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A’s notes: Starter vs. Angels, Lincecum a mystery

The entire Bay Area knows who is pitching for the Los Angeles Angels Saturday. Continue Reading

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A’s struggle to fill Saturday starting slot; it won’t be Alvarez

Henderson Alvarez will pitch Saturday, but for Nashville and not A's.

Henderson Alvarez will pitch Saturday, but for Nashville and not A’s.

The A’s still don’t have a listed starter for Saturday, but they know who won’t be starting against the Angels – Henderson Alvarez.

Not that the subject hasn’t come up. Alvarez will join Triple-A Nashville Saturday for what is expected to be his final injury rehabilitation start, an expected 70-pitch stint. So the A’s did think briefly about skipping Nashville and plugging Alvarez into the Oakland rotation.

Ultimately they decided that was tempting fate. A month ago when Alvarez was making what was then thought to be his final injury rehab start, he felt some discomfort in his shoulder and had to be shut down for over a week, then get gradually built back up.

“It has crossed our minds,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “But at this point that’s not going to be the case. Based on what happened last time he really needs to get to that threshold. Trust me, I’d love to do it, even if we knew it was going to be 70 pitches. It would be really exciting and he’d be excited about it, too.

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Rangers stun A’s with five-run sixth inning off Sonny Gray, relievers give up two solo homers in 7-5 loss

Sonny Gray gave up five runs in the sixth inning to the Rangers.

Sonny Gray gave up five runs in the sixth inning to the Rangers.

OAKLAND _ The A’s were cruising with Sonny Gray at the top of his game and a five-run lead, which made the end result that much more difficult to stomach.

“It was pretty shocking, actually,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said after a 7-5 loss to the Texas Rangers Wednesday night at the Coliseum. “I’ve seen him take stuff like that to the mound and throw shutouts with it.” Continue Reading

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Can the A’s wait two weeks for rotation help to arrive?

Rich Hill believes he is two weeks away from returning to A's rotation.

Rich Hill believes he is two weeks away from returning to A’s rotation.

There’s a reason to believe the next two weeks are crucial for the A’s.

Not for getting back into contention, mind you. Just for getting back into competitiveness.

Contention is a way off just now with the A’s 12½ games out of first place in the American League West.

Oakland is 10 games under .500 at 27-37, and the A’s haven’t distinguished themselves in June (3-8) after a terrible May (11-17).

The 11-man disabled list – the 11th man landed there Tuesday, starting pitcher Sean Manaea – could be going on a diet. Reliever Liam Hendriks is due to come off the disabled list in the next week or so.

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Sean Manaea to DL with pronator strain; Eric Surkamp up

Sean Manaea is on the 15-day DL with a left pronator strain.

Sean Manaea is on the 15-day DL with a left pronator strain.

To no one’s great surprise, the A’s are using the disabled list for a 16th time in 10 weeks with left-hander Sean Manaea headed to the DL.

Manaea came out of Monday’s game against the Rangers feeling discomfort in his left forearm. He’d been having a little issue with the forearm for a while, but the problem became particularly acute Monday when he came out of the game after 4.1 innings.

The A’s were leading Texas 9-2 at the time and he would have been eligible for the win had he remained in the game for two more batters. That didn’t happen.

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A’s bullpen proves to be music to Bob Melvin’s ears, again

Fernando Rodriguez pitched two hitless, walkless innings of relief for Sunday's win.

Fernando Rodriguez (33) pitched two hitless, walkless innings of relief for Sunday’s win.

In any city in either of the big leagues, there’s never a trouble differentiating between a winner’s clubhouse and a loser’s.

The winners get to play music. The loser’s don’t. And for the first seven game of this A’s just-completed swing through Houston, Milwaukee and Cincinnati, Oakland’s clubhouse’s silence qualified for library levels.

The music finally broke out Sunday in a 6-1 victory over the Reds that at least meant Oakland could fly back to the Bay Area with the solace of having won the finale.

Everybody takes part in the silence. Interviewees talk in hushed tones. Player-on-player conversations are muted. Mostly no one finds much of a reason to talk.

But not everybody is equally at fault for the losses. Yes, all of baseball, including the A’s, takes a win-as-a-team, lose-as-a-team approach to the game, but the reality is that some parts of the team are always going to be more culpable than others.

In the case of the A’s, members of the bullpen have pitched well enough to deserve music whenever they feel up to it. On Sunday, Fernando Rodriguez threw two scoreless innings followed by one each from John Axford, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson.

Despite the A’s being 10 games under .500 at 26-36, that level of success is not new. In the final five games of the road trip, A’s relievers threw a combined 13.2 innings. Not only did the relievers not give up any runs, they only allowed one hit. The pen over that stretch inherited six runners. None of them scored.

On Sunday, the relievers brought the win home, allowing just one base runner.

Asked about the music, manager Bob Melvin deadpanned, “is that what that is?’’

Melvin said it was “miserable going home every night’’ during the losing streak. But given a 4-1 lead, the relievers made sure pitching on a very warm day was no impediment to a much-needed victory.

“Fernando was a rested as anybody we have in the bullpen,’’ Melvin said. “He’s been good with men on base, he’s been good against righties and lefties. I knew I could use him for two innings, then go to our guys we feel good about winning the game with.’’

The five innings without a hit – the only base runner was a hit batter from Rodriguez – was close to the A’s norm.

“We can do that,’’ Melvin said. “Probably our biggest strength on our team right now is the bullpen, particularly when we’re ahead. We just need to get a lead. We’ve had so many games when we’ve been behind.’’

Sunday, for once, the A’s weren’t behind. The relievers made sure that didn’t change.

And that, more than anything, was music for Melvin’s ears.

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A’s turn again to Eric Surkamp to step into rotation Tuesday

Eric Surkamp will get promotion from Nashville to start against Rangers Tuesday.

Eric Surkamp will get promotion from Nashville to start against Rangers Tuesday.

The A’s aren’t quite ready to go with the next generation of starting pitching they are working to put together in the minor leagues, deciding that Tuesday’s start against the Texas Rangers will go to veteran Eric Surkamp.

The left-hander has been called up to the A’s three times previously, getting a total of six starts, going 0-3 with a 6.41 ERA and a 1.950 WHIP.

“We have a ix of guys, and when somebody goes down, there’s an opportunity for somebody else, and he’s in that mix,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s been up several times and continues to get opportunities, in this case because of injury.’’

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