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A’s: Norris’s homer swing keeps showing up with men on

Derek Norris's power number skyrocket with multiple men on base

Derek Norris’s power numbers skyrocket with multiple men on base

Derek Norris doesn’t expect to hit home runs in the kinds of numbers that Josh Donaldson or Brandon Moss might put up.

He does expect that his home runs will have an impact. Time and again, they have, including Saturday when he capped a 9-4 A’s win over the Twins with a three-run homer in the sixth inning.

The score when he hit it was 6-2, and the extra three runs that made the differential seven runs was vitally important to the A’s in cruising home in this one.

It was the seventh time this year he’s hit a home run with at least two men on base. Three-run homers and grand slams are game-changers, and Norris has those locked in.

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A’s: Bullpen is bullying opposing offenses these days

Ryan Cook is on a major roll, unscored upon in his last 18 games, pacing a red-hot a's bullpen.

Ryan Cook is on a major roll, unscored upon in his last 18 games, pacing a red-hot a’s bullpen.

In the middle of a tight pennant race there’s a tendency to look at the things that should be better than they are.

The things that are better than they should be can get glossed over.

That brings us to the A’s, who, it is true, have been struggling to score runs. And that’s an issue.

Equally a part of the equation, however, is just how difficult Oakland pitchers are at making it difficult for other teams to score.

Eric O’Flaherty, Ryan Cook, Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle combined to throw 3.1 perfect innings in relief of winning pitcher Jason Hammel Tuesday.

It’s just part of a bigger picture.

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A’s: Crisp delighted to join the team in a victory again

Coco Crisp returned to the A's lineup in a big way Tuesday.

Coco Crisp returned to the A’s lineup in a big way Tuesday.

It had been less than two weeks since the last time Coco Crisp had been in the A’s starting lineup.

Quite a lot has happened in that seven-game interval. The A’s traded Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. The Angels have crept closer in the standings. The Oakland offense had stalled.    Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays doesn’t change all of that. It does modify it some, though.

The offense is still struggling, but it was Crisp who came up in the fifth inning, looked for the biggest whole on the infield and guided the ball into right-center field for the game’s first RBI.

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A’s: Moss’s one last at-bat dissolves a night of frustration

Brandon Moss bounced back from pop-fly central Tuesday to deliver the go-ahead hit in 7-4 win over the Astros.

Brandon Moss bounced back from pop-fly central Tuesday to deliver the go-ahead hit in 7-4 win over the Astros.

Brandon Moss didn’t believe he could get much more frustrated in one game than he did in the first eight innings Tuesday.

The A’s right field flew out to left field four times. And the words “flew out’’ scarcely describe the at-bats.

“It had been a pretty frustrating day for me so far; I hit four straight weak, weak popups to the left,’’ Moss said. “ Two of them should have been to the shortstop. It hadn’t been a very good day until the last at-bat.’’

Moss had a career-best 10-game hitting streak come to an end Sunday. Since the single that got him to double digits, he’d gone hitless in 14 consecutive at-bats before coming up in the ninth. He was given the chance because Yoenis Cespedes’ single to right fell in to tie the game.

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A’s: Reddick keeps putting on a defensive show in right

Josh Reddick’s up-and-down offense – it’s currently up – takes a lot of hits in social media. 

Josh Reddick wound up on his back making catch to rob Houston's Jose Altuve of a hit Monday in the seventh inning. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Josh Reddick wound up on his back making catch to rob Houston’s Jose Altuve of a hit Monday in the seventh inning. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

There are A’s fans routinely looking for his scalp. It’s in part because he hit 32 homers two seasons ago and hasn’t come close to matching that kind of production since, battling an unending series of injries.

And manager Bob Melvin said that no one on the A’s roster hits in tougher luck that his right fielder.

The thing is, Reddick’s game is more than about just offense, although he’s 8-for-25 (.320) since coming off the disabled list, and the A’s would take that kind of production during the stretch run, no questions asked.

What separates Reddick from other right fielders is his defense, which was put on display on back-to-back tests in the seventh inning in Monday’s 7-3 loss to the Houston Astros.

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A’s: Burns’ spring training trial could be ready to pay off

Billy Burns went from Double-A to the big leagues Monday, joining the A's in Houston.

Billy Burns went from Double-A to the big leagues Monday, joining the A’s in Houston.

Billy Burns was almost out the hotel door, heading to the ballpark in Frisco, Texas, where he’d be the center fielder Monday night for the Midland Rockhounds, the same as the day before and the day before that.

His manager, Aaron Nieckula, changed everything with one phone call. Pack your bags and come to the park, Nieckula said. An explanation would be awaiting.

It was, but Burns didn’t need it. Shortly after the first call he got another, this one from A’s traveling secretary Mickey Morabito, on the line to arranging a quick flight to Houston, where Burns would be joining the A’s. Oakland was down two center fielders, Coco Crisp out for at least a few days with a neck injury and Craig Gentry out possibly a couple of weeks or more with a broken right hand.

Before the night was over, Burns would go from being a .250 hitter at Double-A unhappy with the level of offense he was putting out, to being up two levels and getting his first big league at-bat. He flew out to right as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning of a 7-3 loss to Houston.

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A’s: Jaso, Reddick could bolster offense down the stretch

John Jaso has been on a month-long tear, hitting.326 to get his overall average to .284.

John Jaso has been on a month-long tear, hitting.326 to get his overall average to .284.

It can be easy to overlook John Jaso or Josh Reddick in the A’s offense since Oakland has three players with more individual homers than the 13 combined that Jaso and Reddick have.

It can be easy. It just wouldn’t be wise.

Jaso is in the middle of a nice tear, going 17-for-45 (.378) with four doubles, two triples, a homer and 10 RBIs in his last 13 games. Over a longer stretch, he’s hitting .326 in his last 27 games.

Reddick, the man of 32 homers who has been injured much of the last year and half, is healthy now with the help of a knee brace, and with his solo homer Saturday he is 5-for-16 (313) since coming off the disabled list with three doubles, the homer and five runs scored.

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A’s: Vogt balances wanting to play, needing to rest foot

Stephen Vogt is playing on a painful right foot and producing.

Stephen Vogt is playing on a painful right foot and producing.

Stephen Vogt has spent enough of his career not playing in the big leagues that the last thing you’ll ever see him do is ask for time off.

The veteran catcher/outfielder is not asking for it now.

But when you watch him limp around the A’s clubhouse after a game, you wonder what his pain threshold is and whether time off would help. On the field as the A’s first baseman Friday night, Vogt seemed to be able to make all the plays needed.

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A’s: Second base upgrades in short supply

Before Friday’s game with the Rangers, A’s manager Bob Melvin said he didn’t see Oakland in a position where it had to trade for a second baseman for the stretch run.

Having acquired starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel on July 4, Melvin said, was good enough and the club could make do with at second. Eric Sogard has picked this week to up his game a little, and Alberto Callaspo is due off DL Sunday.

And that may be just as well, because the pool of available candidates seems to be evaporating. Six weeks ago, it seemed a sure bet the Rays would trade Ben Zobrist. Then Tampa went on a surge.

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A’s: Trading Jim Johnson remains high priority

The A's have been looking to trade former closer Jim Johnson, now the man at the end of the A's bullpen.

The A’s have been looking to trade former closer Jim Johnson, now the man at the end of the A’s bullpen.

There are 11 days before the trade deadline, and one of the top jobs for the A’s brass is to find a new home for reliever Jim Johnson.

Actually, it’s been something the A’s have wanted to do for a while now, but the A’s don’t want to eat the remainder of Johnson’s $10 million contract and Johnson has done little to entice other teams to go after him.

“They would prefer to move him before the trade deadline,’’ a source said of the A’s. “They’ve been trying. So far, nothing’s happening.’’

Johnson came to the A’s after back-to-back 50-save seasons with the Orioles, but instead of being the closer to replace Grant Balfour, he hasn’t been able to get any level of his former consistency.

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