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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.

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Reddick resurgence prepares him for this Fenway visit

Josh Reddick

Josh Reddick (16) is riding high as he and the A’s head into Fenway Park this weekend

Josh Reddick returns this weekend to where it all started for him in a professional sense, Fenway Park, as the A’s visit the Red Sox for three games.

Actually, Reddick got a jump on the Fenway experience by using the A’s off-day Thursday to drop by as the Red Sox played a day-night doubleheader necessitated by a Wednesday rainout.

Reddick reappearance in Fenway happens just as he seems to be getting his game track back on course. He hit 32 homers for the A’s in 2012, the year after Boston traded him to Oakland in order to get its hands on reliever Andrew Bailey. The 2013 season was a wash thanks to Reddick’s season-long wrist injury, but when he led the A’s in RBIs during spring training, it seemed his bat had resurfaced.

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Chili has no worries Cespedes will be a force for A’s in 2014

Yoenis Cespedes is in quest of the perfect hybrid swing

Yoenis Cespedes is in quest of the perfect hybrid swing

(UPDATE POSTGAME)

 

A’s batting coach Chili Davis spent his usual Sunday morning in the batting cage working with eight or 10 of the club’s hitters, whoever wandered by over the course of 90 minutes.

One of those was, as is almost always the case, left fielder Yoenis Cespedes. Davis had Cespedes hit off a tee, then tee off on some underhand flips from Davis behind a screen.

After Cespedes, who has spent the spring trying to turn a long swing into a short one, was done and things were dying down, Davis turned to me and asked, “Why is everyone so concerned about Cespedes?’’

I said a .130 spring batting average will do that, and Davis just shook his head.

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Davis could be appealing to M’s as next skipper

The A’s have had a rather easy time of it this year.

The players have been happy with the manager and the front office. The manager has balanced the players’ needs with the front office’s desires. And the front office has had no reason to complain about much of anything.

It’s not like that in much of baseball, however. The A’s are going to the playoffs. Two-thirds of Major League teams won’t be. One of those is Seattle, and the Mariners made the kind of news Friday that losing teams make entirely too often.

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Game 122 wrapup: A’s in better shape, but worse, too, with 40 games to play; Reddick’s cannon a thing of beauty; Sogard’s superior skill at shortstop

After 122 games last year, the A’s were five games behind Texas, so it’s clearly better that after 122 games this season Oakland trails the Rangers by just 1.5 games.

Right?

Well, maybe.

At this point last year, the A’s had clearly turned a corner. After a stretch of four losses in five games, the A’s had gone 5-1 in Games 117-122. They would only lose 12 of their final 40 games.

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Game 73 wrapup: A’s are in Darvish’s head; Moss finally has his swing the way he wants it

Chili Davis liked to play mind games when he was a player, and that hasn’t changed since he’s become a coach.

Asked what it was that his hitters have done to win four of five decisions against Texas ace Yu Darvish, Davis just smiled.

“I think we’re in his mind more than he’s in our minds,’’ Davis said.

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Count on Jaso to be looking when he’s leading off

At some level A’s manager Bob Melvin seems to have made a wise choice in having John Jaso get most of the starts in the leadoff spot with Coco Crisp on the disabled list.

You want the leadoff hitter to get one base, and Jaso has done that. His on-base percentage coming into Tuesday when in the leadoff slot was .462. He doesn’t have great speed, but getting on is the name of the game.

Jaso has been all over the lineup the last season-plus in Seattle and Oakland, and he doesn’t change his work habits just because of where he’s situated in the lineup.

Except …

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Stew and Rickey spice up Friday with the A’s

Chili Davis, Rickey Henderson (both crouching in front) and Dave Stewart (far right, standing) gather Friday morning with members of the youth baseball team Stewart coaches.

PHOENIX – There’s nothing quite like seeing a few of the old-timers around, especially as one creeps towards old-time status oneself.

So it was nice to run across Rickey Henderson and Dave Stewart today with the A’s. I covered them when they were crucial parts of the A’s championship run 1988-1990 (Rickey didn’t land back in Oakland until 1989, but you get the point).

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