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Game 139 wrapup: Anderson closer to a start; Parker honored to join Catfish, Lefty; Moss says Crisp is the man who makes the A’s go

Brett Anderson took another step toward the Oakland starting rotation Wednesday by collecting his second career save.

Anderson threw the final three innings against the Rangers, allowing two runs while throwing 39 pitches.

The A’s have been trying to build up Anderson’s pitch count to be able to justify getting their opening day starter out of the bullpen and back into the rotation, and having him pitch three innings, which he’s done twice in his last three appearances, is one way to do it.

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Game 138 wrapup: Donaldson opens eyes around baseball; Nakajima future with A’s murky at best

When the A’s first turned to Josh Donaldson two springs ago and asked the catcher/third baseman to quit catching and concentrate on playing third base, he jumped at the chance.

It wasn’t an easy transition, but his willingness to work on his game never wavered.

Tuesday night, with an acrobatic catch against David Murphy that carried the third baseman into the space between the left field tarp and the padded retaining wall behind it, Donaldson may have given notice that his defense doesn’t have to take a back seat to anyone’s.

A’s reliever Jerry Blevins was the pitcher at the time, and he was coming over to back up at third base.

“That catch should get him an invitation to the ESPYs. He’s just a guy who plays all-out all the time.’’

Jon Daniels, the Texas general manager, is in town to watch his Rangers play the now-second-place A’s. He was one of many who were blown away by the catch.

“When he first came up last year,’’ Daniels said, “he was a below-average third baseman. Now he’s one of the best.’’

The question for the A’s since late last year when it became clear that Donaldson could play third and would only get better was simple: How to rein in someone who puts his body on the line all the time.

The answer is that you can’t.

“That’s the way he plays,’’ A’s reliever Grant Balfour said. “That’s just him.’’

“He could get hurt, but he doesn’t let that stop him,’’ Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “I never knew what a good athlete he was. But he’s a gamer. Big time.’’

Oakland center fielder Coco Crisp, speaking for many, looked at that play and said, “That’s one of the best catches I’ve ever seen anyone make at third base.’’

 

–The A’s callups Tuesday, presumably the last ones of the season, did not include one big name.

Hiro Nakajima, the man signed out of Japan to be the A’s shortstop in place of the departed Stephen Drew, had a bad spring, was injured just before the season began, missed a month of the season, then went on an injury rehabilitation assignment.

He never returned. Nakajima had an up-and-down year with Sacramento, finishing at .283, but after a slow start he was at .320 or so and it seemed like he might be the next player promoted.

It never happened. Now the question is whether or not he will be around to finish out his two-year contract with the A’s.

A team player, he was willing to spend whatever time the organization needed proving himself at Sacramento. But after a year in the minors and with no promotion, he may decide he doesn’t want another year of this.

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Game 130 wrapup: Doolittle, Cook survive bases-loaded jams; Griffin finally gets first win of August

You can put together reams of printed pages about Miguel Cabrera and they won’t tell you anything more than the reverential way others in baseball talk about the Tigers’ third baseman.
He’s a great hitter. He doesn’t have any evident weaknesses. There’s no part of the plate he doesn’t cover. There’s no part of the bleachers he can’t reach with his homers.
The trouble is, Prince Fielder is no day at the beach. Fielder is having probably his worst big league season, but no one would willingly pitch to Fielder with the bases loaded with a 7-4 lead unless the alternative was pitching to Cabrera with two men on with a 7-4 lead.
Even with two men on, Cabrera occasionally will get walked intentionally, as was the case in the seventh inning Monday. A’s manager Bob Melvin was willing to take the risk and have Fielder bat as the go-ahead run rather than have Cabrera bat as the tying run.
So he had reliever Dan Otero load the bases by walking Cabrera after the count unintentionally got to 2-0, then went to the bullpen for Sean Doolittle.
This is not a high-percentage move. Coming into the game Fielder was 6-for-14 (.429) with two walks after 16 previous intentional walks to Cabrera.
“I’m sure it gives him extra motivation,’’ the manager said. “It was a chance I felt we had to take.’’
And Doolittle has hardly been rock-solid of late. In 2.2 innings over four games, he’d allowed six runs. But he was well rested, and he throws a mean fastball.
Ultimately, he was able to get what he thought was a “routine fly ball, until I turned around and saw Coco sprinting.’’
That was center fielder Coco Crisp, who said he knew that there is seldom anything routine when Fielder makes contact.
“Prince Fielder hit the ball,’’ Crisp said. “When that happens, the ball will go a long way.’’
Melvin’s gamble paid off, but it’s not likely that will be of much comfort the next time that situation comes up.
Given the potency of the Tigers offense and the fact that the A’s play three more games in Comerica Park this week, a repeat wouldn’t be that much of a surprise.

–There was another bases-loaded situation Monday, and there was every bit as much riding on the outcome.
The Tigers were down 8-5 after Victor Martinez’s homer in the eighth inning, and with two out, the Tigers got a pair of hits off Ryan Cook, who then walked Austin Jackson.
That was followed by a visit from pitching coach Curt Young, who wanted to get a couple of things straight with Torii Hunter at the plate.
“He wanted to make sure I struck to my game plan and executed my pitches,’’ Cook said.
The key pitch was the first one, a strike. Cook said he wanted it down. It was up, but it was a strike.
“From there I was in the position to make my pitches,’’ Cook said.
Hunter is one of the best hitters in the game with men on base, but this time Cook struck him out.

–A.J. Griffin had gone four August starts without a win. He was 0-2, but the A’s had won the other two starts after he left the game.
On Monday, for once, the a’s offense kicked in early enough that even a couple of two-run homers, one each by Omar Infante and Miguel Cabrera, weren’t enough to deny Griffin the win.
“The bats were outstanding tonight,’’ Griffin said. “We’ll build off this one.’’
Griffin came into the game with the Major League lead with 30 homers allowed, and now the number is up to 32. A dozen times now he has allowed multiple homers in a game, which ties the A’s franchise record originally set by Catfish Hunter in 1973.
Homers have been on Griffin’s mind of late, but he’s trying to get past

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Will Coco be more than just a threat again?

When discussing the dramatic ninth-inning at-bat from Saturday’s game that resulted in Coco Crisp’s game-winning homer, both A’s starting pitcher Jarrod Parker and manager Bob Melvin hit on the same topic.

On a 3-1 pitch to Crisp, Baltimore pitcher Darren O’Day almost certainly threw a strike because he didn’t want to walk Crisp.

“He’s always going to be a threat to run,’’ Parker said, a variation of which also came from Melvin.

The statement used to be true. But the fact is that Crisp may be a threat to run, he isn’t actually running much anymore. Coming into Sunday, he has three steals in his last 54 games, 51 of them starts.

Crisp does lead the A’s with 16 steals, but he’s off significantly from the 49 thefts he had two years ago and last year’s 39.

Which leads to the question of whether or not Crisp is hurt. You’ll never know by asking Crisp, who doesn’t like to talk about injuries, either major or minor. That does two things – it doesn’t give information to the other team to use against the A’s, and Crisp doesn’t come off sounding as if he’s looking for excuses.

So maybe O’Day was pitching with the idea that a walk would mean he’d be facing a premier base stealing threat if he did so.

Melvin didn’t want to get into the extent of any Crisp leg injuries. Neither did Crisp, although he said he’s “through stealing bases for the year.’’ He was kidding.

Melvin did say he expects Crisp’s base stealing numbers to pick up from now through the end of the season, and he said that one reason for Crisp’s inability to run had been the leadoff hitter’s inability to get on base for much of the middle of the season.

From June 4 through Aug. 19 Crisp averaged just .206 and his on-base percentage was just .265.

It could have been a slump – they happen – it could have been an injury. And there is reason to believe it was an injury. On June 4, Crisp stole his 12th base in 14 attempts. Since then he’s been almost a non-factor as a base stealer.

As a threat, that’s one thing. But he hasn’t been running.

Melvin says, however, he expects to see Crisp running more the rest of the season. Since the A’s are generally a better team when he does, that would be an excellent prognosis for Oakland, if it plays out.

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Slow day is good day at the Coliseum

It’s late August, the A’s are a half-game back of first place in the American League West and yet there really isn’t a ton to report before tonight’s second game of a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners. That’s probably not a bad thing. The A’s seem to be a relaxed and confident team with the September stretch drive around the corner.

Of course, after the game the A’s hope to be talking about another strong Sonny Gray start and a return to first place.

There were a couple small notes from manager Bob Melvin’s pregame session:

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Game 114 wrapup: Melvin looks for ways to counteract hard turf; Parker finally gets run support; Otero annoyed by issuing first walk

Bob Melvin didn’t like seeing Coco Crisp diving for a sinking fly ball hit by Toronto’s Brett Lawrie in center field in the second inning Friday.

It wasn’t the strategy involved that concerned the manager, although the ball was not caught. It was the hard turf that Crisp was choosing to dive on.

Melvin needs to keep Crisp, his leadoff hitter, in the lineup, and one way to do that is for his center fielder not to dive on artificial surfaces.

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Game 110 wrapup: Crisp could be getting ready for a hot streak; Vogt hit hard, but no concussion; Jaso won’t be making road trip

It’s been a long, slow month or so for Coco Crisp.

Is it possible things are starting changing for the A’s center fielder?

He had a double, a walk and an RBI Friday against the Rangers. He came back with a bunt single in the first inning Saturday to get a three-run rally going, then singled in the seventh inning with a man at second, setup up the A’s final run.

Crisp came into July with a .274 average. He came into August at .248, although he’s tacked on three points in the first two games of the month.

More than that, A’s manager Bob Melvin sees improved contact from his leadoff man.

However, Melvin said that it was Crisp’s first-inning bunt that might light a fuse in the center fielder’s batting average.

“It can be the kind of thing that gets him going,’’ Melvin said. “But he has been hitting it on the screws two or three times a game latterly. I think he’s swinging way better (than his batting average).

“It looks to me like he’s ready to (take off).’’

The A’s could use some of that. Crisp is as critical a piece of the A’s offense as there is. When he gets on, the A’s win consistently. When he doesn’t, which has been the case for over four weeks, the offense lacks consistently good production. It’s no coincidence that the A’s averaged 130 runs per month with Crisp generally doing well at the plate and then scored just 93 in the month of July.

–Stephen Vogt was taken out of the game in the ninth inning after he got hit in the head by a bat swung by Rangers’ third baseman Jurickson Profar in the seventh and took a foul ball off his mask about the same time.

He was checked out after the game and there are, unlike fellow catcher John Jaso, no concerns about concussion.

“I’m feeling good,’’ Vogt said in the A’s clubhouse after the game. “It’s not a case of concussion. They did some testing after I left the game.’’

More than anything, Vogt said he couldn’t believe Profar could hit him with his swing. Vogt as a general rule sets up deep in the batter’s box, and still the free-swinging Profar was able to make contact with Vogt’s batting helmet.

“I don’t know how he did that,’’ Vogt said. “I don’t exactly set up close to the plate.’’

Melvin, himself a former catcher, said the case of Jaso battling concussion has heightened the awareness the team has of the perils of catching, which is why Derek Norris caught the last inning.

“We’re hoping it’s nothing,’’ Melvin said, adding that it was better to be cautious in a case like this.

 

–Jaso said after the game that while his in-game tests suggest his concussion symptoms are lessening, but that doesn’t mean he’s any closer to getting on the field.

He’s certain he’s not going to be ready to fly with the A’s on Monday when they head to Cincinnati for two games and again Wednesday when they head on to Toronto for four more games.

“It went good,’’ Jaso said. “I really don’t think I’ll be making the trip, though.’’

Jaso was hit on the mask by foul balls three consecutive days in Houston last week. He went on the special 7-day disabled list set aside for concussion victims, but it’s been 10 days and counting and he’s not cleared to do any baseball-related activities.

That may change. The tests Saturday will be evaluated by an outside specialist in concussions, Micky Collins in Pittsburgh, and he will advise the A’s on what the next step should be regarding Jaso.

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Game 98 wrapup: Sogard trying to make a case for staying the course; bunt, double steal open up offense a bit and Moss discovers left field

After spending two days generating virtually no offense, the A’s were in a whatever-it-takes mode Sunday against the Angels.

That included the second homer of the month from Eric Sogard, who’d come into July homerless in over a year. It included three hits to left field from dead pull hitter Brandon Moss. It included a double steal from Josh Reddick and Chris Young. And it included a sacrifice bunt from Coco Crisp that turned into a hit and more.

Sogard, who’d broken a drought with a homer in Kansas City on July 7, said he was trying to move Young from second to third by hitting behind him in the third inning. He did that, and more, elevating a pitch from Jerome Williams enough to settle it into the first few rows of the bleachers near the foul pole.

“I just wanted to hit behind the runner,’’ Sogard said. “We’d been having some trouble scoring runs. I got a fastball inside and I was able to get it up a little.’’

With the trade deadline coming up, there are suggestions that the A’s might look to upgrade at second base, a position currently shared by Sogard, the left-hander, and the right-handed Grant Green. Sogard would like to make a case for staying the course.

His homer, single and two runs scored will help, although he’s just 11-for-47 (.234) in his last 18 games. However, seven of the 11 hits are for extra bases – five doubles and two homers.

 

–In the fifth, Sogard opened with an infield single to shortstop. With third baseman Alberto Callaspo playing about even with the base, Crisp decided on his own to drop a bunt down.

He did that. Callaspo charged, fielded the ball and threw it where first baseman Mark Trumbo had no chance to catch it. Sogard scored and Crisp wound up at third, from where he would score on the second of three Moss singles.

“I wasn’t bunting for a hit,’’ Crisp said. “I mean I was, but I was more focused on getting the ball down and moving the runner over. That was the important part of getting the ball down.’’

Manager Bob Melvin called the bunt, and Callaspo’s throwing error that made it 3-0, “the key part of the game.’’

“It’s not usual that Coco will be up there where the third baseman isn’t in,’’ the manager said. “But he wasn’t as close, and Coco went out and made something happen.’’

 

–That same kind of thought process and effort was behind the double steal by Reddick and Young. The A’s had a four-run lead in the sixth before Reddick singled and Young walked on four pitches, forcing Williams out of the game in favor of Garrett Richards. Sogard struck out, then with Crisp at the plate, Reddick lit out for third and Young for second.

Catcher Chris Iannetta threw wildly past third, giving Reddick a chance to bounce up and race home. Young would score on another Angels’ throwing error later in the inning.

“When the opportunity is there, we’ll push it,’’ Melvin said. “When you’re not swinging great is a good time to push it.’’

 

–Moss hadn’t been swinging great, and he hadn’t been swinging pretty either, so he decided to do something about that Sunday.

“I’ve been in the cage a lot, and I’m still searching for it,’’ Moss said. “This morning I said to somebody I was just going to go up and try to swing pretty. At least that way I’ll look better up there. Maybe I won’t look silly.

“If I’m going to hit .230, I might as well look good doing it. I was just trying to take good, fluid swings and stayed through some balls instead of trying to do too much, trying to hit a home run on every pitch. I’m not trying to take away my power, but holy crap, at a certain point, you have to do something.’’

Moss said that he’d never had three opposite-field hits in a game and, together with a second-inning pop to shortstop, he’d never hit the ball to the left side four times “in a game in my life. Not ever.’’

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Game 87 wrapup: Reddick value is more than a bat

The A’s have gone a long way (51 wins) without a lot offensively from Josh Reddick this season, but now is as good a time as any to remember that Reddick is not a one-dimensional ballplayer.

He had two hits – and Oakland manager Bob Melvin would argue that he should have had a third – and a sacrifice fly in the A’s 6-3 win over Kansas City Friday. He scored three of the A’s six runs and drove in two others.

Still, that’s been the kind of game that’s been an anomaly for Reddick this season. What hasn’t been weird has been the rest of his game. He plays first-rate defense and on Friday he showed that he hasn’t lost his edge when running the bases.

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