Dillon Overton on Saturday; A’s hope it’s Rich Hill Sunday


Dillon Overton will return to the A's Saturday to start in Cleveland.

Dillon Overton will return to the A’s Saturday to start in Cleveland.

The A’s pitching rotation for the weekend series in Cleveland is getting some clarity, but only some.

Dillon Overton, the left-handed rookie who has helped pitch the A’s to two wins in three starts, will be recalled from Triple-A Nashville to start Saturday against the Indians. And Rich Hill remains probable for Sunday’s series finale, but if his blister problems have yet to be resolved, then Sonny Gray would get Sunday.

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Is Coco Crisp’s RISP production worth a second look?

Coco Crisp has the Majors' best batting average with runners in scoring position, but he's not drawing trade interest.

Coco Crisp has the Majors’ best batting average with runners in scoring position, but he’s not drawing trade interest.

Coco Crisp isn’t talked about much by those discussing deals that could be made with the trade deadline upon us next Monday.

Maybe that’s a mistake. Crisp gave the A’s the lead in Tuesday’s 6-3 win over Texas with a fourth-inning homer that carried into the second deck, and he delivered an double off the foot of pitcher Sam Dyson to give the A’s bullpen a bit of insurance.

The double was something of a fluke. It could have been a single up the middle, or it could have been a grounder to the pitcher, the second baseman or the shortstop that ended the inning.

Instead the sharply hit ball caught Dyson in the foot and with shortstop Jurickson Profar heading toward second base and left field Ryan Rua not expecting the ball to come his way, Crisp had enough time to leg out a double.

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Hill likely back on Sunday, but A’s still a starter short with Daniel Mengden sent down; Dillon Overton could go Saturday

Rich Hill is optimistic he will start Sunday, but with Daniel Mengden sent down, A's still need Saturday starter.

Rich Hill is optimistic he will start Sunday, but with Daniel Mengden sent down, A’s still need Saturday starter.

The A’s have sent their scheduled starter for Saturday, Daniel Mengden, to the minor leagues, leaving couple of open spots in the rotation for this weekend in Cleveland.

Rich Hill, Oakland’s winningest pitcher at 9-3, 2.25, hopes he’ll start Sunday against the Indians. After making 20 throws from 60 feet without a bandage covering his blistered left middle finger and 50 throws in a regular bullpen session with the blister covered, Hill said “I do think it’s real possible I can pitch on Sunday.’’

There is, always, the chance that Hill could be traded between now and then, but he doesn’t want to go and the A’s don’t seem in any hurry to pull the trigger on a deal. Sunday could be big, because it’s the day before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

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A’s are defeated, but don’t feel defeatist; that’s a plus

Danny Valencia sees A's playing winning baseball, even after a walkoff loss to the Rangers.

Danny Valencia sees A’s playing winning baseball, even after a walkoff loss to the Rangers.

There was the predictable silence in the A’s clubhouse after Monday’s game ended with Adrian Beltre taking Ryan Madson deep for a game-winning two-run homer.

There wasn’t any of the predictable woe-is-me that often befits teams in fourth place and not even within periscope range of first place.

Instead the A’s talked about having playing well in the recent past, about having played well on this night and about there being no reason they can’t continue to play well in the future.

It’s sort of like the ghosts visiting Ebenezer Scrooge six months early, but with bats and balls.

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Jesse Hahn’s return to Triple-A just a matter of A’s schedule while Oakland doesn’t know when Rich Hill will pitch again

Jesse Hahn had a pretty good idea he was only coming up for one start, thanks to a schedule quirk.

Jesse Hahn had a pretty good idea he was only coming up for one start, thanks to a schedule quirk.

Jesse Hahn, brought up from Triple-A to start Sunday, left the game having not allowed a run in 7.2 innings.

When his teammates left after the game for Arlington, Texas, Hahn remained behind and will fly Tuesday to a different destination. He will be heading back to Nashville to rejoin the Triple-A Sounds.

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Unhappy Butler expresses displeasure about role following winning homer that saves Hahn effort

For a guy who hit the game-winning home run and averted the anguish of a ruined Jesse Hahn pitching performance, Billy Butler didn’t sound like a very happy man following Sunday’s 3-2 A’s victory over Tampa Bay.

Butler is laboring through his worst major-league season by far. He’s been so unproductive –- two home runs and 22 RBIs as he entered Game No. 99 — the A’s have ignored the fact he is their third highest-paid player and made him a part-time employee who is only generally in the lineup against left-handed pitching.

The veteran designated hitter thinks that’s wrong, and hitting an eighth-inning center field blast off right-handed reliever, Erasmo Ramirez, to preserve Oakland’s seventh win in 10 games since the All-Star break finally gave him the platform to say so.
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Fireworks start early as Graveman, Smolinki, Healy deliver one of the most satisfying wins of 2016

It hasn’t been much more pulsating for the A’s all year than it was Saturday night at the Coliseum. Maybe it wasn’t just a thrilling aberration, either.

All within about 10 minutes, Kendall Graveman finished off the A’s first complete game of the year, Jake Smolinski smacked a tying two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning and rookie Ryon Healy followed with a game-winning solo blast to give Oakland a 4-3 comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Best of all, a crowd of 30,436 was on hand to see the A’s third walk-off win this week, and their sixth win in nine games since the All-Star break. Most of the fans came to see a post-game fireworks show, but the pyrotechnics started early thanks to a couple of players who could be major figures in Oakland’s long-range future.

“Two really loud sounds by a couple of young players who are getting a chance to play every day,” said manager Bob Melvin. “It’s exciting to watch.”
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Ryon Healy quickly becoming an A’s clubhouse favorite

Ryon Healy (48) has a new fan in A's catcher Stephen Vogt (21)

Ryon Healy (48) has a new fan in A’s catcher Stephen Vogt (21)

Ryon Healy has been with the A’s for a week now, and already the rookie third baseman is making an impact.

He homered in his second start, a three-run shot that went a long way to producing a 5-4 win over Toronto. He doubled as part of a five-run inning in his fourth start, driving in a run. Game 5 saw him drive in two runs with a double in a game the A’s won in 10 innings.

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Marcus Semien’s starting streak clipped at 96 games

When the phone rang at about 11 a.m. and A’s shortstop Marcus Semien could see who was on the other end, he said he had a pretty good idea of what was going down, even before the conversation began.

Semien had started all 96 games for Oakland this year, playing all but three innings at shortstop. But the at-bats in his last couple of games hadn’t been good – 0-for-8 with four strikeouts. And his defense had slipped – five errors in his last eight games.

“When the manager calls at that time, you’ve got an idea you’re getting a day off,’’ Semien said before Friday’s game against Tampa Bay. “And my last two games haven’t been great. I played myself into a day off.’’

It’s not that Semien wanted a day off. Bob Melvin said that his shortstop “campaigned a little’’ to stay in the lineup. No worries, the manager said. “A day off might be in order,’’ but there was always the chance that Semien could get into the game as a pinch-hitter or on defense later in the game.

“It’s a grind playing shortstop every single day,’’ Melvin said. “He’s been out there every single day, and it’s looked recently like it might be time for a day.’’

Hence the late-morning telephone call.

“I take pride in playing every day, yeah,’’ Semien said. “I’ve been fortunate to be healthy enough and ready to go so far. But there have been a lot of ups and downs this year, so I guess a day off might be good.’’

What’s the difficulty level of playing every day, particularly at shortstop, where much of the infield action is centered?

“It can be taxing mentally to play every day,’’ Semien “And you have to know how to play hurt. You have to know the difference between playing hurt and being injured.’’

But not all was lost. Semien’s games-played streak continued when he entered Friday’s 13-inning 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays and played the final four innings in his 97th game of the year.


–Right fielder Josh Reddick, who had batted only in the third slot during the club’s first 96 games, was in the batting order as the No. 2 hitter Friday.

Khris Davis, who had never started a game in the Major Leagues batting third, was the No. 3 man for Oakland against the Rays.

Part of the reason for that was Semien’s absence from the lineup, but most of it has to do with generating some offense. The A’s averaged 5.4 runs per game the first five games after the All-Star break, but they came into Friday with just three runs scored in the last two games, which is closer to their July norm.

The A’s came into Friday with an MLB-worst .230 batting average for the month, while their 4.12 runs per games was 23rd in the majors.

“Since the break we’ve actually been pretty good at scoring runs,’’ Melvin said. “You’re always trying to tweak things and make it better. Offensively this year we’ve been a little inconsistent.

“It does look a little different. This is the first time Red hasn’t been in the three hole. But the two spot is the new three spot, from what I understand, whether it’s (Josh) Donaldson or (Mike) Trout. I feel comfortable with him in that spot.’’



–Starter Rich Hill played catch again Friday with a protective covering on his blistered left middle finger, but there is still no date set for him to get on a mound. Melvin said the trainers say they are seeing some progress in the left-hander. There is a sense that the blister is cutting into the A’s chances of trading him before the Aug. 1 dateline, although it’s by no means disqualifying.

–Liam Hendriks hasn’t allowed a run in his last five games, covering 6.2 innings and has a 1.62 ERA and a .222 opponents’ batting average in his last 13 games. “He’s just feeling more comfortable and getting on a roll,’’ Melvin said. “He’s throwing his fastball for strikes more and his breaking ball is getting better.’’

–Reliever Zach Neal threw three scoreless innings Thursday allowing one hit and no walks. The rookie has thrown 18.2 innings this year without allowing a walk, which the A’s stats crew says is the most innings pitched to start a career without walking a batter since at least 1913.



Sonny Gray can’t fight his way out of the wilderness


Sonny Gray, a Cy Young candidate last year, continues to have his troubles for A's in 2016.

Sonny Gray, a Cy Young candidate last year, continues to have his troubles for A’s in 2016.

The A’s starting pitching has been in a funk all year, and the man at the head of the class, Sonny Gray, continues to struggle in ways he’s never struggled before.

Gray was hammered for seven runs in five innings Thursday and other than one swing from center fielder Jake Smolinski the A’s offense was nowhere to be found in a series-opening 7-3 loss to Tampa Bay.

From the time he came up midway through 2013 through the end of the 2015 seasons, Gray had started 74 times for the A’s and had allowed seven runs just twice. He’s made 18 starts this year, and Thursday was the fourth time he’s allowed seven runs in a game.

His confidence, he says remains good. But this season has taken a toll.

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