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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 137 wrapup: A’s rethinking having Anderson push for rotation?; Straily lights up Texas with Suzuki’s help; Balfour fights through tough stretch

The plan all along was for the A’s to bring opening day starter Brett Anderson back as an addition to the starting rotation after four month on the disabled list.

It’s looking increasing unlikely that will happen with 25 games left in the season and Anderson having pitched well in relief since coming off the disabled list He got four outs in the seventh and eighth innings, easing the transition from middle reliever Dan Otero to late men Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour Monday.

More than that, he starting rotation seems to be on an upsurge without him. After a string of so-so starts in early- and mid-August, the A’s starters are picking up the pace. In a stretch of eight games, seven of them Oakland wins, the starters have a composite 2.70 ERA.

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Game 117 wrapup: Straily’s best game shows up up north; Moss dismisses his double but he likes A’s rally; Is it time for Mustache Gang, Part II?

No one had to sketch out the situation for Dan Straily.

The A’s bullpen was hurting from overwork and closer Grant Balfour was going to need a day off.

Straily needed to get deep into the game for the A’s to have a decent chance to win.

The right-hander had not even made it to the fifth inning in any of his previous three starts, but this time was different.

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Game 116 wrapup: Balfour’s `horrible’ day’; Callaspo feeling a part now; Vogt’s toughest catch; Moss and the knuckleball

When you watch the A’s for any reasonable span of games, you get used to the fact that Grant Balfour doesn’t work particularly fast.

Sunday’s 27-minute, 37-pitch bottom of the ninth inning effort was unusual, even for Balfour.

He gave up a walk, an RBI double, then two more walks to load the bases before Jose Reyes grounded to second baseman Alberto Callaspo for the game’s final out.

“I was horrible today,’’ Balfour said. “I got the job done, but the guys were great.’’

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Game 106 wrapup: Smith, Blevins halt troubles

There is almost nothing similar to the skill sets possessed by Jerry Blevins and Seth Smith except that both are left-handed.

Smith is the A’s regular designated hitter. Blevins is the A’s No. 2 left-handed reliever in the bullpen.

Of late they’d been sharing something that brought them together: a seemingly endless series of poor performances.

Smith came into Monday’s 9-4 win over Toronto hitless in his previous 29 at-bats. As recently as July 12 he was hitting .270 and was a vital source of offense for a team that was struggling to come up with runs.

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Game 100 wrapup: Moss doesn’t like his footwork; Jaso feeling better after being hit on the noggin; Parker no fan of `terrible fundamentals’

If position players could have wins and losses applied to their stat sheets, Brandon Moss would demand that Tuesday’s loss go on his.

There were three throw that came to first base in the course of the game that were errant in one way or another, and he felt he should have played better defense on them all.

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Game 95 wrapup: The no-freebie A’s get it done

Sunday will be the final day before the All-Star break, the traditional end of the first half of the season.

And with the A’s playing the Red Sox, it will wind up having been an excellent first half for Oakland, win or lose.

Consider that a week ago the A’s were facing the toughest run-up to the break for anybody in the Major Leagues. Oakland had the fourth-best win total at the time, 52, and had to play two of the three teams with more wins, Pittsburgh (53) on the road and Boston (54) at home.

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Game 90 wrapup: Balfour holds out hope of All-Star nod after setting A’s consecutive saves record

Grant Balfour now has the Oakland club record for consecutive saves with 41 after pitching a 1-2-3 ninth to hold off the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 Monday.

He took the record from Dennis Eckersley, who compiled his in 1991 (the last four saves) and 1992 (the first 36 saves).

Eckersley, now a Hall of Famer, was an All-Star in both of those seasons. Balfour wasn’t an All-Star last year and he isn’t an All-Star now.

He’s not happy about that. But he does hold out hope that the situation may change.

“It is what it is,’’ Balfour said after closing out Bartolo Colon’s 12th win. “It would be good to be an All-Star. You accept it and you see what happens.’’

Does that mean Balfour is holding out hope that he may get a call to join the All-Star ranks for the American League in the next week?

“There is a little hope, of course,’’ Balfour said.

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Colon may yet be ready to pitch an inning as an All-Star; if not, will closer Grant Balfour be his sub?

UPDATING EARLY FILE

Once he’d been named to the American League All-Star team, it seemed clear that Bartolo Colon would not pitch in next Tuesday game in New York.

That’s because he’s scheduled to start for the A’s on Sunday, which under rules precludes him from pitching from more than one inning on Tuesday. Colon could theoretically choose to make himself available to pitch one inning, but he wasn’t expected to do that.

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Game 88 wrapup: All-Star snub of Oakland suggests contributing to winning isn’t a valued commodity

Maybe it’s that West Coast night games don’t get much play back East.

Maybe it’s that ESPN doesn’t show enough highlights of the Oakland A’s.

Maybe it’s that other teams have a couple of great players and the A’s only have a whole bunch of good players.

Whatever the reason, the American League All-Star team announced Saturday is a slap in the face. Not just to the A’s or to the East Bay. But it’s a slap in the face to putting winning teams on the field

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