0

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.

Continue Reading

4

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.

Continue Reading

0

A’s: Verlander’s velocity dropoff not slowing him down

So what does Wednesday’s clash between the A’s and Detroit starter Justin Verlander mean if the A’s and the Tigers meet again in the post-season?

A third consecutive meeting is a reasonable possibility. After all, Oakland and Detroit lead their respective divisions now, and it’s not clear that either has a sufficiently powerful divisional opponent to change that between now and October.

Last August the A’s hit Verlander. Last October, he dominated them.

Verlander isn’t the same now as then. Even with Wednesday’s win, he’s only 7-7 with a 4.71 ERA. Scouts say he doesn’t throw as hard. The A’s reached him for nine hits and were on the verge of knocking him out of the game, but he persevered.

And Oakland hitters say they’d expect no less in a rematch, reduced velocity or not.

“It’s definitely weird seeing him pitch in the upper 80s and low 90s,’’ A’s catcher Derek Norris said. “I’m used to the guy who reaches back and all of a sudden it’s 97 at your hands. But that is the transitions guys have to make as they get older. You see guys like (the Giants’ Tim) Lincecum doing the same thing.

“Verlander still throws the ball well. He keeps you off-balance. He mixes his pitches. He still pitches. He’s going to be tough.’’

A’s batting coach Chili Davis said the numbers don’t tell the whole story with Verlander, who just eight months ago struck out 10 A’s batters in eight innings in as dominating a Game 5 as Oakland ever wants to see thrown at it.

There was none of that Wednesday, just a solid six-inning performance that, coupled with A’s pitching breakdowns, did in Oakland.

“He’s become more finesse than power,’’ Davis said. “When he came into the majors, he was known as a power pitcher. He still has a good arm – he just didn’t pitch the same way (Wednesday).’’

How does a power pitcher make the change? In a two-decade career, Davis saw plenty who did, and he’s seeing it in Verlander. The right-hander is only 31, but he’s thrown the most pitches by far of any pitcher in the big leagues the last few years.

“He throws sliders to righties, changes and curves to lefties, shows the fastball up, tries to get strikes on the outer part of the plate, gets two strikes every once in a while and tries to surprise you inside,’’ Davis said. “And that’s pretty much what I saw today,” Davis said. “Hitters know he can get his fastball to 97. But are they strikes? Numbers will say his fastball is 91 to 97, but he doesn’t pitch at 97. He pitches 88-to-93, and if I’m a hitter, that’s what I’m looking for.

“I think he can keep winning games. The fastball is going to move; it’s not going to be straight. You might see the curve a little more often. As pitchers evolve, they’re learning new pitches, they’re learning hitters. He’s going to mix it up a lot more now. I’m not saying that’s bad. He’s still a presence on the mound, and guys have to respect his ability to get you out. He’s just evolving into a certain type of pitcher.’’

Brandon Moss’s day Wednesday might suggest that Verlander can be had, at least a little. Moss was 11-for-18 career against Verlander – 11 strikeouts, that is. On Wednesday he homered, singled and doubled while Verlander was on the mound, although the single was just a blooper that fell in left field where no defender was guarding against him.

Moss said it was wrong to dismiss Verlander’s potential impact. He looked back to last August, when Verlander’s power seemed to be on the wane a bit, again to last October, when the man who throws bullets reappeared.

“When he gets guys on base, he can dial it up to 97,’’ Moss said. “He’s a finesse pitcher with a power package.

“For most top-line starters, there’s a regular-season version and there’s a playoff version. We know that about him. He’s done well against us in the regular season, but in the playoffs, he’s going to be dominant.’’

It will be time for the A’s to step up their game.

0

A’s: Mills giving club a chance to win as fifth starter

Lefty Brad Mills has gone from minor leagues to making an impact in A's rotation

Lefty Brad Mills has gone from minor leagues to making an impact in A’s rotation

For someone who was toiling until the last couple of weeks in the minor leagues, Brad Mills looks like the Major Leagues are somewhere he could prosper.

After a four-inning, 94-pitch start against the Red Sox after the A’s picked him up from the Brewers, the left-hander has come back with starts of 6.1 and 6-plus innings in which he’s allowed three runs each time.

The numbers aren’t awe-inspiring, but when you pitch for the team that generates more runs than anyone, that’s at least enough to keep a guy competitive.

And the A’s are more than impressed by what Mills has done.

“He’s done a great job,’’ right fielder Brandon Moss said. “He pitched into the seventh, he gave us another good performance.

“But at some point we have to score a run for him, and we just didn’t do that.’’

Manager Bob Melvin came away impressed once again by Mills, who retired the first eight men he faced, striking out four of them, and only seemed troubled by cleanup hitter J.D. Martinez, whose double in the fourth set up the first run and whose two-run homer in the sixth locked the game away for Detroit.

“He gives up three runs to a team like this, and one of them’s on a ground ball and another’s on a homer,’’ Melvin said. “Really, the only bad pitch he made was the homer. But when you give up three and you don’t get anything …

“It’s a pretty well-pitched game by him. We just couldn’t help him out.’’

For his part, Mills seems to be settling in, although he second-guessed a couple of the pitches he threw, in particular the Martinez homer.

“I felt like I came out throwing strikes, making them swing,’’ Mills said. “There were a couple of pitches I’d like back. The homer was a changeup first pitch. I couldn’t locate it like I wanted.’’

He said the fact that Rick Porcello was putting the A’s away inning after inning didn’t impact his job.

“I don’t worry about what their guy is doing,’’ Mills said. “I’ve got a job to do. That doesn’t change what I’m trying to do, which is going out and trying to get strike one.

“The last two games I’ve gone out and given the team a chance to win. That’s my job, so I feel like the last two have been good.’’

0

A’s: Giancarlo Stanton puts on a BP show like no one else

Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton has fans all over the place, including the A's clubhouse.

Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton has fans all over the place, including the A’s clubhouse.

Brandon Moss, John Jaso and some of their A’s teammates bolted out of the visitors’ clubhouse early in the afternoon Saturday on a mission.

They wanted to see Marlins’ right fielder Giancarlo Stanton take his swings in batting practice. Jaso was laughing when he came back. Moss was simply in awe.

“I feel like a child,’’ Moss said. He rarely goes out to watch another team’s player hit, but Stanton is the exception. “No one can do what he can do.’’

His teammates flung names at him – Jose Abreu, Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera. Moss wasn’t buying. Good hitters all, but none has the batting practice power that Stanton showed Saturday.

Moss later pointed to a screen in dead center about 35 feet off the ground and behind the 502-foot sign.

“He hit it, and it was still moving,’’ Moss said reverentially. “Nobody could hit the ball out there like that. And he takes such easy swings.’’

It was suggested that, back in the day opponents used to come out to watch Jose Canseco and, particularly, Mark McGwire put on shows like that. Moss was just a kid living an entire continent away, so he never saw those. And he doesn’t think they measure up.

“To be fair, there was some juice in those arms,’’ Moss said, referring to performance enhancing drugs linked to both me. “There’s none here. He can just crush it.’’

A’s manager Bob Melvin said back when he played with the Giants he would upon occasion make it a point to come out and watch Canseco and McGwire. Now, however, he won’t.

“There are times you are on the field and you can’t help but see it,’’ Melvin said. “I don’t want to watch that. I don’t want that to factor in. I’ve seen the numbers.’

2

A’s: `Home RUN DMC’ says plenty about offensive muscle

Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes big parts of A's muscle machine.

Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes are big parts of A’s muscle machine.

T-shirt fads come and go in baseball clubhouses, and another one may have arrived in the Coliseum Friday.

Or not.

As they came off the field after batting practice, A’s sluggers Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes each were presented with a green shirt with the letters “RUN DMC’’ stacked. Above “RUN’’ in smaller type was the word “Home’’ and under “DMC’’ were the letters 20 37 and 52.

Those are the jersey numbers of, in order, Donaldson, Moss and Cespedes, the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters in the A’s lineup most nights and to whom the “DMC’’ refers in the local spinoff of the 1980s hip-hop legends.

Continue Reading

0

Donaldson’s bat has a snooze, but glove is as alert as ever

Josh Donaldson's good glove work was in evidence in Baltimore again Sunday.

Josh Donaldson’s good glove work was in evidence in Baltimore again Sunday.

Donaldson was all smiles after Sunday’s game in Camden Yards, and you might think that a bit odd given that the A’s third baseman went 0-for-5, including grounding out twice with the bases loaded.

In all, Donaldson came up with eight men on base in the first five innings and drove exactly none of them in.

It wasn’t like Saturday, when he struck out in every one of his four at-bats, a new career worst, but it wasn’t a day you write home about.

“It’s just two games,’’ Donaldson said. “It’s a long season. It’s no big deal. Things are fine.’’

Continue Reading

0

Moss a first baseman, but still armed and able in outfield

After catching a strong throw from Brandon Moss, Derek Norris tagged Orioles Nick Markasis at plate to extend Friday's game to 11th inning, when A's won, 4-3

After catching a strong throw from Brandon Moss, Derek Norris tagged Orioles Nick Markasis at plate to extend Friday’s game to 11th inning, when A’s won, 4-3

On the All-Star ballot, Brandon Moss is listed as a designated hitter.

On the A’s lineup card most days, Moss is listed as a first baseman.

So it’s easy to forget that Moss began his baseball life as an outfielder.

The Baltimore Orioles won’t soon forget, not after Friday night, when Moss threw a bullet from right field to the plate, enabling Derek Norris to tag out the sliding Nick Markakis, thereby denying the Orioles a 10th inning win.

The A’s went on to win the game 4-3 in the 11th, when Moss, as he does from time to time, struck out.

“I’m not a great outfielder as far as range and stuff,’’ Moss said. “But people don’t remember that I have a real good arm. That’s really my only defensive tool, but I’ve always had a real good arm. And when you don’t play the outfield a lot, and you play first base, people don’t remember.’’

Continue Reading

0

Donaldson had hit on his mind when he bunted in 8th inning

Josh Donaldson said there was a plan behind his eighth-inning bunt Thursday.

Josh Donaldson said there was a plan behind his eighth-inning bunt Thursday.

It was a move Josh Donaldson designed to fool the Yankees.

It fooled some of the A’s, too, when Donaldson tried to bunt in the eighth inning, batting with two on, no one out and Oakland down 2-1.

Donaldson had been hitless in his first three at-bats, and he looked to see the New York defense was deep and hoping for the double play.

So Donaldson squared around and didn’t get the bunt he wanted. The ball flicked off his bat and almost carried into the second deck of seats behind the plate at Yankee Stadium.

“They were playing me way back,’’ Donaldson said. “I knew the situation; I wasn’t just trying to move the runners over. I was trying to bunt for a hit in that situation.’’

He’d need to get one, because the A’s don’t particularly want their RBI co-leader (49) not to take his best shot. And they don’t want a bunt in that situation unless it’s a hit because with first base open, the Yankees could have walked the team’s other 49-RBI man, Brandon Moss.

Continue Reading

0

Moss’s extra-base bonanza shows no sign of slacking

Brandon Moss has become an extra-base machine.

Brandon Moss has become an extra-base machine.

 

Brandon Moss is doing nothing that Josh Donaldson hasn’t seen before.

Moss hit two home runs Tuesday and has tied Donaldson for the A’s team lead in both major power categories with 15 homers and 48 RBIs.

Donaldson recalled seeing Moss for the first time in the spring of 2012, a non-roster outfielder who’d been signed to a minor league contract the previous November.

“I watched him swing in batting practice, and he was hitting balls farther than anybody,’’ Donaldson said. “I was thinking to myself, this guy can really hit.’’

Donaldson saw more of that power during short stops early that season with Triple-A Sacramento, but it was Moss’ recall from the River Cats that sticks with Donaldson.

Continue Reading