Bay Area Baseball

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June 1, 2013
A's giving themselves lots of chances, capitalize late in 4-3 win

OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin wore his cap to his post-game press conference Saturday. So it wasn't clear how much of his hair he'd pulled out during the A's 4-3 win over the White Sox. If he did, most of it probably went over the final three innings, when the A's put 10 runners on base -- and one of them scored.

Granted, that was the important one. After squandering a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the ninth, the A's won it in the 10th on Josh Reddick's bases-loaded, two-out walk to score Chris Young, who had doubled. It was the lone hit in the A's game-winning rally, and it made sense Saturday that they took the literal approach to their fourth walk-off win of the season. The A's had 16 hits but were 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position and stranded 18 runners.

"You keep putting guys on base and somebody's going to score at some point," Melvin said. "It took a little longer than usual today, and it was painful at times. But at the end of the day it's a win, right?"

That's true, and the A's are now a season-high nine games above .500, having won 13 of their last 15. Tomorrow's print story looks at the rate the A's are drawing walks this year -- 240 through their first 57 games, which puts them on pace for 682 on the season -- and whether that's a product of the hitters or the philosophy. They drew eight on Saturday -- including three intentional and three in the 10th inning -- and lead the majors.

That's equating to a lot of opportunities with runners on. The A's have gone up to hit with men in scoring position more often than any other team in 2012. Saturday dropped their average in those situations -- which ranked 15th in baseball coming in -- to .250.

Melvin explained the patience displayed by his hitters like so: "Guys aren't afraid to hit with a strike or two on them, and they're pretty good at identifying the zone they want to hit in early in the count, and if it's not there you lay off of it.

"Our situational hitting has not been great, granted. But we address it all the time, we continue to work on it, and just the amount of time we're in those situations it's got to even out at some point. We've got too good of hitters to keep leaving guys on like that."

* Hitting coach Chili Davis praised Reddick for his situational awareness in the last at-bat. Namely, although White Sox left-hander Hector Santiago had worked out of the jam in the ninth inning, Davis said he saw "some nervousness" from Santiago, who "had to be talked to a couple times."

"You've got to feel a guy out on the mound in those situations," Davis said of Reddick's at-bat. "This time around, Reddick waited him out. He showed some good patience."

Davis said he was actually pretty pleased with several of the at-bats in the late innings that didn't yield results. One was Derek Norris' ninth-inning at-bat with the bases loaded and nobody out. Norris grounded into a 6-2-3 double-play after fouling off three pitches.

"I thought he made two real good swings with the two changeups he got, and he hit the ball pretty good to short -- hit it too hard, which is why he got doubled up," Davis said.

Davis also singled out the 10th-inning at-bat by Brandon Moss just before Reddick. Moss, who has been slumping, fell behind 0-2 before waiting on a curveball and hitting a line drive that White Sox second baseman Jeff Keppinger gloved on a dive.

As for the walks this season, Davis said: "I just think the guys, they know what they're playing for.

"They're showing the patience up there and they know they can put pressure on a pitcher. ... Last year for us was a big home-run year, and this year, we've got to do what we've got to do. Even though we're not hitting as many home runs, we're doing other things to try to win ballgames."

* The hard-luck badge of the day goes to Dan Straily, who pitched well enough to win -- allowing one run on six hits in six innings and striking out eight -- but got a no-decision after the White Sox tied the game at 3-3 in the seventh.

The encouraging signs, though, continue for the 24-year-old, who is now 2-0 with two earned runs allowed in 19 innings over his last three starts. Melvin has made no secrets about the fact that Straily is a lot more effective when he doesn't try to nibble around the plate, and Straily went right after hitters again Saturday with his self-described strategy, "Keep it knee-high and fill up the zone."

Straily has issued one walk in his last three starts and was able to throw his slider against the White Sox both for strikes early in the count and to get hitters to chase out of the zone for outs.

"He gave up some two-strike hits that maybe he should've expanded a little bit more, but boy, that's being pretty nitpicky," Melvin said. "He's throwing the ball over the plate and getting ahead, and that's what we've asked him to do. So when he continues to pound the strike zone he's going to have results like that."

* The White Sox did their damage in the seventh again Sean Doolittle, who allowed two runs for the second consecutive outing. Before that, Doolittle had allowed a total of two runs over his first 23 appearances in 23 innings.

Keppinger singled up the middle on a 94 mph fastball and ninth hitter Hector Gimenez yanked a 96 mph fastball down the left-field line for a double. Both scored on Alejandro De Aza's single to center, again on a 96 mph fastball in an 0-2 count.

"I think the reason we're so surprised is because of the results that he's had," Melvin said of Doolittle, whose ERA has risen from 0.78 to 2.13 over his last two outings. "It's just two outings where some guys got some hits off of him. He's not doing anything different, ball's doing the same things. He just gave up some hits."

* Several good days at the plate for the A's, as you'd expect from a team with 16 hits. Jed Lowrie, in the leadoff spot with Coco Crisp getting a day, had his fourth career four-hit game and just missed a fifth on a lineout to right field in the 10th inning. Donaldson went 2-for-5 and is hitting .419 in his last seven games. And Chris Young, who came into the game on an 0-for-19 skid, was 3-for-6 with two doubles and an RBI single.

"You've got to have faith in guys with track records, and he is a guy with a track record," Melvin said of Young. "We've talked about it a couple times where it looked like he was getting going, but today was a good day all-around."

Young said he "feels pretty good" at the plate, numbers aside.

"I feel like I've been having decent at-bats lately, not getting too much love," he said.

* So much for Friday night's 2:14 game time becoming a trend (guess it's just a Bartolo Colon thing). The A's go for the sweep tomorrow behind Jarrod Parker (3-6, 5.40). The White Sox counter with left-hander Chris Sale (5-2, 2.53). First pitch at 1:05 p.m.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Email: mkawahara@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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