Bay Area Baseball

Follow the latest news and notes on the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics

September 30, 2013
Bay Area teams sweep Player of the Month awards

Giants right fielder Hunter Pence, who on Sunday signed a new five-year contract and had the walk-off hit in the Giants' 7-6 season-ending win over the San Diego Padres, was named National League Player of the Month today, while A's third baseman Josh Donaldson was named the recipient of the American League award.

Pence led all players with 32 RBIs in September, establishing a new San Francisco-era record for the month, and a .667 slugging percentage while tying with Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman for the most homers in the majors with 11.

Pence's week also included winning the Willie Mac Award, given to the Giants' most inspirational player, and becoming the first Giant since Alvin Dark in 1954 to start every game of the regular season.

Donaldson batted .337 in September with five homers, 16 RBIs and 20 runs while helping the A's win the A.L. West for the second consecutive year. Donaldson finished the regular season having played in 158 games while batting .301 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs, and has emerged for some as a dark-horse MVP candidate.

Before Donaldson, the last A's player to win Player of the Month was another third baseman -- Eric Chavez, back in September 2001. The last Giant to receive the N.L. award was Buster Posey in July 2010.

Kris Medlen of the Braves and Ubaldo Jimenez of the Indians were named the N.L. and A.L. Pitchers of the Month, respectively, while right-hander Gerrit Cole of the Pirates and right fielder Wil Myers of the Rays were named the Rookies of the Month.

-- Matt Kawahara

September 29, 2013
Giants walk off in season finale, finish tied for third in West

SAN FRANCISCO -- Anyone who looks back at the Giants' 2013 season finale in future years will see that the defending champion Giants beat the San Diego Padres, 7-6, with two runs in the bottom of the ninth to cinch a decidedly pedestrian third-place tie between the two teams in the National League West.

To view it that way will be to miss a lot.

The final two innings of the Giants' final game this season, on a hazy-then-crystal-clear afternoon at AT&T Park, packed in about as many turns and as much drama as a capacity crowd could have hoped for on Fan Appreciation Day. It's Sept. 29, and the Giants are going home. But they're leaving on a high note and one last wave of walk-off adrenaline.

"It was a great way to finish," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Felt like a playoff game out there.

"I think these guys really wanted a piece of third place."

September 29, 2013
Giants formalize Pence deal, turn attention to Lincecum

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants officially announced Hunter Pence's five-year deal at a news conference this morning at AT&T Park prior to the last game of the season. Pence is in the starting lineup for the 162nd time this year -- he'll become the first Giants player since Alvin Dark in 1954 to start every game of the regular season.

This morning, though, was about a different number -- five, which will keep Pence in a Giants uniform through 2018. Various news outlets have reported the deal is for $90 million.

"It's safe to say I'm extremely excited," Pence said. "This is an enormous day, I waited a long time to have an opportunity to choose where I wanted to sign.

"There were a lot of things that came into this decision to get this done before going into free agency, and I think a big part of that, number one, is I realize how brilliant this organization is. I know they're here to win. At the end of the day fans want to see us win, we play this game as competitors to win and I think there's a hunger here, a confidence and a championship mentality.

September 28, 2013
Eventful day for Hunter Pence ends with clubhouse negotiation

SAN FRANCISCO -- Quite an eventful Friday for Hunter Pence. First he found out he had won the Willie Mac Award as the Giants' most inspirational player, with his mother and brother both flying in to congratulate him. Then he homered in the Giants' 7-3 win over the Padres, snapping an 0-for-27 streak. Then, after the game, he had an extended conversation in the clubhouse with team President and CEO Larry Baer, which led some media members gathered nearby to jokingly wonder if the two were negotiating Pence's next contract.

Or it seemed to be joking, anyway. Pence, the impending free agent, disappeared for a while before returning to talk with the media, and was asked if he and Baer had hammered out a new deal.

"I don't know," Pence said. "They're about to get back to me. ... We're either really close or really far away."

He said he was being serious. Asked then if he thinks a deal could be reached before the Giants go their separate ways for the offseason, Pence said: "Yeah. I don't know. I'll know shortly.

"We'll just say that we're talking, I guess."

September 27, 2013
Hunter Pence named winner of 2013 Willie Mac Award

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants right fielder Hunter Pence was named this year's winner of the Willie Mac Award, given to the Giants' most inspirational player, during an on-field ceremony prior to tonight's game against the San Diego Padres.

The award is voted on by Giants players, coaches, training staff and fans. Pence has started all 160 games this season and this weekend can become the first Giants player in the San Francisco era to start every regular-season game in a season. Alvin Dark was the last Giant to do so, in 1954.

"It's tough to really quantify how much this means to me in my heart," Pence told the AT&T Park crowd after receiving the award. "My heart has never felt better than when my teammates have put me up in front of you today."

Pence, who began Friday batting .282 with 25 homers and 93 RBIs, will be a free agent after the season, and general manager Brian Sabean said during his end-of-season press conference Friday that the Giants have begun negotiations with Pence for next year.

Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, for whom the award is named, joined a handful of past recipients on the field for the ceremony and also addressed the crowd, saying Pence is one of his favorite players and adding: "I know along with me, all of you wish he's back next year."

Pence thanked several groups including the fans and his teammates, saying during the latter: "Buster (Posey), I know you don't like it when I say I love you -- you think it's soft -- but I actually think it's the strongest thing we've got."

After the presentation, the Giants played a video montage of Pence highlights set to Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy."

-- Matt Kawahara

September 27, 2013
Sabean reflects on Giants' season, shares priorities for 2014

SAN FRANCISCO -- One of the lasting images of the Giants' 2013 season will be that of center fielder Angel Pagan sprinting around the bases at AT&T Park and diving headfirst into home for an inside-the-park home run to beat the Rockies on May 25.

When the dust settled, the Giants were 27-22 and tied for first place in the West. Pagan, though, would not play again for 84 games with a hamstring injury that required surgery. The Giants, meanwhile, spent one more day tied for first before entering a prolonged tailspin that scuttled their World Series title defense and left them battling the San Diego Padres for third place when the two teams met Friday to begin their final series of 2013.

It was one instance of what general manager Brian Sabean pointed to Friday when asked how a team that hoisted the Commissioner's Trophy last October fell so precipitously this season.

"I think it's pretty simple -- we didn't have enough depth," Sabean said during a news conference at AT&T Park. "Last year we seemingly were able to overcome injury and lack of performance. We didn't do that this year.

"We didn't get any kind of life raft help from the minor leagues, whether that was the fifth starter or what we went through in left or center. So lack of depth became an issue."

September 26, 2013
As season ends, Lincecum 'trying to be open-minded' on future

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's been a somewhat odd contrast the last couple nights at AT&T Park. On Wednesday, there was a pervading understanding that those in attendance were witnessing Barry Zito's last start as a Giant, a feeling of finality to Zito's comments after the game, and yet there was no sendoff moment as Zito was lifted for a pinch hitter after just five innings and 77 pitches.

Thursday night, the announced crowd of 41,221 seemed intent on seizing every possible chance of showing their appreciation for Tim Lincecum, who will be a free agent when this season is over. They gave him a standing ovation after he put down a sacrifice bunt in the fifth. They did again as he left the mound in the seventh, his final inning. And yet following what may have been Lincecum's final start as a Giant, nobody wanted to shut the door on his tenure in San Francisco.

"It just felt like the last start of a season," Lincecum said. "Not anything more than that."

"We don't know what's going to happen," said manager Bruce Bochy. "But I was very happy for him with the job that he did tonight.

September 26, 2013
Giants, Dodgers lineups: Lincecum makes final start of 2013

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy didn't want to discuss the possibility of tonight being Tim Lincecum's final start as a Giant.

"I don't want to go into that too much because I certainly hope that Timmy is back with us," Bochy said. "Timmy has been such a pleasure all my years here, and I hope that continues."

Lincecum, of course, will be a free agent when the season ends. He'll make his last start of 2013 tonight in the series finale against the Dodgers, attempting to avoid tying his career high of 15 losses set last season. Lincecum is currently 10-14 with a 4.44 ERA.

It will be Lincecum's 22nd career start -- and 23rd appearance -- against the Dodgers. He's 9-6 with a 2.94 ERA in thouse outings, with the ERA being the fifth-lowest against the Dodgers of all active pitchers. The record would probably be better had it not included so many duels with Clayton Kershaw.

Here's the Giants' lineup behind Lincecum tonight. Pablo Sandoval was originally in the lineup, but was scratched after arriving at the park with flu-like symptoms.

September 26, 2013
Zito closes 2013 with a win, reflects on seven years as a Giant

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Zito wasn't ready for it to end. Not his start Wednesday night, not his season, not his tenure in a Giants uniform.

Not after just five innings and 77 pitches from an arm that, with the exception of one stint on the disabled list, made every start asked of it since it inked a seven-year, $126 million contract back before the 2007 season. Not with a 5-2 lead against the Dodgers and, in his ears, the cheers of a fan base that so often it seemed he would never win over under the weight of that contract -- until he did last year, over the course of two starts.

"I felt good out there," Zito said Wednesday night. "I wanted to keep going. I wanted to throw a complete game. Last time in a Giants uniform, I wanted to end it in style."

But the ending, when it came, was abrupt. After a brief conversation with Zito following the top of the fifth inning, in which Zito "was fighting" to stay in, manager Bruce Bochy elected to pull him with his spot in the order leading off the inning. No opportunity for a curtain call, or one last walk off the mound with the AT&T Park crowd knowing for a fact that it was the end.

"It wasn't a situation where you're thinking about a curtain call, to be honest, as much as doing all you can to win tonight's game," said Bochy, citing that Zito hadn't pitched in a game since Sept. 2 and had taken a line drive off his leg in the fifth.

September 25, 2013
Bumgarner: 'A lot more stuff I can continue to get better at'

SAN FRANCISCO -- In his last start, Giants' left-hander Madison Bumgarner eclipsed the 200-inning mark for the third consecutive season. He also struck out 10 New York Mets to bring his season total to 199 -- where it will stay, after the Giants opted to shut down the 24-year-old left-hander and have Barry Zito start tonight instead.

"They told me it was kind of final and I could tell that, so didn't really try to argue too much," Bumgarner said today. "They're the boss, I'm working for them. So I'm just going to do what they say."

By whatever measure, Bumgarner was the Giants' most consistent starter in 2013, going 13-9 with a career-low 2.77 ERA. He allowed 146 hits in 201 ½ innings and posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio better than 3-to-1, issuing 62 walks alongside the 199 strikeouts.

That he did not match or exceed his total of 16 wins from last season was due in part to a convergence of tough luck and little support. Bumgarner made his first All-Star team with a 10-5 record at the break, but he went 3-4 in 12 second-half starts despite recording a 2.36 ERA.

September 25, 2013
Giants, Dodgers lineups: One more start for Barry Zito

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy wanted to get Barry Zito one more start before the season -- and quite possibly Zito's tenure as a Giant -- ends this weekend. Zito gets that chance tonight against the Dodgers, taking the rotation spot of Madison Bumgarner, who has been shut down for the season.

Zito hasn't pitched since Sept. 2, his last start, in San Diego. Bochy, though, said Zito has maintained regular throwing and took a long bullpen session in New York, so he was prepared when told Tuesday he would be starting this evening.

"He didn't have a lot of notice," Bochy said. "But talking to him last night, he said, 'I'm ready to go. He's been throwing and he's excited about this start. And I'm excited to give him this start."

It's one more chance for Zito, who is 4-11 with a 5.91 ERA, to put a positive finish on an otherwise disappointing year. The Giants hold a club option on Zito for next season, and can elect to pay him a $7 million buyout, which would end Zito's time with the Giants after seven seasons.

September 22, 2013
A's headed back to postseason a year older, more experienced

OAKLAND -- One thing about the A's clinching celebrations last year -- both when they qualified for the postseason and then won the division two days later -- was that each felt, and for the most part was, totally spontaneous. They had to be. The September run was numerically highly improbable, and in the case of the West title, everything was up in the air heading into the final day of the season. There was no time to plan.

This year? A little different. The A's won the West on Sunday for the second consecutive season, and well before the day began, there was a sense of inevitability. It wasn't if they would clinch, but when, with the mystery mostly coming from whether they could do it at home. And even when it did become official, it wasn't with the A's nailing down the last out of their game, but with the Rangers losing in Kansas City.

Maybe for that reason, the A's celebration after their 11-7 win over the Twins on Sunday seemed just a little more controlled than last year's. They still streamed out of the dugout after Evan Scribner struck out Josmil Pinto for the final out, still formed a jumping mob on the infield, and still soaked their clubhouse afterward in Champagne and beer. But the giddiness of 2012 seemed to be replaced by something else. What was different?

"I don't think anybody can be surprised this year," first baseman and outfielder Brandon Moss said.

"Last year was a surprise because we had guys coming in that had never done things and doing things. But this year I think the way they put the team together, they knew we were going to be better than last year.

"They put the team together with certain roles in mind, and we filled those roles, and everybody's done what they're supposed to do."

September 22, 2013
A's win A.L. West for second consecutive season

OAKLAND -- The Oakland A's are returning to the playoffs as American League West champions.

The A's entered Sunday needing a win or a Texas Rangers loss to clinch the division for the second consecutive year. It became official when the Rangers lost to the Kansas City Royals, 4-0, on a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning.

Justin Maxwell's grand slam coincided with the top of the third inning in Oakland, where pockets of fans broke into scattered applause and cheers as word spread of that outcome.

The Coliseum's out-of-town scoreboard, though, maintained a 0-0 score in Kansas City until the end of the inning. The video monitors then showed Maxwell's homer while the crowd erupted. Reaction amongst the A's was more muted, with a few fist pumps and handshakes exchanged in the dugout.

The A's clinched their 16th A.L. West title and 17th postseason appearance in the Oakland era. They did so in game 156, the earliest they've clinched a division title since doing so in 154 games in 1990.

It was only three weeks before the A's had trailed Texas by three games, with another taut September race looking all but certain. But while the A's surged -- beginning today with a 17-5 record since Aug. 30 -- the Rangers faltered, posting a 6-15 record over that same span.

The A's currently lead the Minnesota Twins, 8-4, in the fourth inning in Oakland.

-- Matt Kawahara

September 22, 2013
A's, Twins lineups for regular-season finale at Coliseum

OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin sat down for his pre-game media session with the Rangers-Royals game playing on the video monitors at the Coliseum this morning.

"Looks like it's not only scoreboard-watching today," he said. "Big-screen watching."

It's the regular-season home finale for the A's today, and they're within one win or a Rangers loss of clinching the American League West. It's also about as nice out -- sunny and warm -- as it was rainy and cold yesterday.

"All those things combined would make this an ideal day to win a baseball game," Melvin said.

The Rangers and Royals are still scoreless after three innings. With the possibility the A's could find out during their game that they've clinched the West, Melvin was asked if he would want that acknowledged somehow at the Coliseum. He skirted the question, along with a question about the importance of nailing down home-field advantage at least for the opening round of the playoffs.

September 21, 2013
A's magic number is one after rain-delayed 9-1 win over Twins

OAKLAND -- While Saturday's game between the A's and Twins was being delayed two hours by rain, a Coliseum staffer approached one of the food services employees asking about trash bags. They might be needed later, he explained, in the A's clubhouse.

After the natural deluge ended and the A's mounted one of their own with 16 hits in a 9-1 win over the Twins, they re-entered a clubhouse draped in plastic wrap for their potential Champagne celebration -- only if the Rangers lost to the Royals in Kansas City.

It made for a funny scene. Players gathered around the TVs in the clubhouse watching the final few innings of the game in Kansas City, rooting audibly for the Royals, who wound up losing to Texas, 3-1. Almost immediately after the final out, clubhouse attendants started taking down the plastic, as players filed out for the evening.

The A's magic number is now one, meaning they can clinch the West with a win Sunday.

"We know it's right there," said right-hander Jarrod Parker. "It's something where if we handle what we do and we win games, it's going to happen."

September 21, 2013
A's, Twins lineups: Rainy day at Coliseum as A's could clinch

OAKLAND -- Rain is still coming down at the Coliseum, where the tarp has been on the infield for more than an hour. It was pouring earlier -- A's players were going in and out of the clubhouse to survey the field, parts of which in the outfield look pretty saturated. Catcher Kurt Suzuki remarked, "I've never seen rain like this in the Bay Area." One of the security guards in the clubhouse-to-dugout tunnel had taped plastic bags over his shoes and up to his knees.

That said, we're less than an hour from scheduled first pitch and there has been no announcement of a delay, although it's hard to imagine this game starting on time. ** UPDATE (12:30 p.m.): The A's just officially announced the game has been delayed. No new start time has been given yet.

The rain is supposed to subside by around 1 p.m. Remember that the A's can clinch the West today if they win and the Rangers lose in Kansas City, in a game that's supposed to start three hours after this one. If this start gets pushed back, it could eliminate some of the waiting period for the A's, if they do win today against the Twins.

"First we have to win," manager Bob Melvin said. "Then potentially we'll talk about those type of things. But until we win it's moot."

Melvin said he's anxious to get the game in and hadn't given any thought to whether the A's would hang around the Coliseum to watch the Rangers game or reconvene afterward in the event they did clinch today. Either way, with the weather and the uncertainty, it's shaping up right now to be a long afternoon.

Here's the A's lineup, for when and if this game does get played:

September 20, 2013
A's beat Twins behind Colon, can clinch A.L. West on Saturday

OAKLAND -- For all the talk the A's have done about avoiding scoreboard-watching, they might have a good reason to do some Saturday. After their 11-0 win over the Twins on Friday and the Rangers' 2-1 loss to the Royals, the A's magic number to clinch both the A.L. West and a playoff spot in general is two.

That means they can clinch both Saturday with a win and a Rangers loss. If the A's hold up their end of the deal in their 1:05 p.m. start, they'll most likely then have to wait for a while to learn whether they're division champions, as the Rangers and Royals begin play three hours later.

Under that scenario, would they watch the Rangers game together? Reconvene if Texas were to lose?

"I haven't given it any thought," manager Bob Melvin said. "I know we play tomorrow at (1:05 p.m.), and then we'll consider what the options are after that. But I really haven't given it much thought."

September 20, 2013
A's, Twins lineups: Cespedes at DH, Barton in against a lefty

OAKLAND -- A's reliever Ryan Cook was throwing under the supervision of manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young this afternoon. Melvin said Cook was trying some mechanical adjustments that Young had picked out on film as possibly contributing to Cook's struggles this month.

Cook allowed two runs on two hits and a walk in 1/3 of an inning Thursday night. In his last 13 outings, he has thrown eight innings and allowed 20 hits.

"You go back and look at video and maybe there's some things that have gotten a little bit out of whack," Melvin said. "Curt's really good about addressing those things, and (Cook) was working on some of those today."

Melvin reiterated he's confident Cook will "fight his way through" this rough patch. His optimism comes largely from the fact Cook hasn't lost velocity off his fastball or the bite out of his breaking ball, which could be signs of fatigue or a bigger mechanical issue.

September 18, 2013
Balfour suffers rare blown save; Griffin not sweating home runs

OAKLAND -- Over the course of this season A's right-hander A.J. Griffin has gotten pretty tired of the question. Yes, Griffin has been very susceptible to the home run -- the 34 he'd allowed before Wednesday led all major-league pitchers. Often he'll point out that many (24, to be exact) have come with no runners on base. His 14 wins prior to Wednesday, meanwhile, were tied for sixth in the American League.

Griffin allowed his 35th homer of the year to the third batter he faced Wednesday, as the Angels' Mike Trout lined a full-count fastball over the wall in left field for an early 2-0 lead. No other Angel managed a hit against Griffin in six innings.

Griffin was denied his 15th win when the Angels tied the game in the ninth on Josh Hamilton's home run off Grant Balfour and won it in the 11th on Hamilton's sacrifice fly. But it was another strong outing for Griffin, who's having arguably his best month in September.

The right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA in four September starts. He had a 2.60 ERA in June, but allowed four earned runs in two starts that month and went 1-2. After Trout's two-run homer in the first, Griffin retired 17 of the final 18 hitters he faced, including striking Trout out on a high fastball for the final out of the sixth.

"We've had some shaky early innings from the starters, but you have to put that behind you and go forward," manager Bob Melvin said. "He's been pretty good about that."

September 18, 2013
A's, Angels lineups: Lowrie in, Barton gets starts against lefty

OAKLAND -- A cleaning crew was still mopping the floor of the Coliseum home dugout as A's manager Bob Melvin settled in for his pre-game meeting with reporters this morning. If you haven't heard, a sewage problem cropped up in the dugout bathroom during the A's 2-1 win over the Angels on Tuesday night, prompting players and coaches to move onto to the steps of the dugout for the latter part of the game.

Jed Lowrie was quoted afterward as saying the situation was "kind of repulsive," though Melvin said today the A's mostly met the backup with humor. "I think we to an extent got a kick out of it," Melvin said. "It just made me move out of a superstitious spot more than anything else."

Melvin found a new spot, from which he watched Josh Donaldson's walk-off hit. So maybe something positive came out of that after all.

Lowrie is back in the lineup today after missing the past two games with a sore right hamstring. Daric Barton gets the start at first base over Nate Freiman against Angels left-hander Jason Vargas. Melvin said that's in part because of Vargas' splits this season -- righties are hitting .256 against him, lefties are batting .347 and have a higher slugging percentage (.458 to .428).

Here's the full A's lineup against Vargas:

September 18, 2013
Donaldson walk-off hit with bases loaded, where he has thrived

OAKLAND -- Before Josh Donaldson stepped to the plate in the ninth inning Tuesday, he was 7-for-10 on the season with 15 RBIs batting with the bases loaded. He's now 8-for-11 in those situations -- a .727 average -- with his latest hit giving the A's a walkoff 2-1 win over the Angels that moved them one step closer to clinching a playoff spot.

Donaldson lined an 0-2 fastball from Michael Kohn into right- center with two outs to score Jemile Weeks from third, after Kohn had struck out Daric Barton with the Angels playing a fifth infielder in a bases-loaded, one-out situation.

Donaldson recalled facing Kohn earlier in the year, when "he threw me a lot of fastballs and kind of blew it past me every time. Tonight I was trying to read dead-red heater."

After swinging through a fastball at 96 mph and fouling another at 96 over the backstop, Donaldson hit a 95 mph offering for his third career walk-off hit. All three have come this season, and Donaldson credited a more patient approach in pressure at-bats.

September 17, 2013
Coliseum tarps coming off for potential ALDS home games

OAKLAND -- Tickets for a potential A.L. Division Series featuring the A's went on sale at the Coliseum today, with demand leading team officials to decide they would remove some of the tarps covering third-deck seating for the series, an A's spokesman said.

Tickets for the regular-season capacity of 35,067 sold out in two hours for three potential home ALDS games at the Coliseum, the spokesman said. The A's, however, would remove the tarps from the third-deck "view level" seating, opening over 12,000 more seats. The tarps on "Mt. Davis" beyond center field would not be removed.

The new capacity is 48,146. Tickets for "view level" seating are already on sale and the spokesman said about 2,000 had been sold within the first two hours. Decisions on whether the tarps would remain off for the ALCS and World Series -- should the A's make it that far -- will be made as necessary.

A's players and their opponents talked often last year about the effect of the Coliseum crowds in late-season and playoff games. Manager Bob Melvin was asked Tuesday what he thinks adding 12,000 more fans would do to the atmosphere should the A's, who lead the A.L. West by 6 ½ games with 12 to play, reach the postseason.

"I could imagine," Melvin said, "but we still need to get there first. We'll deal with that if and when the time comes."

-- Matt Kawahara

September 17, 2013
Cespedes' MRI shows tendinitis; Jaso takes step toward return

OAKLAND -- The results on Yoenis Cespedes' MRI came back showing tendinitis in the A's outfielder's right shoulder. Manager Bob Melvin termed that good news -- it means there's no tear, and Cespedes will remain in the lineup as long as he feels he can play. Melvin said the A's will "probably DH him for a bit here, and then when he feels good as far as throwing the ball, get him back in the outfield."

With Cespedes at DH tonight and the A's facing a right-hander in the Angels' Garrett Richards, it'll be Brandon Moss getting the start in left field. Moss has played five games in left this season and Melvin said he's "equally as comfortable" with Moss in left as in right field or at first base, where the majority of his playing time has come.

In other injury news, catcher John Jaso took a significant step toward returning from his concussion before today's game, hitting on the field and joining the A's for warm-ups. Melvin said it's still uncertain whether Jaso will be able to play again this season, but that Jaso was very encouraged by just getting back on the field with teammates.

"I think that's what this was all about, as far as a first step," Melvin said. "He's turned a corner here in the last four, five days where he feels pretty good, he's waking up feeling a lot better.

September 16, 2013
Parker's unbeaten streak ends, but A's magic number shrinks

OAKLAND -- Josh Donaldson crossed first base, turned to the middle of the diamond and raised his hands in disbelief. He had just hit a sharp grounder into a wide-open hole on the shortstop side of second base. But with Coco Crisp running on the pitch, Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick was also moving toward the bag and was able to snag Donaldson's chopper on a backhand and throw Donaldson out to end the third inning.

It was that kind of night for the A's. Jarrod Parker, who hadn't lost a decision in his last 19 starts, didn't get out of the fifth and allowed eight runs. The A's were handcuffed by C.J. Wilson until the sixth, when Derek Norris' RBI single gave them their only run. The 12-1 final marked their most lopsided loss of the season.

"We just got beat up," manager Bob Melvin said. "We didn't pitch very well, we didn't swing the bats well, and they did both. We just got beat. I don't think you take any more from it than that. Just try to move on."

The most beneficial things for the A's happened out of town. The Rangers and Indians both lost, reducing the magic number for the A's to clinch the West (now 7) and a playoff spot (now 6).

Such is the luxury of being where the A's are in the standings now as opposed to where they were at this time a year ago -- even on a night when they did little right, they moved one step closer to securing a postseason berth.

September 16, 2013
A's, Angels lineups: Cespedes (shoulder) at DH, Lowrie out

OAKLAND -- Jarrod Parker, who was scratched from his start Sunday due to illness, is feeling better today and will start tonight's series opener for the A's against the Angels. Manager Bob Melvin said the A's will just bump everybody in the rotation back a day, so Sonny Gray will start tomorrow and A.J. Griffin will have the Wednesday day game.

"I think it helps this time of year for everybody to be pushed back a day," said Melvin, who again credited Tommy Milone for his performance Sunday in a game he found out an hour before first pitch he'd be starting.

Yoenis Cespedes is also in the A's lineup after missing Sunday's game with soreness in his right shoulder. Cespedes underwent an MRI but Melvin said the A's hadn't gotten the results back as of this evening. Throwing bothers Cespedes, who hurt the shoulder diving for a ball, but he felt OK swinging in the cages this afternoon so he will DH tonight.

Not in the lineup is Jed Lowrie, who had his right hamstring cramp up Sunday in Texas. Lowrie said he actually started feeling the cramp coming on Saturday, and it got worse during Sunday's game, which he left early. He had a heat pad on it Monday afternoon and said he thinks he'll be back in the lineup Tuesday.

Here's the full A's lineup tonight against Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson:

CF Crisp
LF Young
3B Donaldson
DH Cespedes
C Norris
1B Freiman
2B Callaspo
RF Reddick
SS Parrino

And the Angels' lineup against Parker:

September 8, 2013
Anderson still adjusting to 'pen; 'vintage' Colon in A's 7-2 win

OAKLAND -- The A's have won eight of their last 10 games, 11 of their last 14, and still lead the Rangers by 1 ½ games in the West after beating the Astros on Sunday, 7-2. As a September surge, left-hander Brett Anderson said, it does feel a little bit like last season, "but obviously it's a different team, a different group of guys."

And for Anderson, while he's again making a second-half return from injury to contribute down the stretch, it's in a different role. Anderson pitched the final three innings of Sunday's game in relief of Bartolo Colon for his third three-inning save since rejoining the A's in the bullpen.

None have been entirely clean. Anderson allowed singles to the first three hitters he faced in the seventh inning Sunday before getting out of the inning with a strikeout and double play. In those nine innings, he has allowed six runs and 12 hits, thought it hasn't mattered much as the A's have held large leads in all three games.

The outings have mostly gone like Sunday -- Anderson surrendered a quick flurry of hits, then appeared to settle in and pitch better. Catcher Stephen Vogt offered an interesting explanation -- Anderson has been getting "ambushed."

"Right when he comes in, that first inning is tough for him," Vogt said. "He's still adjusting to coming out of the 'pen and that mindset. It's nothing to do with his stuff, he's getting ambushed at times. As a starter, he's not going to get ambushed like that."

September 8, 2013
A's, Astros lineups: Donaldson (quad) gets a day off

OAKLAND -- Josh Donaldson is not in the A's starting lineup today for just the third time in 141 games this season. Donaldson tweaked his quad during Saturday's game. Manager Bob Melvin called it a strain and said he and the A's trainers wanted to give Donaldson two days of rest -- with the off-day Monday -- in hopes he'll be back in the lineup Tuesday in Minnesota.

Donaldson said this morning Melvin hadn't talked to him about the day off. Melvin said there wouldn't have been much of a point -- Donaldson would have wanted to play. "He can play with some nicks, some aches and pains, but this is one we felt it was prudent to leave him out today," Melvin said.

So it's Alberto Callaspo at third base -- Callaspo's natural position -- and Eric Sogard in the No. 2 spot in the lineup. The Astros were originally going to start right-hander Paul Clemens today, but they just announced they've scratched Clemens with a blister, and Lucas Harrell will start instead. Both are right-handers, meaning Melvin doesn't have to scramble to re-arrange his matchup-laden lineup. Here's the full A's lineup:

CF Crisp
2B Sogard
SS Lowrie
RF Moss
LF Cespedes
3B Callaspo
1B Barton
DH Smith
C Vogt

And the Astros' lineup against Bartolo Colon:

September 7, 2013
Straily sharp again, Doolittle rages, more homers in A's 2-1 win

OAKLAND -- Like the A's recently, Dan Straily is doing some of his best work of the season at the right time. Straily, the rookie right-hander, threw seven scoreless innings against the Astros in the A's 2-1 win on Saturday and has now allowed just three runs over 19 innings in his last three starts. The A's have won all three -- against the Tigers, Rangers and Astros -- and have won seven of their last nine games, ensuring they will spend at least another night in sole possession of first place.

"He's pitching really well for us right now, one of our better starters here," manager Bob Melvin said.

Straily allowed just two hits to the Astros and struck out seven. The consensus from his teammates and Melvin is that when Straily has command of his fastball he can be nasty for opposing hitters because he can also throw his off-speed for strikes. Straily's slider was particularly sharp Saturday -- catcher Kurt Suzuki said that when Straily gets on top of the pitch, it's "among the best I've ever caught."

"Every once in a while there are some lapses where he loses command of the fastball, but he always seems on the days he's going really well to snap out of it and get right back in the zone," shortstop Jed Lowrie said. "Today was one of those days, and he had the slider working really well. He was impressive today. Really, really impressive."

September 7, 2013
A's, Astros lineups: Crisp gets a day off, Lowrie in leadoff spot

OAKLAND -- The A's lineup has a slightly different look today against Houston lefty Brett Oberholtzer. Coco Crisp gets a planned day off, with the A's about to play a 16-games-in-16-days stretch after their off-day Monday. Kurt Suzuki will catch Dan Straily, but Melvin wanted to get Derek Norris in the lineup as well against the left-hander so Norris is at DH.

Oberholtzer, the 24-year-old Astros rookie, has a 1.98 ERA since July 31 that's the lowest in the American League during that time. Left-handed hitters have actually had more success against him than righties in his nine outings -- right-handers are batting .202 with a .553 OPS against him, while lefties are at .311 with an .852 OPS.

The A's don't have a lefty in the lineup, so we'll see if playing matchups pays off today. Here's the full Oakland lineup:

SS Lowrie
CF Young
3B Donaldson
LF Cespedes
1B Freiman
2B Callaspo
DH Norris
RF Choice
C Suzuki

And the Astros' lineup against A's right-hander Dan Straily:

September 7, 2013
A's alone in first place after 7-5 win over Astros

OAKLAND -- The A's had spent nine days either tied for first place or within a half-game of the Texas Rangers since they were last alone atop the West on Aug. 6. They finally got over that hump again Friday with their 7-5 win over the Astros and Texas losing 6-5 to the Angels -- and they couldn't have sounded less excited about it.

"You know what? I hadn't really thought about that," manager Bob Melvin said in his post-game press conference. "I'll tell you tomorrow."

"Are we alone?" said third baseman Josh Donaldson. "It doesn't matter 'til the end of the season. We know that too well. So we're really not trying to focus on it right now."

Still, it bears repeating that the A's are in a much better position at this point than they were last season, when they still had some serious ground to make up in late September. Friday, they had the offensive performance most people were probably expecting when the series started -- the Astros came in with the highest staff ERA in baseball by more than half a run, and the A's had 10 hits in the first four innings.

September 6, 2013
A's, Astros lineups: Norris returns from fractured toe

OAKLAND -- Derek Norris makes his return to the lineup tonight after being reinstated yesterday from the 15-day disabled list. Norris last played Aug. 20 and hit the DL the next day with his fractured left big toe. He'll catch A.J. Griffin against the Astros and their left-hander Dallas Keuchel.

Manager Bob Melvin continued to say he has "three good options" at catcher, and that you could see Kurt Suzuki behind the plate Saturday against another left-hander in Brett Oberholtzer. Melvin has said matchups will dictate who catches on a given day -- and not the familiarity of any one A's starter with a particular catcher.

"We feel comfortable with all three of those guys with our pitchers," Melvin said. "There isn't any real personal catcher thing going on at this point."

That said, here are Griffin's splits this season with the A's catchers, courtesy of baseball-reference.com:

Jaso: 12 games, 67.1 IP, 4.14 ERA, 18 HR, 2.41 HR/9, 3.41 K/BB

Norris: 10 games, 64 IP, 4.08 ERA, 7 HR, 0.98 HR/9, 4.36 K/BB

Vogt: 7 games, 44.2 IP, 3.02 ERA, 8 HR, 1.61 HR/9, 1.67 K/BB

September 4, 2013
A's trump another ace in Darvish; Parker unbeaten streak at 18

OAKLAND -- The Rangers began Wednesday having not allowed more than five runs in a game since July 30 -- a span of 31 games that was the longest by an American League team since baseball introduced the designated hitter in 1973. They had their ace going in Yu Darvish, who came in with a 2.73 ERA and a majors-leading 236 strikeouts. Those aren't normally the ingredients for an offensive outburst like that of the A's in their 11-4 win over the Rangers that evened things -- again -- atop the A.L. West.

Maybe it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, though. The A's offense has done some of its best work lately against some of the best pitchers in the league. In Detroit, they beat Justin Verlander and came within a blown save of handing Max Scherzer just his second loss all year. They returned home the next day and beat Tampa Bay ace David Price. Wednesday, they beat Darvish for the third time this year in three chances.

The A's just seem to give Darvish trouble. Since beating the A's the first time he faced them as a rookie last year, he hasn't won in their last five meetings, and his career ERA against Oakland is 4.85 after he allowed a season-high-tying five runs in five innings on Wednesday.

"I think he brings out the best in us because he's their No. 1," said third baseman Josh Donaldson. "I haven't really done much against him except for one single, but it's a team game and up and down the lineup I think guys had pretty good at-bats today."

They certainly made Darvish work, after it became apparent early on that his command wasn't at its best. Darvish threw 100 pitches but only 52 strikes. His six walks tied a career high, and he was visibly frustrated at times, including a mound visit from catcher A.J. Pierzynski in the second inning when the two appeared to be barking at each other.

September 4, 2013
Choice's first MLB hit 'not how I imagined it, but I'll take it'

OAKLAND -- Michael Choice picked up the first hit of his big-league career Tuesday night -- a dribbler in front of home plate that he beat out for an infield single.

"Wasn't quite how I imagined it, but I'll take it," Choice said with a smile this morning. "It was nice to get it out of the way."

Choice, who is not in today's lineup against the Rangers after starting the first two games of the series, had the ball waiting for him in his locker Tuesday night and said it may find a place in his home office, where he has other memorabilia from college and the minors. He said his parents, wife and son were at the game, which was "pretty cool."

"It was a good feeling," he said. "But next thing I noticed was Coco (Crisp) getting in the box pretty fast, so I was like, all right, I've got to check the outfielders. I didn't want to get caught up in the moment too much."

September 3, 2013
Donaldson goes all-out, for better or worse, in A's 5-1 loss

OAKLAND -- Tuesday night showed both sides of Josh Donaldson's aggressive play. He made one of the best catches you'll see this year in the sixth inning, diving headfirst over a tarp in foul ground to catch David Murphy's pop-up. He also ran the A's out of a potential two-out rally in the third, getting thrown out at the plate coming from second on Yoenis Cespedes' infield single.

First, the catch. Here's a video. This isn't the first time Donaldson has thrown himself at this tarp chasing a foul ball, but the difficulty of the timing and the getting wedged in between the tarp and the wall -- that was a little different.

"That's the way he plays," manager Bob Melvin said. "That was a hell of a play. You're not going to see too many better plays than that."

Closer Grant Balfour described it as "frickin' amazing." Donaldson said he hadn't seen a replay but, "From what everybody is telling me it's right up there with the best of them for this year."

"It's something I take pride in," said the catcher-turned-third-baseman. "If I get that opportunity, I'm willing to throw my body over to try to make that play."

September 3, 2013
A's recall Milone, Scribner, Neshek; Moss wins weekly honor

OAKLAND -- The A's made several more September call-ups today, recalling Tommy Milone and Evan Scribner from the minors and selecting Pat Neshek from Triple-A. Reliever Hideki Okajima was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Neshek, who was outrighted to Triple-A last week. The A's released catcher Luke Montz, who was designated for assignment when they called up Michael Choice.

Milone, Scribner and Neshek are all listed on the A's lineup card in the bullpen, giving them 11 relievers in all. Coco Crisp, who fouled a ball off his right shin Monday, is in the lineup at designated hitter, with Chris Young in center field and Choice, who made his major-league debut Monday, in right. Here's the full lineup:

DH Crisp
3B Donaldson
SS Lowrie
LF Cespedes
1B Moss
2B Callaspo
RF Young
C Suzuki
RF Choice

One name not in that lineup -- Brandon Moss, who today was named the A.L. Player of the Week for the week ending Sunday. Moss led all big-league hitters with four homers, 11 RBIs and 21 total bases and tied for second with eight runs scored as the A's went 6-1 during the week. Yet another sign of how thoroughly manager Bob Melvin believes in his platoons, with the Rangers throwing a left-hander in rookie Martin Perez, who went 5-0 in August.

It's Bartolo Colon on the mound for the A's. The Rangers' lineup against Colon:

CF Gentry
SS Profar
2B Kinsler
3B Beltre
C Pierzynski
RF Rios
1B Moreland
DH Berkman
LF Murphy

-- Matt Kawahara

September 2, 2013
Crisp stays power-hungry as A's win 4-2, pull even in A.L. West

OAKLAND -- Coco Crisp was sitting on 10 home runs in mid-August when he missed nearly a week dealing with a sore right wrist. Since returning to the A's lineup on a regular basis Aug. 19, he has hit seven in 13 games, including his career-high 17th that ended up being the difference in the A's 4-2 win over the Rangers on Monday.

Crisp has actually hit the seven home runs in his last 12 games, and has homered in three straight for the third time this season. It's a pretty impressive power display from a player who has only reached double-digit home runs four times in his 12 major-league seasons.

"If you ever watch him take BP there are times he tries to hit homers, and he can do it," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He's short to the ball, long through, which creates back-spin. Maybe it's a little out of character for what his career would suggest, but where he is right now in his career, he's gotten better about it."

Melvin said before the game the A's are playing their best baseball of the second half, and it's likely not a coincidence it's coming at the same time as Crisp's offensive surge. Melvin has often referred to Crisp as the "igniter" of the A's offense, Crisp is batting .327 with 14 runs scored and nine RBIs over his last 13 games.

September 2, 2013
A's, Rangers lineups: Choice to make big-league debut

OAKLAND -- Michael Choice, the A's first-round draft pick in 2010, will make his major-league debut today starting at designated hitter for the A's in their series opener against the Texas Rangers.

"I'm excited," Choice said this morning. "It's a moment I've been waiting for for a long time."

It wasn't a total surprise when Choice saw the lineup card today -- he said manager Bob Melvin hinted on Sunday that he'd play today with the Rangers starting a left-hander in Derek Holland. Choice said his parents are flying in from Dallas, and his wife, sister-in-law and son Blair, who turns two next month, will all be in attendance.

"Just get him in there as soon as possible, kind of ease him in in a DH role," Melvin said. "it allows us to get all righties in there against Holland ... and he also has a chance to hit one out of the ballpark."

As Melvin pointed out, when the A's have faced left-handed pitchers this season they've typically had at least one left-handed hitter in the lineup by necessity. If Choice makes an immediate impact with the bat, Melvin didn't rule out consistent playing time for him in September against lefties.

September 1, 2013
As calendar flips to September, A's narrow West deficit to one

OAKLAND -- As if to underscore the flipping of the calendar to September on Sunday, the video monitors at the Coliseum cut after the seventh inning to a highlight of the final out in the Minnesota Twins' 4-2 win over the Texas Rangers, with a caption under the score reading: "A.L. West deficit 1.5 games."

It's now a one-game deficit for the A's after they completed a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays with a 5-1 win on Sunday. While manager Bob Melvin has talked a few times over the past few weeks about games and series having a feel of added importance, actually seeing "September" in front of the date drives that home.

Melvin acknowledged as much Sunday, saying that while he still tries "not to get caught up" in scoreboard-watching at this point, he does pay attention when the numbers change by the TEX symbol on the out-of-town scoreboard.

"You can't help it. Everybody is," Melvin said. "Once it gets into September it feels like the finish line is in sight."

The good news for the A's is that it appears after an inconsistent August that they have hit some kind of stride in the past week. They're 7-3 in their last three series against the Orioles, Tigers and Rays -- all legitimate playoff contenders -- and held Tampa Bay to five runs this weekend in their first three-game sweep since June 11-13.

September 1, 2013
Choice, Weeks among A's call-ups as rosters expand

OAKLAND -- The A's made their first round of September call-ups this morning, recalling Jemile Weeks, Andy Parrino and Pedro Figueroa and selecting Michael Choice from Triple-A Sacramento. To make room for Choice on the 40-man roster, the A's designated catcher Luke Montz for assignment.

*** UPDATED: 12:40 p.m.

Manager Bob Melvin said that none of the call-ups are end-of-season rewards for guys who have performed well in the minors. The A's are in the middle of a playoff race, and Melvin said: "In the position that we're in, when you add guys, they're potentially not just going to sit around. There's reasons for it."

Melvin said Choice adds another corner outfield option with "thump in his bat" who can play against left-handers. Weeks gives the A's speed and a switch-hitting option off the bench, and both he and Parrino have played both the infield and outfield, giving Melvin more flexibility late in games or in extra innings. Figueroa will likely be a match-up guy against left-handers.

The 23-year-old Choice, the A's first-round pick in the 2010 draft, has split most of his time this season between left field (55 games) and center (52). But Melvin said Choice played all three positions "very well" in spring training, so he wouldn't hesitate to use him at any of them.



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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Standings

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