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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.’’

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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.’

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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.

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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.’’

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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.’’

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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.

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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.

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One-third of the way through 2014, A’s numbers imposing

A's have had plenty to celebrate in first one-third of the season.

A’s have had plenty to celebrate in first one-third of the season.

The last week hasn’t been much for the A’s, what with being swept in a three-game series in Toronto and then coming home and having to settle for getting a split with the Detroit Tigers.

It’s as well to be noted that the Blue Jays have the best record in the American League East. The Tigers have the best record in the AL Central. And, yes, the A’s have the best record in the AL West exactly one-third of the way through the 162-game schedule.

For the first 54 games they’ve played, the A’s have been perhaps the most dominant team in the league. It doesn’t always get reflected in the winning percentage – Toronto, Detroit and Oakland are all in the range of .600, which over the course of the year would come out to 97 wins.

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Foul or not, A’s now have game plan to attack Scherzer

John Jaso worked Tigers starter Max Scherzer for 22 of the 107 pitches he threw.

John Jaso worked Tigers starter Max Scherzer for 22 of the 107 pitches he threw.

 

The A’s didn’t beat Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer Tuesday night.

They didn’t beat anybody.

What they may have done, however, is put together a blueprint for how to beat Scherzer in a big game should one appear down the line.

And since the Tigers and the A’s have met in the post-season the last two years, what are the odds?

The A’s fouled off pitch after pitch, and took pitches that weren’t in the strike zone. Catcher John Jaso looked at 20 pitches all by himself in just his first two at-bats.

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All-Star voting underscores phasing-out of A’s platoon

Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie (right) are two of the four A's who rank in the AL All-Star balloting announced Tuesday.

Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie (right) are two of the four A’s who rank in the AL All-Star balloting announced Tuesday.

You have to dig deep to get to the last A’s position player to make an American League All-Star team.

Try catcher Ramon Hernandez, back in 2003.

If the first release of AL All-Star votes are any indication, that streak may be about to end. Third baseman Josh Donaldson had a lead of over 50,000 votes on the Rays’ Evan Longoria, Derek Norris was third at catcher behind Matt Wieters and Brian McCann while Brandon Moss (DH) and Jed Lowrie (shortstop) both ranked fifth at their positions.

“It’s not a new story,’’ Moss said of the lack of representation before this year. “We know J.D. should have been there last year. Red (Josh Reddick) should have been there in 2012.’’

Donaldson said the voting isn’t just about him but about the overall quality of the names on the roster that are producing.

“I feel like we have a bunch of guys in this clubhouse who are very good players and who are eventually going to garner national attention,’’ he said. “There’s a reason we’ve won the number games we have the last few years (94 in 2012, 96 last year and 31 in 51 games this year). It’s because we have really good players in the clubhouse.’’

The A’s have 221 regular-season wins since the start of the 2012 season. The second-best team in the AL over that stretch has 210, Texas.

Donaldson took it a little bit personally last week when college basketball voice Dick Vitale described the roster as composed of “no names.’’

“I don’t think that we are no-names,’’ he said. “We have guys in this clubhouse who go out there on a daily basis and prove to people across the country that they’re pretty good baseball players.’’

This could be, maybe even should be a breakthrough year for the A’s offense vis-à-vis the All-Star Game. Oakland came into Thursday having scored 258 runs the most in the American League.

Since the All-Star break last year, Donaldson has scored more runs (81) than any other player in the league. Lowrie has hit the most doubles (36). Moss is tied with the Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion for the most homers (28) and has the outright lead with the most RBIs (85).

The odd part is that Norris, and to a lesser extent, Moss, has garnered the recognition without playing every day. Norris (.316, five homers, 24 RBIs) has only started 30 of the 51 games and wasn’t in the lineup Tuesday. Moss had started 44 times in left, right, at first base and as the DH.

Manager Bob Melvin, who hadn’t been willing to say it explicitly before Tuesday, said neither should be considered a part-time player.

“They started out as platoon guys,’’ Melvin said. “Moss has played all but one game this year (including coming off the bench). So I wouldn’t consider him a platoon player. And really Derek has thrust himself into this role based on production. Today’s a day off for him. He’s had a pretty rough schedule catching.

“You get that moniker and it’s difficult to get past that at times. But certainly if you look at the voting, they are getting looked at the way that they should.’’

The manager suggested that the A’s are being seen more now as a team comprised of good players rather than as “the little engine that could.’’

“Nationally we are getting recognition as a team,’’ he said. “So I think as a whole, people are starting to look at us other than as `that team’ but are starting to notice the individual players.’’