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Angels, A’s not ready to make this weekend `crucial’

There were suggestions that this weekend’s series in the Coliseum between the A’s and the Angels was crucial.

With two-thirds of the season left and the A’s only up in the American League West by 1½-games, that didn’t fly with the Angels.

Second baseman Howie Kendrick just pointed to the calendar.

“It’s May, man. I think every game is important,’’ he said. “It’s important to try to win every game. They’re playing well, we’re playing well, but at end of the day, it comes down to winning games, whether it’s the A’s, Seattle, Houston, anybody, you can’t take any team lightly. We’ve got to win games.’’

A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson said pretty much the same thing.

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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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Johnson’s woes notwithstanding, help on way for A’s pen

Jim Johnson hasn't had close to the results he'd hoped for in coming to Oakland.

Jim Johnson hasn’t had close to the results he’d hoped for in coming to Oakland.

The A’s are one-third of the way through the 162-game season, and after 54 games, they have no idea what’s up with Jim Johnson.

The right-hander, a 50-saves man the last two seasons with the Orioles, has not found it in Oakland. His sinker isn’t sinking, and the flurry of ground balls that used to get him out of trouble are finding their way to the outfield in unprecedented numbers.

The A’s bullpen was supposed to be the bedrock of the club. Instead it has been the Achilles’ heel. Johnson (3-2, 6.55) is the most glaring problem, but he’s not the only issue. Luke Gregerson has good overall numbers (1-1, 2.70) but eight of the 13 base runners he’s inherited have scored.

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All-Star voting underscores phasing-out of A’s platoon

Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie (right) are two of the four A's who rank in the AL All-Star balloting announced Tuesday.

Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie (right) are two of the four A’s who rank in the AL All-Star balloting announced Tuesday.

You have to dig deep to get to the last A’s position player to make an American League All-Star team.

Try catcher Ramon Hernandez, back in 2003.

If the first release of AL All-Star votes are any indication, that streak may be about to end. Third baseman Josh Donaldson had a lead of over 50,000 votes on the Rays’ Evan Longoria, Derek Norris was third at catcher behind Matt Wieters and Brian McCann while Brandon Moss (DH) and Jed Lowrie (shortstop) both ranked fifth at their positions.

“It’s not a new story,’’ Moss said of the lack of representation before this year. “We know J.D. should have been there last year. Red (Josh Reddick) should have been there in 2012.’’

Donaldson said the voting isn’t just about him but about the overall quality of the names on the roster that are producing.

“I feel like we have a bunch of guys in this clubhouse who are very good players and who are eventually going to garner national attention,’’ he said. “There’s a reason we’ve won the number games we have the last few years (94 in 2012, 96 last year and 31 in 51 games this year). It’s because we have really good players in the clubhouse.’’

The A’s have 221 regular-season wins since the start of the 2012 season. The second-best team in the AL over that stretch has 210, Texas.

Donaldson took it a little bit personally last week when college basketball voice Dick Vitale described the roster as composed of “no names.’’

“I don’t think that we are no-names,’’ he said. “We have guys in this clubhouse who go out there on a daily basis and prove to people across the country that they’re pretty good baseball players.’’

This could be, maybe even should be a breakthrough year for the A’s offense vis-à-vis the All-Star Game. Oakland came into Thursday having scored 258 runs the most in the American League.

Since the All-Star break last year, Donaldson has scored more runs (81) than any other player in the league. Lowrie has hit the most doubles (36). Moss is tied with the Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion for the most homers (28) and has the outright lead with the most RBIs (85).

The odd part is that Norris, and to a lesser extent, Moss, has garnered the recognition without playing every day. Norris (.316, five homers, 24 RBIs) has only started 30 of the 51 games and wasn’t in the lineup Tuesday. Moss had started 44 times in left, right, at first base and as the DH.

Manager Bob Melvin, who hadn’t been willing to say it explicitly before Tuesday, said neither should be considered a part-time player.

“They started out as platoon guys,’’ Melvin said. “Moss has played all but one game this year (including coming off the bench). So I wouldn’t consider him a platoon player. And really Derek has thrust himself into this role based on production. Today’s a day off for him. He’s had a pretty rough schedule catching.

“You get that moniker and it’s difficult to get past that at times. But certainly if you look at the voting, they are getting looked at the way that they should.’’

The manager suggested that the A’s are being seen more now as a team comprised of good players rather than as “the little engine that could.’’

“Nationally we are getting recognition as a team,’’ he said. “So I think as a whole, people are starting to look at us other than as `that team’ but are starting to notice the individual players.’’

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A’s ignore clubhouse note and club Tigers 10-0

On Monday, the following was written on the white board next to where the A’s lineup is posted daily in their clubhouse.

Slow torture vs. Instant kill

Slow torture is a team approach.

Instant kill is an individual approach.

Home runs end rallies, not start them.

Keep pitchers in the stretch and trust your teammates.

Pass the torch if necessary….

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Reddick’s switch to `Careless Whisper’ proves a winner

Josh Reddick is as quick as anyone in the A’s clubhouse to change his walkup music.

He did it last night. And Careless Whisper by George Michael might be around for a while.

Reddick tripled home a run, walked and scored a run and dropped down a bunt single and scored in the A’s 5-4 win over the Chicago White Sox Monday.

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Doolittle says feeling in Coliseum Saturday `spectacular’

There are many things – spiteful, nasty things – that can be said about the Oakland Coliseum, now a half-century old.

When the concrete and steel edifice has people added to the mix, though, things change.

For eight inning Saturday, Oakland A’s fans seemed content to wait for post-game fireworks with the A’s offense unable to go anywhere against Washington starter Tanner Roark. But all it took was a leadoff single in the ninth inning by John Jaso to get the fans’ blood surging.

When in short order Jed Lowrie doubled and Josh Donaldson single, each driving in a run, the place couldn’t have been much louder if it was October and not April.

A’s reliever Sean Doolittle has learned to like this about the Coliseum.

“You get 35,000 people in here and the fans will go crazy if you give them a chance, any chance,’’ Doolittle said. He pitched two scoreless innings and picked up the win when Jaso’s double scored Nick Punto in the 10th for a 4-3 win.

“It feels like no place else,’’ Doolittle said. “The fans get going and the feeling on the bench is that `we will find a way.’ When it comes together like it did tonight, it’s spectacular.’’

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Cespedes’ opposite field homer on cold night impresses A’s

Yoenis Cespedes's opposite field power was on display again Friday.

Yoenis Cespedes’s opposite field power was on display again Friday.

Friday was probably not the night to try and hit home runs at the O.co Coliseum.

The A’s tried anyway. That’s what they do. And they succeeded three times.

And on a night when the wind was blowing and the cool air inhibited the free travel of spheroids, Oakland came away with three homers, enough to account for half the team’s offense in an 8-0 win over Washington.

John Jaso struck first with a solo shot in the second inning. Brandon Moss hit a two-run bomb off Doug Fister on the first pitch he saw in the fifth inning. Yoenis Cespedes hit Fister’s next pitch out, giving the A’s back-to-back homers for the first time this year.

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A’s run differential is a breed apart in the American League

Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson at heart of A's run-producing machine.

Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson at heart of A’s run-producing machine.

After watching the A’s play four games against the Mariners early in the week, you might be stumped trying to come up with words of praise for the A’s hitters.

Oakland scored just 11 runs in four games, losing three of them. The pitching could have been better, too, the bullpen in particular, but it was easy to look at an offense that had trouble scoring runs.

The A’s did more damage against long-time nemesis Felix Hernandez (four runs) than against anyone else the Mariners put out there.

It wasn’t a great showing, but it’s best to have some perspective with such things. Teams don’t live in a bubble. The offense doesn’t exist in solitude. The case can easily be made that the A’s 8-0 win over a tough Washington Nationals team Friday smooths some of the rough spots out of the performance against Seattle.

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Donaldson goes against the grain with head-first slide

Josh Donaldson went against the grain with head-first slide Sunday in Boston

Josh Donaldson went against the grain with head-first slide Sunday in Boston

 

When Josh Donaldson scored the second of Oakland’s three runs Sunday, he did it with a sixth inning head-first slide at home plate.

You know those car commercials where they say “don’t try this at home?’’ The head-first slide at the plate is baseball’s version of that.

Donaldson had already been thrown out on a feet-first slide at the plate three innings earlier, and he wasn’t about to take any chances. Yoenis Cespedes had doubled off the wall in left-center, and the A’s, locked in a 1-all tie, badly needed the run.

“It’s the play they tell you never to make, sliding head-first like that,’’ Donaldson said. “But I was thinking about the first play.’’

The first play, in the third inning, was gnawing at Donaldson even after the A’s 10-inning 3-2 win.

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