Freiman making a name for himself against lefties

OAKLAND – For a player who wasn’t supposed to be in the big leagues this year, Nate Freiman is having a serious impact for the A’s.

That’s never been more true than in two starts against the Yankees’ former Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia.

Freiman had three singles off Sabathia back on May 3 in Yankee Stadium with his Boston-area family in the house. Then on Tuesday, he had two more singles off the veteran lefty before finally hitting a ball back up the middle that Sabathia deflected to turn into a groundout.

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Game 64 wrapup: Close call at first hard to take; Milone earns right to finish tough seventh inning

Nate Freiman, like any first baseman, knows how to gauge a close play at first base, even a play he can’t see.

Judging the impact of the ball hitting the glove while feeling through your leg as a runner is almost simultaneously hitting the base becomes a habit.

And what did Freiman think of the eighth inning play Saturday when second baseman Jed Lowrie tried to throw out Chicago leadoff hitter Alejandro De Aza on a medium-speed grounder  with the score tied at 1-all?

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Game 61 wrapup: Donaldson finding might doesn’t make right; Cespedes can’t enjoy multi-homer game; Moss feeling better about swing; Doolittle gets vote of confidence

There seems to be no shortage of hits in Josh Donaldson’s bat these days.
He had three more Wednesday and for the month of June is 9-for-21 (.429), getting his overall average up to .332.
What gives?
Meet the pull hitter-who-wasn’t.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever hit this well,’’ the right-handed Donaldson said. “I know that I’ve never had so many hits to right field in an entire season as I’ve had already right now.’’
Four of the nine hits for Donaldson this month are to right. Baseball-reference.com has him with 19 hits to right field already this season. In 75 games last year, just 10 went to the opposite field.
The change may be the Donaldson isn’t trying to pull the ball the way power hitters are wont to do. He’s had episodes with the A’s and in the minor leagues where he would get on a roll. Then the temptation to swing for the fences would get him off-kilter for a spell.
So far this year, at least, that hasn’t happened. It’s not that he’s become a singles hitter. With eight homers, he’s third on the A’s roster. With 18 doubles he’s tied for the team lead. He’s hitting the ball in the gap, hitting the ball hard and taking whatever happens.
And whatever happens has been pretty good.
“What is it that Josh can’t do?’’ manager Bob Melvin asked after his team finished off the Brewers 6-1 Wednesday, the team’s 16th win in 19 games. “
Melvin was particularly impressed by the first of Donaldson’s hits Wednesday, a single to right with Jed Lowrie on first base.
“He uses his head there, sees the whole field and goes to right and we’ve got guys on first and third and a chance to score a run,’’ Melvin said. “You can say he’s a little bit of a flake, and I’m not saying he’s not, but he’s very, very aware of what happens on the field.’’
One man’s flakiness is another man’s free spiriting, but however you define it, Donaldson does enjoy himself. He put on a show on MLB-TV’s Intentional Talk Tuesday, a performance that had his teammates howling.
He enjoys playing the game, and it shows – and not just on defense.
“He’s as good a defensive player at third base as there is,’’ Melvin said. “He’s done a great job for us there.’’
The one thing Donaldson will not do is come out of a game. Melvin keeps pressuring Donaldson to see if he needs a day off, so far without success.
“I talk to him about it all the time,’’ Melvin said. “He just doesn’t want to come out.’’
And so far, at least, he’s not wearing down. He seems to be warming up.

–Yoenis Cespedes hit a couple of home runs Tuesday, a two-run shot in the first and a solo blast in the sixth, and for most of the night it seemed like they would stand up for the win.
They didn’t. Bullpen breakdowns led to a 4-3 loss in 10 innings.
And that impacted how Cespedes thinks of his first-ever multiple-homer game in the big leagues.
“I was so happy, for almost the whole game,’’ Cespedes said Wednesday through interpreter Ariel Prieto. “Until the end of the game. I wasn’t happy at the end of the game because we lost.’’

–Brandon Moss hasn’t gotten many hits lately.
When he’s gotten them, however, they’ve had some impact.
The first baseman has three hits in his last 33 at-bats (0.91), but each of the three has been a home run. Wednesday’s homer was a monster, a first-pitch blast into the far reaches of the right field stands.
It turned a 3-1 game into a 6-1 game and kept the A’s on a roll by getting Oakland back to a season-best 11 games over .500.
And while the homers by themselves don’t suggest that he’s coming out of a slump that has him having fallen from .295 at the end of April to .225 now, the line drive shot that was caught by third baseman Juan Francisco suggested to Moss that happier days are just around the corner.
“In the first two at-bats today I felt like I’d taken a step backwards,’’ Moss said. “I can in (the clubhouse) and told myself to let it go. I’m at my best when I’m pulling the ball, but right now that’s not working.
“So I told Jed (shortstop Jed Lowrie) that I was going to swing when I saw a pitch that was in the zone. I was able to do that and hit it hard.’’
It may be a while before Moss gets a chance to see if his swing really is coming around. The A’s first three games in Chicago, at least, will be started by left-handed pitchers. That means rookie Nate Freiman, who is hitting .340 against lefties, will get those starts.
And Moss is cool with that.
“It’s a great thing we picked up Nate,’’ Moss said. “He’s been a great part of our team. And he’s done a lot of damage. Whether it’s three days a week (of playing) or seven days a week, you just want to have competitive at-bats.
And that, Moss said, defines the A’s.
“We aren’t building for (the future),’’ he said. “We’re trying to win right now. We have guys who understand that nothing is owed to us.
“It’s not owed to me because I hit a homer off a lefty today that I start against the lefty tomorrow.’’

–Reliever Sean Doolittle, who was told in a sitdown with Melvin early Wednesday that the club would be sticking with Doolittle as the lefty setup man, was happy to hear that.
He was even happier to go over video of his last three performances and come up with a reason for his recent troubles. After allowing just two runs in 23 games, he’s allowed seven runs in the last three games, including blowing a 3-0 lead Tuesday that led to speculation Melvin might find a different role for him.
“Watching the video I see I’m flying open with my hips (during his delivery),’’ Doolittle said. “We did some mechanical work and maybe I’ve got it worked out.’’
Doolittle was gratified by the support he felt leaving Melvin’s office after their meeting early in the day.
“It’s good to know that I’ll stay in the same role,’’ Doolittle said. “But most of all it’s good to know that he’s in my corner.’’
Doolittle didn’t pitch in Wednesday’s win over the Brewers, but expect to see him at his old post in the seventh or eighth inning, as needed, in a four-game set in Chicago. He will have lots of friends and family in U.S. Cellular Field, and he can’t wait.
“A lot of my support system is going to be there,’’ he said. “I’m looking forward to that and looking forward to getting out there again.’’
–Hideki Okajima continues to wear an iceberg-sized wrap on his left forearm after games. It’s so big that the left-hander has to eat the post-game meal with just his right hand.
Even so, he’s close to being ready to pitch and, in a pinch, could have pitched for the A’s Wednesday, two days after taking a line drive off his left forearm.
“I really wanted to give him a couple of days off,’’ Melvin said. The manager had a spot that would have been ideal for the lefty in the eighth inning, but with Okajima not quite himself, Melvin had Ryan Cook pitch the eighth instead.
“I think he’ll be ready to go (Thursday in Chicago),’’ the manager said.


Doolittle will retain role as lefty setup man

Sean Doolittle, the embattled A’s reliever who has fallen on hard times at the mound, doesn’t have to worry for his job.

Doolittle met Wednesday morning with manager Bob Melvin who told Doolittle he would be remaining in his role as the A’s primary left-handed setup man to closer Grant Balfour.

That came the morning after Doolittle threw four pitches and gave up three runs in the eighth inning, letting a 3-0 Oakland lead slip away. The A’s went on to lose the game to the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 in 10 innings.

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Game 57 wrapup: Straily keeps filling up strike zone; Freiman gets critique on how to run out a triple; Young breaks loose

Dan Straily didn’t get the win Saturday, but not because he didn’t deserve to.

The second-year right-hander limited the White sox to five singles and double in six innings, didn’t walk anyone, struck out eight and left a 3-1 lead to the A’s bullpen.

Sean Doolittle wound up letting Chicago back in the game, so when the A’s did go on to score a 4-3 win, the victory went to Jerry Blevins, who got the final out of the top of the 10th innings.

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Game 56 wrapup: Freiman scrambling for a TV to watch his wife compete in LPGA tournament

Ask anybody and you’ll quickly find there is a consensus in sports that timing is everything.

When that timing has to be spread out over two sports, however, that timing gets muddled.

Exhibit A is Oakland first baseman Nate Freiman. He’s probably going to be in the lineup Saturday for the A’s with Chicago throwing a left-hander, Jose Quintana. The game will start at 1:05 p.m.

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Freiman finds split-second decision was right one

Nate Freiman was faced with a split-second decision in the sixth inning of Monday’s game.

For a while it haunted him, concerned that he’d made the wrong call, but upon further review, the A’s first baseman is content he made the right call

The Giants’ Pablo Sandoval was up with men on first and third and none out and hit a sharp grounder to Freiman at first. Here’s the question – do you go for the double play and concede the run or do you try and keep the run from scoring?

With the A’s up 2-0 at the time, Freiman decided it was more important to try and keep the run from scoring. So he took a few steps to first base and got the out there without taking his eye off the runner at third, Gregor Blanco, who looked as if he wanted to run but didn’t.

What that meant was that the runner at first base, Marco Scutaro, was now at second as the potential tying run.

A’s starter Dan Straily eventually gave up Blanco’s run on a grounder hit by Buster Posey, but he pitched out of the inning and the A’s went on to a 4-1 win in the first game of the series.

“At the time, I decided to make sure I got at least one out and to see if I could keep the runner from scoring,’’ Freiman said. “It was going to be a tough double play to turn, although the ball got to me quicker than I thought it would at first.

“At the time I wasn’t sure that it was the right play. But with the way in inning played out, Gregor Blanco was going to score, and so we were going to give up one run, regardless. It all goes back to the fact that the most important thing was that we got at least one out for sure on that (Sandoval) grounder.

“The thing that you can’t allow to happen is that you come out of that situation not getting any outs.’’


–Brett Anderson is still wearing his walking cast and is still using crutches to avoid putting too much pressure on the stress fracture in his right foot.

He’s probably got at least two more weeks of that, but no one can say for sure. Bones tend to heal at their own pace. So Anderson is learning to adapt while his A’s teammates do their thing.

“It’s different, sort of like being a fan,’’ he said. “Baseball is still fun to watch, especially the way this pitching staff is going. Yesterday I was able to watch two good baseball teams collide.’’

Just how well have A’s pitchers been doing? Coming into Tuesday’s start by Jarrod Parker, Oakland pitchers have a 2.33 ERA in their last 10 games and the team has won nine of those 10.


Boston manhunt has A’s-Red Sox series up in air

Remember back in the 1989 Oakland-San Francisco World Series, baseball took a back seat to the Loma Prieta earthquake?

Something of the same is happening in Boston these days. The Red Sox game Friday night against Kansas City Royals was postponed with parts of Boston and is suburbs in lockdown while the authorities pursue a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.

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Game 2 wrapup: Hiro’s OK for now, Resop in awe of Felix, Young to get first start in outfield

In pre-game workouts, the A’s had two disabled infielders, Adam Rosales and Hiro Nakajima, working out with the team.

Rosales, who has a rib cage injury, isn’t likely to be back soon, but Melvin said that Nakajima was closer and could head out with the team when Oakland flies to Houston Thursday.

That would depend on how Nakajima, dealing with a left hamstring strain, did in workouts this week. And things seemed to go astray when Nakajima walked off the field after only about 10 minutes or so while the rest of his teammates were early into their workout.

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Finding playing time in the outfield could be tough

There’s no crunch for playing time in Oakland. Yet.

Bob Melvin, the A’s manager, has been good at keeping the peace in the clubhouse by making sure everyone plays.

At the start of the 2013 season, however, there are early indications it’s not going to be easy for Melvin to get his five outfielders the playing time he anticipates.

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