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Bullpen finally rounding into shape, which is going to make A’s that much tougher to beat

Thursday night at the Coliseum was pretty much another chapter in the Scott Kazmir first-half roll (9-2), and the lefthander’s latest gem is detailed in full in the game story here.

But the real development of the A's in recent weeks has been the stabilization of the bullpen after a shaky first two months. Suddenly, the roles are rounding into shape and Oakland is making it even tougher on opponents as they start to close down on leads in the late innings.

Sean Doolittle settling into the closer's role was the first step. The A's really needed that ninth-inning stopper, and Doolittle has so far been up to the task and then some. But now the A's are also building an effective bridge to the ninth.

Luke Gregerson got off to a slow start with the A's but of late he's become a lockdown eighth inning guy. Adding another 1-2-3 eighth Thursday night in which he struck out pinch-hitters Daniel Nava and David Ortiz in succession and then got a routine grounder to second by Boston leadoff man Brock Holt, Gregerson now has 12 consecutive scoreless appearances during which he has thrown 13 2/3 innings, allowed just six hits and three walks and struck out 17. Opposing hitters are just 6 for 45 (.133) over that span.
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Quite an achievement for the A’s to have baseball’s best record near halfway point

The A’s are not likely to stop to applaud themselves after just 72 games, but by all rights, they should. Who would have expected a team that lost two-fifths of its starting rotation at the outset of the season to have the best record in baseball nine games shy of the midway point?

Think of all the other things that haven’t gone so swimmingly. Jim Johnson, for instance, and the bullpen as a whole early on. Dan Straily, a rotation mainstay last year, has spent most of the season in the minors. Remember how horribly Josh Reddick started the year, and then came the Josh Donaldson slump. Jed Lowrie still hasn’t hit a hot streak all year and he’s currently hitting just .222. Ryan Cook still hasn’t found his old self yet, and we have yet to see Kevin O’Flaherty. Eric Sogard, despite playing consistently on defense, is hitting .199.
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PREGAME NOTES: Reddick to begin rehab, Pomeranz replacement still up in the air

Just a few quick notes before Wednesday’s afternoon affair pitting the A’s Sonny Gray (6-3, 2.93) against Texas’ Nick Tepesch (2-2, 3.94):

–Josh Reddick (knee) will begin his minor league rehab tonight. He’ll DH the first game, play right field the second, then get a day off. The A’s will reevaluate after four days, manager Bob Melvin said.

–Brad Mills, acquired from Milwaukee, will be in Oakland Thursday but not necessarily placed on the roster. The A’s want to work him out first, then make a decision. If it isn’t Mills, other candidates for the fifth spot to replace injured Drew Pomeranz are Dan Straily, Arnold Leon and Josh Lindblom, all at Triple-A Sacramento.

–Coco Crisp is out of the lineup after running into the wall and also making a diving catch try in vain Tuesday night. Melvin said Crisp is “a little banged up again” but he was scheduled to be off Wednesday anyway. The manager was unsure if Crisp would be available off the bench; he hadn’t talked to the player yet.

–After a five-game stint with the Class A Stockton Ports, shortstop prospect Addison Russell was bumped up to Double-A Midland and went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored Tuesday night. Russell is back after missing nearly 2 1/2 months with a hamstring tear.

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A’s three-headed catching corps continues to dominate

Derek Norris has been a major part of A's three-headed catching corps.

Derek Norris has been a major part of A’s three-headed catching corps.

The only way for the A’s to get more out of their catchers than they do is to play them all at the same time.

So that’s what they’re doing.

By the time Tuesday night was over, A’s catchers John Jaso, Stephen Vogt and Derek Norris combined to go 7-for-8 with two doubles, a homer and seven RBIs in the A’s 10-6 win over the Rangers.

It’s been like that a lot for the A’s, who have seen all three catchers come on strong lately.

Vogt had three singles and two RBIs, is hitting .359 for the year and has a six-game hitting streak going.

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A’s: Is Yu Darvish coming to terms with Oakland troubles?

A's first baseman Brandon Moss has four career homers off Rangers' Yu Darvish.

A’s first baseman Brandon Moss has four career homers off Rangers’ Yu Darvish.

If you are planning to watch the A’s take on Yu Darvish and the Rangers tonight in the Coliseum or on the tube, Darvish would like to plant a seed in your mind.

It’s this – he knows the A’s have his number.

Darvish is 1-7 with a 4.73 ERA against the A’s. Against everybody else he’s 35-13 with a 2.93 ERA.

And he’s come to terms with it, after a fashion.

“Greg Maddux told me last year that he didn’t have any good numbers against Arizona through his career,’’ Darvish said in looking toward his third start of the season against Oakland. “Just the fact to know that a great pitcher like him had a team that didn’t have any good numbers against, that alleviated my thoughts.’’’

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A’s will need Cook, defense to gel before too much longer

The first couple of weeks of June have been tough on reliever Ryan Cook.

The first couple of weeks of June have been tough on reliever Ryan Cook.

There are going to be nights or days like the one the A’s lived through Monday in losing to the Rangers 14-8.

Take Sept. 11, 1927.

The New York Yankees went out and lost 6-2 to the St. Louis Browns that Sunday afternoon. The Yankees had played the Browns 21 times already that season. The Bronx Bombers were 21-0 in those other games. They waited until their final game of the year to lose. Who knows why.

(For that bit of arcane information, I thank baseball-reference.com, which has to be one of the top five websites on the planet. I have no idea what the other four are).

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Rangers, A’s series not a big one, or is it?

Is this A’s-Rangers series a big one considering that one team or the other has won the American League West title that last four seasons?

It certainly is for the Rangers, and no greater proof that that was the presence in Oakland of general manager Jon Daniels, who seldom travels with the club.

But with Texas coming into the series eight games behind the A’s and in fourth place in the West, the Rangers don’t have much room to maneuver. If they are going to fight for the West title, they are going to have to make up a lot of ground in the final 3½ months of the season and pass three teams in the process.

“The A’s probably had an edge on us in team depth coming into the season,’’ Daniels said.

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A’s schedule will be no burden after All-Star break

I have to say I’m none too enamored of the A’s schedule so far – five three-city road trips to start the season, four of which are in the books.

And the schedule makers didn’t see fit to put any consistency in this part of the schedule, either.

With a breakdown by division, the A’s starting on June 6, played the American League East (at Baltimore), the AL West (in Anaheim), the AL East again (the Yankees at home), the AL West again (the Rangers at home, starting tomorrow), the AL East yet again (the Red Sox this weekend), the National League East (the Mets, then the Marlins, back-to-back, then the AL Central (the Tigers), followed by the AL East once more (Toronto) and the NL West (the Giants, two at home, two in San Francisco) before heading back to the AL West (the Mariners in Seattle) to close things out before the All-Star break.

With two 15-team leagues, some level of divisional scattershot has to be expected, but this seems a little over the top.

The important thing about the schedule from the A’s point of view, however, is that by the All-Star break Oakland will have played:

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A’s postgame: Oakland gets a lights-out win; Josh Donaldson’s woes continue

Darren Sabedra here again, wrapping up the A’s lights-out win Saturday night over the Yankees before handing this gig back to beat man John Hickey

The A’s got the expected Saturday night, another gem from Scott Kazmir, a pitcher whom manager Bob Melvin says has been nothing but consistent since joining the club.

And (sort of) the unexpected, a bank of lights at O.co Coliseum going out in left field, prompting nearly a 40-minute delay in the middle of the fourth inning.

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A’s pregame: Michael Taylor traded to Chicago White Sox

This is Darren Sabedra, filling in John Hickey as the A’s play host to the Yankees on Saturday in the second game of a three-game weekend series.

Before I hit the pregame clubhouse, I wanted to pass along a little news.

The A’s traded former top prospect Michael Taylor on Saturday to the Chicago White Sox for minor-league right-hander Jake Sanchez.

Taylor, 28, played in only 26 games for Oakland and was currently with Triple A Sacramento, where the outfielder was the RiverCats’ franchise leader in games (511), at-bats (1,900), hits (521), and RBI (325).

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