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A’s need Doolittle badly, but they won’t rush him off DL

Sean Doolittle wants to come back badly, but the A's won't rush him, even in a bullpen crisis.

Sean Doolittle wants to come back badly, but the A’s won’t rush him, even in a bullpen crisis.

How much do the A’s miss closer Sean Doolittle?

It’s not just that Oakland has blown one-run leads in the ninth inning the last two days and have lost 11 times in their last 15 games with their closer out to see a once firm grasp on the playoffs start to squirm away.

It’s that the A’s whole bullpen works better when he’s around. Over a longer stretch the A’s are 8-19, but the bullpen was holding together when before Doolittle landed on the disabled list with an intercostal (right side) muscle problem.

The A’s were 4-8 in the stretch from Aug. 10 to the time of Doolittle’s injury two weeks later. When he was around, the A’s had a 1.53 ERA in those dozen games. The team was losing, but not because of the bullpen.

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A’s aren’t same as three months ago, but they need to be

Celebrations like this May 27 grand slam from Derek Norris have been hard to come by for the A's lately

Celebrations like this May 27 grand slam from Derek Norris have been hard to come by for the A’s lately

The A’s could get Coco Crisp and John Jaso back this weekend and Sean Doolittle back early next week.

When they do, the A’s will start looking a little more like themselves.

This team is not the team it was at the end of June.

Back then they were trotting out a three-catcher platoon, with Jaso, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt all major contributors. Yoenis Cespedes was in left field. Brandon Moss was at first base.

Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz and Brad Mills were all in the starting rotation.

With such a drastic makeover, it’s small wonder that the A’s aren’t playing like they did in April, May and June.

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A’s: Starters Gray, Kazmir and Chavez earn extra time off

Sonny Gray will get extra time off thanks to the All-Star break, as will Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez.

Sonny Gray will get extra time off thanks to the All-Star break, as will Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez.

The A’s have asked much of their starting pitchers in the first half.

Between then, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez have averaged 119 innings per man in the first half, during which they’ve gone 28-12 with a combined 2.77 ERA.

They are using a rejiggered rotation after the All-Star break to maximize the amount of time each will get off. To do that, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young have gone with newly acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to handle the first two games after the All-Star break Friday and Saturday against the Orioles in Oakland.

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A’s: Unicorn mask latest bit of oddity in Oakland clubhouse

Reliever Joe Savery had charge of the A's unicorn backpack earlier this season.

Reliever Joe Savery had charge of the A’s unicorn backpack earlier this season.

It’s really true that you can never tell what you’ll see upon walking into the Oakland A’s clubhouse.

It could be players challenging themselves to coat their gums with nuclear hot sauce.

It could be a full sized Darth Vader helmet painted in the A’s Green and Gold gracing the center of the room.

Or it could be players taking turns wearing a large white unicorn mask.

Saturday pregame, it was the unicorn’s turn.

To be clear, the A’s have had a unicorn with them for a couple of years now. The backpack that the relievers fill with sunflower seeds, candy and nuts for the couple of hours they will spend in the bullpen has a unicorn on the back of it.

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One-third of the way through 2014, A’s numbers imposing

A's have had plenty to celebrate in first one-third of the season.

A’s have had plenty to celebrate in first one-third of the season.

The last week hasn’t been much for the A’s, what with being swept in a three-game series in Toronto and then coming home and having to settle for getting a split with the Detroit Tigers.

It’s as well to be noted that the Blue Jays have the best record in the American League East. The Tigers have the best record in the AL Central. And, yes, the A’s have the best record in the AL West exactly one-third of the way through the 162-game schedule.

For the first 54 games they’ve played, the A’s have been perhaps the most dominant team in the league. It doesn’t always get reflected in the winning percentage – Toronto, Detroit and Oakland are all in the range of .600, which over the course of the year would come out to 97 wins.

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Kazmir says he’s available to pitch if needed after ejection

Scott Kazmir is ready to pitch again if needed.

Scott Kazmir is ready to pitch again if needed.

Scott Kazmir had been looking forward to pitching Saturday as much as he’d looked forward to any start this season.

He was in the Cleveland starting rotation in 2013 and this was going to be his one chance to pitch against the Tribe in Cleveland this season as a member of the A’s rotation.

Then he got ejected in the second inning by umpire Jerry Layne.

“It’s very frustrating,’’ Kazmir said of being tossed after getting only four outs. “I was looking forward to this start. I actually felt really good.

“Actually this was the best I’ve felt going out there. I was hitting all my spots. It just didn’t work out.’’

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Doolittle doesn’t let his guard down, saves the day

Sean Doolittle is back on a roll for A's.

Sean Doolittle is back on a roll for A’s.

It would have been easy for Sean Doolittle to figure he wasn’t going to get into Monday’s game.

Through eight innings, A’s starter Jesse Chavez had a 5-1 lead over the Chicago White Sox and he was going to get a chance for his first career complete game.

And if he wasn’t going to get the complete game, Chavez’s replacements were lined up to be Fernando Abad and Jim Johnson.

Doolittle said he never thought about not going through his whole preparation cycle starting in the sixth inning.

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A’s learn they will be minus surgery-bound Griffin for 2014

A.J. Griffin will have season-ending elbow surgery Wednesday in Houston.

A.J. Griffin will have season-ending elbow surgery Wednesday in Houston.

(UPDATED)

The A’s have lost a second member of the 2014 starting rotation to elbow surgery with the news that A.J. Griffin will undergo elbow surgery Wednesday in Houston.

Griffin was in Houston Tuesday to see Dr. Thomas Mehlhoff for a second opinion on the state of his elbow. Dr. Mehlhoff will perform the elbow surgery, with a typical recovery time of about 12 months, depending on the type of surgery involved.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said he wasn’t sure of the type of surgery that would be needed (Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery is considered the likeliest option) but said he’d talked to Griffin and said the right-hander was taking the news in a positive way.

“He’s a happy-go-lucky guy,’’ the manager said. “This means he can see the light at the end of the tunnel to be able to pitch next season.’’

Griffin and Jarrod Parker both were supposed to be members of the rotation this year, but both found they couldn’t go forward pitching in pain mid-March, and Parker had surgery shortly thereafter. Griffin was told that three weeks of rest might get his right elbow back in form, but it didn’t happen.

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Straily the latest of the brotherhood to give A’s top quality

Dan Straily enjoying being part of the brotherhood of A's starters

Dan Straily enjoying being part of the brotherhood of A’s starters

Dan Straily says there’s a reason the A’s starting pitching keeps getting better.

With Straily throwing seven one-run innings Thursday in a 6-1 win over the Twins, Oakland starters have allowed three runs or fewer in all nine of their games this year. The last time they did that, 1990, they wound up in the World Series.

It’s way too early to be thinking such lofty thoughts now, but the fact is that while pitching is a very individual pursuit, the A’s starting corps of Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez and Straily – No. 5 starter Tommy Milone makes his debut Friday in Seattle – have a nice bond.

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It’s early days yet, but A’s finding replays `maddening’; Chavez goes to changeup more to dominate Twins

If the minds who decided to add the replay and review system into baseball in 2014 thought the game would be somehow be made crisper by getting the calls right, and right away, they were wrong.

Wednesday’s game between the A’s and the Twins was all about replays.

In the second inning, Jed Lowrie thought he was still at the plate after a foul tip. A lengthy discussion determined that he was out, that former A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki had caught the foul tip and the ball hadn’t touched the ground.

“All of a sudden the flow of the game seemed to have stopped,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “We didn’t do anything after that.’’

In the ninth inning Jim Johnson thought he’d struck out Eduardo Escobar, but Derek Norris was ruled not to have caught the foul tip, Escobar remained alive and popped a single to left to score a run.

On that single, Yoenis Cespedes threw to third base in an attempt to get a force out. The call was that runner Kurt Suzuki was safe and that call, after another lengthy review stood.

Donaldson said he felt Suzuki slide into the bag, “while I had control of the ball,’’ which should have meant an out.

Melvin said on the A’s video review of that play, “we were getting the out call. We thought he was out.

“It’s maddening and it’s tough to deal with at times.’’

 

–Jesse Chavez didn’t get his first win of the season Wednesday, but that wasn’t what bugged him after the A’s 7-4, 11-inning victory.

He was annoyed at giving up the one run he did, a solo homer hit by Jason Kubel in the second inning, saying he’d “like to have that one back.’’

For the most part, however, it was another strong argument why Chavez deserves to be in the Oakland rotation. He mostly pitched ahead in the count, he struck out a career-best nine, he didn’t walk anyone and only once did the Twins get men on base at the same time against him, and that lasted for about 10 seconds before Sam Fuld threw out Trevor Plouffe at third base.

He said he was trying to use his changeup more.

His manager admired what he did to keep the Twins in check.

“Chavvy was great again,’’ Melvin said. “that’s what we’ve seen from him every game since spring training. You see the focus he has. He wants to run with this opportunity.’’