Bay Area Baseball

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July 31, 2013
Moss on A's standing pat at deadline: 'They believe in us'

OAKLAND -- For the A's, the big news Wednesday was no news. That is, the trade deadline passed with no further activity in the Oakland front office, which made one move Tuesday to bolster their infield depth with Alberto Callaspo but otherwise made the quiet statement that they're confident going into August and beyond with the players already in tow.

"We feel like we've upgraded a team that's done pretty well to this point," manager Bob Melvin said.

The A's are 63-45 and began Wednesday with a five-game lead in the West over the Rangers, who can narrow it to four if they beat the Angels tonight. The Rangers also have a makeup game against the Diamondbacks on Thursday before they arrive in Oakland on Friday for a three-game series that Melvin acknowledged has a little more importance at this point in the year.

The A's have lost two in a row after falling 5-2 to the Blue Jays on Wednesday and are 7-6 since the All-Star Break, but still went into the series finale with Toronto with one win less than league co-leaders Boston and Tampa Bay. They have pitched particularly well and -- despite an 0-for-12 day with runners in scoring position Wednesday -- more often than not scored the runs that they've needed.

Callaspo is the kind of piece Melvin and the A's seem to love -- a switch-hitter who can play several infield positions, platoon with Eric Sogard at second base and let them rest Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie down the stretch. Asked what it means that Callaspo is the only piece added before the deadline, first baseman Brandon Moss answered: "It's a compliment to our team.

"I think that says that there are areas we can improve on maybe, but (front office staff) don't think the guys at that position can't be that improvement, just by playing a little better. They believe in us.

"Also it shows that they're not just going to make a move just to make a move. ... If you like your group and your group's getting the job done, why change it."

Does Moss like this team?

"I love our group," Moss said. "I love our team. We're the definition of team, I think. We're out there trying to win for each other and trying to put everything together for each other. It's not about self."

* The A's certainly could have used a clutch hit Wednesday in any of those 12 at-bats with runners on second or third -- or even a productive out, in the case of the fourth inning. They loaded the bases with nobody out in the fourth against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, but Chris Young and Stephen Vogt both popped out in the infield, and Coco Crisp flew out to center to end the inning.

This came a day after the A's were shut out by Mark Buerhle on Tuesday night, and ended a month in which Oakland scored a total of 93 runs in 25 games. That the A's still went 15-10 in July is a testament to how well they've pitched, though it seems a risky proposition to keep relying on such a thin margin for error.

"(We need to) get better at-bats in those situations," Melvin said of the struggles with runners in scoring position. "We work on it."

Granted, the A's were facing a bit of an anomaly in Dickey, whose hard knuckleball helped him win the N.L. Cy Young Award last season. The A's don't have another pitcher like Dickey in the division, so on the rare occasion they do see a knuckleballer, hitters said, it can be a little jarring.

"I think you put too much pressure on yourself to see (the knuckleball)," Moss said. "I was just looking for a fastball every pitch and when you see a pitch you like, act like it's a regular pitcher hanging an off-speed pitch.

"I think sometimes you'll see a lot of guys be late on it because they try to follow it or the lack of spin will kind of mesmerize you a little bit. I try not to think about it."

Dickey allowed six hits but only two runs, and both were unearned. The Blue Jays made four errors and lost several pop-ups battling the sun, otherwise Dickey might have gotten out totally unscathed.

"It's not really something we're going to lose sleep about, but it's definitely frustrating," third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "They were almost trying to give us the game and we weren't able to take advantage of it."

* Nor did the A's take advantage of an out-of-character but ultimately pretty good outing from Bartolo Colon, who gave up just two runs in six innings despite allowing 10 runners and lacking his typical pinpoint command. Colon threw just 53 of 97 pitches for strikes and walked three different hitters on four pitches.

"Sometimes you're behind in the count and try to make the best pitches possible and you just can't," Colon said. "That's what happened today."

Colon departed after the sixth in a 2-2 game, and in doing so extended his streak of starts with at least six innings pitched and three or fewer runs allowed to 15 -- now the longest such streak by an A's pitcher since at least 1916. More immediately Wednesday, he gave the A's a chance to win even while clearly not at his best.

"To fight himself the way he did today and only give up two runs against a good-hitting team, pretty incredible," Moss said. "That's an ace right there."

Along with the command issues, though, Colon was also a bit lower than normal on the radar gun. His fastball rarely registered above the 90-91 range, where he'll sometimes hit the mid-90s. Asked if he noticed his velocity being down a little, Colon answered: "Not a little. I felt a lot of the speed went down, but I can't explain it."

The question is whether that should be cause for concern. Wednesday was Colon's 22nd start of the season. He made 24 all of last year, due to his 50-game PED suspension, and he's a year older, which makes the season he's having all the more remarkable.

Colon, for one, said the drop in velocity Wednesday doesn't worry him. "That's the case sometimes," he said. "I don't worry about that as long as I keep my team in the game.

"I feel very strong right now and I'll keep working hard to get us where we want to go."

Colon was also asked about recent reports that have linked him to the Biogenesis Clinic but indicated he could be among the players to escape punishment due to having already served suspensions for PED violations. Colon declined to address the issue.

* Stephen Vogt took full responsibility for his two passed balls Wednesday, each having a role in the Blue Jays' scoring innings. The first, with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth, gave Toronto a 2-1 lead. The second, in the 10th, sent Jose Reyes to second, where Reyes scored from when Jose Bautista shot a double down the right-field line two batters later to put the Blue Jays up 3-2.

"It's frustrating," Vogt said. "It happens, but it just gets magnified when it happens at a time like that. Ball had some late movement and I didn't do my job. I didn't catch the ball and I just lost focus for a second, I suppose."

Vogt said both pitches, from Colon and reliever Jesse Chavez, were fastballs that moved considerably. "Both those guys have really good life on their fastballs and I just didn't do my job."

Vogt was also facing a knuckleballer for the first time in his career, he said, which made Wednesday an all-around tough day. In fact, here's how effective Vogt has been behind the plate -- Wednesday was his ninth start and the first in which the A's have lost.

* After a pair of scoreless outings recently, Jerry Blevins concluded a rough month by facing two hitters in the 10th inning Wednesday and retiring neither. He entered with the A's down 3-2, walked Mark DeRosa to load the bases and then allowed Colby Rasmus' two-run single through the pulled-in A's infield.

"The walk is the one he needs to stay away from," Melvin said. "Now we've got to play the infield in, and he did make a decent pitch to Rasmus with a ground ball. But when you're in your range is limited and it was more the walk for me than anything."

Opposing hitters are batting .345 against Blevins over his last 13 games (10-for-29) and the first batter he has faced has reached in nine of his last 12 games. Wednesday was the fourth of his 10 outings in July where Blevins failed to record an out.

* A couple other notes: Eric Sogard extended his career-best hitting streak to nine games with a 1-for-4 day. Sogard said before the game he's much more comfortable platooning this season having done it last year, and doesn't feel pressure to make something happen every time he plays in order to prove he belongs. In that way, he's proving he belongs. Funny game.

Yoenis Cespedes went 0-for-5, the seventh time in his career he's had at least five at-bats and not gotten a hit. That dropped Cespedes' average to .229, after it had been above .230 the past two days for the first time since June 21.

Callaspo made his A's debut as a pinch-hitter for Sogard in the seventh and went hitless in two at-bats. He also played second for the first time in a major-league game since 2010 -- though he and Melvin claim there won't be much of a transition, since it's his natural position.

* The A's ring in August with an off-day before the Rangers arrive on Friday, and while there's not much numerically significant about Game 109, it does take on a different feel flipping a page on the calendar.

"From August on, it feels like every series has a little more importance to it," Melvin said. "And when you're playing Texas, it is. It'll be a big series and we're looking forward to it."

Here are the pitching probables. The Rangers miss Colon, but the A's don't have to face Yu Darvish, so consider that a wash.

Friday: RHP Alexi Ogando (4-3, 3.05) vs. LHP Tommy Milone (9-8, 4.03)
Saturday: RHP Matt Garza (1-0, 1.88) vs. RHP Jarrod Parker (6-6, 4.07)
Sunday: LHP Derek Holland (8-6, 3.18) vs. RHP A.J. Griffin (10-7, 3.90)

That's it for today. Thanks for reading, as always, and be back Friday.

-- 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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