Crisp working on tough four-game hit streak, all in the pinch

Coco Crisp has pinch-hits in four consecutive games as he tries to reconstruct his season.

Coco Crisp has pinch-hits in four consecutive games as he tries to reconstruct his season.

Coco Crisp has a four-game hitting streak, which doesn’t sound like much.

It is much. The Oakland left fielder, limited by hip and neck problems to coming off the A’s bench, has done it the hard way. Four consecutive pinch-hits.

On the last day of the road trip, Aug. 30, he singled in the seventh inning as a pinch-hitter and scored a run.

On Friday he entered in the sixth with a man on second base and beat out a single, helping the A’s put together a three-run rally.

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Vogt at home resting after trip to hospital Sunday; Kazmir-Gray matchup has both sides looking forward to Tuesday

Catcher Stephen Vogt, here tended to by trainer Walt Horn after being hit in the groin, was due of a second ultrasound Monday and wasn't at the Coliseum for start of A's-Astros series.

Catcher Stephen Vogt, here tended to by trainer Walt Horn after being hit in the groin, was due of a second ultrasound Monday and wasn’t at the Coliseum for start of A’s-Astros series.

Catcher Stephen Vogt was at home trying to rest Monday after being sent to the hospital after Sunday’s game when a foul tip caught him directly in the groin.

Vogt appeared to be in intense pain after the ball off the bat of Seattle’s Ketel Marte struck him. He fell to the ground, did a complete 360-degree role and gathered in a fetal position while the A’s medical crew rushed to help.

Vogt said in a text to this newspaper “I’m alright,’’ but there is no telling yet when he might be able to play again.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said that an ultrasound Sunday showed no rupture, but to be on the safe side a second ultrasound was scheduled for later Monday.

Josh Phegley takes over as the everyday catcher with rookie Carson Blair his backup. Melvin said the A’s likely wouldn’t call up another catcher unless there is an indication that Vogt will be out for an extended time. The manager said he would be comfortable giving Blair, who played the last two innings Sunday, a start.


–Scott Kazmir’s relationship with Sonny Gray progressed over the last two years from mentor-student to best buddies, and on Tuesday, they will start opposite each other. Kazmir, dealt to Houston at the trade deadline, makes his first start for the Astros in the Coliseum with Gray his opponent.

“It’s going to be fun. It is,’’ Kazmir said. “There’s going to be a lot of trash talking. With Sonny out there, he’s already been texting. Did he start it? I don’t know. Should I say he started it? No, it might have been me.

“It was more like he didn’t know whether he was going to pitch Monday or Tuesday. And in however many words, I was like, `I don’t think you want to pitch on Tuesday.’ ’’

Astros manager A.J. Hinch, like Melvin, doesn’t like to look past the game directly in front of him. In this case he made an exception.

“I expect a couple of things,’’ Hinch said of Kazmir. “He’s very familiar with this mound and with this team. It’ll be an experience for him pitching against his old team and against a very close friend in Sonny Gray. That’s going to have its own little subplot. Those guys are going to try to outdo each other. That’s always fun.’’

Melvin was impressed by the way the left-handed Kazmir bounded with Gray, who was starting his first full big league season when the A’s brought Kazmir aboard for the 2014 season.

“They have quite the relationship,’’ Melvin said. “The trash talking doesn’t surprise me. At the beginning it was kind of a mentorship, now it’s kind of a friendship. They’re very close.’’



–Josh Reddick was back in the lineup in right field. He said he was feeling “much better’’ after having stomach discomfort and dizziness the last two days.

–Sam Fuld said he still has some discomfort in his back, middle up on the left side, but it’s getting better and he might be able to play some this series against Houston. Melvin suggested Fuld, who has been taking some live swings, might not start until the A’s 10-game road trip starts Friday in Texas.

–Chris Bassitt hasn’t thrown yet since suffering some shoulder discomfort last month, but Melvin said “playing catch is the next step,’’ and Bassitt was walking around with a baseball in his glove, just waiting to get the word he’d been cleared.

–Barry Zito threw one last inning for Nashville Sunday, which surprised Melvin not at all, even though the lefty had been on the disabled list with left shoulder tendinitis. He came off the DL Sunday and threw a scoreless 1-2-3 inning. “He put together a great season this year, and he’s probably trying to keep his options together for next year,’’ Melvin said. “Getting back and pitching tells other clubs and us that he was able to come back and pitch and end the season healthy.’’ He finished 8-7 with a 3.46 ERA.

–The A’s will bring up two, maybe three, position players Tuesday with Triple-A Nashville’s season ending Monday. Outfielder Craig Gentry and first baseman/third baseman Max Muncy left mid-afternoon Monday from Omaha, where the Sounds were playing, to head to Oakland. It’s possible second baseman Joey Wendle also could get the call. Acquired in the Brandon Moss trade, Wendle hit .290 with nine homers and made the Pacific Coast League All-Star team. .



Nolin finally gets a shot with A’s, and can be happy with results; Blair didn’t have time to panic in making MLB debut

Sean Nolin made his A's debut Sunday, throwing six innings and giving up three runs.

Sean Nolin made his A’s debut Sunday, throwing six innings and giving up three runs.

Sean Nolin had hoped this day would have come a little sooner.

But after making his first start for Oakland after the A’s acquired him last winter as part of the Josh Donaldson deal, the left-handed starter could accept that he’s been making progress. He threw six innings and 85 pitches, and all but one of the innings was impressive.

The inning that wasn’t, the fifth, saw him get hurt but two walks and a wild pitch, all of which were his fault, and a pop fly single that was just bad luck. The walks were to the eighth and ninth hitters in the lineup when “I was trying to nitpick,’’ he said.

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September is about A’s running short of left-handed hitters; Hahn in best shape of his career, except that he can’t throw

Josh Reddick wasn't in Sunday's lineup, but the A's are hoping he'll be starting again Monday.

Josh Reddick wasn’t in Sunday’s lineup, but the A’s are hoping he’ll be starting again Monday.

What’s left?

Such is the state of the A’s that against the right-handed Hisashi Iwakuma, Oakland was only able to put three left-handed bats in the starting lineup Sunday. Switch-hitter Billy Burns was in center, lefty Stephen Vogt was at first base and lefty Eric Sogard was at second base.

Iwakuma is fairly typical in that as a right-hander, left-handed hitters are his nemesis. This year lefties are hitting 39 points better than right-handers against him.

There were times last year the A’s would put seven lefties or switch-hitters batting left-handed against good right-handed pitcher, but this isn’t then.

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Beane has choices to make to get A’s back on track

Billy Beane's 2015 team is headed for the worst finish under his direction, so changes will have to be made.

Billy Beane’s 2015 team is headed for the worst finish under his direction, so changes will have to be made.

For the first time under Billy Beane’s watch, an A’s team is 20 games under .500.

No Oakland team has won fewer than 74 games during Beane’s tenure as the A’s general manager, which began after the 1997 season. The A’s are 58-78 with 26 games left in the season.

For the A’s to get to 74 wins from where they are now, they’d have to go 16-10 the rest of the way. It’s not impossible, but the A’s haven’t had a stretch that good all season.

This isn’t the way Beane and his lieutenants mapped things out last winter. He couldn’t have known all the injuries that would come Oakland’s way, but he takes pride in the depth his teams tend to have.

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Nolin to step in for A’s after time spent learning from Zito

Lefty Sean Nolin has waited a long time, but he gets his first start with A's Sunday vs. Mariners.

Lefty Sean Nolin has waited a long time, but he gets his first start with A’s Sunday vs. Mariners.

Sean Nolin never thought his debut with the A’s would take this long, but finally the left-hander is due to start against Seattle Sunday.

He missed most of spring training while recovering from sports hernia surgery, didn’t get off the disabled list until mid-May, and has slowly been building up strength and stamina to the point where the A’s are hopeful they will see 90 pitches out of him in his debut.

“It’s definitely been a struggle,’’ Nolin said. “I had the surgery so late. It’s definitely been a long year getting everything corrected. But it’s been better in the last month. If I’m not 100 percent, I’m 95 percent. I’m right there.

Nolin, acquired in the Josh Donaldson trade with Toronto, had some mid-season shoulder tightness that landed him on the disabled list a second time, but he said his shoulder was just sore for a bit, and that the time off gave him time to get his leg strength back.

Along the way he had the time to watch fellow lefty Barry Zito pitch at Nashville. When he wasn’t doing that, Nolin sat and picked Zito’s brain, gleaning all that he could from the mind of the 2002 Cy Young Award winner.

Nolin’s curve and changeup are better, in large part because of the time he’s spent with Zito. He’s said he’s always had a slow curve, but now it’s picked up break and velocity.

“Awesome to have him around,’’ he said. “All through middle school I’d watch him on ESPN every morning before school, so that was a treat. He’s a down-to-earth guy for his status. He’s helped with the baseball life, how to act, too, stuff like that.’’


–Catcher Stephen Vogt was scratched just before the start of Friday’s game, but he delivered a pinch-hit single in the seventh and caught the last two innings, throwing out a runner trying to steal second.

Not bad for someone with an aching elbow.

“BP didn’t go well,’’ Vogt said for being scratched. He was willing to play, but manager Bob Melvin decided that it was better to give him a start off with the A’s down to face right-handed pitching the next three days.

Vogt said Saturday he’s feeling good to go, and the A’s can use him. He comes into Saturday with nine hits in his last 15 at-bats, a .600 average.



–Sean Doolittle has pitched hitless, scoreless baseball his last two outings, and manager Bob Melvin says the left-hander could be back in the mix for closer, a job that has belonged of late to lefty Drew Pomeranz. The manager said he’d be willing to use Doolittle, on the DL for all but one game until two weeks ago, on back-to-back days, but doesn’t think he’s ready for three games in succession.

–Rookie Ryan Dull is working his way into consideration for the ninth inning, too, Melvin said. Dull went through the Angels’ Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols on Wednesday, then the Mariners’ Robinson Cano, Seth Smith and Mark Trumbo Friday. “He’s got a nice mix of pitches, he spots the ball well and he looks like he belongs out there,’’ Melvin said. “He’s making a name for himself.’’

–The A’s say first baseman Ike Davis won’t be back in the A’s clubhouse this season. He’s at home in Arizona doing rehab work after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip.

–Manager Bob Melvin said Sam Fuld (back) is getting closer to playing and could be back on the field sometime during the Astros’ series that starts Monday.



Valencia says he’s not out to prove anything with A’s

Third baseman Danny Valencia is finding a home in the middle of the A's lineup.

Third baseman Danny Valencia is finding a home in the middle of the A’s lineup.

Danny Valencia has been in the middle of the A’s lineup for a month now, and he’s never really stopped hitting.

The third baseman put together a six-game hitting streak in his first six games, went hitless for a day, then hit in another four games in succession. He went without for a couple of games, but he’s hit safely in his last nine games.

More than that, he’s been a run producer. With his first-inning grand slam Friday, Valencia has driven in 22 runs in his first 22 games in green-and-gold.

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Semien survives one of hardest-hit balls seen this year

Marcus Semien caught a break when Albert Pujols' 109-mph liner deflected off his glove Wednesday.

Marcus Semien caught a break when Albert Pujols’ 109-mph liner deflected off his glove Wednesday.

Albert Pujols won’t soon forget one of his hits from Wednesday’s game with the A’s, and it’s not the Angels’ slugger’s two-run homer off Sonny Gray in the second inning.

Instead it’s the first-inning single Pujols lined directly at the face of A’s shortstop Marcus Semien. The ball came off Pujols’ bat at 109.61 mph according to Statcast, harder than any baseball ever thrown by Nolan Ryan … or anybody else.

It was headed directly at Semien’s head, and it was part quick reaction time and part luck that Semien wasn’t hit in the face.

“I swear I closed my eyes, because I thought that ball hit him in the head,’’ Pujols said after the game, recalling the scary moment. “When I saw that ball bounce, I closed my eyes. I didn’t think it got his glove. That’s probably one of the hardest balls I’ve hit.’’

It was about as hard a ball as Semien, the A’s first-year shortstop, has ever seen.

“(Yoenis) Cespedes hit one about as hard as that right at me,’’ Semien said. “But this one was right at my face.’’

Semien’s reactions were such that he got his glove up to catch the ball only to find that the ball had some sideways movement on it.

“That ball was coming in straight, and then it broke to his right,’’ infield coach Ron Washington said. “That ball was just crushed. I’m only glad that Marcus had the reactions to get his glove there.’’

Semien himself came out of it unharmed but disappointed that he hadn’t made the play. It would have been the first out of what turned out to be a four-run Angels’ inning.

“The thing about Pujols is that his ball is hard to read because his swing is so flat,’’ Semien said. “The ball can move like that one did. But I’ve got to learn to make that play, because we really needed that out, no matter how hard it was hit.’’


–Left-hander Sean Nolin, one of the arms picked up in the Josh Donaldson trade with Toronto over the winter, was promoted from Triple-A Nashville Friday and will start Sunday’s series finale with the Mariners.

Nolin will fill the rotation spot of the recently demoted Cody Martin, who started and lost against the Angels Tuesday.  The A’s have hopes that Chris Bassitt will return to the rotation, but he’s recovering from some right lat discomfort and isn’t ready to throw.

Because Nolin missed all of spring training after recovering from sports hernia surgery, A’s manager Bob Melvin hasn’t seen him enough to know exactly what to expect. Nolin made 12 starts and a pair of relief appearances with Triple-A Nashville, going 2-2 with a 2.66 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP.

He throws in the low 90-mph range and isn’t a pure power pitcher, relying on command of the strike zone to attack hitters.

“He was a big part of that trade,’’ the manager said, indicating health was the only reason Nolin hasn’t made it to Oakland until now.

With Nolin pitching Sunday, left Felix Doubront has been pushed back to Monday, when he will face the Astros.



–Stephen Vogt was in the original starting lineup, but had to be scratched because of a sore right elbow. Instead, Tyler Ladendorf went into left field and Mark Canha moved from left to first base.

–Outfielders Sam Fuld and Coco Crisp were on the bench again Friday. Melvin said Fuld (back) is still not ready to play but Crisp (neck) was available for late-inning duty, although not quite ready for a full nine-inning game.

–Bassitt hasn’t resumed throwing yet, Melvin said. The club says his shoulder is structurally sound, but they are “going to be pretty careful with it,’’ he said.

–Disabled starting pitcher Jarrod Parker, who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2013’s Tommy John surgery, hasn’t started throwing yet, but Melvin said he is getting close to doing so.

–When Nolin starts Sunday, he will be the 28th man to pitch for the A’s this season. That will be a new Oakland record and will tie the franchise record set in Philadelphia (1915) and matched in Kansas City (1955).



Scribner gets the bad news that he’s done for the season

Evan Scribner's hopes to finish season strong for the A's have been dashed by news that he has a torn lat muscle and won't pitch again in 2015

Evan Scribner’s hopes to finish season strong for the A’s have been dashed by news that he has a torn lat muscle and won’t pitch again in 2015

Evan Scribner’s confidence that he’d gotten out of Monday’s game before doing serious injury to his lat muscle turned out to be misplaced.

The A’s announced Wednesday the right-handed reliever had torn the lat, technically known as a latissimus dorsi, and won’t pitch again this season.

Scribner, who lost three months to a similar injury while with the Padres in 2011, took the news hard.

“I really wanted to finish the season strong,’’ he said. “I’ve never had a full season in the big leagues, and I was hoping this would be the one.’’

Instead, he gets to rest and rehabilitate his right shoulder and prepare for the 2016 season. Manager Bob Melvin said it was his understanding that Scribner will be good to go come spring training.

“The good thing is that if it is three months, I should be able to go through my regular winter routine,’’ Scribner said.

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Semien’s dive and glove flip shows the progress he’s making

Marcus Semien's ever-improving defense is a bright spot for the A's in the second half of 2015.

Marcus Semien’s ever-improving defense is a bright spot for the A’s in the second half of 2015.

For the night, it wound up not meaning much.

But Marcus Semien’s ability to start a double play in the fourth inning suggested that whatever else is happening with the A’s, he is continuing to make progress on his defense.

The Angels had a 4-1 lead with no one out in the fourth and runners at the corner. Reliever Arnold Leon, just up from Triple-A Nashville, had just entered the game. He immediately induced a grounder up the middle from second baseman Taylor Featherston.

The grounder could have been an RBI single. Instead, Semien did an all-out dive to his left, snaring the ball. There was no time to get the ball into his throwing hand, so he flipped his left wrist up, opened his glove and floated the ball to Eric Sogard.

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