A’s injury tsunami threatening to engulf 2016 season

Eric Sogard is having trouble believing the A's injury woes just aren't slowing down.

Eric Sogard is having trouble believing the A’s injury woes just aren’t slowing down.

The good news for the A’s is that catcher Stephen Vogt, after being hit hard by a pitch on the right wrist Friday, is only expected to miss one game.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said the veteran hopes to be in the lineup for Sunday’s series finale with the Yankees.

The bad news is, as second baseman Eric Sogard puts it, “there are too many guys joining me on the list.’’ That would be the disabled list, where the A’s have a dozen injured players – half a major league roster – parked.

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A’s Billy Butler in search of playing time and RBI production

Billy Butler has little playing time and little production; he wants to change that.

Billy Butler has little playing time and little production; he wants to change that.

It was 22 games into the 2016 season that Billy Butler drove in his first run for the A’s.

As Oakland prepares to play its 30th game of the season Friday night in Camden Yards against the Orioles, he has three RBI. Three.

Needless to say, that’s not what the A’s were hoping for when they signed him as a free agent two years ago and nothing at all like what Butler expects from himself.

It’s becomes a little easier to swallow in that two of the three RBI have come against former Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez.  But when we say “little,’’ that understates it. Miniscule or even molecular might be closer to the point. After all, Butler had averaged 80 RBI per season over his last four years in Kansas City before heading west.

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Despite Hahn challenge, Surkamp will remain in rotation

Eric Surkamp will continue as an A's starter.

Eric Surkamp will continue as an A’s starter.

Eric Surkamp wasn’t all that impressed by his first start with the A’s Friday, going just 4.1 innings and getting no decision in a 3-2 Oakland win in Safeco Field.

If he’d gone on the internet, the left-hander would have seen that the man he beat out for the fifth spot in the A’s starting rotation, righty Jesse Hahn, pitching at about the same time, threw six scoreless innings in a start for Triple-A Nashville.

Still, there seems to be no reason for undo concern on Surkamp’s part. A’s manager Bob Melvin said he liked what he’s seen from Surkamp so far, and as long as that’s the case, Surkamp will be fine. But Melvin had a long chat with Nashville skipper Steve Scarsone, and the report he got on Hahn was very encouraging.

“He said he threw the ball well, he gave up two hits, and he said the sinker was better as the game went along and he was really impressed by his performance,’’ Melvin said in recalling the conversation with Scarsone. “It was an encouraging first outing for Jesse.’’

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Ken Griffey Jr. goes from opening vs. A’s Dave Stewart in 1989 with double to a date in Cooperstown this summer

Ken Griffey Jr. debuted in 1989 vs. the A's; now he's headed to Cooperstown this summer.

Ken Griffey Jr. debuted in 1989 vs. the A’s; now he’s headed to Cooperstown this summer.

It was no surprise that Ken Griffey Jr. threw out the first pitch before Seattle’s home opener against the A’s Friday night.

Griffey, after all, is the quintessential Mariner and in January was voted into the Hall of Fame by the baseball writers, and he’ll be formally inducted this summer in Cooperstown.

It was just coincidence that the A’s were in town, but it was against Oakland, in the coliseum, that Griffey had his first Major League opening day back on April 3, 1989.

His first at-bat was against Dave Stewart, at that point in the middle of four consecutive 20-win seasons for Oakland. Griffey crushed a double in his first at-bat.

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Gray’s Cy Young hopes may well rest on A’s offense

Sonny Gray has positioned himself for the AL Cy Young race, but he's going to need some help.

Sonny Gray has positioned himself for the AL Cy Young race, but he’s going to need some help.

The A’s helped Sonny Gray make another move toward staking claim on the American League Cy Young Award Friday by beating Dallas Keuchel, a left-hander who’d beaten them six consecutive starts.

There isn’t much to play for in Oakland this year, but Gray’s Cy Young is one of them. He’s 12-4 with a 2.06 ERA, the win total one off the AL lead and the ERA the best in the league at this point.

It’s far from certain that Gray will be able to win the Cy Young. Keuchel has one more win, has 18 quality starts, the same as Gray, and he’s backed by an Astros offense that generally has no trouble scoring for him.

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A’s win in game started by Felix could have repercussions

Felix Hernandez wasn't enough for Mariners as A's win in 10 innings, 3-2

Felix Hernandez wasn’t enough for Mariners as A’s win in 10 innings, 3-2

The A’s aren’t going to see Felix Hernandez again this season.

But this post-season? Well there’s an excellent chance they’ll see King Felix in the Wild Card game Sept. 30. The A’s and the Mariners and whichever American League Central second-place team (the Tigers or the Royals) stand as the likeliest candidates to earn Wild Card berths.

If it’s the A’s and the Mariners, there’s a good chance that Hernandez will take the mound for Seattle if he doesn’t have to pitch Seattle into the playoffs on the final day of the season Sept. 28.

For the A’s, the recent memory of having won a game that Hernandez started will be a counterbalance to the 4-0 record Hernandez has against Oakland this season and his 19-7 overall record against the A’s.

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A’s have nothing but respect for new-look Mariners

Felix Hernandez leads a Mariners' team that is the best it's been in a decade.

Felix Hernandez leads a Mariners’ team that is the best it’s been in a decade.

Once the A’s prime competition in the American League West came from Southern California.

Now with the Angels having steamrolled the West while Oakland slumped, the A’s must look to the Pacific Northwest, where the Seattle Mariners would like nothing better than to knock the A’s out of the Wild Card race.

The A’s and Mariners play three games this weekend in Safeco Field.

And while the Mariners haven’t seen the post-season since the world was young, the A’s are facing a team that could either join them in the Wild Card game or knock Oakland out of it.

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Hits with men in scoring position may signal A’s turnaround

Brandon Moss was one of four A's hitters to deliver with a runner in scoring position Tuesday.

Brandon Moss was one of four A’s hitters to deliver with a runner in scoring position Tuesday.

There’s no masking the fact that the A’s lost again Tuesday, their second game of September looking very much like two-thirds of their games in August.

The A’s didn’t score for seven innings, which is the norm of late. But then something happened that was unexpected. They knocked Mariners’ starter James Paxton out of the game and came up with enough big hits to get the winning run to the plate in the ninth before losing, 6-5.

Oakland wound up with four hits with men in scoring position, all of them in the eighth and ninth innings.

Adam Dunn singled with men on first and third in the eighth.

Craig Gentry doubled with man on second and third in the eighth.

Brandon Moss doubled with a man on second in the ninth.

And Sam Fuld doubled with Moss on second in the ninth.

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Mariners’ Bloomquist a big fan of A’s style of play

What happened in the eighth inning and what almost happened in the ninth inning is why Willie Bloomquist really hates Oakland.

And, to be fair, it’s why he really likes Oakland.

The A’s, down 6-0 to Felix Hernandez, scored four times in the eighth to knock the Mariners’ ace out of the game. The A’s would have six at-bats with the batter being the potential tying run before Coco Crisp struck out for the game’s final out.

Talking about the A’s before the game, the Mariners’ veteran backup infielder said the Mariners have to take Oakland as seriously as any team in the game.

“These guys are the scrappiest little (expletives) you’ll ever see,’’ Bloomquist said admiringly. “Gol dang, it’s just who they are. They are in every game.

“And they’ve got bulldogs pitching for them. It doesn’t matter if they are (throwing) 86, 89 (mph), they come out, and they pitch. They play defense and they get timely hits. They are freaking pesky. They are good.

“I like how they play. I hate ‘em, but I like ‘em. I like how they play.’’

Friday’s game wasn’t perhaps the best example of what Bloomquist was talking about. The A’s didn’t win, and they didn’t play the kind of clean defense he generally credits them with. But the Mariners went from having an easy win to having to grind out the last six outs with Oakland one swing away from tying the game.

“We still came out there the entire time,’’ third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “That’s how we play.’’


Tanaka has potential to alter look of AL West

With their relative surplus of pitching and relative paucity of wealth, the A’s don’t seem inclined to be in on the bidding for Japanese starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka in the coming weeks.

That doesn’t mean Oakland won’t be closely following the ins and outs of the Tanaka talk. The 25-year-old right-hander was made available for posting Thursday, and it wouldn’t be too outlandish a proposition to see him coming to rest with one of the A’s American League West competitors.

Tanaka, who was a simply unbelievable 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, stands to be the player with the most potential impact still on the open market this winter. The Yankees (yawn) are almost always the first club mentioned as coveting Tanaka, thanks to their big pockets and fragile starting rotation.

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