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Game 153 wrapup: Bad luck compounds Cook’s woes; Straily makes bid for post-season rotation

There’s a tendency to jump on a player when he’s down that pervades all sports. Baseball is no different in that regard.

A’s reliever Ryan Cook is in a bad slump, no doubt about it.

But sometimes it’s not bad pitching as much as it is bad luck.

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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 144 wrapup: Melvin gives Parker added respect; A’s pen still among best despite slump

It was the kind of thing you see in the middle of a playoff chase that you don’t see in the middle of a season

A’s starter Jarrod Parker had given up a run, then loaded the bases with two out in the sixth inning. Oakland still had the lead at 3-2, but Parker was looking vulnerable.

It was time for a visit from the pitching coach. It didn’t happen. Instead, manager Bob Melvin exercised his prerogative and took the walk to the mound.

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Game 137 wrapup: A’s rethinking having Anderson push for rotation?; Straily lights up Texas with Suzuki’s help; Balfour fights through tough stretch

The plan all along was for the A’s to bring opening day starter Brett Anderson back as an addition to the starting rotation after four month on the disabled list.

It’s looking increasing unlikely that will happen with 25 games left in the season and Anderson having pitched well in relief since coming off the disabled list He got four outs in the seventh and eighth innings, easing the transition from middle reliever Dan Otero to late men Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour Monday.

More than that, he starting rotation seems to be on an upsurge without him. After a string of so-so starts in early- and mid-August, the A’s starters are picking up the pace. In a stretch of eight games, seven of them Oakland wins, the starters have a composite 2.70 ERA.

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Game 130 wrapup: Doolittle, Cook survive bases-loaded jams; Griffin finally gets first win of August

You can put together reams of printed pages about Miguel Cabrera and they won’t tell you anything more than the reverential way others in baseball talk about the Tigers’ third baseman.
He’s a great hitter. He doesn’t have any evident weaknesses. There’s no part of the plate he doesn’t cover. There’s no part of the bleachers he can’t reach with his homers.
The trouble is, Prince Fielder is no day at the beach. Fielder is having probably his worst big league season, but no one would willingly pitch to Fielder with the bases loaded with a 7-4 lead unless the alternative was pitching to Cabrera with two men on with a 7-4 lead.
Even with two men on, Cabrera occasionally will get walked intentionally, as was the case in the seventh inning Monday. A’s manager Bob Melvin was willing to take the risk and have Fielder bat as the go-ahead run rather than have Cabrera bat as the tying run.
So he had reliever Dan Otero load the bases by walking Cabrera after the count unintentionally got to 2-0, then went to the bullpen for Sean Doolittle.
This is not a high-percentage move. Coming into the game Fielder was 6-for-14 (.429) with two walks after 16 previous intentional walks to Cabrera.
“I’m sure it gives him extra motivation,’’ the manager said. “It was a chance I felt we had to take.’’
And Doolittle has hardly been rock-solid of late. In 2.2 innings over four games, he’d allowed six runs. But he was well rested, and he throws a mean fastball.
Ultimately, he was able to get what he thought was a “routine fly ball, until I turned around and saw Coco sprinting.’’
That was center fielder Coco Crisp, who said he knew that there is seldom anything routine when Fielder makes contact.
“Prince Fielder hit the ball,’’ Crisp said. “When that happens, the ball will go a long way.’’
Melvin’s gamble paid off, but it’s not likely that will be of much comfort the next time that situation comes up.
Given the potency of the Tigers offense and the fact that the A’s play three more games in Comerica Park this week, a repeat wouldn’t be that much of a surprise.

–There was another bases-loaded situation Monday, and there was every bit as much riding on the outcome.
The Tigers were down 8-5 after Victor Martinez’s homer in the eighth inning, and with two out, the Tigers got a pair of hits off Ryan Cook, who then walked Austin Jackson.
That was followed by a visit from pitching coach Curt Young, who wanted to get a couple of things straight with Torii Hunter at the plate.
“He wanted to make sure I struck to my game plan and executed my pitches,’’ Cook said.
The key pitch was the first one, a strike. Cook said he wanted it down. It was up, but it was a strike.
“From there I was in the position to make my pitches,’’ Cook said.
Hunter is one of the best hitters in the game with men on base, but this time Cook struck him out.

–A.J. Griffin had gone four August starts without a win. He was 0-2, but the A’s had won the other two starts after he left the game.
On Monday, for once, the a’s offense kicked in early enough that even a couple of two-run homers, one each by Omar Infante and Miguel Cabrera, weren’t enough to deny Griffin the win.
“The bats were outstanding tonight,’’ Griffin said. “We’ll build off this one.’’
Griffin came into the game with the Major League lead with 30 homers allowed, and now the number is up to 32. A dozen times now he has allowed multiple homers in a game, which ties the A’s franchise record originally set by Catfish Hunter in 1973.
Homers have been on Griffin’s mind of late, but he’s trying to get past

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Game 117 wrapup: Straily’s best game shows up up north; Moss dismisses his double but he likes A’s rally; Is it time for Mustache Gang, Part II?

No one had to sketch out the situation for Dan Straily.

The A’s bullpen was hurting from overwork and closer Grant Balfour was going to need a day off.

Straily needed to get deep into the game for the A’s to have a decent chance to win.

The right-hander had not even made it to the fifth inning in any of his previous three starts, but this time was different.

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A’s find a kindred soul in Nick LeGrande

photo2Ryan Cook, Jerry Blevins and Sean Doolittle know their video games.

Friday they found out that Nick LeGrande does, too.

LeGrande, a 14-year-old from suburban Kansas City who has a rare blood disorder that keeps him from spending much time in crowd and who is waiting for a bone marrow donor for a match, plays a pretty good game, too.

During the visit Friday, Cook and LeGrande played NHL Hockey, and not just a scrimmage, either. They went at it in LeGrande’s room with Blevins and Doolittle watching, and Cook scored a late goal to force overtime.

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After 30 games in 31 days, A’s look a bit worn down

With Sunday’s game in Seattle, the A’s stretch of playing 30 games in 31 days comes to an end.

And probably not a moment too soon, because the A’s are starting to show some fatigue, particularly in the last week.

Are the four losses in the first six games of this road trip an indication of fatigue? It’s not out of the question. Oakland started this streak with 16 wins in the first 20 games, then lost two of three at home to the Mariners, followed by dropping three of four to the Rangers in Texas before splitting the first two games of the series in Seattle.

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Game 75 wrapup: This one proves 2013 is a new year for A’s relievers Cook and Doolittle

A year ago, Thursday’s loss in Rangers Ballpark would never have happened.

The A’s had right-hander Ryan Cook and left-hander Sean Doolittle throw a combined 16.2 innings against the Rangers in 2012, and the two setup men didn’t allow a run. They could barely get a hit, going a combined 9-for-57 (.158)

Oakland is only halfway through the 2013 season, and already the Rangers have scored three runs off the two, including one each Thursday. Texas hitters are 10-for-33 (.303) off Cook and Doolittle this time around.

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Cook calls catching first pitch thrown by an ailing kid from 1,500 miles away `coolest thing ever’

UPDATED from earlier edition

It was just about six weeks ago that Ryan Cook learned from a friend about a new entry in the field of technology-driven medicine, a telerobotic machine that can follow a user’s movement.

When he heard that there was a plan in a fledging state to have a patient throw out a first pitch remotely using the system, Cook went to the A’s to get in on the ground floor. And Wednesday night, 13-year-old Nick LeGrande threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the A’s-Yankees game from 1,800 miles away.

Cook caught the pitch, and said after the A’s 5-2 win over the Yankees “it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done.’’

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