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It’s early days yet, but A’s finding replays `maddening’; Chavez goes to changeup more to dominate Twins

If the minds who decided to add the replay and review system into baseball in 2014 thought the game would be somehow be made crisper by getting the calls right, and right away, they were wrong.

Wednesday’s game between the A’s and the Twins was all about replays.

In the second inning, Jed Lowrie thought he was still at the plate after a foul tip. A lengthy discussion determined that he was out, that former A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki had caught the foul tip and the ball hadn’t touched the ground.

“All of a sudden the flow of the game seemed to have stopped,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “We didn’t do anything after that.’’

In the ninth inning Jim Johnson thought he’d struck out Eduardo Escobar, but Derek Norris was ruled not to have caught the foul tip, Escobar remained alive and popped a single to left to score a run.

On that single, Yoenis Cespedes threw to third base in an attempt to get a force out. The call was that runner Kurt Suzuki was safe and that call, after another lengthy review stood.

Donaldson said he felt Suzuki slide into the bag, “while I had control of the ball,’’ which should have meant an out.

Melvin said on the A’s video review of that play, “we were getting the out call. We thought he was out.

“It’s maddening and it’s tough to deal with at times.’’

 

–Jesse Chavez didn’t get his first win of the season Wednesday, but that wasn’t what bugged him after the A’s 7-4, 11-inning victory.

He was annoyed at giving up the one run he did, a solo homer hit by Jason Kubel in the second inning, saying he’d “like to have that one back.’’

For the most part, however, it was another strong argument why Chavez deserves to be in the Oakland rotation. He mostly pitched ahead in the count, he struck out a career-best nine, he didn’t walk anyone and only once did the Twins get men on base at the same time against him, and that lasted for about 10 seconds before Sam Fuld threw out Trevor Plouffe at third base.

He said he was trying to use his changeup more.

His manager admired what he did to keep the Twins in check.

“Chavvy was great again,’’ Melvin said. “that’s what we’ve seen from him every game since spring training. You see the focus he has. He wants to run with this opportunity.’’

 

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Donaldson’s slow start not as slow as last year’s

Josh Donaldson had two hits Monday, but generally isn't happy with the way he's swinging.

Josh Donaldson had two hits Monday, but generally isn’t happy with his swing.

There might have been someone less impressed with the single and double put forward by A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson Monday than was Donaldson himself, but there couldn’t have been many.

Simply put, Donaldson doesn’t think much of the .161 start he’s gotten to the season, seven games in which he has one extra-base hit – Monday’s double to right-center – and one RBI.

“I don’t feel good at the plate right now,’’ Donaldson said after Monday’s game. “I’m trying to battle through it.’’

Specifically, Donaldson doesn’t like where the rubber meets the road, or in his case, where the bat meets the baseball.

“My problem right now is with my contact point,’’ he said. `I’m catching the ball in front or too deep.’’

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Callaspo’s bat says he should be playing much more

Alberto Callaspo hasn’t been starting every day for the A’s.

Based on the way he’s hitting, he should be.

Manager Bob Melvin said as much Monday when Callaspo had two more hits, including an RBI double, and raised his batting average to .444.

“Callaspo is a guy I need to get in there more often,’’ Melvin said. To this point the A’s have played seven games and Callaspo has only started three of them. But he’s hit, including getting the A’s first home of the season.

Callaspo feels much the same way, but as he’s quick to point out, he’s not the one who makes those decisions.

“I’d like to play (every day),’’ Callaspo said. “I’m trying to do my best to show them. I’m given them my best at-bats. I want to be out there.’’

Callaspo was the DH Monday with Brandon Moss at first base and Daric Barton on the bench. When the season starter Barton was supposed to be at first and Moss at DH, but Barton is off to a 1-for-14 start (.071) that is costing him playing.

“I want to be out there seven days (a week),’’ Callaspo said. “but it doesn’t depend on me. We’ll have to see what happens.’’

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Don’t worry, Fuld isn’t going anywhere … at least he’d better not be

The A’s waded through the opening homestand to a 3-3 upside finish. The final game, which looked like it was going south badly over the first three innings, picked up with a Brandon Moss three-run homer, three hits from Eric Sogard, a long opposite field homer from Yoenis Cespedes, a gutty turnaround from Sonny Gray and a save by Jim Johnson. They sent a crowd of over 32,000 home happy, which is always a good thing.

Oh yes, and they also got two electric plays from 32-year-old utility outfielder Sam Fuld, playing in place of struggling Josh Reddick in right field. Fuld gunned down Seattle’s Abraham Almonte with a throw that even Reddick would have been proud of, an on-target seed that beat Almonte to the bag by at least 10 feet. Then later in the game, he robbed Logan Morrison with a full layout catch that is sure to make all the highlight reels.

Even though he also got thrown out taking too wide of a turn on a single, Fuld had a pretty good week offensively, too, for a player who hit .199 last year. He had a couple of triples, hit .308 and also posted a .357 on-base percentage. The A’s couldn’t have asked for much more from their backup outfielder. Bob Melvin loves the guy.
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As long as you’re a little off, it might as well be to a frighteningly good Felix Hernandez

John Jaso knows all about Felix Hernandez. He’s had the best seat in the house — right behind home plate — for many of his most dominating performances, including King Felix’s perfect game on Aug. 15, 2012. But as good as that game was, Jaso said Hernandez might have been even better against the A’s on Saturday, particularly over the first seven innings.

Jaso said he and Hernandez gave each other a head nod before the former’s first at-bat, but afterward, the pitcher showed him no mercy. The two converged at first base when the pitcher covered first base on a slow roller.

“I ran down the line and he was like, `What are you doing over here?’ ” Jaso recounted. “I just told him he was nasty today.”

Hernandez, who was my pick to win the Cy Young this year, doesn’t get as much recognition as Justin Verlander or Clayton Kershaw, but when he’s on, he can be as overwhelming as any pitcher in baseball. Early in the game, he had thrown 27 pitches, 24 for strikes. I honestly thought in the third inning we might be seeing a no-hitter on this day. So did manager Bob Melvin, who managed Hernandez at a very young age.

“For seven innings, that may the best we’ve ever seen him,” Melvin said.
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Reddick hasn’t lost his touch for delivering a pie in the face

Coco Crisp circles bases after walkoff homer. Minutes later, he'd be hit by a whipping cream pie in the face and take a Gatorade bath.

Coco Crisp circles bases after walkoff homer. Minutes later, he’d be hit by a whipping cream pie in the face and take a Gatorade bath.

Right fielder Josh Reddick was in the Oakland clubhouse in the 12th inning Thursday when Coco Crisp delivered the walkoff homer that made the A’s 3-2 winners over the Mariners.

Not being on the field didn’t stop Reddick from doing what he knew he had to do.

“I was too late for the (home run) tunnel,’’ Reddick said, “but there was enough time for everything else.’’

The “everything else’’ Reddick referred to was the tradition of loading up a paper plate with whipping cream and catching Crisp flush in the face with it during the post-game television interview on the field.

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A dozen innings in 36 hours for bullpen, but situation not dire

Drew Pomeranz threw the 12th inning for the win Thursday and could be ready to pitch again Friday.

Drew Pomeranz threw the 12th inning for the win Thursday and could be ready to pitch again Friday.

In the space of 36 hours, the A’s have played 30 innings of baseball.

The good news is that the club has won two of three games, including Thursday’s 3-2 win over Oakland on the strength of Coco Crisp’s first-ever walkoff homer, a solo shot to start the bottom of the 11th inning.

The bad news is that they’ve had to use a ton of relief pitching. The A’s got six almost-perfect innings of relief Thursday, four A’s relievers combining to allow one hit and one walk.

That’s as many innings as the bullpen had to work in Wednesday’s day/night doubleheader against the Indians. The question now is how the bullpen sets up for Game 2 of the A’s-Mariners series Friday.

The answer is that even after those 12 innings of bullpen work, the relievers aren’t in bad shape. It seems unlikely that the A’s will feel pressured into bringing up some relief help for Friday, which will see Dan Straily get his first start of the season.

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`Let It Go’ from `Frozen’ is soundtrack of A’s first week

There is always music going in the A’s clubhouse before a game, but this first week of the season it’s been a little odd.

Or one thing, the usual hip-hop and rock has been replaced by old school rhythms dating back to the 70s, including Fleetwood Mac, which was at its peak when most of the members of the roster were busy being born.

But mixed into all of the old-ish tunes is the extremely current `Let It Go,’’ the song by Idina Menzel from the animated film “Frozen,’’ which given it’s pedigree as a song from a movie marketed to kids doesn’t seem like a song one would typically hear in the A’s clubhouse.

Guess again.

It’s in the music rotation every day, and with “Frozen’s’’ target audience is a bit younger than the A’s 20-someting average, so we asked about it.

“It is awesome,’’ first baseman Brandon Moss said. He’s seen the movie three times. “It’s very empowering. But I’d have to say it’s very un-us.’’

“It’s a good life lesson,’’ second baseman Eric Sogard said of the tune’s lyrics, which talks of putting the past behind, of ridding oneself of one’s fears and moving forward while the storm rages on.

Infielder Nick Punto doesn’t have a problem with the song, per se. But he is starting to burn out on it, nonetheless.

“We have two daughters,’’ he said. “That means I hear it maybe five times a day. And that’s before I get here and hear it again.’’

First baseman Daric Barton, who says he hasn’t seen the movie, said simply of the song’s popularity in the clubhouse, “I don’t get it.’’

The suggestion that the song was atypical for a Major League clubhouse struck reliever Sean Doolittle funny.

“Does this,’’ he said looking around the aging digs the A’s call home 81 games a year, “remind you of a normal clubhouse?’’

If you want to check out what the A’s have been listening to, you can click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moSFlvxnbgk

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Doubleheader wrap: Johnson should get it figured out, but it needs to happen in a hurry

After a very long 13-hour day at the ballpark, a very short blog post.

You can give Jim Johnson credit for one thing after his disastrous opening series with the A’s. The new closer isn’t afraid to face the music for a bad effort, whether it be a torrent of boos or a probing media horde wanting to know how a guy who saved 50 games last year suddenly looks like he’s lucky when he gets an out.

Johnson, who didn’t have a great spring, is off to an even worse start in the regular season. As he admitted himself after Wednesday night’s three-run blow-up when he was entrusted with a 4-3 lead in the ninth, the A’s should be 3-0 and they’re 1-2 primarily because of him. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but the fact is Oakland has been exceedingly fortunate with closers over the last several years, so to see Johnson blow games in his first two appearances is a bit shocking.

And the fans, what few of them showed for this latest disaster, don’t like it one bit. They started booing after Johnson gave up a leadoff hit to start the inning, and it only got louder as the inning progressed. It’s tough enough to blow a couple of games, but Johnson’s predecessor, Grant Balfour, was an extremely popular guy and his rage act won over the fans.
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Donaldson crushed it, but sometimes Coliseum is too tough

Josh Donaldson was surprised his ball in eighth inning Monday didn't clear center field wall at Coliseum

Josh Donaldson was surprised his ball in eighth inning Monday didn’t clear center field wall at Coliseum

Josh Donaldson came within inches of a three-run homer in Monday’s opener. The fact that he wound up with a single says everything you need to know about the Coliseum when it is cold and wet.

“I couldn’t believe that ball didn’t go out,’’ Donaldson said Tuesday, hours before the A’s were rained out of a Coliseum game for the first time since 1998. “I don’t know what else I can do.’’

Donaldson felt the same in the end of July and early August when he was hammering the ball with his 32-ounce bat “and it was just winding up on the warning track.’’

To combat that problem, Donaldson switched to a bat weighing another 1½ ounces. He wound up hitting .309 the rest of the year with eight homers and 32 RBIs in his last 52 games.

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