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Moss a first baseman, but still armed and able in outfield

After catching a strong throw from Brandon Moss, Derek Norris tagged Orioles Nick Markasis at plate to extend Friday's game to 11th inning, when A's won, 4-3

After catching a strong throw from Brandon Moss, Derek Norris tagged Orioles Nick Markasis at plate to extend Friday’s game to 11th inning, when A’s won, 4-3

On the All-Star ballot, Brandon Moss is listed as a designated hitter.

On the A’s lineup card most days, Moss is listed as a first baseman.

So it’s easy to forget that Moss began his baseball life as an outfielder.

The Baltimore Orioles won’t soon forget, not after Friday night, when Moss threw a bullet from right field to the plate, enabling Derek Norris to tag out the sliding Nick Markakis, thereby denying the Orioles a 10th inning win.

The A’s went on to win the game 4-3 in the 11th, when Moss, as he does from time to time, struck out.

“I’m not a great outfielder as far as range and stuff,’’ Moss said. “But people don’t remember that I have a real good arm. That’s really my only defensive tool, but I’ve always had a real good arm. And when you don’t play the outfield a lot, and you play first base, people don’t remember.’’

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Machado `didn’t agree’ with Donaldson over quality of tag

Josh Donaldson said he thought he'd just made a normal tag, but Manny Machado of Orioles disagreed.

Josh Donaldson said he thought he’d just made a normal tag, but Manny Machado of Orioles disagreed.

No one was more surprised than Josh Donaldson when Manny Machado jumped up, got in his face and started yelling.

Donaldson had just tagged out Machado for the final out of the third inning. The A’s third baseman had the option to throw to first base, of course, but Machado was right there.

When Donaldson reached out for him, Machado tried to jump out of the way, lost his balance and fell. As he was falling, Machado took off his batting helmet and threw it.

“All I know is I just tried to tag the guy,’’ Donaldson said. “I was actually walking over to pick up his helmet for him and he jumps up and starts yelling. I have nothing against the kid. I don’t understand where it came from.’’

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Donaldson had hit on his mind when he bunted in 8th inning

Josh Donaldson said there was a plan behind his eighth-inning bunt Thursday.

Josh Donaldson said there was a plan behind his eighth-inning bunt Thursday.

It was a move Josh Donaldson designed to fool the Yankees.

It fooled some of the A’s, too, when Donaldson tried to bunt in the eighth inning, batting with two on, no one out and Oakland down 2-1.

Donaldson had been hitless in his first three at-bats, and he looked to see the New York defense was deep and hoping for the double play.

So Donaldson squared around and didn’t get the bunt he wanted. The ball flicked off his bat and almost carried into the second deck of seats behind the plate at Yankee Stadium.

“They were playing me way back,’’ Donaldson said. “I knew the situation; I wasn’t just trying to move the runners over. I was trying to bunt for a hit in that situation.’’

He’d need to get one, because the A’s don’t particularly want their RBI co-leader (49) not to take his best shot. And they don’t want a bunt in that situation unless it’s a hit because with first base open, the Yankees could have walked the team’s other 49-RBI man, Brandon Moss.

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Moss’s extra-base bonanza shows no sign of slacking

Brandon Moss has become an extra-base machine.

Brandon Moss has become an extra-base machine.

 

Brandon Moss is doing nothing that Josh Donaldson hasn’t seen before.

Moss hit two home runs Tuesday and has tied Donaldson for the A’s team lead in both major power categories with 15 homers and 48 RBIs.

Donaldson recalled seeing Moss for the first time in the spring of 2012, a non-roster outfielder who’d been signed to a minor league contract the previous November.

“I watched him swing in batting practice, and he was hitting balls farther than anybody,’’ Donaldson said. “I was thinking to myself, this guy can really hit.’’

Donaldson saw more of that power during short stops early that season with Triple-A Sacramento, but it was Moss’ recall from the River Cats that sticks with Donaldson.

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Is the symbiosis between A’s and their fans at an end?

Josh Donaldson didn't like hearing boos directed at teammate Jim Johnson Thursday.

Josh Donaldson didn’t like hearing boos directed at teammate Jim Johnson Thursday.

Before the game Friday, A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson said it had been tough to hear A’s fans boo reliever Jim Johnson Thursday when the right-hander gave up two runs to the Tigers in the seventh inning.

The booing first struck on opening night when Johnson pitched the ninth inning of a 0-0 game, gave up two runs and took a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Indians. It’s gone on at varying levels since then, all the more so because Johnson’s numbers are so much worse at home (0-2, 14.04 ERA) than on the road (3-0, 1.98).

Donaldson said he was disappointed, telling mlb.com it seemed like booing was “almost like the cool thing to do.’’

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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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