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A’s running game vs. Angels not as sharp as it should be

Eric Sogard says he will be more alert to Angels' deception in future

Eric Sogard says he will be more alert to Angels’ deception in future

One of the issues addressed by the A’s in their review Monday before the start of the three-game series with the Angels was the need to keep in mind how much the Angels like to throw behind runners.

On Tuesday, despite the preparations and the warnings, the A’s ran into outs on the bases with the Angels throwing behind them twice.

In the third inning, Josh Donaldson, batting with Jed Lowrie on second base, singled to right, thought Lowrie would try to score and was caught between first and second when Lowrie held at third

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Donaldson’s late-game fix in batting cage leads to homer

Josh Donaldson has homered in three of his last four games.

Josh Donaldson has homered in three of his last four games.

There are certain advantages to being a designated hitter, not the least of which is the time between plate appearances when you can polish your game.

For the most part, Josh Donaldson isn’t interested in those advantages. He’d rather be in the field at third base every day.

But when he launched his third homer in four games, a solo shot in the ninth inning of the A’s 3-0 win over the Mariners Sunday, he gave credit to the time the DH has available during the game.

“I went to the cage before that last at-bat,’’ Donaldson said. “I was trying to get my swing smoother and allow the ball to travel deep. When I try to pull the ball, that’s not what I want to be doing.’’

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New rule gives Moss a hit, but he doesn’t like it

Brandon Moss is no fan of the rule change that gave him a hit Saturady

Brandon Moss is no fan of the rule change that gave him a hit Saturady

Brandon Moss never felt more at odds with an RBI single than Saturday when he became entangled in one of baseball’s new rules.

Batting in the third inning with men on first and third and one out, Moss hit a ball out to right on which the Mariners’ Dustin Ackley made a nice catch. But when Ackley came up to make the throw to try to prevent a run from scoring, he dropped the ball.

Under the latest interpretation of baseball runs, the decision was that Ackley hadn’t caught the ball at all. He needed to make a clean transfer to his throwing hand, and he hadn’t. Moss got credit for a single and an RBI.

“I should have been out. It should have just been a sacrifice fly,’’ Moss said of Ackley’s performance. “That was an incredible catch.’’

As it was, Moss was out anyway, because he ran to first, then turned to second base and passed Josh Donaldson, the runner at first base who had retreated on what he thought was a caught ball.

“It’s a case of danged if you do and danged if you don’t,’’ said Moss, who really does use words like “danged.’’ “When you see a catch like that, you just react like you always have. The new rules are really having an effect on us that way.

“You would think they can’t go on like this. It’s only been 10 or 11 games we’ve played, and we’ve already seen a lot of plays like that. Look, it worked out very good for me, but if I’m honest, he caught that ball. I should have a sacrifice fly, nothing else. ‘’

The rule was primarily instituted to deal with force plays making the double play turn at second base. Moving the requirement to hold onto the ball until a clean transfer to the throwing hand goes against decades of baseball history.

“I know the rule is meant to simplify the game, but it’s not. It’s making the game more confusing. They have taken away the umpire’s judgment, and their judgment has always been pretty good.

“I’m worried now at first base to take a second and make sure I made the transfer clean. It slows you down, but sometimes you will drop the ball. It happens. I know if I do (drop the ball now), the runner is safe, no matter if I caught the ball.’’

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Gray pitching like a proven commodity in first full season

Sonny Gray is 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three starts after Saturday's win

Sonny Gray is 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three starts after Saturday’s win

Sonny Gray has only made 13 big league starts. three of them this year.

He commands the game as if he’d made 130.

Once again the A’s 24-year-old was the best pitcher on the field Saturday, throwing seven innings of one-run ball, giving up a first-inning run then almost nothing else in what Gray called “my best game of the year.’’

What he didn’t say was “so far.’’

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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.’’

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Donaldson’s six hits vs. Twins suggests he’s getting closer

Josh Donaldson finished up the Twins series with six hits but still isn't quite where he wants to be.

Josh Donaldson finished up the Twins series with six hits but still isn’t quite where he wants to be.

By most ways of accounting, Josh Donaldson had a pretty big series in Target Field this week.

He doubled and singled Monday, doubled twice Tuesday and homered and singled in the finale, a 6-1 win over the Twins, leaving him with six hits in 15 at-bats to go with four RBIs, three off them Thursday, and four runs scored.

For all of that, he’s not feeling like he’s quite at the top of his game.

He said he’s missing some pitches he believes he should hit and said that part of his success this week was being able to capitalize on Minnesota pitchers being willing to challenge him.

“When they did that I was able to put some pretty good swings on it,’’ Donaldson said. “I’m starting to feel better, but it’s a little frustrating that I’m still swinging at pitches out of the zone.’’

The home run, all three of the doubles and one of the two singles went to right field or right-center, and that means something to him.

“That’s where the ball goes when I’m going good,’’ he said. “That’s step one of the process.’’

But as his .220 batting average would suggest, there are more steps ahead.

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Donaldson, Perkins ninth-inning scuffle is pretty shortlived; Otero appreciates Melvin’s faith in him to finish up

Josh Donaldson thought he’d hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning Wednesday, only to watch it go foul.

When he subsequently struck out, he flipped his bat away and was suddenly confronted by Twins’ lefty reliever Glen Perkins, pointed an index finger at him and saying some things Donaldson didn’t much care to hear.

So as such things go in baseball, both benches emptied. No real damage was done, several of the Twins, including coach Paul Molitor and infielders Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe, got between the two at-odds parties.

“He struck me out on a pretty good pitch,’’ Donaldson said. “I flipped the bat and then I heard him barking. He was dropping some (expletives).’’

Donaldson said he didn’t feel that he’d disrespected Perkins, and Perkins mostly seemed content to go with the no-harm, no-foul defense and move on, although he wasn’t happy about the way Donaldson stood near the plate and watched his foul homer.

“I’m up there trying to win a game for my team,’’ Donaldson said. “He’s trying to win a game for his team. Juices are flowing.’’

 

–Dan Otero has saved games in the minor leagues.

And he’s not saved games in the minor leagues, too, so he knows a little about what closer Jim Johnson is going through.

With the A’s holding a 4-2 lead in the ninth, Johnson gave up one run and loaded the bases with one out. Otero took over, allowed a sacrifice fly that let the tying run come home, then hung on for the win by pitching 2.2 scoreless innings.

Otero was in position to be replaced himself when he put two men on base with one out in the 11th after Derek Norris’ three-run homer in the top of the inning had given the A’s back the lead.

But with men on first and third, two out and Twins’ All-Star Joe Mauer at the plate, manager Bob Melvin decided against going to Fernando Abad, his lefty in the bullpen. Instead, he let Otero pitch to Mauer. Which he did, carefully, ultimately giving him an intentional walk to load the bases.

Trevor Plouffe then lined out to end the game.

“I knew they had a chance to bring in a lefty (to face the left-handed Mauer),’’ Otero said. “I could tell they had the confidence in me to get the job done. It was all about making good pitches. I expanded the strike zone, and if I walked him, that was OK. You don’t want their best player to beat you.’’

There’s no telling yet if the A’s are going to give Johnson some time pitching somewhere other than the ninth inning. If they do, Otero would have to be one of the fill-in candidates.

Melvin wouldn’t go there, but he was unstinting in his praise of Otero, even in the face of the Mauer challenge.

“It was a decision with Mauer to bring in Abad,’’ he said. “But Otero’s been so good, he’s closed games before. That’s how good we feel about Dan Otero.’’

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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.’’

 

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Donaldson’s slow start not as slow as last year’s

Josh Donaldson had two hits Monday, but generally isn't happy with the way he's swinging.

Josh Donaldson had two hits Monday, but generally isn’t happy with his swing.

There might have been someone less impressed with the single and double put forward by A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson Monday than was Donaldson himself, but there couldn’t have been many.

Simply put, Donaldson doesn’t think much of the .161 start he’s gotten to the season, seven games in which he has one extra-base hit – Monday’s double to right-center – and one RBI.

“I don’t feel good at the plate right now,’’ Donaldson said after Monday’s game. “I’m trying to battle through it.’’

Specifically, Donaldson doesn’t like where the rubber meets the road, or in his case, where the bat meets the baseball.

“My problem right now is with my contact point,’’ he said. `I’m catching the ball in front or too deep.’’

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Moss says Cespedes’s average is not a cause for concern

Brandon Moss is batting cleanup Wednesday, but he still has high hopes for regular cleanup man Yoenis Cespedes

Brandon Moss is batting cleanup today, but he has high hopes for regular cleanup man Yoenis Cespedes

Brandon Moss is the A’s cleanup hitter today against the Cleveland Indians in Goodyear, Ariz.

It’s one of a handful of times that Moss has hit cleanup this spring.

“I’ve done it before on days when (Yoenis) Cespedes hasn’t been in the lineup,’’ Moss said.

Today, Cespedes is in the lineup.

Manager Bob Melvin says there’s no reason to read too much into the lineup. He said he just wanted to have a left-handed bat between two right-handed hitters, Josh Donaldson and Cespedes. The implication was that Cespedes’ .128 average this spring had nothing to do with the move.

And Moss said that Cespedes’ average shouldn’t be a matter of great concern.

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