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Game 95 wrapup: The no-freebie A’s get it done

Sunday will be the final day before the All-Star break, the traditional end of the first half of the season.

And with the A’s playing the Red Sox, it will wind up having been an excellent first half for Oakland, win or lose.

Consider that a week ago the A’s were facing the toughest run-up to the break for anybody in the Major Leagues. Oakland had the fourth-best win total at the time, 52, and had to play two of the three teams with more wins, Pittsburgh (53) on the road and Boston (54) at home.

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Game 90 wrapup: Balfour holds out hope of All-Star nod after setting A’s consecutive saves record

Grant Balfour now has the Oakland club record for consecutive saves with 41 after pitching a 1-2-3 ninth to hold off the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 Monday.

He took the record from Dennis Eckersley, who compiled his in 1991 (the last four saves) and 1992 (the first 36 saves).

Eckersley, now a Hall of Famer, was an All-Star in both of those seasons. Balfour wasn’t an All-Star last year and he isn’t an All-Star now.

He’s not happy about that. But he does hold out hope that the situation may change.

“It is what it is,’’ Balfour said after closing out Bartolo Colon’s 12th win. “It would be good to be an All-Star. You accept it and you see what happens.’’

Does that mean Balfour is holding out hope that he may get a call to join the All-Star ranks for the American League in the next week?

“There is a little hope, of course,’’ Balfour said.

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Colon may yet be ready to pitch an inning as an All-Star; if not, will closer Grant Balfour be his sub?

UPDATING EARLY FILE

Once he’d been named to the American League All-Star team, it seemed clear that Bartolo Colon would not pitch in next Tuesday game in New York.

That’s because he’s scheduled to start for the A’s on Sunday, which under rules precludes him from pitching from more than one inning on Tuesday. Colon could theoretically choose to make himself available to pitch one inning, but he wasn’t expected to do that.

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Game 88 wrapup: All-Star snub of Oakland suggests contributing to winning isn’t a valued commodity

Maybe it’s that West Coast night games don’t get much play back East.

Maybe it’s that ESPN doesn’t show enough highlights of the Oakland A’s.

Maybe it’s that other teams have a couple of great players and the A’s only have a whole bunch of good players.

Whatever the reason, the American League All-Star team announced Saturday is a slap in the face. Not just to the A’s or to the East Bay. But it’s a slap in the face to putting winning teams on the field

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Game 82 wrapup: Cardinals’ Wainwright, A’s Colon are different in style but the same in results

The first thing you have to understand is that Adam Wainwright and Bartolo Colon are nothing like one another.

Wainwright is 6-foot-7. Colon is 5-11.

Wainwright throws every pitch under the sun. Colon throws fastballs, then more fastballs.

Wainwright pitches in the National League for the Cardinals. Colon, close to being a lifer in the American League, pitches for the A’s.

Wainwright is, at 31, in the middle of his career. Colon is, at 40, close to the end.

But in one instance the right-handers could be twins.

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Game 81 wrapup: A’s selectivity at plate shows up once more; pitchers ability to avoid walks pays off

If there was one inning in the first 81 games of the season that defined the A’s offense, it was the second inning Friday.

The A’s worked Shelby Miller, a rookie who’d already won eight games for the Cardinals, for 51 pitches in the inning, with Miller getting just two outs.

He eventually gave up five runs on five hits and two walks as the A’s hitter made him unable to close out the inning no matter what pitches he threw.

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After 30 games in 31 days, A’s look a bit worn down

With Sunday’s game in Seattle, the A’s stretch of playing 30 games in 31 days comes to an end.

And probably not a moment too soon, because the A’s are starting to show some fatigue, particularly in the last week.

Are the four losses in the first six games of this road trip an indication of fatigue? It’s not out of the question. Oakland started this streak with 16 wins in the first 20 games, then lost two of three at home to the Mariners, followed by dropping three of four to the Rangers in Texas before splitting the first two games of the series in Seattle.

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Game 76 wrapup: A’s give Iwakuma respect even in beating him; long homer drought no issue for Lowrie; ailing Jaso says he’s no Wolverine

The A’s have beaten Hisashi Iwakuma twice in the last week.

The rest of MLB teams have beaten him once all year.

So what’s the secret? Why is Oakland successful when others aren’t?

For one thing, the A’s give Iwakuma all due respect. It’s not like they think they own him.

“He’s not going to give up a lot of hits,’’ shortstop Jed Lowrie said. “Just look at the numbers. He doesn’t do that. Tonight, we didn’t get a lot of hits against him.’’

Three of the hits the Mariners did get off Iwakuma were home runs – a two-run shot by Yoenis Cespedes in the first, a game-tying solo homer in the fourth by Lowrie and the homer that put the A’s ahead to stay in the sixth from Coco Crisp.

“My homer was big because they’d just scored off (Bartolo) Colon and they had the momentum shifting their way,’’ Lowrie said. “They were feeling pretty good having a lead against Bartolo.’’

Crisp’s homer, like Lowrie’s came from a bat that the A’s aren’t counting on to produce home runs.

“I’m just up there swinging,’’ Crisp said. “If I can get a strike, I want to hit it.’’

Crisp said Iwakuma is tough to hit because he throws a large variety of pitches. The A’s have been good at being selective.

“We’re not swinging at a lot of his pitches,’’ Crisp said. “He has nasty stuff, really nasty. He’s a guy where the numbers tell the story.’’

When the A’s did swing, however, they made impact, and they made the pitches count.

 

–For Lowrie, the home run was his first in 62 games, the longest homerless streak of his career.

He wasn’t obsessing on his inability to produce the long ball, however.

“It’s not a lack of confidence,’’ he said. “Maybe there haven’t been a lot of home runs, but there have been a lot of doubles.’’

Lowrie is tied with Josh Donaldson for the team high in doubles with 20. Except for the streaking Manny Machado (33) of the Orioles, Lowrie and Donaldson are on pace with the American League’s doubles leaders heading into the final week of June.

And that’s not bad.

 

–John Jaso was in the original starting lineup after suffering an abrasion on his left palm that he believe would not be a problem. After all, he’d played half of Thursday’s game in Texas after the injury occurred, and it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.

But the A’s catcher found that he was having trouble in the batting cage. He said during bunting drills his hand “felt like it exploded.’’

So he was subbed out, replaced by Derek Norris, who was back at close to full health after taking a foul ball to his groin Wednesday in Texas.

Will Jaso be able to go Saturday?

“We’ll have to wait and see,’’ he said. “We’ll see how my body feels. I’m not Wolverine.’’

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Schedule ready to do an about-face for A’s

This weekend brings to a close a streak of 30 games in 31 days played by the A’s.

They get a day off Monday. Then after two games against the Reds in the Coliseum they get another day off Thursday.

Then after a weekend series at home against the Cardinals, another day off Monday.

That’s basically insane, loading up that many off days after forcing a team to grind it out day after day for almost five weeks.

Welcome to the wonder world of Major League Baseball schedules. There’s nothing that can be done, so the A’s basically just have to deal with it.

Manager Bob Melvin said that his current plan is to have his starting pitchers continue in their regular rotation.

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Game 63 wrapup: Reddick’s nonchalance at the wall dazzles A’s; starters giving plenty of innings

When you’re going good, the deep fly balls are only deep enough when you hit them.

Just ask the A’s, who have hit five homers the last two nights in Chicago and who have emerged with a pair of one-run wins.

In each case, the White Sox tried to counter with a final-inning homer of their own off A’s closer Grant Balfour, but failed. On Thursday Yoenis Cespedes had his back to the left field wall when he caught what would have been a game-tying homer by Adam Dunn.

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