional League team from Oct. 4-17.

Justine Siegal became the first woman coach employed by a Major League team Tuesday when the A’s hired her for a two-week stint as a guest instruction with the club’s Instructional League club in Arizona.

Siegal, who has completed Major League Baseball’s scout school and who threw batting practice for six teams, including the A’s, in the spring of 2011, said A’s general manager Billy Beane back then was the first GM to sign on for that.

She and Beane have stayed in touch and “I’ve always made my hopes known’’ that she would break into baseball.

“There is no Jackie Robinson without Branch Rickey,’’ Siegal told this newspaper by telephone, referring to the Brooklyn Dodgers general manager who hired Robinson to break baseball’s color barrier. “It’s going to be a great two weeks. I’m going to focus on being the best coach I can for those two weeks.’’

Siegal joins the A’s Instructional League team on Sunday and will work there until Oct. 17. She joins other female coaching pioneers such as Becky Hammon, who was a full-time assistant under Gregg Popovich with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs last season, and Jen Welter, who was an assistant coaching intern with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals this past training camp.

A’s assistant general manager David Forst called Siegal “more than qualified, no matter what gender’’ and said the organization’s belief is that it is better served with “a diversity of voices and opinions.’’

Siegal became the first woman to coach men’s baseball professionally in 2009 as the first base coach for the Brockton Rox, an independent team. She currently serves as head coach for Baseball For All, a national nonprofit organization looking to provide meaningful instruction and opportunity in baseball, particularly for girls.

For her two weeks in Arizona with the A’s Instructional League team, she will assist the A’s player development staff both on and off the field. She holds a PhD. in sport and exercise psychology from Springfield College, where she was an assistant baseball coach from 2008-10.

In the spring of 2011, Siegal threw batting practice for the A’s, the Indians, the Rays, the Cardinals, the Astros and the Mets. She also completed the Major League Scouting Bureau’s scout school.

“Player reaction in the past has usually been surprise to have a woman in the job,’’ Siegal said. “Then they realize I know what I’m talking about, and then I become another guy on the field.’’

Siegal’s ultimate goal is to coach full time, “but we’ll start with this,’’ she said.

Forst said this is “not a tryout’’ and that something happening in the future “depends on both parties finding a fit whether it’s soon or in the future.’’

A’s manager Bob Melvin said he was looking forward to meeting Siegal. He will be in Arizona shortly after the season ends Sunday. He said she wouldn’t be throwing batting practice but would take part in on-field drills and classroom work.

“I’m really honored by this,’’ Siegal said. “Beane was the first to say yes to me throwing batting practice, and I’m honored the A’s will go out on a limb. I do feel qualified.’’



One-run losses like Monday’s don’t get better with age

David Murphy's game-winning hit Monday was set up by base running, defensive and hitting problems that have plagued Oakland this season.

David Murphy’s game-winning hit Monday was set up by base running, defensive and hitting problems that have plagued Oakland this season.

The A’s lost a one-run game Monday for just the third time in September, which isn’t bad.

What is bad is that the A’s have lost one-run games 34 times this season while winning just 18. The season’s first five months seemed like every loss was by one run.

So to lose 5-4 to the Angels on David Murphy’s pinch-hit walkoff single with the bases loaded Monday after coming from 5-0 down to lose 5-4 to the Giants Sunday in Oakland continues to have a bad taste to it.

Right fielder Josh Reddick said the other day that if Oakland had won half of the one-run games they’d lost, the club would be in contention. He’s not far off. To have 17 more wins and 17 fewer losses would put the A’s at 82-75, which with five games left in the season would leave them in fourth place, but just 2½ games out of first in the American League West.

That’s just half a game behind where the Angels are now, and the Anaheim crew is playing like a post-season team, having won six straight and nine of 11 while the two teams in front of them, the Rangers and the Astros, are flat-lining a bit.

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Not so fast, Barry: Zito will start Wednesday vs. Angels

Barry Zito, here saluting the Oakland crowd Saturday, thought his starting days were over. Nope. He'll start again Wednesday vs. Angels.

Barry Zito, here saluting the Oakland crowd Saturday, thought his starting days were over. Nope. He’ll start again Wednesday vs. Angels.

Barry Zito’s last big league start Saturday in the Coliseum against the Giants was many things.

What it wasn’t was his last Major League start.

The A’s said Monday they will have the 37-year-old left-hander start Wednesday against the Angels with staff ace Sonny Gray shut down for the season with hip pain.

Manager Bob Melvin was among those who believed Saturday’s two-inning stint against San Francisco was the 37-year-old left-hander’s last.

With Gray out, the dynamic changed.

“I asked Barry if he was up for it, and he was very up for it,’’ Melvin said.

Zito said following Saturday’s start against fellow Big Three mate Tim Hudson he’d like to get one or two more games out of the bullpen, saying “I’d love to contribute,’’ but a start wasn’t on his radar.

“When you look at him come off the field, you (Zito) are thinking it’s certainly the last time you’re ever going to start,’’ Melvin said. “Potentially there may be an outing out of the bullpen. To start again, this is going to be a very motivated guy. So you kind of throw rest and pitch counts out the window with a guy like him.’’

Zito will be pitching on three days’ rest. Normally that would be a problem, but this isn’t normal. Zito threw 48 pitches in his Saturday start against fellow Big Three member Tim Hudson.

“He’s a pretty motivated guy,’’ Melvin said of Zito. “He could care less about how many pitches he’s thrown or three days’ rest or two days’ rest. He’s just eager to get another start.’’

As for Gray, the A’s have lost starter after start this year to the disabled list. They didn’t want to see Gray’s hip problem get any worse than it already is.

“With Sonny, we just don’t want to push it,’’ Melvin said. “We have so many guys on the disabled list now, he was kind of the Last of the Mohicans as far as the starters from early in the season. It didn’t make sense with one more start to try and push it to get him through a game.

None of the five men who began the year in the rotation will finish it there. Gray joins Jesse Hahn and Kendall Graveman in being hurt. Scott Kazmir was traded to Houston and Drew Pomeranz was moved into the bullpen after eight starts in which he was 2-3 with a 4.40 ERA. Pomeranz’s ERA in the bullpen is 2.61.

Gray, 14-7, saw his ERA climb from a league-leading 2.13 to a season-high 2.73 in September, but Melvin was quick to discount the last month for his ace.

“Sonny had a great year, he really did,’’ the manager said. “You kind of remember things recently when he had a couple of tough outings, but we needed to win one of those games for us against the Giants and he was there for us for that (Friday) game.

“He gave up a two-run homer in the first, then maybe pitched as well as we’ve seen him after that through six innings. You look at all the internal numbers, hits, innings pitched, ERA all those things, and he’s one of the best performers in the American League for sure.’’



–Bryan Anderson was given his first Oakland start behind the plate with Stephen Vogt getting Monday’s start off. Vogt is expected to catch Tuesday and Wednesday. “It’s exciting for Bryan,’’ Melvin said. “With the workload Vogt’s had and just coming off an injury, it was prudent to play Bryan today.’’

–Danny Valencia, who was hit hard in the left elbow by a pitch Sunday and left the game after four innings, said he was feeling much better Monday and was back in the A’s lineup at third base.



Rotation injuries hurt A’s now, but there is promise for future

Kendall Graveman is one of a number of starters who did well for the A's before injuries shut him down.

Kendall Graveman is one of a number of starters who did well for the A’s before injuries shut him down.

This has been one of those years for the A’s, who with 91 losses are now secure in the knowledge that they’ll finish the season with the worst record in the American League.

The A’s haven’t won much at home, they haven’t won close games, they can’t keep players healthy and they haven’t ever put together a really solid month.

Oakland is 7-17 in September with three games to go. A 15-12 June is the only winning month the club has had.

There isn’t much to be optimistic about with this team. Except, maybe, for the injuries.

Only one of the pitchers who was in the original starting rotation, Sonny Gray, is still there, although the club will probably announce on Monday that Gray’s hip injury will force him out of what would have been a Wednesday start in Anaheim against the Angels.

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Gray unlikely to get another start for A’s this season

Sonny Gray has a hip problem that could keep him out of his final start of the season for Oakland.

Sonny Gray has a hip problem that could keep him out of his final start of the season for Oakland.

The A’s are unlikely to see starter Sonny Gray on the mound again this season.

He only has one start left and the A’s are long since out of contention, but he’d wanted to finish up healthy. He came out of his last start because of an increasingly nagging hip injury, and while he’s feeling better, there’s enough discomfort that the A’s are leaning strongly against having him start again.

That means, among other things, that three-fifths of the A’s original starting rotation – Gray, Jesse Hahn and Kendall Graveman – will end the season hurting. Hahn (right forearm strain) and Graveman (left oblique strain) both are on the 60-day disabled list. Of the other two original starters, Scott Kazmir is pitching for Houston and Drew Pomeranz is throwing out of the Oakland bullpen.

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A’s will start to say goodbye for now to some players Sunday

Kendall Graveman, out with a strained left oblique, is one of a bunch of A's players who won't make final road trip to Anaheim and Seattle.

Kendall Graveman, out with a strained left oblique, is one of a bunch of A’s players who won’t make final road trip to Anaheim and Seattle.

The A’s don’t officially disband for the season until the completion of a two-city road trip this coming week that sees three games in Anaheim and three more in Seattle.

Even so, the A’s will be saying goodbye to a healthy chunk of their personnel Sunday.

Players on the 60-day disabled list will not travel with the team, so the next time they’re scheduled to meet their teammates is next February, depending on how the roster reworking of current general manager Billy Beane and assistant general manager David Forst goes.

Beane and Forst are supposed to get enhanced titles from owner Lew Wolff after the season is over, but it’s not clear how the breakdown of duties will go.

Among those in the clubhouse this week not expected to make the trip are starting pitchers Kendall Graveman, Jarrod Parker, Jesse Hahn, Jesse Hahn and reliever Evan Scribner.

Obviously first baseman Ike Davis, who is home in Arizona recuperating after hip surgery, and home bound starter A.J. Griffin, who has never completely recover after 2013’s tommy John surgery, will not be on Sunday night’s flight.

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