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Game 152 wrapup: A long, strange two games for Donaldson; Griffin’s tempo and delivery are back

To say that it was a strange 24 hours for Josh Donaldson may understate it some.

In the ninth inning Tuesday he delivered a game-winning hit on an 0-2 pitch that cut the A’s magic number for winning the American League West to six games.

He was hit in the face by a couple of pies in typical A’s fashion, and also had the contents of the Gatorade cooler dumped on him.

In the first inning Wednesday he was drilled in the back by a pitch from Angels’ starter Jason Vargas, an apparent purpose pitch that had the umpiring crew warning both benches about further retaliation.

Three hours later, the third baseman muffed the pickup of a sacrifice bunt attempt, giving the Angels an extra out they were able to convert into the winning run in a 5-4, 11-inning victory, denying Oakland a chance to cut further into its magic number.

“I felt I came in too aggressively,’’ Donaldson said of the failure to handle Erick Aybar’s bunt attempt. It set up Josh Hamilton’s game-winning sacrifice fly a few minutes later. If Donaldson had made the play, Hamilton’s fly ball would have been the inning’s third out. “My feet weren’t right.

“I expect to make that play every time.’’

What he may not have expected was to get smoked by a pitch in the back. But he’s the A’s best hitter at this point, and that means something. The Angels’ best hitter, Mike Trout, was hit by a pitch in his final plate appearance Tuesday, and the Angels apparently felt retribution was needed.

Since Trout getting hit loaded the bases with two out in a 1-all tie, it’s likely that Ryan Cook wasn’t going out of his way to hit him.

“Was it intentional? I don’t know,’’ Donaldson said. “Trout took that one pretty hard yesterday.’’

The umpiring crew led by Gary Darling wasn’t taking any chances and both benches were warned against further incursions, which A’s manager Bob Melvin felt was unnecessary.

“That’s a very experienced crew of umpires,’’ Donaldson said. “They’ll try to take control of the game.’’

Donaldson said he wasn’t sure that Vargas was even throwing at him.

“He has to throw inside,’’ the third baseman said, “for guys to respect his changeup.’’

 

–Starter A.J. Griffin hit a slow spot in August, but he’s been close to at his best in his last four starts, including fiving up two runs and one hit in six innings Wednesday in a no-decision against the Angels.

The only hit he allowed was Mike Trout’s 26th homer, the center fielder’s third in the series. Beyond that, only two walks marred Griffin’s day.

Afterward he said he’s been able to recapture his tempo and delivery and repeat both time after time.

“It’s better now,’’ he said. “Before I was thinking too much. Now I get a sign and let it fly.’’

As for the homer, the 35th he’s allowed, he’s the big league leader in that category, something that’s an issue only when someone asked him about it.

“Trout’s good at baseball,’’ Griffin said, shrugging his shoulders. “It was a 3-2 fastball that caught too much of the plate.’’

As for being asked about all the home runs, he took it matter-of-factly.

“It’s only a problem when the press asks about it,’’ he said. “(Bert) Blyleven and Catfish (Hunter) gave up some homers and they were pretty good pitchers.’’

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Game 151 wrapup: Wolff says he’s not complaining about fans; Reddick likes his handiwork with pies; Rookie starter Gray comes up big against Trout

There is no timing quite like bad timing.

And so it was for A’s managing general partner Lew Wolff, who took to the pages of USA Today Tuesday to talk about the low turnstile count at the Oakland Coliseum on the same night the A’s surpassed last year’s attendance total of 1.665 million.

It was the fourth year running that the A’s had registered an increase in yearly attendance, and in the wake of a 2-1 walkoff win over the Angels, the A’s still have five home games left in which to build on that total.

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A’s 4, Twins 3

Just a quick update on the A’s outfield corps, which has suddenly gotten pretty thin. Aaron Cunningham left tonight’s game with a concussion after he was beaned in the helmet by an Anthony Swarzak fastball. Cunningham was taken to the hospital for X-rays, but there was no further update on his condition. The A’s were already down to four outfielders, because Ryan Sweeney went on the DL and they chose to promote first baseman Daric Barton rather than another outfielder. A trip to the DL would certainly seem possible for Cunningham, but we’ll know more tomorrow.

–Anyone out there got any thoughts on who the A’s will choose with the 13th pick in the draft tomorrow? The common logic is it will be a pitcher, since the top of the draft is so deep with pitching. I threw out a few candidates in my notebook for tomorrow’s paper, so check that out.

A couple names I didn’t throw out:

–Arizona State right-hander Mike Leake. The A’s drafted this kid out of high school back in 2006, and now he’s one of the top right-handers in this year’s class after a standout career as a Sun Devil. He doesn’t blow up the radar gun, but he’s said to have great command, and we know the A’s often value that more than velocity (see James Simmons: 2007).

–We’re talking a real dark-horse candidate here, but keep the name Mike Trout in mind. He’s a high school center fielder from New Jersey that Baseball America projects will go in the first round. I know GM Billy Beane was in New Jersey doing some scouting recently, though he could have been checking out any number of prospects. Anyway, this is a longshot, since the A’s haven’t taken a high school position player in the first round since Eric Chavez in 1996. But scouts think Trout is a five-tool guy, and his competitiveness draws comparisons to Aaron Rowand.
Just throwing this one out there.

When it comes to outfielders, they could also consider Sacramento State’s Tim Wheeler or Notre Dame’s A.J. Pollock. Or, they could just do the expected thing and grab a pitcher. We’ll find out tomorrow …