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Moss fights power skid with surge of run-generating walks

Brandon Moss is walking more of late as he waits for his power slump to end.

Brandon Moss is walking more of late as he waits for his power slump to end.

Brandon Moss walked twice on Wednesday.

He walked once on Sunday in Atlanta and three times on Saturday against the Braves.

Meanwhile, he hasn’t had any hits over that stretch, going 0-for-12 since a single in the eighth inning last Thursday in Kansas City.

The slump isn’t a good thing. Neither are his 21 games without a homer, his worst stretch as a member of the A’s. In that period he has just five RBIs.

“I know I’m in a pretty good home run drought,’’ Moss said, then looking at his two doubles over the same period, he added, “really, it’s an extra-base hit drought.

“I feel like it’s one of those stretches where I go and look at video and I have nothing other to look at than pitch locations. Pitchers miss their spots very often, and when they do, it’s in a count where I’m trying to battle, or they miss to the complete opposite side where I’m looking. They’ll throw away when I’m looking down and in.

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A’s rediscover themselves a bit in their home sweet decrepit home, begin tuneup for Angels

Bud Selig said for about the 1,000th time Tuesday that the A’s need a new ballpark, but for the moment, the old gray cement mare is pretty crucial to their more immediate concerns. They needed to regain their equilibrium following their worst road trip of the year (1-6), end their five-game losing streak and get back to the things that made them the best team in baseball the first four months.

A 6-2 victory over the New York Mets was pretty much textbook A’s. Scott Kazmir delivered six strong innings and allowed just one run, even though he didn’t quite find his groove until Oakland broke things open with a four-run fourth, sparked by Coco Crisp’s bases-loaded triple. The bullpen got to do its more customary shutdown thing, with Ryan Cook (helped by an Eric O’Flaherty one-out cameo), Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle slamming the door once Kamzir was done.

As for the much-discussed offense, the A’s finally put together a big middle inning, got a two-run longball add-on from Josh Reddick and just generally looked like the Oakland offense we saw before the Yoenis Cespedes trade. The game story focuses on the reemergence of Crisp as a necessary component for the A’s down the stretch, and you can read it >here.

“The offense was a little bit more like we’re used to seeing, making pitchers work and drawing some walks, getting some big hits,” concurred manager Bob Melvin. “That was good to see.”

To be sure, the mix of everything that suggested the A’s were getting back to being themselves with a huge home weekend series against the Angels looming was significant. It helped, too, that the A’s drew a crowd of over 23,000 for Tuesday night’s game. It portends well that the weekend could be big at the gate when Oakland needs its home crowd to perhaps unnnerve the Angels a bit.

The A’s aren’t talking about the Angels yet but you know they’re on their minds. They want to put their best foot forward this weekend, so an off day Monday and another Thursday should do wonders.

“Coming back home, having the day off yesterday to reset and recharge a little bit, being able to get the first win of the homestand in the first game, I think it’s huge,” said Doolittle. When (Travis) d’Arnaud hit the home run, it would have been really easy for everybody to say, `Uh oh, here we go again,’ but Kaz did a great job shutting them down after that and Coco and Reddick had some big hits for us.”

So one more game with the Mets Wednesday afternoon and then it’s on to the showdown.

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Crisp says timing of A’s slump coincidental to Cespedes deal

Coco Crisp says the trade deadline deal of Yoenis Cespedes to Boston should  work out in the end.

Coco Crisp says the trade deadline deal of Yoenis Cespedes to Boston should work out in the end.

A’s center fielder Coco Crisp doesn’t much care for the idea that the trade deadline deal that sent Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox was a bad one for the A’s.

Crisp likes the additions of Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, even if the A’s are 7-10 since the trade went down taking the slugging Cespedes to Boston, including a 1-6 road trip through Kansas City and Atlanta and a season-high five consecutive losses.

He said that in the first four months of the season the A’s never had to face much in the way of a slump. Now, they are facing a major test. Oakland has scored three runs or less in 13 of 17 games this month, and even with the A’s good pitching, it’s hard to generate many wins like that.

“Everybody goes through ups and downs,’’ Crisp said while packing for the trip home after the A’s 4-3 loss Sunday night to the Braves in Atlanta. “This is our first.

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Abad nothing but good coming out of A’s bullpen

A's lefty Fernando Abad has been perfect this year when it comes to stranding inherited base runners.

A’s lefty Fernando Abad has been perfect this year when it comes to stranding inherited base runners.

When the A’s got Fernando Abad from the Nationals last year at the cost of minor league infielder John Wooten, it wasn’t an eyebrow-raising deal.

The results have been startling, however, and only in a good way for the A’s. Abad came into Sunday night with a 1.69 ERA, an opponents’ batting average of .167 and a 2-4 record.

More significantly, he has been a force coming out of the bullpen. He’s entered games with 23 men on base, and he hasn’t allowed any of them to score.

“He’s been incredible, and incredibly consistent for us all year,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “The numbers speak exactly what he’s meant to us and what he’s done for us: the ERA, the inherited runners, to be able to strike a lefty out with guys on base.

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A’s not ready to panic; fans not so sure

Manager Bob Melvin has 39 games to get the A's into the American League playoffs.

Manager Bob Melvin has 39 games to get the A’s into the American League playoffs.

For three days in June, the A’s held a six-game lead in the American League West.

That was then. Now things are much different, a virtual tie in the West with six weeks left in the season.

Time to panic?

Not in the A’s clubhouse. Oakland has 39 games left (the Angels, who are .002 percentage points up on the A’s, have 41), a mostly favorable schedule and the belief that they can play better.

But to watch my twitter feed, it’s not a case of the world coming to an end. The end has come and gone.

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A’s experiencing some of the problems of success

There are problems with success, as the A’s are discovering.

Win consistently, and the expectation is that you will continue to do so.

Best the best and playing at less than your best level raises eyebrows.

And in the big leagues, have the best record and you’ve got virtually no chance of claiming a player on waivers.

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A’s: Visit with Braves underscores Oakland stadium issues

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum complex

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum complex

With the selection of Rob Manfred as Major League Baseball’s next commissioner, the plight of the A’s and the prolonged saga of their search for a new stadium is once again the subject of review.

And it comes into the sharp focus with Oakland’s three-game series in Turner Field this weekend.

Turner Field is the Braves’ second home in the last two decades, having moved into the facility originally built for the 1996 Olympic Games in 1997 after three decades in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

And in three years, the Braves will move into an as-yet unnamed new park in the northwest suburbs of Cobb County, a private/public partnership. The new park will cost $622 million, of which the Braves will be fronting 230 million.

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Calm down, A’s fans, your team ran into a red-hot club in Kansas City and it’s no time to go ballistic

At one of the myriad papers I’ve worked for in what is now the Bay Area News Group empire, we used to have a desk man who would get uncommonly frazzled on deadline, and if you tried to ask him a question when the heat was on, he had a retort that became infamous over the years for some of us:

“No time to think, gotta panic!”

This suddenly seems to be the mindset of a lot of A’s fans right now after a pretty good barbecuing of the green and gold here in Kansas City. Susan Slusser of the Chronicle got a Twitter response whining, “They’re not a playoff team anymore.” Noting that Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija all took tough losses in this series, I got one that read, “Three very overrated pitchers.” We could probably go through all of our feeds and comments sections and pull out 10 such doomsayer pronouncements.

Chill, everybody. Your team is still 25 games over .500, and it still has the best record in baseball. It simply ran into the hottest team in the game right now and lost three out of four. No reason to lose too much sleep. All of the Oakland starters pitched reasonably well. Ryan Cook took a licking Thursday, but he was coming off 20 straight scoreless innings.

The Royals just happened to pitch better in this series, and they got some timely clutch hits in favorable pitcher’s counts. As I wrote a few days ago, they are potentially a dangerous team for anybody in the playoffs if they get there. But they are not better than the A’s. That’s a delusion.

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A game of pitching near-perfection by Vargas rather than one of offensive shortcomings by A’s

Quick turnaround to Thursday’s day game, so this will be ultra-short, like the game itself. There’s not much to say anyway when Jason Vargas can pitch a gem like he did Wednesday night at the A’s — 3-hitter, 97 pitches, 23 batters retired in a row to finish the game, and 2 hours, 6 minutes. It just doesn’t get cleaner or quicker than that in this day and age, kiddies.

Vargas has done this to the A’s before (last Sept. 24), and you can look at it this way. Be thankful the guy signed a four-year contract with the Royals and isn’t still pitching in the division with the Angels. Oakland still has to play those guys 10 times, and Vargas could have gotten three starts against the A’s down the stretch.

One thing Josh Donaldson noted after the game I thought interesting. He believes whatever team plays the A’s these days seems to want to make an impression against the club with baseball’s best record. The Royals are in a tight divisional race and playing well, but he may have a point.

“When the Oakland A’s come in to town these days, the (home teams) are ready,” Donaldson said. “They’re out to prove something. We’re always going to come out here and try to play our best game, and other teams understand they’re going to have to be on top of theirs in order to beat us.”

Donaldson is impressed with the Royals.

“Their record speaks for itself,” he said. “They do a good job with their brand of baseball, and they did a good job tonight.”

The A’s, to be sure, will be happy to get out of K.C. with a split of this series, and the series finale pitting Jeff Samardzija against Royals’ ace James Shields. Get a good night’s sleep (and I will, too), because Thursday’s game will come early. Good thing, to put this latest one out of sight, out of mind.

Here’s the game story, with the few nuts and bolts there were. Final version with quotes should be up any minute.

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Moss strikes a few nice blows — and a bunt — against baseball’s increasing defensive shift insanity

You’ve been able to see it coming the last several years, but in 2014, teams in Major League Baseball have gone absolutely Barnum & Bailey crackers with defensive shifts, totally out of control even if it’s smart to do so. It’s a function of getting so much detailed information on where hitters put the ball in play, and teams are using the predictability factors to adjust their defenses on virtually every hitter. They’re shifting on Eric Sogard, for crying out loud, and you don’t need his glasses to see it. It’s almost become rare when you see a batter who is played straight up anymore, unless it’s somebody like Miguel Cabrera, and there just aren’t that many Miguel Cabreras around.

Bob Melvin agrees that it’s getting a little nuts. For heaven’s sake, the Royals kept their shortstop in position on Monday night and moved their third baseman to the left side of second base. That should be against baseball law. You can just see this little bald egghead in a hermetically sealed booth somewhere saying, “Move the second baseman six inches to the left out there in right field.”

Look, we know shifts are as old as the game itself. Teams used to shift against Willie McCovey routinely. But they were rare, utilized for the dead pull power hitter. Now, everybody gets their own unique shift. Daric Barton would probably get a shift, if he were here.
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