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A’s home run drought reaching epic proportions

Brandon Moss has the last home run hit by an A's hitter, on Tuesday.

Brandon Moss has the last home run hit by an A’s hitter, on Tuesday.

Whatever happened to the A’s vaunted power?

Oakland’s offense came into Sunday’s series finale with the Phillies having hit just nine home runs for the month of September.

Admittedly there are eight games left to play, but the A’s are in a semi-historic home run drought that even a flurry of homers in the last week won’t cure.

For 20 consecutive months the A’s have hit at least 20 homers every month. And the A’s have been their most productive in recent Septembers, 44 in 2012 and 42 last year.

In the first 18 games of September the A’s have gone deep just once every other game.

That’s just not going to cut it.

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A’s need to loosen up at the plate and work pitchers over

Jon Lester's arrival has seen him pitch well while the A's have struggled.

Jon Lester’s arrival has seen him pitch well while the A’s have struggled.

There are no simple answers for the Oakland A’s.

There are some simple truths, however.

One is that they need to loosen up at the plate.

Oakland hitters spent four months working the count, forcing pitchers into untenable situations, then waiting for the pitcher to wilt under pressure.

Now, it’s not like that.

“What’s going on with their hitters?’’ one Major League scout asked me Thursday. “I saw them a couple of months ago and they knew what they needed to do. Now they’re up there hacking at everything.’’

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A’s powering down as their season is winding down

Josh Donaldson has struggled along with the rest of the A's hitters.

Josh Donaldson has struggled along with the rest of the A’s hitters.

There are only so many ways to ask the A’s about their frustration level and if their supply of moxie evaporated at the end of July.

Oakland is simply not the same team it was six weeks ago.

For four months, Oakland had the best record in the game, the best run differential, the most runs scored and ranked in the top five in the fewest runs allowed.

The pitch has remained relatively constant, but all the other numbers have fallen off a cliff, mostly because the offense has gone from awesome to awful.

“We were one team for the better part of four months,’’ manager Bob Melvin said. “Then for the last month and a half it’s been different.’’

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A’s aren’t same as three months ago, but they need to be

Celebrations like this May 27 grand slam from Derek Norris have been hard to come by for the A's lately

Celebrations like this May 27 grand slam from Derek Norris have been hard to come by for the A’s lately

The A’s could get Coco Crisp and John Jaso back this weekend and Sean Doolittle back early next week.

When they do, the A’s will start looking a little more like themselves.

This team is not the team it was at the end of June.

Back then they were trotting out a three-catcher platoon, with Jaso, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt all major contributors. Yoenis Cespedes was in left field. Brandon Moss was at first base.

Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz and Brad Mills were all in the starting rotation.

With such a drastic makeover, it’s small wonder that the A’s aren’t playing like they did in April, May and June.

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A’s: Crisp delighted to join the team in a victory again

Coco Crisp returned to the A's lineup in a big way Tuesday.

Coco Crisp returned to the A’s lineup in a big way Tuesday.

It had been less than two weeks since the last time Coco Crisp had been in the A’s starting lineup.

Quite a lot has happened in that seven-game interval. The A’s traded Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. The Angels have crept closer in the standings. The Oakland offense had stalled.    Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays doesn’t change all of that. It does modify it some, though.

The offense is still struggling, but it was Crisp who came up in the fifth inning, looked for the biggest whole on the infield and guided the ball into right-center field for the game’s first RBI.

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A’s: Lester addition forces Tigers to play catchup

Yoenis Cespedes is heading to Boston after big trade deadline deal Thursday.

Yoenis Cespedes is heading to Boston after big trade deadline deal Thursday.

Deny them what you will, the Oakland A’s aren’t boring.

They could have settled for just having made the Independence Day trade for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, but in the final six hours before the trade deadline they went out and completely rebuilt their roster.

At that point, the Tigers’ Justin Verlander said Oakland made the trade because of the A’s had to come through Detroit in the post-season.

But after the A’s moved Yoenis Cespedes from left field and shipped him to Boston in exchange for All-Star starter Jon Lester and platoon left fielder Jonny Gomes, it seemed like the Tigers were playing catch up with the A’s when Detroit made a three-team deal for the other big name starting pitcher out there, David Price.

With it being obvious there was no room at the inn for Tommy Milone in the A’s rotation near term, they traded the minor league starter to the Twins for center fielder Sam Fuld.

The moves spoke about the A’s on several levels.

One. They didn’t believe they could re-sign Cespedes to a long-term contract when his four-year deal ran out after next year.

Two. They didn’t see Jason Hammel or Jesse Chavez as giving them their best chance to win in a post-season start.

Three. Center field is a problem. Coco Crisp has trouble staying in the lineup ever since running into a pole holding up the Coliseum outfield fence and suffered whiplash. And Craig Gentry has a broken right hand that will keep him out two more weeks at a minimum.

Four. There is no time like the present. The A’s are playing to go to the World Series this season. Next season will have to take care of itself.

Things could change, but Lester seems to be a two-month purchase. He gives the A’s something that, with all their pitching, they didn’t have – experience pitching in the World Series. He was 2-0 in the series last year with a 0.59 and 4-1 in the three rounds of the playoffs overall and his career ERA in the playoffs is 2.11.

The A’s have the best record in baseball four months into the season, but that gets you nothing, particularly when the team with the second-best record in the majors is in your division. Because of that, general manager Billy Beane keeps pushing forward.

Since Jan. 1, Beane has added a left-handed reliever who has been one of the best in the game, Eric O’Flaherty; added a right-handed hitting first baseman in Kyle Blanks, claimed lefty pitcher Jeff Francis from the Reds, traded for left-handed starter Brad Mills, traded for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, then traded for Lester and Gomes and reacquired Fuld.

That nine additions this year already, and even with Blanks injured and Francis no longer around, as A’s co-owner Lew Wolff told me Thursday, “there’s time yet.’’

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A’s: Moss’s one last at-bat dissolves a night of frustration

Brandon Moss bounced back from pop-fly central Tuesday to deliver the go-ahead hit in 7-4 win over the Astros.

Brandon Moss bounced back from pop-fly central Tuesday to deliver the go-ahead hit in 7-4 win over the Astros.

Brandon Moss didn’t believe he could get much more frustrated in one game than he did in the first eight innings Tuesday.

The A’s right field flew out to left field four times. And the words “flew out’’ scarcely describe the at-bats.

“It had been a pretty frustrating day for me so far; I hit four straight weak, weak popups to the left,’’ Moss said. “ Two of them should have been to the shortstop. It hadn’t been a very good day until the last at-bat.’’

Moss had a career-best 10-game hitting streak come to an end Sunday. Since the single that got him to double digits, he’d gone hitless in 14 consecutive at-bats before coming up in the ninth. He was given the chance because Yoenis Cespedes’ single to right fell in to tie the game.

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A’s: Jaso, Reddick could bolster offense down the stretch

John Jaso has been on a month-long tear, hitting.326 to get his overall average to .284.

John Jaso has been on a month-long tear, hitting.326 to get his overall average to .284.

It can be easy to overlook John Jaso or Josh Reddick in the A’s offense since Oakland has three players with more individual homers than the 13 combined that Jaso and Reddick have.

It can be easy. It just wouldn’t be wise.

Jaso is in the middle of a nice tear, going 17-for-45 (.378) with four doubles, two triples, a homer and 10 RBIs in his last 13 games. Over a longer stretch, he’s hitting .326 in his last 27 games.

Reddick, the man of 32 homers who has been injured much of the last year and half, is healthy now with the help of a knee brace, and with his solo homer Saturday he is 5-for-16 (313) since coming off the disabled list with three doubles, the homer and five runs scored.

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A’s: Cespedes fills in, nails Crisp with pie in face

The As pride themselves on their versatility and depth. 

Yoenis Cespedes is all smiles after delivery celebratory pie to Coco Crisp Saturday

Yoenis Cespedes is all smiles after delivering celebratory pie to Coco Crisp Saturday

It has seldom been tested more than after Coco Crisp’s game-winning single to beat the Red Sox 2-1 in 10 innings Saturday.

The Oakland tradition after a walkoff it is a ceremonial whipped cream pie in the face during the post-game television interview. It’s been going on for a few years now, with right fielder Josh Reddick doing the honors for the most part.

If Reddick is unavailable, or if he’s the man who’s delivered the game-winner, then Crisp takes over. On Saturday, Reddick was off on an injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Sacramento. And Crisp delivered the hit.

So there was a void.

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A’s: `Home RUN DMC’ says plenty about offensive muscle

Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes big parts of A's muscle machine.

Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes are big parts of A’s muscle machine.

T-shirt fads come and go in baseball clubhouses, and another one may have arrived in the Coliseum Friday.

Or not.

As they came off the field after batting practice, A’s sluggers Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes each were presented with a green shirt with the letters “RUN DMC’’ stacked. Above “RUN’’ in smaller type was the word “Home’’ and under “DMC’’ were the letters 20 37 and 52.

Those are the jersey numbers of, in order, Donaldson, Moss and Cespedes, the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters in the A’s lineup most nights and to whom the “DMC’’ refers in the local spinoff of the 1980s hip-hop legends.

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