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Keeping Donaldson healthy allows A’s to take deep breath

Josh Donaldson's ability to shake off knee injury Friday was a major plus for A's.

Josh Donaldson’s ability to shake off knee injury Friday was a major plus for A’s.

The key playoff Friday’s 6-2 win over Texas for the A’s was a foul ball that didn’t impact the scoring at all.

It did impact third baseman Josh Donaldson, who drove his already-ailing left knee in to the ground in foul territory in pursuit of the Elvis Andrus grounder.

For a few minutes it seemed like Donaldson was hurt badly enough to come out of the game, and the last two games of the season would have been up in the air.

Win or lose the game, the A’s would unquestionably have been sunk if Donaldson was hurt badly enough to come out. He wasn’t and for that the A’s can only be thankful.

“I think everyone was holding their breath right there,’’ pitcher Scott Kazmir said. “He’s a huge part of what we have.’’

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Soto catching on for A’s during race to post-season

Geovany Soto's big swing in the first inning Monday was A's biggest hit of the night in 8-4 win over Angels.

Geovany Soto’s big swing in the first inning Monday was A’s biggest hit of the night in 8-4 win over Angels.

Some deals get more notoriety than others.

But for the final 10 days of the season, the trade that brought Geovany Soto to the A’s could rank there with any of them. Oakland picked him up from the Rangers in a little-noticed Aug. 24 transaction. Since then the A’s have been down two starting catchers, Soto and Derek Norris.

And for Sunday and Monday at least, it was just Soto. Norris is dealing with a shoulder problem and has taken a wild pitch off his jaw, so he could use the break.

All Soto has done has been to deliver three RBIs for the A’s in Sunday’s 10-inning win over the Phillies, then get the key hit of the game Monday, a bases-loaded single that drove in the middle two runs of a six-run first.

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Donaldson’s torrid defense has Samardzija all fired up

Josh Donaldson's play at third base Monday had the A's singing his praises.

Josh Donaldson’s play at third base Monday had the A’s singing his praises.

You get the feeling that Josh Donaldson really wants back into the post-season.

On Sunday he hit the walkoff homer in the 10th inning that gave the A’s a series win over the Phillies.

On Monday he made some spectacular defensive stops in helping control the Angels offense as Oakland won for the third time in four games, the first such stretch for the A’s since Aug. 19-22.

As a result, Oakland seems to have righted the ship and seems to be closing in on a Wild Card berth, although the A’s have a week’s worth of tough baseball ahead of them to make sure it happens.

The play of the day came to close out the seventh inning. Angels’ catcher Chris Iannetta smoked a hard grounder that Donaldson stopped, only to have the ball kick up into the air. He saw the ball hovering, grabbed it out of the air and threw to first for what would be the final out Jeff Samardzija would get.

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A’s woes against lefty starters to be put to test by Angels

How many plate trips can Josh Reddick and other A's lefties expect to get this week with Angels throwing three lefty starters?

How many plate trips can Josh Reddick and other A’s lefties expect to get this week with Angels throwing three lefty starters?

It’s no accident that the Angels are starting three left-handed pitchers against the A’s in a series that starts Monday night at the Coliseum.

There’s nothing much on the line for the Angels, who are in the playoffs as American League West champs, although the more they win, the better positioned they’ll be for having the home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The A’s have lost eight of the last nine times a lefty has started against them, and lefty starters have a 2.32 ERA in those games.

Oakland manager Bob Melvin frequently has to leave some of his best power – Adam Dunn, Brandon Moss, Stephen Vogt and/or Josh Reddick on the bench to get the lefty-vs.-righty matchups that he wants.

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Donaldson willing to risk it on defense to cut down run at plate

Third baseman Josh Donaldson decided the risk of throwing to the plate in the eighth inning was worth it.

Third baseman Josh Donaldson decided the risk of throwing to the plate in the eighth inning was worth it.

There are consequences to a low-output offensive streak like the one the A’s are going through that have nothing to do with run production, batting averages or working over a pitcher.

Once such showed up in the eighth inning Friday after a double and a grounder got the Phillies’ Freddy Galvis to third base with one out.

Oakland had a 3-1 lead at the time, and the club seemed very unlikely to score more. Knowing that, the A’s still didn’t pull the infield in, willing to give up a run to get an out on a ground ball.

The A’s got the ground ball when Carlos Ruiz hit a hard chopper directly to Josh Donaldson. The third baseman could have taken the easy out at first. Instead he gambled and threw to the plate where catcher Derek Norris caught the ball and slapped the tag on Galvis.

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Pomeranz being asked to bring best after excess idle time

It will be more than three weeks between starts for Drew Pomeranz Saturday.

It will be more than three weeks between starts for Drew Pomeranz Saturday.

It will be 24 days between starts for Drew Pomeranz when he pitches for the A’s Saturday against the Phillies and 18 days since he’s pitched in any game at all.

That’s far from optimum in a profession that prizes regular work. But Pomeranz, who serves as the A’s extra starter when he’s not pitching in long relief, has taken steps to make sure he will take his A Game out against Philadelphia.

He threw 40 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday, facing a number of the A’s hitters in a workout he said “I’ll think of as a start.’’

“it was good to get a bunch of the guys out there and pitch to them,’’ he said. “you face hitters, you treat it as a real game and get back into the habit of starting

That being the case, his next start will be five days later, and “I’ll be ready,’’ he said.

Manager Bob Melvin seems to have little doubt about that.

“It’s an acquired taste to pitch out of the bullpen then go into the rotation knowing you’re expected to throw a certain amount of pitches,’’ Melvin said. “He’s done it numerous times for us this year and has had success doing it.

“So if there’s anybody that you feel confident in in that type of role, it’s him.’’

Pomeranz came out of the bullpen in May to make back-to-back starts of five innings against the Red Sox and the White Sox, not allowing a run in either start. On Aug. 26 he came up from Triple-A Sacramento and contributed 5.1 innings allowing one run, not earned.

He’s faced the Phillies twice while pitching for the Colorado Rockies, both starts and both in 2012. He pitched well in Philadelphia (four innings, one run), but he got knocked around some in Colorado, five innings, five runs.

But as he points out, it’s a little easier to pitch in Oakland than in the light air of Denver.

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A’s win in game started by Felix could have repercussions

Felix Hernandez wasn't enough for Mariners as A's win in 10 innings, 3-2

Felix Hernandez wasn’t enough for Mariners as A’s win in 10 innings, 3-2

The A’s aren’t going to see Felix Hernandez again this season.

But this post-season? Well there’s an excellent chance they’ll see King Felix in the Wild Card game Sept. 30. The A’s and the Mariners and whichever American League Central second-place team (the Tigers or the Royals) stand as the likeliest candidates to earn Wild Card berths.

If it’s the A’s and the Mariners, there’s a good chance that Hernandez will take the mound for Seattle if he doesn’t have to pitch Seattle into the playoffs on the final day of the season Sept. 28.

For the A’s, the recent memory of having won a game that Hernandez started will be a counterbalance to the 4-0 record Hernandez has against Oakland this season and his 19-7 overall record against the A’s.

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A’s could give Anderson his first start behind plate vs. Felix

Derek Norris is the only healthy experienced catcher the A's have left for the moment.

Derek Norris is the only healthy experienced catcher the A’s have left for the moment.

Bob Melvin faced a decision Friday that hadn’t cropped up all year.

Catcher Geovany Soto felt his back go when he dug a strike thrown by starter Jason Hammel out of the dirt and fired to first base.

Soto had to come out of the game. In better days, Melvin could have thrown one of his multitudes of other catchers out there. But John Jaso and Stephen Vogt are both injured and not even with the team.

So his choice was between moving Derek Norris from DH to catcher and giving up the designated hitter for the rest of the night or inserting catcher Bryan Anderson in.

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A’s powering down as their season is winding down

Josh Donaldson has struggled along with the rest of the A's hitters.

Josh Donaldson has struggled along with the rest of the A’s hitters.

There are only so many ways to ask the A’s about their frustration level and if their supply of moxie evaporated at the end of July.

Oakland is simply not the same team it was six weeks ago.

For four months, Oakland had the best record in the game, the best run differential, the most runs scored and ranked in the top five in the fewest runs allowed.

The pitch has remained relatively constant, but all the other numbers have fallen off a cliff, mostly because the offense has gone from awesome to awful.

“We were one team for the better part of four months,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “Then for the last month and a half it’s been different.’’

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A’s have nothing but respect for new-look Mariners

Felix Hernandez leads a Mariners' team that is the best it's been in a decade.

Felix Hernandez leads a Mariners’ team that is the best it’s been in a decade.

Once the A’s prime competition in the American League West came from Southern California.

Now with the Angels having steamrolled the West while Oakland slumped, the A’s must look to the Pacific Northwest, where the Seattle Mariners would like nothing better than to knock the A’s out of the Wild Card race.

The A’s and Mariners play three games this weekend in Safeco Field.

And while the Mariners haven’t seen the post-season since the world was young, the A’s are facing a team that could either join them in the Wild Card game or knock Oakland out of it.

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