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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.’’

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A’s ignore clubhouse note and club Tigers 10-0

On Monday, the following was written on the white board next to where the A’s lineup is posted daily in their clubhouse.

Slow torture vs. Instant kill

Slow torture is a team approach.

Instant kill is an individual approach.

Home runs end rallies, not start them.

Keep pitchers in the stretch and trust your teammates.

Pass the torch if necessary….

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A’s level of respect for Abad continues to soar

The A’s had been perfectly delighted with what Fernando Abad has done for them this season.

That level of respect skyrocketed Wednesday with the way he pitched the A’s out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam against Tampa Bay with the A’s clinging to a 3-2 lead over the Rays.

It’s true that Abad came in with men on first and third after Luke Gregerson gave up back-to-back hits with one out and walked pinch-hitter David DeJesus to load the bases. And it’s true that Abad induced an inning-ending double play from Yunel Escobar, leaving Sean Doolittle the one-run lead to protect in the ninth.

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Will acquisition of Blanks cut into Moss’s playing time?

Brandon Moss has been playing almost daily; will that continue with acquisition of Kyle Blanks?

Brandon Moss has been playing almost daily; will that continue with acquisition of Kyle Blanks?

The A’s tried going to battle with two left-handed first basemen.

Now they are trying it with one left-hander and one right-hander.

Kyle Blanks joins the A’s Friday in Cleveland as the right-handed hitting first baseman, joining Brandon Moss, the lefty. Daric Barton, the other lefty at the season’s start, has been designated for assignment to make room for Blanks.

It never seemed to make much sense to outsiders to have both Moss and Barton on the roster at the same time unless one was going to be the DH and one was going to be the first basemen and both were going to play against both left-handed pitchers as well as right-handers.

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3-0, D-No powers A’s over Gio

Derek Norris blasted a pair of 3-0 count, three-run home runs off former A's All-Star Gio Gonzalez in Sunday's 9-1 win. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Derek Norris blasted a pair of 3-0 count, three-run home runs off former A’s All-Star Gio Gonzalez in Sunday’s 9-1 win. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

I’m going to keep this pretty short and sweet since we had a nice easy game and I’m going to try to get home in time to enjoy the rest of Mothers’ Day.

Most of the talk of the day can be found in the game story, which is posted here and should be updated shortly. This was all about Derek Norris’ domination of Gio Gonzalez, the player for which he was once traded.

That December 2011 deal in which the A’s sent away their All-Star Gonzalez netted Tommy Milone and Derek Norris along with Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole. Considering the events of this weekend, including Milone’s eight innings of shutout ball in a win Friday, that trade looks pretty good right now.

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Moss goes where Pujols, Cabrera and Bautista don’t

What do Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Jose Bautista have in common?

Brandon Moss is about one month ahead of his 2013 RBI pace for A's.

Brandon Moss is about one month ahead of his 2013 RBI pace for A’s.

Probably many things. But for our purposes right here, they are American League All-Star sluggers who play every day and who have fewer RBIs than Brandon Moss, who can only count on playing when a right-handed pitcher faces the A’s.

The difference? Those three are right-handed and seldom get benched against right-handed starting pitchers. Moss is left-handed and it’s a coin flip if he’s going to start when the A’s face a left-handed starter like, say, Washington’s Gio Gonzalez, who faces the A’s on Sunday.

Moss came into the weekend with 28 RBIs in 134 plate trips, the AL’s fifth-best RBI total heading into Saturday. Bautista has 23 in 164 trips, Pujols 26 in 153 and Cabrera 25 in 133. Those three have not missed a game for their teams. Moss has played in 35 of the A’s 36 games, which seems to be in the same terrain, but he’s only started 29 of the 35.

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Cespedes’ opposite field homer on cold night impresses A’s

Yoenis Cespedes's opposite field power was on display again Friday.

Yoenis Cespedes’s opposite field power was on display again Friday.

Friday was probably not the night to try and hit home runs at the O.co Coliseum.

The A’s tried anyway. That’s what they do. And they succeeded three times.

And on a night when the wind was blowing and the cool air inhibited the free travel of spheroids, Oakland came away with three homers, enough to account for half the team’s offense in an 8-0 win over Washington.

John Jaso struck first with a solo shot in the second inning. Brandon Moss hit a two-run bomb off Doug Fister on the first pitch he saw in the fifth inning. Yoenis Cespedes hit Fister’s next pitch out, giving the A’s back-to-back homers for the first time this year.

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A’s run differential is a breed apart in the American League

Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson at heart of A's run-producing machine.

Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson at heart of A’s run-producing machine.

After watching the A’s play four games against the Mariners early in the week, you might be stumped trying to come up with words of praise for the A’s hitters.

Oakland scored just 11 runs in four games, losing three of them. The pitching could have been better, too, the bullpen in particular, but it was easy to look at an offense that had trouble scoring runs.

The A’s did more damage against long-time nemesis Felix Hernandez (four runs) than against anyone else the Mariners put out there.

It wasn’t a great showing, but it’s best to have some perspective with such things. Teams don’t live in a bubble. The offense doesn’t exist in solitude. The case can easily be made that the A’s 8-0 win over a tough Washington Nationals team Friday smooths some of the rough spots out of the performance against Seattle.

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