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Lowrie hit by pitch, but dodged some bad karma in Houston

Jed Lowrie, who scored on Josh donaldson's homer immediately after being hit by a pitch Thursday, says he hopes HBP issue is over.

Jed Lowrie, who scored on Josh donaldson’s homer immediately after being hit by a pitch Thursday, says he hopes HBP issue is over.

A’s shortstop Jed Lowrie, who lives in the off-season in Houston where he played in 2012, rents out his house during the season to one of the Astros.

And while he doesn’t want to name names, he said Friday it wasn’t Paul Clemens, the Astros pitcher who has made it an avocation to throw at Lowrie. On Thursday, Clemens hit Lowrie on the backside and promptly got ejected for his pains.

Lowrie was asked what the word might be for renting your house out to someone who his holding a grudge at 60 feet, six inches. Funny? Awkward?

“I’d more describe it as bad karma,’’ Lowrie said. “Fortunately that’s not the case.’’

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Schedule inequities on display this week with A’s hosting Yankees in New York’s one trip West

There will never be a time when the three American League West teams located on the eastern rim of the Pacific Ocean – the A’s, the Mariners and the Angels – won’t have troubling schedules.

They are about 1,500 miles from the other two teams in their division, Texas and Houston, and further still from the rest of the American League venues.

The question we pose here today is why the schedule makers insist on making things worse than they already are.

The Yankees, who come to town for three games beginning Tuesday, are in Oakland as the middle stop in a three-city West Coast swing. They’ve been to Seattle, and next they head to Anaheim.

The Orioles have already had a three-city junket to the West Coast. The Red Sox, in July, and the Rays in late August and early September, will do likewise.

Such a schedule makes it easy for those teams, minimizing the amount of mileage each accrues and leaving them with just two cross country flights for the AL West portion of the schedule – one to the West Coast and one back to the East Coast. With a day off mid-trip and another after after, it’s as close to a piece of cake as schedule makers can devise.

How many of the West Coast teams have reciprocal deals? None. The A’s, the Angels and the Mariners each must take three separate trips to say they’ve visited those same four cities. Oakland, for example, had Tampa Bay and Boston on an April trip, but their trip to New York was coupled with stops in Cleveland and Seattle. The trip to Baltimore later in the year will also include a stop in Detroit.

The city breakdown for the Angels and the Mariners is a little different, but the basics are the same. The Angels may have the most ludicrous of trips to visit one of those four East Coast cities, heading to Seattle and Milwaukee before making it to Tampa Bay.

It’s subtle, but it’s East Coast bias at a substantial level. The three West Coast teams are always going to have to fly the most miles, but by this kind of discriminatory scheduling, the Major League Baseball makes it worse than it has to.

There was a time in the 1980s and 1990 when the A’s could generally count on a three-city Baltimore-Boston-New York trip, but as the number of teams have expanded, the number of divisions has increased to three and interleague play has become season-long, that seems to have gone.

It should return, because the West Coast teams have enough built-in scheduling issues as it is. The A’s, for example, have five different trips to the Eastern Time Zone. And with the addition of Houston to the AL West this year, there are a total of six stops in the state of Texas for each West Coast team.

The West Coasters would be getting a break if they could play the Rangers and the Astros as part of a combined trip, but that hasn’t been deemed important. The A’s had one Texas-Houston trip this season, but that’s it and the other four stops will be combined with trips to other cities.

The Angels have it even worse. They have no conjoined Texas-Houston series, so they have to fly to into and out of the State of Texas six different times. That’s a joke.

You can bet that Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t see the humor in it. It’s a good bet that he, A’s manager Bob Melvin and Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge would supplicate themselves at the altar of MLB in New York if they thought it would bring about any change.

There are always going to be schedule inequities with the bulk of Major League Baseball teams concentrated in the Eastern and Central time zones. But it’s time somebody in the scheduling department of the commissioner’s office did something to level the playing field a bit.

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Game 14 wrapup: Crisp precautionary exit; Moss hurts lefties; Lowrie a hit batting cleanup

Coco Crisp was back in the lineup for Monday’s 11-2 win over Houston, but after he went from first to third on Derek Norris’ double in the eighth inning, he was lifted in favor of Seth Smith, who generally isn’t asked to serve as a pinch-runner.

It seemed as if Crisp may have reinjured the groin that kept him out of games Saturday and Sunday against the Tigers. After the game, manager Bob Melvin said that wasn’t the case.

Instead Melvin was kicking himself for not getting Crisp out of the game earlier. After all, when Crisp walked in the eighth inning, it was the third time he’d reached base and the A’s were holding a 9-2 lead.

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A’s feeling good with the Angels coming up next

The A’s come out of Houston feeling pretty good about themselves.

And they swept a three-game series by outscoring Houston 23-9 and the A’s are riding a five-game winning streak that has them in first place in the American League West in the early going.

The thing is, it’s Houston. The Astros have lost 106 and 107 games the last two seasons, and nothing that the first week of the season has presented suggests Houston will be much better this time around.

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Game 6 wrapup: Cespedes’ elbow sore; Sogard’s defense shines; Donaldson’s big at-bat; Astros’ curious move

Yoenis Cespedes flinched while taking a swing in Saturday’s 6-3 win over Houston, and he admits there is some discomfort in the elbow.

While manager Bob Melvin said the medics would have another look at it and see if Cespedes is good to go Sunday in the series finale, the left fielder didn’t see any reason to come out of the lineup.

“It’s good,’’ he said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. “It was just the one swing.’’

There have, however, but plenty of off-looking swings from Cespedes of late. He struck out three more times Saturday while going 0-for-4, and in his last 20 trips to the plate he’s struck out nine times. A .450 strikeout percentage is nobody’s idea of a good time.

But to hear Cespedes, it’s all good.

“I’m not worried about the elbow,’’ he said. “I’m not worried about the strikeouts. I’m not worried about anything.’’

“I’m seeing pitches well, but I’ve gotten a little crazy with my mechanics. I’m trying to hit the ball ahead instead of waiting for the ball to come to me.’’

And then Cespedes offered the media a little tidbit.

“I’m going to give you guys a lot of home runs this year,’’ he said.

What we’re supposed to do with them no one knows, but A’s fans and his Oakland teammates will take all the home runs Cespedes has to offer. He’s only got three hits this season in six games, a .130 average, but two of the three have been homers.

 

TRYING TO MAKE THE TEAM

Eric Sogard made the opening day roster, but that isn’t the end of his quest. It’s just the beginning.

Sogard wants to keep his job as the primary second baseman in a platoon with Scott Sizemore, and two plays he made on defense Saturday will help keep him in the lineup.

He started a double play to get Bartolo Colon out of a potential jam in the sixth inning, then made a diving stop, then got up and made a throw for the first out of the eighth.

“Defense is a big part of the job,’’ Sogard said. “I’m not doing as much as I want to on offense right now, but I’ve got the opportunity to make a lot of plays.’’

Sogard did get an RBI single to cap a four-run sixth inning Saturday. But after hitting close to .500 for most of the spring, he’s off to a .188 start now that the games count.

“His defense has been terrific,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s got great timing with his dives. And when you start a double play or take away a hit the way he did tonight, that’s as big as getting a hit in its own way.’’

 

THE BIG HIT

Josh Donaldson is struggling as much as any hitter wearing an Oakland uniform.

He had just two hits before the sixth inning Saturday when he fell behind in the count against Astros opening day starter Bud Norris. Donaldson worked to get back into the count, the hit a 3-2 pitch to the opposite field for a game-tying single.

“I don’t know if it was my best AB yet, but it was definitely a good AB,’’ Donaldson said. “I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball pretty good, but I haven’t had any of the balls fall in, so that was definitely a nice at-bat to have.’’

Donaldson, as much as anyone, has fallen victim to the wide-open space in Minute Maid Park this weekend. He hit a bomb that was caught at the wall in left-center in the fifth inning Saturday and that ball was a virtual duplicate of a bomb that he unloaded Friday.

“That’s going to happen,’’ he said. “Sooner or later those are going to start falling in.’’

Melvin called Donaldson’s game-tying single the A’s biggest at-bat of the night. And that’s on a night when Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie and Seth Smith all homered.

 

GOING AGAINST THE BOOK

Houston’s first-year manager, Bo Porter, made the most curious move of the night by bringing in a lefty reliever, Wesley Wright, to face the A’s Derek Norris, a right-hander who generally hits lefties well.

The game was tied at the time and Norris delivered a go-ahead single. Oakland never trailed again.

Asked if he was surprised at such a move from the other manager when going to a right-handed reliever would seem to be the way to go, Melvin couldn’t retreat from the question quickly enough.

“I’ve brought in (lefty) Sean Doolittle to face right-handers,’’ Melvin said. “I don’t know his roster like he does.’’