A’s may be in right, but probably won’t get protest upheld

Collision or obstruction? There is an excellent chance that the A’s and the Angels will play down to the final weekend of the season before deciding the American League West.

If that’s the case, I wouldn’t want to be umpire Greg Gibson, whose call against the A’s forced Oakland to play Thursday’s game under protest. If the protest isn’t upheld and the A’s finish one game behind, or even in a tie with, the Angels, Gibson will have had as much impact on the race as any player on either team.

The A’s see it as a potential win denied them, the Angels winning 4-3 in 10 innings. The A’s need all the wins they can get at this time of the season, and being denied one could be the difference between winning the division and advancing to a five-game division series or winning a wild card berth and having to win one game for the right to advance or be eliminated.

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Game 152 wrapup: A long, strange two games for Donaldson; Griffin’s tempo and delivery are back

To say that it was a strange 24 hours for Josh Donaldson may understate it some.

In the ninth inning Tuesday he delivered a game-winning hit on an 0-2 pitch that cut the A’s magic number for winning the American League West to six games.

He was hit in the face by a couple of pies in typical A’s fashion, and also had the contents of the Gatorade cooler dumped on him.

In the first inning Wednesday he was drilled in the back by a pitch from Angels’ starter Jason Vargas, an apparent purpose pitch that had the umpiring crew warning both benches about further retaliation.

Three hours later, the third baseman muffed the pickup of a sacrifice bunt attempt, giving the Angels an extra out they were able to convert into the winning run in a 5-4, 11-inning victory, denying Oakland a chance to cut further into its magic number.

“I felt I came in too aggressively,’’ Donaldson said of the failure to handle Erick Aybar’s bunt attempt. It set up Josh Hamilton’s game-winning sacrifice fly a few minutes later. If Donaldson had made the play, Hamilton’s fly ball would have been the inning’s third out. “My feet weren’t right.

“I expect to make that play every time.’’

What he may not have expected was to get smoked by a pitch in the back. But he’s the A’s best hitter at this point, and that means something. The Angels’ best hitter, Mike Trout, was hit by a pitch in his final plate appearance Tuesday, and the Angels apparently felt retribution was needed.

Since Trout getting hit loaded the bases with two out in a 1-all tie, it’s likely that Ryan Cook wasn’t going out of his way to hit him.

“Was it intentional? I don’t know,’’ Donaldson said. “Trout took that one pretty hard yesterday.’’

The umpiring crew led by Gary Darling wasn’t taking any chances and both benches were warned against further incursions, which A’s manager Bob Melvin felt was unnecessary.

“That’s a very experienced crew of umpires,’’ Donaldson said. “They’ll try to take control of the game.’’

Donaldson said he wasn’t sure that Vargas was even throwing at him.

“He has to throw inside,’’ the third baseman said, “for guys to respect his changeup.’’


–Starter A.J. Griffin hit a slow spot in August, but he’s been close to at his best in his last four starts, including fiving up two runs and one hit in six innings Wednesday in a no-decision against the Angels.

The only hit he allowed was Mike Trout’s 26th homer, the center fielder’s third in the series. Beyond that, only two walks marred Griffin’s day.

Afterward he said he’s been able to recapture his tempo and delivery and repeat both time after time.

“It’s better now,’’ he said. “Before I was thinking too much. Now I get a sign and let it fly.’’

As for the homer, the 35th he’s allowed, he’s the big league leader in that category, something that’s an issue only when someone asked him about it.

“Trout’s good at baseball,’’ Griffin said, shrugging his shoulders. “It was a 3-2 fastball that caught too much of the plate.’’

As for being asked about all the home runs, he took it matter-of-factly.

“It’s only a problem when the press asks about it,’’ he said. “(Bert) Blyleven and Catfish (Hunter) gave up some homers and they were pretty good pitchers.’’


Struggling Barton gets a day off

Daric Barton is out of the lineup tonight, which manager Bob Geren is calling a mental and physical day off. I talked to Barton this afternoon, and he wishes he was in there. He likes hitting in Anaheim. He’s a Southern California guy and would prefer to play when the A’s are here. But he also said he understands why Geren sat him considering his hitting struggles. Barton is 2 for 30 (.067) over his past nine games. If you watched the game last night, you saw him blow his top when he was called out on that close 6-3 putout, a play that landed Angels shortstop Erick Aybar on the ESPN highlights. That wasn’t the only play that had Barton steamed. He thought a ball he hit down the left-field line in his second at-bat landed fair, but it was called foul. “If I go 2 for 4, I’m probably in the lineup tonight,” he said.

It’s a long season, and the bad calls probably even out with the favorable calls over 162 games, so there’s only so much stock to be put in that. The A’s had Barton out taking extra swings before batting practice today. Conor Jackson draws the start at first in his place.

–Josh Willingham is not playing. He’s still got some stiffness after tweaking a back muscle last night and leaving the game. Sounds like he won’t be available in any capacity, but the injury is considered minor.

–Without coming out and directly saying it, Geren gave indication the A’s would call up a catcher to fill Kurt Suzuki’s roster spot when Suzuki leaves Wednesday on paternity leave. Willingham’s injury would seem to assure a catcher is called up since Willingham would normally be the A’s emergency catcher. Consider Josh Donaldson the likely choice to be promoted, as I wrote a couple days ago. …

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, DeJesus RF, Jackson 1B, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Sweeney LF, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; McCarthy RHP.

Angels – Aybar SS, Abreu DH, Hunter RF, Wells LF, Callaspo 3B, Kendrick 1B, Conger C, Bourjos CF, Amarista 2B; Chatwood RHP.


Sunday leftovers

Just some extra thoughts that didn’t get into my stories for tomorrow …

I was a little surprised A’s manager Bob Geren didn’t let Brett Anderson return to the mound for the ninth inning in a 0-0 game. But I can see the logic on this one. Anderson was up to 104 pitches, and if the A’s are serious about monitoring the innings of their young starters for the rest of the season, this was a chance to exercise that strategy. Anderson gave the intelligent response after the game. “I told (Geren) I was fine, but I had thrown over 100 pitches or whatever, so you could kind of tell what was going on,” Anderson said. “I told him I felt fine, but in that situation it’s understandable, especially with our All-Star (closer, Andrew Bailey, available).”

If the A’s are going to limit the starters’ innings, maybe it’s time to start preserving Bailey a little bit as well. I’d like to see him pitching one inning, tops, except for rare occasions. Bailey, Craig Breslow and Michael Wuertz are all carrying a pretty heavy workload.

Allowing Anderson to take the mound in the ninth would have given him a chance to leave to one last ovation, but I don’t expect Geren to manage with that in mind in a tight ballgame. Speaking of the crowd’s reaction Sunday, Anderson gave the fans a thumbs-up. I look around at the mostly empty seats for most home games, and I think it can’t be the greatest atmosphere for these guys to get jacked up to play. But Anderson said he liked the boos he heard when Erick Aybar threatened to bunt while Anderson still had a perfect game going. The feeling around the Coliseum was that it would have been a cheap way to end a perfect game/no-hitter. “I was just happy with the way the crowd responded when Aybar tried to bunt,” Anderson said. “That was kind of special. And another ovation they gave me when I gave up a hit. It’s good to have a crowd like that today.”

The Twins, who have been playing well on the road, arrive for a three-game set starting tomorrow. Check in w/you before the game …