0

Playing in the post-season never gets old for A’s Punto

Nick Punto has made it to the post-season five times since 2006 and relishes one more shot at it.

Nick Punto has made it to the post-season five times since 2006 and relishes one more shot at it.

The A’s as a group have a little bit of experience playing post-season baseball.

Oakland played in the American League Division Series the last two seasons and some of the players brought in recently like Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes were in the World Series as recently as last year.

And then there is Nick Punto. The utility infielder made it to the post-season in 2006 with the Twins, playing (and losing to) the A’s in the ALDS.

He was back in the ALDS with Minnesota in 2009, again getting knocked out early, this time by the Yankees.

Then it was time to get serious about this whole post-season thing.

Continue Reading

0

Time for A’s to stop waiting, start winning, or else

Sonny Gray pitches Game 162 Sunday, the only game that matters any more for A's

Sonny Gray pitches Game 162 Sunday, the only game that matters any more for A’s

The A’s have been waiting for six weeks for their slump to end.

You know the one. It’s seen Oakland lose 30 of their last 45 games and has seen the A’s go from the next American League power to a team that is perhaps hours away from failing to make the post-season at all.

If that were to happen, it would go do as one of the great collapses of all-time, perhaps the biggest in Major League history. Other teams have fallen about as far about as fast, but none of them had the lifelines of two Wild Card berths awaiting non-Division Champions.

The A’s have to win Sunday, have the Mariners lose Sunday or, failing that, beat Seattle in a one-game playoff Monday to avoid having that added to their resume.

Continue Reading

0

A’s need to loosen up at the plate and work pitchers over

Jon Lester's arrival has seen him pitch well while the A's have struggled.

Jon Lester’s arrival has seen him pitch well while the A’s have struggled.

There are no simple answers for the Oakland A’s.

There are some simple truths, however.

One is that they need to loosen up at the plate.

Oakland hitters spent four months working the count, forcing pitchers into untenable situations, then waiting for the pitcher to wilt under pressure.

Now, it’s not like that.

“What’s going on with their hitters?’’ one Major League scout asked me Thursday. “I saw them a couple of months ago and they knew what they needed to do. Now they’re up there hacking at everything.’’

Continue Reading

0

Athletics limitless foibles at the plate ruining their season

Jeff Samardzija threw eight shutout innings Wednesday, but it wasn't good enough for a win.

Jeff Samardzija threw eight shutout innings Wednesday, but it wasn’t good enough for a win.

If there isn’t a theoretical limit to the number of times the A’s can tell themselves they’re in good shape just because the American League Wild Card standings say they are, there should be.

By imploding in the ninth inning Wednesday, Oakland fell into a tie with the Kansas City Royals in the AL Wild Card derby, both teams at 83-68, two games up in the race over the 81-70 Seattle Mariners.

It’s technically true that the A’s can make their way in to the playoff by following the old Al Davis dictum, “Just Win, Baby.’’

The trouble is, they seem to have no remembrance of how to win, or even how to hit. Time and again in the last couple of weeks they’ve gotten brilliant starting pitching and have lost because the offense hasn’t made an appearance or because the defense had regressed to high school levels.

Already this month:

–Jon Lester gives up two runs (seven hits, no walks) in eight innings and loses 2-1 (Sept. 3)

–Jeff Samardzija throws scoreless ball for seven innings, turns a 1-0 lead over to the bullpen and Luke Gregerson gives up two runs in the eighth (Sept. 10).

Continue Reading

0

Norris gives up four steals; says he’s not in pain throwing

Dan Otero said A's pitchers need to give catcher Derek Norris more help with defending stolen base game.

Dan Otero said A’s pitchers need to give catcher Derek Norris more help with defending stolen base game.

The A’s had many good things going their way Sunday, but defensing the running game wasn’t one of them.

The Mariners stole four bases, the most against the A’s this year. All of them came with starter Jon Lester and catcher Derek Norris the Oakland battery.

Norris’s throws were all over the place, prompting speculation that the back problems he had earlier in the year might have returned.

Norris said that wasn’t the case, that he was fine.

“Am I in pain? No,’’ he said.

Would he say so if he were?

“No,’’ he said.

Continue Reading

0

Lester ready to throw as if it will be last game he’ll pitch

Jon Lester says he wants to pitch every game as if it's his last.

Jon Lester says he wants to pitch every game as if it’s his last.

Jon Lester, who pitches Sunday in the series finale against the Mariners, has been through the final weeks of a pennant race with the Red Sox more than many of his A’s teammates have.

And he says his start in a must-win game for the A’s against the Mariners in Safeco Field will reflect that level of experience.

Simply put, he approaches the game “as if will be the last game I’ll ever pitch.’’

It’s not that Lester wants to be buried in pennant race pressure. It’s that the 31-year-old lefty wants to eliminate the pressure by making himself as prepared as possible for the start.

That includes his physical work the last few days on the sidelines and the mental work of studying the charts and the video of the Mariners so that he can go into the start assured that he’s done everything he can to be ready.

“I don’t like to add more pressure than is already there,’’ he said Saturday afternoon. “And it’s a little different for me. I only get out there once every five days. I would have loved to be a player and be out there every day, but I didn’t have to the talent for that. So I go out and do what I can.

“It helps that I’m pitching for a team like this that is doing what it can to win every day. The results aren’t always what you like; they haven’t been for the last few weeks. But I go out there knowing that the (team’s) effort is always going to be there.’’

Lester said as bad as things have been with the A’s having lost 22 of the last 31 games, one way to measure the team’s effort is that “we’re in almost every game we’ve played.’’

“I can’t remember the last time we played a game where we didn’t have a chance to win at the end,’’ he said. “Like last night, we had the tying run on first base with no one out against one of the best closers in the game (Fernando Rodney). He got us, but not before we worked him hard, really made him struggle.

“It was another case of being one at-bat or one inning pitched away. There have been a lot of those, but as long as we’re right there, we’re doing what we can and now we just need to get that one hit or make that one pitch.’’

0

A’s powering down as their season is winding down

Josh Donaldson has struggled along with the rest of the A's hitters.

Josh Donaldson has struggled along with the rest of the A’s hitters.

There are only so many ways to ask the A’s about their frustration level and if their supply of moxie evaporated at the end of July.

Oakland is simply not the same team it was six weeks ago.

For four months, Oakland had the best record in the game, the best run differential, the most runs scored and ranked in the top five in the fewest runs allowed.

The pitch has remained relatively constant, but all the other numbers have fallen off a cliff, mostly because the offense has gone from awesome to awful.

“We were one team for the better part of four months,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “Then for the last month and a half it’s been different.’’

Continue Reading

0

Lester’s 8th inning effort vs. Viciedo doesn’t go unnoticed

Jon Lester came up big in the eighth inning Tuesday for the A's.

Jon Lester came up big in the eighth inning Tuesday for the A’s.

Even in blowout wins, there tend to be moments where the game is on the line.

For Jon Lester, that moment was in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s 11-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.

The A’s had just scored single runs in the seventh and eighth innings to take a 6-2 lead that should have been comfortable. But a walk and a single had Lester looking at Dayan Viciedo in the batter’s box where one swing could make the game close.

And Viciedo had given Chicago its first run when he’d homered an inning earlier.

“It was a big moment in the game, and I think he knew it,’’ catcher Derek Norris said of Lester. “He reached back and blew a couple of fastballs by him.’’

Norris said those were two of the hardest balls thrown by Lester, who threw 119 pitches in his eight innings.

“That was impressive the way he reached back right there. He really wanted it.’’

Continue Reading

0

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.

Continue Reading

0

A’s have traded youth for experience in pursuit of pennant

Alberto Callaspo no longer the old man on A's roster. (He's even changed his number and wears 7 now.)

Alberto Callaspo no longer the old man on A’s roster. (He’s even changed his number and wears 7 now.)

The idea that the A’s are a young, generally unknown team has lost some of its credence.

Starting with the trade of Addison Russell and Billy McKinney to the Cubs for starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, the A’s have added older, more accomplished players and they don’t strut that young vibe as much anymore.

At the start of the season, 30-year-old infielder Alberto Callaspo was the oldest man on the team (he’s 31 now). Now he’s fourth, with 33-year-old outfielder Jonny Gomes leading the pack.

The A’s haven’t traded for a bunch of codgers – Jon Lester is 30, Samardzija is 29 and Hammel is 31, a week away from turning 32. But they aren’t kids any more.

As manager Bob Melvin said before Tuesday’s game, “we’ve quickly gone from a young team to a veteran team.’’

Change has been the order of the day with the A’s. Six of the 10 starters Melvin fielded for Tuesday’s game with the Astros weren’t on the roster to start the season.

More than that, 11 of the 25 men on the roster weren’t around and active in April. Three of the current five-man starting rotation – Lester, Samardzija and Hammel – came from other organizations.

And maybe that has something to do with the A’s uneven play in August. This is a group just getting to know each other.

The popular belief is that anybody can fit in in the Oakland clubhouse, and while that’s generally true, it’s unlikely everybody can do it overnight.