Bay Area Baseball

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

October 11, 2013
What made Verlander so tough in Game 5?

OAKLAND -- Thursday night marked the eighth game in which A's third baseman Josh Donaldson has faced Justin Verlander in his career. The first seven included Verlander's complete-game shutout in Game 5 of last year's ALDS, his seven scoreless innings in Game 2 this year, a seven-inning, two-hit outing in a regular-season game last May and another regular-season game last September in which Verlander threw six innings and did not give up a run.

And Donaldson still had this to say about Verlander's performance in Thursday's Game 5 -- eight shutout innings that lifted the Tigers to a 3-0 win and a third consecutive ALCS: "That was the best I've seen him."

Verlander did not allow a baserunner until Josh Reddick's one-out walk in the sixth and didn't give up a hit until Yoenis Cespedes grounded a single back up the middle with two outs in the seventh. He allowed two hits total and struck out 10. He threw 111 pitches.

Among them were his normal assortment of mid-90s fastballs, big-breaking curves and the occasional changeup diving away from left-handers. It is an assortment of pitches the A's have gotten very familiar with over the past few seasons and yet -- when it's mattered most -- have not been able to conquer.

October 10, 2013
A's season ends with 3-0 loss in Game 5 to Tigers, Verlander

OAKLAND -- For three innings Thursday, Game 5 of the American League Division Series felt like a continuation of Game 2 the previous week, with two hard-throwing right-handers trading zeroes and a tense crowd hanging on every pitch.

And then Sonny Gray, the precocious A's rookie, blinked first, allowing a two-run home run to Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera with one out in the fourth. And after that, it began to resemble a more distant, less pleasant memory for the A's.

The Tigers' Justin Verlander, who nearly a year ago to the day in this same park threw a four-hit shutout in Game 5 of the 2012 A.L. Division Series, dropped the curtain on the A's season again Thursday. This time, Verlander allowed two hits over eight scoreless innings to pitch the Tigers into the A.L. Championship Series for the third consecutive year, while the A's saw their season end in a 3-0 loss at the Coliseum.

It was a quieting finish to a series the A's had been within nine outs of winning in Game 4, when they held a one-run lead going into the seventh inning only to see the Tigers pull out an 8-6 win. It ended a season in which the A's won 96 regular-season games, second-most in the American League, following their surprise run to the 2012 postseason with a year that seemed to indicate that was no fluke.

October 10, 2013
A's pre-game: Callaspo in; Colon unlikely for relief in Game 5

OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin said he went to bed early last night "just to make sure I got a few hours" before his team's winner-take-all ALDS game today against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. It was about 9 p.m., he said, and by that time he had a pretty good idea of the lineup he'd run out against Verlander today, which features a few changes from Game 4.

The main change: Alberto Callaspo, not Eric Sogard, will start at second base. Callaspo had an impressive at-bat against Max Scherzer in the eighth inning of Game 4 -- missing a double down the left-field line by about a foot and eventually lining out to center -- and Melvin said "all his at-bats in this series have been good."

"What you try to weigh is whether or not you need to get him four at-bats or if you want to try to pick a spot for him," Melvin said. "And in this particular game it came down to getting him multiple at-bats."

Melvin gave a similar reason for batting Yoenis Cespedes fourth today, Seth Smith fifth and Brandon Moss sixth -- "Particularly in Game 5, you're looking to try to get your best lineup, your hottest hitters, up there as many times as you can."

Here's the full A's lineup:

October 9, 2013
A's tab Gray over Colon for ALDS Game 5 start

OAKLAND -- The A's and manager Bob Melvin opted to go with the hot hand for Game 5 of the ALDS against the Tigers. Melvin said on a conference call today that Sonny Gray (pictured) will start Thursday night against the Tigers' Justin Verlander, tabbing the rookie for the winner-take-all game over veteran and 18-game winner Bartolo Colon.

GRAY.jpeg"Obviously we had two great options there with Bartolo and we looked at it a bunch of different angles," Melvin said. "Really the short of it is it came down to Sonny's last game that he pitched in similar conditions in our ballpark."

Gray went toe-to-toe with Verlander in Game 2 of the series, throwing eight scoreless innings to keep the A's in a game they eventually won on Stephen Vogt's walk-off single in the ninth. Melvin said it was Gray's performance and demeanor in that game in a high-pressure situation and in front of a raucous crowd -- in just his 11th major-league start -- that was the chief reason for going with Gray over Colon.

October 8, 2013
Deja vu: A's will face Verlander again in winner-take-all Game 5

DETROIT -- One effect of Max Scherzer's dramatic two-inning relief appearance in Game 4 of the ALDS on Tuesday night: If the A's are going to win this series and move on to the ALCS, they'll have to do what they could not last year, win a winner-take-all Game 5 at home in which they'll face Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander.

The A's, of course, were in this same position after winning Games 3 and 4 of last year's ALDS to set up a decisive fifth game at the Coliseum. Verlander threw a complete-game shutout to send the Tigers to the ALCS and end the A's season.

The A's did win the one game Verlander started in this series -- Game 2 -- but they didn't exactly beat Verlander himself. Verlander pitched seven shutout innings, striking out 11 in a game the A's won 1-0 in the ninth on Stephen Vogt's walk-off single.

In fact, Verlander has not allowed a run to the A's in 22 consecutive postseason innings dating back to Game 1 of last year's series. The 2011 Cy Young winner and MVP will be pitching on normal rest, one reason Tigers manager Jim Leyland felt comfortable using Scherzer in relief Tuesday in Detroit's 8-6 win.

October 8, 2013
Reddick, umpire differ on seventh-inning home run

DETROIT -- A's right fielder Josh Reddick said he believed "100 percent" he would have had a play on Victor Martinez's game-tying home run in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the A.L. Division Series, had a fan not touched the ball first.

Martinez tied the game at 4-4 when he hit an outside fastball from reliever Sean Doolittle that just cleared the top of the wall in right field. After attempting a leaping catch at the wall, Reddick landed and immediately began pointing toward the fans beyond the railing.

Umpires ruled the play a home run on the field, then upheld the call after reviewing it at the request of A's manager Bob Melvin. Replays showed a fan reached over the railing above the top of the wall and touched the ball, but that even without that contact the ball likely still would have landed above the yellow line designating a home run.

Reddick's frustration stemmed from the fact he thought he could have caught the ball. "I looked at it on the replay," he said, "and I had no doubt before I even looked that it was going into my glove."

Right-field umpire and crew chief Gary Darling disagreed in his explanation of the call.

"It was clear he was not going to catch the ball, so it was clearly going to be a home run," Darling told a pool reporter. "There wasn't any other evidence on replay to turn it another way."

October 8, 2013
Tigers force decisive fifth game in ALDS, defeat A's 8-6

DETROIT -- The A's had already struck once against Max Scherzer and seemed to have the Tigers' tall right-hander on the ropes again, trailing by one but with the bases loaded and nobody out in the eighth inning Tuesday night. And then, A's catcher Stephen Vogt said, something about Scherzer seemed to change.

"You could see his demeanor, as soon as the bases were loaded, he just got better," Vogt said. "He gritted down and said, 'Nope.'"

With the potential tying run 90 feet from home plate and the A's one win from clinching this A.L. Division Series, Scherzer, the 21-game winner summoned in relief, retired the next three A's hitters in order to preserve what was then a 5-4 lead. The Tigers then held on late for an 8-6 win to force a winner-take all Game 5 Thursday at the Coliseum.

It dropped the A's to 1-11 in their last 12 potential postseason clinchers dating back to the 1990 World Series. Now, for the second year in a row, the A's will face Detroit's Justin Verlander at home in an elimination game for both teams, with Oakland's starter -- either veteran Bartolo Colon or rookie Sonny Gray -- yet to be determined.

"It's a lost opportunity to win today," said A's center fielder Coco Crisp. "It's not a lost opportunity to win the entire series. We still have another game. We get to play in front of our fans. And we'll try to make the most of it."

October 8, 2013
Reddick: A's have 'all the confidence in the world' for Game 4

DETROIT -- Needing one win to clinch their ALDS against the Tigers, the A's are going with the same lineup as in Game 3 today behind right-hander Dan Straily. That lineup finally broke out Monday with three home runs against A.L. ERA leader Anibal Sanchez, and will face another tough right-hander today in Doug Fister, who went 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA during the regular season.

"Fister's no easy challenge, but we have all the confidence in the world after beating Anibal Sanchez and we feel like we can come in here and do a good job of battling against these guys," right fielder Josh Reddick said today. "It's a tough task ... but we're the team with the momentum in our favor and they're the team with their backs against the wall."

Manager Bob Melvin, for one, isn't taking anything for granted. Tigers manager Jim Leyland was asked before the game what his tentative pitching plans are for a potential Game 5 on Thursday in Oakland. Leyland said he hopes to have Max Scherzer ready to go, but he added he might consider using Scherzer in relief today if the Tigers were to have a late lead and Scherzer felt OK in pre-game warm-ups.

The Tigers would still be able to start Justin Verlander in Game 5 on regular rest. Melvin, meanwhile, was asked whom he would use to start Thursday and responded: "I'm not even thinking about Game 5 right now. We've got to get through this one." Melvin did say he would not consider using Bartolo Colon in relief today.

The full A's lineup against Fister looks like this:

October 7, 2013
One win from ALCS, A's do their best to remain 'business-like'

OAKLAND -- Speaking statistically, historically and in just plain common sense, the A's put themselves in a much better position by winning Game 3 of their A.L. Division Series against the Tigers on Monday.

The A's lead the series 2-1 and are one win from advancing to the ALCS. Previously in the franchise's history, the A's had taken a 2-1 lead in 14 postseason series and gone on to win 11 of those series. They had fallen behind 1-2 six times and never come back to win any of them.

"It's where you want to be," catcher Stephen Vogt acknowledged. "Just having a chance to take it in Game 4, that's where you want to be. Once you have the advantage, you can hopefully take advantage of that and finish it."

That was about as positive an outlook as any A's player allowed Monday regarding their situation going into Tuesday's Game 4. Reliever Sean Doolittle characterized the mood in the clubhouse as "very businesslike," and it certainly seemed that way, with the normal loud music playing after a win but little else to suggest the A's might be on the verge of moving on.

October 7, 2013
Smith, seldom used in September, leads Game 3 power surge

OAKLAND -- Seth Smith's name in the A's lineup was a rare sight in September, when the veteran outfielder started just seven games. Still, when he did play, he was productive at the plate, going 11-for-28 with five extra-base hits in the month.

After not playing in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Tigers, Smith collected two hits in Game 2, and manager Bob Melvin wrote him into the lineup again Monday. It didn't hurt that Smith entered the game 7-for-19 in his career against Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez, with three of the hits being home runs.

Smith responded Monday with two more hits off Sanchez, including a two-run homer in the fifth inning that gave the A's a 6-3 lead -- which held up as the final score -- and got Sanchez out of the game after 4 1/3 innings and 101 pitches.

"In my career I've got practice at not playing for a while and then playing," Smith said, referencing his time as a part-time player in Colorado. "It's the big leagues, especially now it's the postseason, and you're expected to get the job done regardless of what you're asked to do."

October 7, 2013
Balfour on bench-clearing: '(Martinez) gave me the death stare'

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DETROIT -- Grant Balfour's habit of stalking around the mound and screaming when he pitches has been termed the "Balfour rage" in Oakland. While teammates and Balfour say the A's closer is usually trying to fire himself up, it appeared Monday to rub an opponent the wrong way.

Balfour saved the A's 6-3 win in Game 3 of the ALDS with a scoreless ninth that also featured a brief bench-clearing centered around Balfour and Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez. After Martinez fouled back Balfour's 1-2 pitch, the two stared at each other before exchanging words and starting toward each other, prompting the interlude.

Balfour said he took exception to Martinez giving him "the death stare" after the pitch.

"He had the eyes locked on me like he wanted to come out," Balfour said. "So I said, hey man, you want to stare me down like that and you got a problem, then come on out."

The Detroit Free Press, meanwhile, reported that Martinez said he got upset after Balfour said: "What the (expletive) are you looking at?" Martinez reportedly said he refused to be "intimidated" by Balfour.

October 7, 2013
A's hit three home runs in 6-3 win, move within a win of ALCS

OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin said Monday morning he didn't think his lineup or that of the Detroit Tigers would lay dormant forever after combining for six runs over the first two games of this A.L. Division Series.

"Both teams have good offenses," Melvin said. "And you would expect both to break out a little bit more."

The A's then did just that against the league's ERA leader in the regular season, Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez, hitting three home runs off Sanchez during a 6-3 win at Comerica Park to move within one win of taking the series and advancing to the ALCS.

Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Seth Smith all homered off Sanchez, and right-hander Jarrod Parker and three relievers combined to hold the Tigers scoreless outside of a three-run fourth inning. It's the 15th time the A's have taken a 2-1 lead in a postseason series; of the previous 14, they've gone on to win 11 times.

Grant Balfour, who blew a save here in August, closed the game with a scoreless ninth. Both benches cleared in the inning after Balfour threw a 1-2 pitch to Victor Martinez that Martinez fouled back. Balfour and Martinez began barking at one another and walking toward each other, which prompted the brief interlude in which no punches were thrown.

October 7, 2013
ALDS Game 3 lineups: An early start in Detroit

DETROIT -- When the A's hit the field at Comerica Park for warm-ups before Game 3, it was just after 11 a.m. local time and the scoreboard read 49 degrees with a chilly wind blowing from right to left field. Third baseman Josh Donaldson drained a Mountain Dew before starting to stretch. Odds are the people already occupying seats at Comerica Park are leaving chairs in other locations -- offices, schools -- empty.

In short, it's early. First pitch is scheduled for 10:07 a.m. PT. The good news is that, after some substantial rain in the area yesterday evening, the sun has been in and out for most of the morning, though forecasts still say there's a chance of showers in the afternoon.

"Not much we can do about it," A's manager Bob Melvin said of the early start time. "It's not ideal. But both teams have to play in the same conditions, same time."

Both offenses have looked pretty groggy anyway through the first two games of the series with the A's striking out 29 times in two games and the Tigers having not scored in their last 17 innings. For the A's, Melvin said there's no reason not to stay patient with his regulars -- particularly Brandon Moss, who has six strikeouts in the first two games -- and said he does expect the lineup to break out at some point.

October 6, 2013
Vogt still feeling walk-off 'whirlwind;' Parker returns to Detroit

DETROIT -- A day after his game-winning single in Game 2 of the A.L. Division Series, A's catcher Stephen Vogt said he was still wrapping his head around the impact of the hit Sunday afternoon.

"Haven't really processed what happened last night," Vogt said. "It's been a whirlwind. It's been a crazy, crazy few hours."

The A's boarded a plane shortly after the game ended and landed in Detroit early Sunday morning, and Vogt said he didn't sleep well on the flight. So there hadn't been much time to let the moment sink in for the 28-year-old catcher, who began the season in Triple-A after being traded to the A's from the Tampa Bay Rays in early April.

Vogt said he "heard from a lot of people" following what he termed the biggest moment of his career to date. The only thing comparable, he said, was "maybe my first hit in the big leagues" -- a home run on June 28.

"But this blew that out of the water for sure," Vogt said.

October 6, 2013
After losing the best at-bat of Game 2, Vogt gets the last word

OAKLAND -- Quite a night for Stephen Vogt. The A's rookie catcher had probably the best at-bat of Game 2 of the ALDS, as well as the most crucial defensive play -- and that was all before his bases-loaded single gave the A's a walk-off 1-0 victory in the ninth.

First, the at-bat, which came in the seventh inning of a still-scoreless game, with runners on second and third and two outs. Despite Vogt's being a left-handed hitter and Detroit's Justin Verlander having thrown 107 pitches already, Tigers manager Jim Leyland left his starter in for the chance to finish the inning.

Vogt fouled off the first pitch from Verlander, a mid-90s fastball, then the second, a big, breaking curve. Then he fouled off the third, and the fourth, and the fifth. With each, the crowd of 48,292 got a little louder. As the at-bat went on, Verlander's fastball somehow picked up steam. The first one he threw registered at 96 mph on the radar gun. The third hit 97. The last -- the 10th and final pitch of the at-bat, which Vogt swung through for the strikeout -- reached 98.

Verlander came off the mound yelling and pumping his fists. Afterward, Verlander called it "one heck of a battle."

October 5, 2013
Tigers' Verlander, Leyland come away impressed by Gray

OAKLAND -- As Sonny Gray sat before the cameras in the Coliseum interview room late Saturday night, taking questions from media following the pitching performance of his young career, Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander stood in the back of the room, waiting for his turn at the podium.

When Gray finished and left the podium, his path back to the A's clubhouse took him right past Verlander. Gray had just come from the trainer's room and still wore his gold A's jersey with a large ice pack wrapped around his right arm. Verlander had showered and dressed in well-pressed gray suit. As they passed each other, Verlander a good six inches taller than the 23-year-old rookie, Verlander reached out and shook Gray's hand, giving him a pat on the back with his left.

"I just told him he did a good job," Verlander said.

October 5, 2013
Gray, Vogt lift A's to 1-0 win, ALDS even at a game apiece

OAKLAND -- Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter spun away from an inside pitch and shot a look at A's right-hander Sonny Gray, then gestured toward the mound. It was the third inning of a scoreless game, and Gray, the 23-year-old right-hander, had been hitting 95 mph on the radar gun regularly but nothing above.

The Coliseum crowd began to boo lustily as Hunter, still reacting to the pitch, took his time before stepping back into the batter's box. When he did, six of Gray's next eight pitches were fastballs. Four registered at 96 mph, the last waved at fruitlessly by the reigning MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.

Chosen to pitch Game 2 of the A.L. Division Series in just his 11th big-league start, Gray rose to the occasion, outlasting former Cy Young winner and MVP Justin Verlander into the eighth inning of a scoreless game. The A's broke it in the ninth on Stephen Vogt's bases-loaded single, giving them a walk-off 1-0 win, and now head to Detroit with the series even at one game apiece.

A's closer Grant Balfour was the pitcher of record, having thrown a scoreless ninth, but the A's were still in position to win because of Gray. Facing a Tigers lineup that scored the second-most runs in baseball this year, the rookie gave up just four hits and struck out nine, becoming the second pitcher in A's history to post those numbers over eight shutout innings in a playoff game. The other was Chief Bender in 1905.

"The 'W' goes to Sonny tonight," Balfour said. "He was the man, the MVP, whatever you want to call him.

"That's a huge win. It was kind of a must-win, in a way."

October 5, 2013
A's, Tigers Game 2 lineups: Barton out, Smith in

OAKLAND -- The A's lineup has a slightly different look for Game 2 against Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander. Daric Barton, who started Game 1, is out, with Brandon Moss at first base and Seth Smith starting at designated hitter.

Manager Bob Melvin said he intended before the series to have Smith start this game, and taking Barton out of the lineup isn't a reaction to Barton having a rough Game 1. Barton struck out in all three of his plate appearances and couldn't glove a couple grounders that Melvin said were plays he'll often make.

Smith does have a history of at least making Verlander work in at-bats -- he's 2-for-15 lifetime against the Tigers righty but with six walks in 21 plate appearances. The A's could benefit from getting Verlander's pitch count up earlier than they were able to get Max Scherzer's last night.

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

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

October 5, 2013
Vogt: 'Uber-aggressive' Tigers exploited Colon in first inning

OAKLAND -- Among the post-game comments in the A's clubhouse Friday night, this one from Coco Crisp rang among the truest: "Hopefully tomorrow we don't have to come from behind, because we've got a nice challenge ahead of us."

The A's trailed by three runs in their 3-2 Game 1 loss Friday before they even saw one of Max Scherzer's mid-90s fastballs. Even for an A's team that has made a habit of dramatic finishes, that's a tough situation to play under. When a pitcher is throwing like Scherzer did Friday night, it can feel even more daunting.

How unlikely was that first inning? In 54 previous starts with the A's, Bartolo Colon had allowed three first-inning runs all of once. He had given up six earned runs total in his six starts since coming off the disabled list in late August. Or you can sum it up like this -- Colon hit the second batter he faced, Torii Hunter, with an inside fastball. He hadn't hit a batter all year in 190 1/3 regular-season innings.

"He got out of sync," manager Bob Melvin said. "You saw balls up in the zone, which you normally don't see from him, hits a batter. So it took him an inning to get back into his rhythm."

October 4, 2013
A's strike out 16 times, drop Game 1 to Scherzer, Tigers

OAKLAND -- The largest crowd to see a baseball game at the Coliseum in nine years waited, building and imploring, for a reason to let loose Friday night until it came in the bottom of the seventh inning. Yoenis Cespedes turned on a fastball from Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer and hit it to the seats in left-center for a two-run home run, the first sign of life from the A's offense in this A.L. Division Series.

On this night, though, it was also the last significant one. And with the Tigers still leading thanks to a three-run first inning, it was not enough for the A's to avoid dropping the first game of the series 3-2, despite sending their 18-game winner Bartolo Colon to the mound in front of that raucous home crowd.

For much of the evening, Scherzer, the 21-game-winner and Cy Young frontrunner, was simply better. Nearly a year after the curtain fell on the A's 2012 season, their playoff run began Friday amid a similar scene -- a tall, right-handed pitcher with "Detroit" across his chest making Oakland's hitters look all too often overmatched.

The A's struck out 16 times, their most ever in a postseason game. Scherzer, using a mid-90s fastball with movement and hard breaking pitches, had 11 of them in seven innings -- the same number Justin Verlander had in Game 5 last year -- while allowing just three hits, two of them to Cespedes.

"He was putting his fastball on corners," said A's catcher Stephen Vogt. "If you've got a guy with that kind of stuff and not missing over the middle of the plate, he's going to be pretty successful."

October 4, 2013
Gray keeping his cool before Game 2 against Tigers, Verlander

OAKLAND -- A's right-hander Game 2 starter Sonny Gray met the media this afternoon and displayed some of the quiet confidence the A's have come to expect from the 23-year-old. Asked about facing the Detroit Tigers' lineup -- the middle of which, with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, is among baseball's most daunting -- Gray said:

"I think it's going to be not so much them, but me, being able to harness the energy and the adrenaline that I'm sure is going to be flowing and not trying to do too much. Not try to pitch to their weaknesses, just go with my strengths, go with what's got me here and what's got us here as a team. I think if I'm able to do that, then it will probably end up going more our way."

So if there was any question of whether Gray would be overwhelmed by the moment in his first playoff start -- and 11th major-league start overall -- it doesn't sound like that's the case. Incidentally, Gray was asked what the biggest start of his baseball-playing life has been prior to his getting the nod in Game 2.

"Probably in the College World Series," Gray said.

Gray started the opening game of the CWS in 2011 for Vanderbilt, in the Commodores' 7-3 win over North Carolina.

October 4, 2013
A's, Tigers ALDS lineups, plus 'relief' as Game 1 finally arrives

OAKLAND -- The A's just finished taking batting practice on the field, getting ready for tonight's Game 1 of the ALDS against the Tigers -- which manager Bob Melvin said felt like it couldn't come soon enough.

"Relief," Melvin said when asked about the series finally getting underway after a five-day layoff, a seeming eternity by baseball standards. "You deal with an off-day or two, but when you're on the verge of a playoff series like this, you start to get antsier and antsier as it goes along. Come yesterday, everybody was ready for this day to come."

The good news already for the A's -- Yoenis Cespedes arrived at the Coliseum today feeling OK and will start in left field tonight after sitting out the final two games of the regular season with a sore right shoulder. That means Brandon Moss will DH with Daric Barton starting at first base.

Here's the full A's lineup against Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer:

October 3, 2013
Melvin: 'A good chance' Cespedes will play LF in Game 1

OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin said today he expects Yoenis Cespedes (sore right shoulder) to be in the A's lineup for Game 1 of the ALDS tomorrow night, and that "there's a good chance" Cespedes will be playing left field.

Cespedes played catch today for the first time this week with no setbacks. Still, Melvin said, "We'll want to at least see how he is when he comes in tomorrow."

If Cespedes can play left, which the A's would prefer, Melvin said Brandon Moss will start at designated hitter. If Cespedes can't play defense, he'll be the A's DH and Moss will play left. That means Daric Barton will get the start at first base.

Melvin also said Eric Sogard will start at second base over Alberto Callaspo. One thing that does is give Melvin more flexibility to play match-ups later in the game, as Callaspo is a switch-hitter.

* Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who is nursing multiple ailments including a sore groin , said he doesn't think the groin will be an issue in the series. "I wish tomorrow, game time, 100 percent," Cabrera said. "I feel much better the last couple of days."

October 2, 2013
Melvin on the Tigers: 'It's a better lineup this year'

OAKLAND -- The Detroit Tigers last season had a lineup featuring the American League Triple Crown winner that supported their touted pitching staff enough to reach the World Series. This year the rotation may again hold the league's Cy Young winner in 21-game Max Scherzer and led the majors in strikeouts during the regular season. And the lineup?

"It's a better lineup this year," A's manager Bob Melvin said.

The Tigers finished the regular season with the highest team average in the majors (.283), while scoring the second-most runs (796) behind the Boston Red Sox and posting the second-highest OPS (.780).

Third baseman Miguel Cabrera and first baseman Prince Fielder still anchor the heart of the lineup. But the Tigers have three other regulars who finished the season with averages of .300 or better, including veteran right fielder Torii Hunter -- acquired this offseason -- and designated hitter Victor Martinez, who missed all of 2012 due to injury.

October 2, 2013
Cespedes hits in simulated game, still uncertain for Friday

OAKLAND -- A day before the Detroit Tigers arrive in Oakland, the A's held a short workout Wednesday afternoon followed by three simulated innings to get pitchers Dan Straily and Tommy Milone some work against hitters. Straily is slated to start Game 4 for the A's if the series goes that far, while Milone is not on the ALDS roster but remains an option for future series should the A's advance.

One of the hitters they faced was Yoenis Cespedes, who tested his sore right shoulder swinging but again did not play catch. Afterward, through a loose translation from hitting coach Chili Davis, Cespedes said the shoulder felt good and reiterated he intends to play in Games 1 and 2 on Friday and Saturday.

Before the workout, manager Bob Melvin said Cespedes had come out of batting practice Tuesday showing positive signs. "I think he got more and more comfortable as he got into batting practice, he got a little more aggressive with his swings a little bit later," said Melvin. "I think we'll probably wait for (Thursday) with the actual catch out here. He's simulating some stuff in the training room."

If Cespedes cannot play left field Friday, it will be interesting to see how the A's align themselves defensively against right-hander Max Scherzer. Brandon Moss has played some left field and could if Melvin opts to start Daric Barton at first base. There's also the possibility Cespedes' shoulder could open a window for Seth Smith, who started just seven games in September.

October 1, 2013
Cespedes' Game 1 status uncertain, plus A's likely ALDS roster

OAKLAND -- Yoenis Cespedes took batting practice during the A's team workout today and hit a few of his signature lasers into the Coliseum seats. But the A's still aren't sure in what capacity Cespedes will be available to them when they open the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers on Friday.

Cespedes is still nursing a sore right shoulder and while he told reporters today he intends to start in left field in Game 1 on Friday, manager Bob Melvin sounded more cautious. Melvin said Cespedes wouldn't play catch until Wednesday, with the possibility of being used as a DH in the series opener if his sore right shoulder is still bothering him.

"We'll take what we can get," Melvin said. "Hopefully we'll get him in the outfield."

Melvin said that based on his conversations with Cespedes "and how he feels right now, I think there's a reasonably good chance at the very least he'll be DHing on Friday."

* Meanwhile, Melvin laid out a pretty clear picture of what the rest of the A's roster will look like against the Tigers.

October 1, 2013
Melvin sets, explains A's rotation for ALDS

OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin laid out his ALDS rotation today with one slight surprise and one notable omission. It'll be Bartolo Colon in Game 1, followed by rookie Sonny Gray in Game 2, Jarrod Parker in Game 3 in Detroit and Dan Straily in a potential Game 4 if necessary.

Missing from that group, of course, is A.J. Griffin, who has been dealing with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder. Melvin said a recent X-ray on Griffin's shoulder showed no structural damage, and Griffin said he feels he could pitch in this series and intended to before being informed today that he won't be on the roster.

But Melvin said the A's want to be "cautious" with Griffin, who logged a team-high 200 innings this season while ranking second on the team in wins (14) and ERA (3.83).

"It's continuing and not getting any better -- it's actually getting a little worse at times," Melvin said. "It has been bothering him a little bit when he starts and then loosens up during the game, and then gets a little bit sore again toward the end. At this point in the season we would like to see it getting considerably better each and every time, and it hasn't. So we feel like he needs this break."

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 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.

August 31, 2013
Gray thrives again at the Coliseum; Crisp, Vogt key 2-1 A's win

OAKLAND -- Before the A's left for their recent seven-game road trip to Baltimore and Detroit, they lost a 5-3 game to Seattle in which manager Bob Melvin said: "Everything we did today is what is wrong with us." At the time, the A's were 8-10 in August, with a serious possibility of finishing the month with a losing record for the first time all season.

With a 2-1 win over the Rays on Saturday, the A's closed August by winning six of nine to finish 14-13. Five of those wins have come in their last six games against Detroit and Tampa Bay, two teams also battling for a playoff spot. This one came with another strong outing by rookie Sonny Gray -- 6 2/3 shutout innings, seven strikeouts -- and two RBIs from Coco Crisp, whom Melvin always refers to as the "igniter" of the offense.

"It was a good night for us," Melvin said this time.

A Rangers loss is the only thing that would have made it better for the A's, but Texas slipped by the Twins, 2-1, to maintain a two-game lead in the West. The A's did add a game to their wild-card lead over the Rays, which is now 1 ½ games, and will go for a sweep tomorrow behind A.J. Griffin.

He'll have a tough act to follow. Gray didn't allow a runner past second base until the fifth inning and came within a James Loney two-out single of completing seven. As it is, Gray has now pitched 21 2/3 innings at the Coliseum in his young A's career and allowed two runs with 23 strikeouts.

August 31, 2013
A's, Rays lineups: Donaldson in the No. 2 spot again

OAKLAND -- A couple things going on at the Coliseum on this Saturday afternoon. It's the first weekend of college football, which had a few A's representing their alma maters with apparel before the game, none more fervently than Josh Reddick, who came out for batting practice wearing a Georgia cycling jersey -- and helmet. It's also a Green Day-themed fireworks night, with members of the band throwing out the first pitch.

"Will I be here for (the fireworks)? Probably not," manager Bob Melvin said. "Day game tomorrow."

Right -- and an evening game tonight, with A's rookie right-hander Sonny Gray opposing Rays righty Alex Cobb. Gray may have some fellow youngsters for company beginning tomorrow, when MLB rosters expand, but Melvin wasn't tipping his hand today about who might be joining the A's. He did say there will probably be three new faces joining the team tomorrow with "a couple more" on Sept. 3.

In other news, Melvin was asked about John Jaso's progress recovering from concussion and said Jaso is "pretty antsy about getting out and getting some swings somewhere." But Jaso still hasn't taken batting practice, though he did cage work before yesterday's game. Melvin said the A's "haven't ruled (Jaso) out as a piece for us in September," but as has already been evident, this is a gradual process of recovery.

August 31, 2013
Welcome back Kurt, plus Lowrie comes up clutch in A's 4-3 win

OAKLAND -- Kurt Suzuki said it hasn't taken him long to form an opinion of new teammate Jed Lowrie upon rejoining the A's via trade a week ago.

"That guy's clutch," Suzuki said.

Suzuki had the loudest blow in the A's 4-3 win over the Rays on Friday -- a three-run homer off David Price in his first game back at the Coliseum since the A's reacquired him. Lowrie had the game-winner, a softly hit double to right field in the bottom of the eighth after the Rays had tied the game with two runs in the top of the inning.

In a way, it was in keeping with Lowrie's contributions all year. As the A's were winning three out of four in Detroit, Lowrie went 8-for-17 with four doubles, a homer and four RBIs. But that was overshadowed by Brandon Moss' power explosion.

On the season, Lowrie is batting .293 with a team-leading 147 hits and 40 doubles to go with 10 homers and 58 RBIs. But he's probably not the most known or feared name in a lineup including Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes.

"He hasn't flown under the radar for us," manager Bob Melvin said. "He's gotten big hits for us and puts together really good at-bats a lot. Went through a little bit of a down period in the second half, but he's been terrific for us in that three-hole."

August 30, 2013
A's, Rays lineups: Suzuki returns to Oakland

OAKLAND -- Kurt Suzuki starts tonight in his first game at the Coliseum since being re-acquired by the A's earlier this week. So what kind of reception is he expecting?

"Bunch of boos," Suzuki said with a smile. "I don't know. I think it's definitely going to be fun. Definitely glad to be back in the Bay and looking forward to finishing the season strong."

Suzuki, who was drafted by the A's in 2004 and played in Oakland from 2007-12 before being traded to the Washington Nationals last season, is 4-for-12 in three games since the A's reacquired him to address their shorthanded situation at catcher. One of their injured catchers, Derek Norris, is expected to start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday.

Suzuki was joking around with clubhouse attendants before the A's headed out for batting practice and said it's "definitely good to see everybody again." He doesn't have his old locker -- he's now in a back corner near Seth Smith -- but said he didn't feel the need to make any special requests.

The 29-year-old said the vibe in the A's clubhouse is "pretty much the same" as when he left. Also similar is the pitching staff, which has helped ease Suzuki's transition back into the organization and the staff's work with their newest catcher. Tonight's starter Jarrod Parker, for example, has made 14 career starts with Suzuki behind the plate.

"You refresh a little bit," Suzuki said of getting reacquainted with the staff. "Maybe a day. But you don't lose it that fast.

August 21, 2013
Bullpen lapses in A's 7-4 loss to Mariners; Norris fractures toe

OAKLAND -- Give Sean Doolittle credit. After arguably the worst outing of his career cost the A's in a game they were in a good position to win Tuesday night -- following a four-run first inning and another strong start by rookie Sonny Gray -- Doolittle stood by his locker and wore it after allowing the Mariners' five-run eighth to get out of control and send the A's to a 7-4 loss.

"(Gray) pitched his (butt) off and he goes seven innings, he gives us a chance to win," Doolittle said. "All we've got to do is get six outs and they got four runs before we even got one out. Made a mess of that eighth inning.

"Your offense gives you four runs and Sonny goes out and does his job. We felt like that was a game we should have won. I don't know, just not the right night, not the right time of year to have an inning like that."

Doolittle entered the eighth with the A's leading 4-2, faced four hitters and allowed four hits, with all four eventually coming in to score. It was just the second time Doolittle has failed to record an out in a major-league game. When the inning was over, the A's trailed 7-4, Gray was no longer in line for the win, Ryan Cook had also allowed a run for just the second time in 22 outings and the A's dropped a game in the standings to Texas, which beat Houston at home.

To add injury to insult, in this case, catcher Derek Norris also left the game in the eighth after fracturing his left big toe while trying to apply a swipe tag on Nick Franklin on the run-scoring fielder's choice. Manager Bob Melvin said it's unclear if Norris will have to be placed on the disabled list.

When the A's have taken a lead into the eighth inning this season, they've been nearly unbeatable with Doolittle, Cook and Grant Balfour nailing down the back end of games. They entered Tuesday with a 55-2 record when leading after seven.

August 20, 2013
A's, Mariners lineups: Crisp out, Lowrie back in leadoff spot

OAKLAND -- Coco Crisp is off tonight against Mariners left-hander Joe Saunders, with the A's hoping tonight and Thursday's off day will be enough for Crisp to put a nagging sore wrist completely behind him. That means it's Jed Lowrie in the leadoff spot for the fourth time this season tonight. In his first three starts batting leadoff, Lowrie is 6-for-12 with a .600 on-base percentage.

Small sample size, of course, but it speaks to Lowrie's versatility in the lineup. Although he said himself after his last leadoff start that he doesn't alter his approach aside from the first at-bat, when he'll usually try to see more pitches from the opposing starter. Lowrie has also hit the Mariners well this season -- .396 with nine doubles and 10 RBIs in 13 games -- though he's 4-for-18 lifetime against Saunders.

Lowrie won't play defense, with manager Bob Melvin trying to rest him for September -- part of the design bringing in Alberto Callaspo. Here's the full lineup for the A's tonight:

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

And the Mariners lineup against A's right-hander Sonny Gray, who's making his second start at the Coliseum:

August 18, 2013
Young helps A's beat Indians with bat, glove in Milone's return

OAKLAND -- This season has been a trying one for Chris Young. He figured coming in that getting used to not playing everyday in the A's platoon system would be a challenge. But he probably didn't expect to be still trying to work his batting average back up to the .200 mark in mid-August -- where it hasn't been since May 25 -- while dealing with the frustration of not being rewarded for well-hit balls that reached an almost laughable point last week, when he missed walk-off home runs by mere inches on consecutive nights.

Young has kept a pretty even-keel demeanor through it all, sticking by the belief that eventually some of those hits are going to fall in. Sunday was one of those days, and it helped the A's win a series against the Indians and make up a game in the standings on the Texas Rangers.

A night after totaling three hits in a shutout loss, the A's had that many in the first inning Sunday against Scott Kazmir, including Young's single with two outs and runners on first and second -- the kind of clutch hit that gone missing a lot for the A's recently. After the Indians tied the game 3-3 in the top of the fifth, Young then hit a tiebreaking homer off Kazmir in the bottom of the inning that ended up standing as the game-winner, though the A's tacked on three more runs in a 7-3 win.

The 2-for-4 day raised Young's average to .197. He's not the only A's outfielder that has struggled this year -- Yoenis Cespedes went hitless Sunday to drop his average to .229 and Josh Reddick has looked better recently but is still at .217 -- and something Reddick said recently about himself applies to Young too: With the A's in the thick of a playoff race, there'll be a lot of opportunities over the next month and a half to make everyone forget about the first four months of the season.

August 18, 2013
A's, Indians lineups: Anderson edges closer to return

OAKLAND -- Left-hander Brett Anderson was in the A's clubhouse this morning after making his first rehab start at Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday night in his return from a right foot stress fracture. Anderson threw 49 pitches in 2 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits with three walks and two strikeouts. More important than the results, he said, is that there's no next-day pain in the foot.

"Threw all my pitches and my foot feels fine, my arm feels fine," Anderson said. "It's a big step looking forward."

Manager Bob Melvin said Anderson hit 94 mph and averaged 91 mph with his fastball and echoed that with this start the A's were just looking for Anderson to emerge healthy. Anderson will make another start Thursday, though it hasn't yet been decided where or what his pitch count will be.

After that it gets interesting. The A's were originally leaning toward bringing Anderson back as a reliever so he could return to the majors quicker. But with Bartolo Colon now on the disabled list, Melvin said the A's could bring Anderson back as a starter nearly as quickly and just make sure the bullpen is rested to back him up in his first few outings.

August 17, 2013
Bats go quiet again in A's 7-1 loss to Jimenez, Cleveland

OAKLAND -- In the early innings of Saturday's 7-1 A's loss to Cleveland, black smoke from a car fire started rising from the Coliseum parking lot, visible over the upper deck along the third-base line. In the ninth, two loud explosions startled a few players and what remained of a sellout crowd. Around the seventh inning, that crowd got about as loud as it did all night -- doing the wave.

In other words most of the excitement Saturday -- after the Yoenis Cespedes bobbleheads were handed out, of course -- happened off the field, with the A's doing little in the way of offense. They didn't get a hit off Ubaldo Jimenez until there were two outs in the sixth inning and they finished with three singles.

And yet they stranded nine runners. Jimenez was wild, walking five and hitting a batter in 5 2/3 innings, but A's manager Bob Melvin called it "effectively wild." He stayed out of the strike zone so much that the A's couldn't square up many pitches. Donaldson, whose single in the sixth drove in the A's only run, agreed that Jimenez pitched a stubborn style that worked.

"He throws a lot of offspeed for a guy that throws 94 (mph)," Donaldson said. "When he would throw a fastball he wouldn't throw it over the plate. He's just one of those guys that does not want you to touch the baseball. That being said, for the most part tonight, we didn't."

August 17, 2013
A's will place Colon (groin) on DL, recall Milone; plus lineups

OAKLAND -- The A's will place 14-game winner Bartolo Colon on the 15-day disabled list with what manager Bob Melvin called a left groin strain. Melvin said Colon first felt the strain throwing off flat ground on Friday and felt discomfort again when he arrived at the Coliseum today. Tommy Milone, recently sent down to Triple-A Sacramento, is back in Oakland and will start on Sunday in Colon's place, Melvin said.

"Yesterday was the first time (Colon) felt it throwing his flat-ground (session) and he just abruptly stopped and came in," Melvin said.

"Probably the prudent thing to do is not to push him too much here and give him these 15 days off and see where we go from there."

Colon has been the A's best starting pitcher this season at age 40 but has struggled in his last two outings, allowing a combined 10 runs in 6 2/3 innings. Prior to that he had lasted at least six innings allowing three or fewer runs in 15 consecutive starts. Colon had also seen his velocity dip recently but appeared to be throwing harder in his last start against the Houston Astros.

August 15, 2013
A good day for rookies as Gray, Freiman lead A's to 5-0 win

OAKLAND -- No doubt some of the fans who were on their feet at the Coliseum with two outs in the top of the eighth inning Thursday have followed Sonny Gray's progress through the minors since the A's made him the 18th overall pick in the 2011 draft, waiting for the day of his debut in Oakland.

The debut came Thursday, a little more than two years after the A's drafted Gray out of Vanderbilt and after three previous major-league appearances -- two in relief and all on the road. And Gray, the baby-faced 23-year-old right-hander, didn't disappoint, earning his first major-league win with eight shutout innings against the Houston Astros in the A's 5-0 win.

"I think it sunk in kind of right now," Gray said standing in front of his locker, where the A's lineup card and a box of game baseballs sat for posterity. "This is a great feeling.

"I'm glad we could come away with a win after losing the last two nights -- I feel like that was big, and hopefully we can go on a roll now. It is nice to get the first win."

It probably wouldn't be accurate to say the hype for Gray's home debut was palpable from first pitch -- the Coliseum was about half full, with an announced crowd of 16,487 turning out on a sunny Thursday afternoon. But by the end of his outing, much of the crowd sounded invested in each pitch as Gray tried to close out the eighth with a runner on second and his pitch count rising.

August 15, 2013
A's, Astros lineups: Lowrie at DH; Melvin talks expanded replay

OAKLAND -- Major League Baseball is reportedly looking into expanding instant replay in 2014, giving managers the chance to issue three challenges -- one in the first six innings and two the rest of the game -- with a crew in New York City reviewing the challenged plays and making the final ruling.

According to reports, owners will vote on the changes in November, with a 75 percent vote needed for approval. For that reason, A's manager Bob Melvin said he didn't want to comment until the changes become official. But it sounded as though Melvin, for one, would be on board with the idea of expanding replay for greater accuracy.

"My stance on that has probably changed here in the last year or so," Melvin said. "You want to get it right. And I was a little bit of a traditionalist before, where there's human error involved, but as long as everybody's on the same page with it and the idea is to get it right, then I'm all for that."

The key -- and a hot-button issue for those who argue expanding replay would slow down the pace of the game -- is to make sure reviews are conducted quickly, Melvin said.

"If someone's watching it and is on top of it and has the use of replay very quickly, then that certainly doesn't sound like a bad thing to me," Melvin said.

August 15, 2013
A's fall 2-1 in 'one of the more frustrating losses of the year'

OAKLAND -- In the first answer of his post-game news conference Wednesday night, A's manager Bob Melvin used variations of the word "frustrating" four times. How else to describe a 2-1, 11-inning loss in which the A's saw Melvin get ejected for arguing a close play in the eighth, squandered leadoff doubles in both the eighth and 11th innings, let Jarrod Parker's most efficient start of the season go for naught and watched Chris Young come within inches of a walk-off home run for the second night in a row -- only to have Astros left fielder Robbie Grossman pull it back at the wall?

"It's one of the more frustrating losses of the year," Melvin said.

The A's have dropped the first two games of this three-game series to the Astros, against whom they were 11-1 on the season coming in, and are 4-9 over their last 13 games. The post-game clubhouse Wednesday night was one of the quietest of the season. In that 13-game stretch, the A's have gone from six games up on the Rangers in the division to two games back after Texas improved to 9-1 in its last 10 games on Wednesday night.

"We've had so many opportunities, especially CY coming so close twice," reliever Sean Doolittle, who took the loss Wednesday night, said of the series so far. "It's only going to take one game for us to get back on track. We've been really close two nights in a row, so that makes it frustrating."

August 14, 2013
A's, Astros lineups: Still no timetable for Jaso; Crisp (wrist) out

OAKLAND -- Stephen Vogt starts again at catcher for the A's tonight against Houston Astros right-hander Jarred Cosart -- and it sounds like Vogt can expect to keep playing against righties for the foreseeable future.

John Jaso saw Dr. Michael Collins, an expert in sports-related concussions, in Pittsburgh yesterday and manager Bob Melvin said that while the good news is Jaso is expected "to be fully recovered" from the concussion that has kept him out since July 24, there's still no timetable for a Jaso return to the A's.

Melvin said Jaso has been able to lift weights and do conditioning work, but still hasn't been cleared to do baseball activity and needs to pass visual tests before he can do so.

"He is going to be fully recovered fro m this, it's just not at this point and it's going to take some time," Melvin said.

The A's are covered behind the plate tonight, though, as Derek Norris' back is better and Melvin said Norris is available off the bench tonight and will likely start Thursday's day game.

Here's the full lineup for the A's tonight against Cosart:

2B Callaspo
DH Smith
RF Reddick
LF Cespedes
1B Moss
3B Donaldson
C Vogt
CF Young
SS Sogard

And the Astros' lineup against A's right-hander Jarrod Parker:

August 13, 2013
Colon exits early again, A's miss walk-off win by inches

OAKLAND -- Chris Young summed up Tuesday night's 5-4 loss for the A's much more succinctly than a blog post could, so let's start with him:

"That's how the game goes sometimes -- it goes from extremely crappy to amazing to unbelievable to crappy again," Young said. "Full process, all in a 3 ½-hour period."

The last shift -- "unbelievable to crappy again" -- occurred in a matter of seconds, the time it took for Young's would-be walk-off home run to drift just foul outside the left-field pole.

Young put his hands on his head in disbelief as third-base umpire Doug Eddings signaled the ball foul, and manager Bob Melvin came out to ask for a review, which the umpires did, though Melvin said Eddings told him he was "100 percent sure" of the original call.

Replays appeared to show the ball did stay just outside the pole, and instead of a dramatic win, Young was left with a two-strike count, and the game ended on the next pitch as he struck out swinging.

August 13, 2013
A's, Astros lineups: Anderson to pitch in rehab outing Saturday

OAKLAND -- Brett Anderson took another step toward returning to the A's today, throwing 28 pitches in a simulated game, and will make a rehab appearance at Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday.

It will be the first appearance in a game for the A's opening day starter since April 29. The River Cats play Tucson at home at 7:05 p.m. Manager Bob Melvin said Anderson will throw two innings in relief.

Melvin said Anderson also did pitcher-fielding drills after his simulated action Tuesday and all went well.

"Each and every time there's been a lot of life on the ball," Melvin said. "His intensity level's there and he wants to get back as soon as he can."

It's sounding increasingly like when Anderson does return, he'll start out in the bullpen. That allows the A's to get Anderson back sooner, since they won't have to stretch him out to a starter's pitch count in the minors. As he builds his stamina back up, he could rejoin the rotation further down the road, but the fact that he'll be pitching in relief on Saturday is an indication the A's want him comfortable in that role right now.

August 4, 2013
Melvin on A's offense after 4-0 loss: 'We just need to sustain it'

OAKLAND -- After being shut out for eight innings by Derek Holland on Sunday, the A's tried to mount a rally in the ninth against Rangers closer Joe Nathan. Josh Donaldson drew a leadoff walk and Yoenis Cespedes followed with a single, giving the A's a runner in scoring position with nobody out for the first time all game.

But Nate Freiman hit into a fielder's choice and Alberto Callaspo, who's still hitless since joining the A's, grounded into a game-ending double play. The A's, who lost 4-0 Sunday to finish their homestand 5-5, are in that kind of offensive rut right now, hitting .212 and averaging 3.2 runs in their last 22 games.

They're still 12-10 in that span, thanks largely to a pitching staff that has allowed two or fewer runs eight times. But whether it's running into a well-pitched game like Holland's on Sunday or squandering opportunities with runners on -- and the A's were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position in the game -- they're not getting consistent production from the offense right now.

"We're having a tough time putting two good games in a row together," manager Bob Melvin said. "We do have the guys and the ability to take care of that and we're confident we will. We just need to sustain it, not just one game here and one game there. We need to get on a roll with it."

August 4, 2013
Garza, Rangers apologize for Twitter comments about Sogards

OAKLAND -- Bob Melvin sat down for his pre-game meeting with reporters today and said with a smile: "No Twitter questions, right?"

Wrong.

Twitter was the main topic of discussion before today's series finale between the A's and the Texas Rangers due to comments posted to the Twitter account of Rangers pitcher Matt Garza on Saturday night after Garza was the losing pitcher in the A's 4-2 win.

If you haven't seen it by now, a condensed version: Garza apparently took issue with the A's frequent bunting in Saturday's game, particularly a squeeze play executed by Sogard in the seventh inning that gave the A's their fourth run. Garza yelled at Sogard as Sogard jogged back to the A's dugout. Sogard said after the game he hadn't heard exactly what Garza said, but wrote it off as being said "in the heat of the moment."

Later Saturday night, comments posted to Garza's protected Twitter account -- viewed on a screen grab -- continued to disparage Sogard and his wife Kaycee. Among the posts by Garza's handle @Gdeuceswild were calling the Sogards "chumps," calling Eric Sogard "childish" and telling Kaycee Sogard -- who earlier had Tweeted that her husband was "probably the last person to respond to getting called names" -- to "keep you (sic) trap shut".

Garza addressed reporters Sunday morning and offered an apology to the Sogards but did not take questions. A Rangers spokesman said the statement offered a "general theme of regret."

Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said the team had spoken with Garza regarding the Twitter comments, which the Rangers found "totally inappropriate."

August 3, 2013
Small ball yields big results in 4-2 win; A's lead back to 3 1/2

OAKLAND -- Eric Sogard played it safe when asked for a family-friendly version of what Rangers starter Matt Garza yelled at him after Sogard's squeeze bunt gave the A's their insurance run in the seventh inning of Saturday's 4-2 win.

"I couldn't really make it out exactly," Sogard said. "He was just yelling at me going by. Part of the game."

The gist seemed to be Garza taking issue with the A's playing a conservative offensive style for much of the game, starting with back-to-back bunts by Coco Crisp and Sogard leading off the first inning. Crisp bunted for a hit, Sogard bunted him to second and Jed Lowrie followed with an RBI single. Yoenis Cespedes then homered to give the A's a three-run lead on Garza's first six pitches.

The A's have had trouble coming up with the big hit in recent games, including a 1-for-19 mark with runners in scoring position in their last two losses, and the bunts seemed to energize them in the first inning. Sogard said the plan going in was to make Garza field his position, as the A's noticed Garza "has some trouble throwing to first sometimes."

August 3, 2013
A's, Rangers lineups: Milone sent down, Scribner recalled

OAKLAND - The A's this morning optioned Tommy Milone to the River Cats and recalled right-handed reliever Evan Scribner for bullpen depth.

Milone had one of his worst starts of the season Friday night, lasting 3 2/3 innings and allowing six runs on a season-high nine hits. With two off days next week, the A's can shuffle their rotation to get by with four starters until mid-August. And with Dan Otero throwing 3 1/3 innings last night in relief of Milone, manager Bob Melvin said the A's didn't want to get caught short in the bullpen this weekend, so Scribner is here.

Melvin said Milone, who hasn't completed four innings in two of his past four starts, "just needs to go down there and do his thing. He went through a little period recently where he hasn't been pitching great, but he's still pretty good. When you're sending a guy like Tommy Milone down it means we have some good pitching."

Melvin said Milone's "command maybe isn't like it was earlier," but added, "We still have a lot of confidence in Tommy. He's still a big part of this team."

Milone said he was "not really" surprised by the move and knows he needs to "be more consistent, stay aggressive. ... I feel like what's been hurting me is being up in the zone so take this time to kind of work on that, throw quality strikes instead of just throwing strikes."

August 3, 2013
Milone roughed up in A's 8-3 loss; Rangers narrow the gap

OAKLAND -- The A's, who used the home run to fuel their second-half surge last year, have taken on a different sort of offensive identity this season. They're 10th in the league in home runs (109), relying more on timely hitting to back up a pitching staff that began Friday with the A.L.'s lowest ERA.

So when they have games like the last two -- in which they're a combined 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position, stranding 20 runners total -- it's tough to overcome. That's especially the case when the team on the other side is flexing its power like the A's of 2010 2012, as the Texas Rangers did in an 8-3 win on Friday night.

The Rangers were 3-for-9 with runners in scoring position but hit two two-run home runs off Tommy Milone while building a 6-3 lead through the first four innings. Texas starter Alexi Ogando allowed a career-high five walks, threw 60 pitches in the first two innings, and still left after four innings with a three-run lead.

"I felt like we were having good at-bats, we were making him work, but even though he was getting into trouble and getting his pitch count up ... he was still able to get outs," A's first baseman Brandon Moss said.

"I don't think he had many strikeouts, so you can't say we weren't putting the ball in play. Once you put it in play, you can't control where it goes. Sometimes it happens."

August 2, 2013
A's, Rangers lineups: Anderson faces hitters, Rosales on move

OAKLAND -- A's left-hander Brett Anderson faced hitters for the first time since April this afternoon, throwing live batting practice before the A's opened their series against the Texas Rangers. Anderson threw 30 pitches off the mound in two "innings" and threw all his pitches, with his breaking pitches looking especially sharp for a guy who hasn't pitched in a game since April 29, manager Bob Melvin said.

"Looked like everything went smoothly to me," Melvin said. "No complaints from him as far as physically. The next step, I'll probably have more on that tomorrow based on how he comes in and how he feels."

Anderson, recovering from a stress fracture in his right foot, has been able to keep his arm strong by throwing off a knee and playing catch. Melvin said that with Anderson's work in that area, "it certainly looks stuff-wise like he's close to midseason form. It's just taking the proper steps to make sure we don't get that foot back in a position where stressing him could make it worse."

There's still no timetable for when Anderson might be able to rejoin the A's. Melvin said the next step for him would likely be another live BP session, possibly with a bullpen session in between, but Melvin said there hasn't been discussion yet about a possible rehab assignment.

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.

July 31, 2013
A's, Blue Jays lineups: Callaspo meets the A's, Reddick out

OAKLAND -- Alberto Callaspo, the newest A's infiedler, arrived at the Coliseum a little after 10 a.m. after hopping a flight early this morning from Texas, where the Los Angeles Angels were playing the Rangers. Callaspo said he didn't get much sleep last night after finding out he'd been traded by the Angels, but that he's ready to help the A's however necessary. He's not in the lineup -- Jed Lowrie is at shortstop, Eric Sogard at second base facing right-handed knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Callaspo figures to mostly platoon with Sogard at second base and play against lefties -- the role formerly filled by Adam Rosales, who was designated for assignment today to make room for Callaspo on the 25-man roster. As a switch-hitter and versatile defender, manager Bob Melvin said Callaspo may also be used to give Lowrie and Josh Donaldson days off. When Lowrie is off, Sogard will play shortstop and Callaspo will play second. Having played third for Los Angeles the past three seasons, Callaspo can slip in when Donaldson needs a break.

Though most of his playing time should come at a position he hasn't played in the majors since 2010, when he had 12 games at second, Callaspo said he's confident he'll be able to make the transition. That's because it's a return to his natural position. He has played 217 games there in his major-league career.

"There is some uncertainty obviously, because he hasn't played there for a couple years," Melvin said. "But he's always been a sure-handed defender. ... My feeling is once a middle infielder, it's kind of like riding a bike. Hopefully that's the case."

Melvin managed Callaspo for a short time in Arizona and called the 30-year-old "a pretty unique player. ...He can play just about anywhere, switch-hitter, good from both sides of the plate, I think one of the most difficult guys in all of baseball to strike out. You can hit and run with him. There's a lot of things you can do with him. So it's an upgrade for us."

Callaspo has more walks (263) than strikeouts (256) in his eight-year career. This year he was hitting .252 in 86 games for the Angels, including .259 against left-handers (compared to .249 against righties). The bigger split is in OPS -- .733 against lefties, .646 against righties.

July 27, 2013
Colon ties an A's record and MLB's wins leaders in 6-4 victory

OAKLAND -- Max Scherzer pitches for the Detroit Tigers on Saturday with a chance to improve to 15-1, while Matt Moore, who's currently 14-3, is scheduled to throw Sunday for the Tampa Bay Rays against the Yankees. But at least overnight, 40-year-old Bartolo Colon is tied for the major-league lead in wins.

It's a quick turnaround to tomorrow's 12:05 start, so we'll try to keep this like a typical Colon start -- which Friday night in some ways wasn't. Colon trailed 2-0 two batters into the game after giving up his first home run since July 3 to Mike Trout. He threw 96 pitches in six innings and had two walks for only the fifth time in 21 starts this season.

But after the Trout home run, the Angels didn't get another runner past second base until the ninth inning. Colon pitched at least six innings allowing three or fewer runs for the 14th consecutive time he's taken the mound. And he improved to 14-3 this season, with most of it playing out after his 40th birthday.

"I'd be lying if I thought he'd be 14-3 right now," manager Bob Melvin said. "I have a ton of confidence in him, but I really didn't expect this from him at this point and he'd probably say the same thing."

Colon did, in so many words. Through interpreter Ariel Prieto, Colon said he "surprises myself right now" being tied for the majors lead in wins -- with a lower ERA (2.54) than either Scherzer or Moore. In his last 14 starts he's 11-1 with a 1.70 ERA. His explanation for his success this season: "Working hard and throwing strikes."

July 26, 2013
A's, Angels lineups: Colon can play stopper again

OAKLAND -- John Jaso has made 42 of his 55 starts this season batting either leadoff or second for the A's, despite the fact that Jaso -- though not your stereotypical slow-footed catcher -- isn't exactly Coco Crisp on the bases. A main reason: Jaso, who has attempted just three stolen bases this season, has the top on-base percentage on the team at .387.

It may seem logical -- the more the A's have runners on ahead of their middle-of-the-order hitters, the more chances those guys have to drive in runs. But putting a hitter at the top of the lineup just because he gets on base was a progressive idea to Bob Melvin back when he was a bench coach in Milwaukee in 1999 under then-manager Phil Garner.

"Phil was really the first guy ... who would put the on-base guys up at the top of the lineup even if they didn't run very well," Melvin said. "I'd ask, why would you put him there? He doesn't run very well. (Garner) goes, 'What's the difference? He gets on base.'

"I think he was kind of ahead of his time as far as looking at on-base and certain numbers that you see nowadays looked at more so than when he was doing it."

Garner, now a special advisor for the A's, is in town this weekend and was hitting ground balls to the A's infielders during batting practice before they played the Angels on Friday. Melvin said Garner worked a lot with Josh Donaldson on the latter's conversion from catcher to third baseman, a move that has certainly paid dividends for the A's.

July 14, 2013
Donaldson, Colon, Balfour punctuate first halves in A's 3-2 win

OAKLAND -- The A's and manager Bob Melvin know there's no point in belaboring the argument that Josh Donaldson -- who is not headed to New York tonight with teammates Grant Balfour, Bartolo Colon and Yoenis Cespedes -- has had an All-Star-caliber half. Donaldson wasn't going to get voted in over Miguel Cabrera and his otherworldly first-half numbers, and a deep field at the position features some more established, better-known names. A.L. manager Jim Leyland acknowledged Donaldson's worthy first half while saying there just wasn't a spot for him on the roster.

Donaldson, who has been realistic about the situation throughout, used Sunday to make one last first-half statement, driving in all three runs in the A's 3-2 win over the Red Sox with a monster two-run home run in the seventh inning and the walk-off hit in the bottom of the 11th, a bloop single to right that scored Chris Young from second and earned him the now customary pie in the face from Josh Reddick.

Signs of the pie were still on Donaldson's face as he talked with reporters after the game, and he has a few days to savor it and its impact. With Sunday's win, the A's go into the All-Star Break with their most first-half wins (56) since 1973, and in sole possession of first place in the West (by two games over the Rangers) for the first time since 1990.

On an individual note, Donaldson, who a year ago at this time was trying to play his way back up from Triple-A, finishes the first half leading the A's in batting average (.310), RBIs (61), OPS (.901), and tied with Brandon Moss for the team lead in home runs (16).

"It's pretty apropos that not only did he knock in the winning run (Sunday), but knocked in all three runs," Melvin said. "Pretty good first half."

July 14, 2013
A's closer Balfour added to A.L. All-Star roster

OAKLAND -- A's closer Grant Balfour has been added to the American League All-Star team, the A's announced this afternoon.

Balfour has converted all 25 of his save opportunities on the season and is the only closer in baseball without a blown save. The 35-year-old, who will make his first career All-Star appearance, recently broke Dennis Eckersley's Oakland record for consecutive saves and has saved his last 43 chances dating back to last season.

It was not immediately announced whom Balfour will be replacing on the team, but he may well be taking the place of teammate Bartolo Colon on the active A.L. roster. Colon, starting today for the A's against the Boston Red Sox, would only be eligible to pitch one inning in the game and had the option of removing himself from the roster.

-- Matt Kawahara

July 14, 2013
A's, Red Sox lineups: Colon goes for No. 13

OAKLAND -- Bartolo Colon is expected to throw his first pitch against the Red Sox in a little more than an hour, at which point the caveats for his participation in the All-Star Game will kick in. Having pitched the Sunday before the game, Colon will be eligible to throw one inning in the game, and can also choose to opt off the active roster, at which point he'll have to be replaced -- potentially by somebody like A's closer Grant Balfour.

Colon, of course, is not required to make himself ineligible. But Tigers and A.L. manager Jim Leyland has been pretty adamant that he is very much against using any pitcher in the game who has started just two days before, as Colon will have done. Leyland was quoted in the Detroit News as saying: "They can blast me till the cows come home, and I'm not doing it. If anybody doesn't see the common sense in that, then they have a problem." So if Colon does stay on the roster, it'll likely be as a spectator.

A's manager Bob Melvin said he hasn't heard whether Colon is leaning either way, but that it makes sense Colon would want to inform the league by today at the latest. So there may be news on that after his start today. For now, here's the A's lineup for their series and first-half finale against Boston, with Colon trying to become just the third Oakland pitcher since 1975 to win 13 games before the break (the others -- Dave Stewart in 1989 and Bob Welch in 1990):

CF Crisp
C Jaso
3B Donaldson
SS Lowrie
LF Cespedes
RF Reddick
1B Moss
DH Smith
2B Sogard

And the Red Sox lineup against Colon:

July 13, 2013
Griffin channels No. 40, throws eight scoreless in A's 3-0 win

OAKLAND -- A.J. Griffin found himself pitching out of the stretch in each of the first six innings of his start against the Red Sox on Saturday night. Four times Boston put a runner on second or third with two outs. His thinking in those situations?

"I just try to act like No. 40," Griffin said, referencing teammate Bartolo Colon. "Not show that they've got me in a situation where they have the upper hand. I just try to stay calm, and that's something I've learned just watching Bartolo pitch."

Colon, whose jersey number matches his age, has the unruffled demeanor of a seasoned veteran and apparently it has rubbed off on Griffin, who isn't easily ruffled himself. The 25-year-old right-hander got out of each of the first six innings unscored upon Saturday and finished with eight scoreless in the A's 3-0 win over the Red Sox, setting Colon up for a chance to pitch Oakland to a series win on Sunday.

Aside from a Mike Napoli double off the wall in the fourth that missed being a home run by a few feet, Griffin didn't really get hit hard. But that was the third time in the first four innings the Red Sox put a runner on second. As in the previous ones, Griffin wriggled out of trouble, getting Daniel Nava and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to fly out to end the inning.

"That's A.J.," catcher Derek Norris siad. "Whenever he gets in a jam, he's got a knack for getting out of it a lot of the time."

July 13, 2013
A's, Red Sox lineups: Cespedes back in cleanup spot

OAKLAND -- Yoenis Cespedes was in the batter's box at the Coliseum early this afternoon for a Home Run Derby practice run, with third-base coach Mike Gallego throwing and coaches shagging balls in the outfield. Cespedes hit some impressive drives, including a few that neared or reached the luxury box windows beyond the stadium's center-field wall.

Gallego said he's getting used to where Cespedes wants pitches thrown to him -- a little lower than Gallego was originally aiming. A's manager Bob Melvin, who has thrown in previous years of the Derby, said Friday that the format is odd for him -- unlike normal batting practice, there's a catcher and no cage. Gallego said it doesn't bother him.

Cespedes is back in the cleanup spot for the A's tonight after hitting fifth Friday for just the second time this season (he has also hit sixth once). As for the A's representative in the actual All-Star Game, Melvin said he still has no official word on whether Bartolo Colon plans on attending the game or opting out. Colon is scheduled to start Sunday for the A's, and a new rule allows All-Star pitchers who throw the Sunday before the game to throw a maximum of one inning in the All-Star Game or remove themselves from the All-Star roster.

Here's the full A's lineup tonight against Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester:

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

July 12, 2013
Little things add up (and in) for A's in 4-2 loss to Red Sox

OAKLAND -- Sean Doolittle hadn't hit a batter in 86 major-league innings before Friday night. After the A's 4-2 loss to the Red Sox, in which Boston put both tiebreaking runs on base against Doolittle in the eighth inning, the inside fastball that caught Shane Victorino around the head in the eighth inning seemed to be what bothered Doolittle the most.

Jose Iglesias led off the inning with a single and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and a groundout, meaning Doolittle still had a shot at getting out of the inning with the score tied at 2-2. But his 0-1 pitch was too far up and in to Victorino, who spun around hard and took his time going to first base. A's manager Bob Melvin then brought in Ryan Cook to face Dustin Pedroia, who lined a two-run single to left.

Doolittle said the inside fastball is a "pitch I execute a lot" to right-handed hitters in order to back them off the plate and then use the outside corner to finish the at-bat.

"It just got away from me," Doolittle said. "I feel terrible about where I hit him and how I hit him and the fact that I even hit him, but he's a guy that's a good fastball hitter. You want to come inside and move his head a little bit, make him less comfortable in there, and it got away from me a little bit."

July 12, 2013
A's, Red Sox lineups: Could HR Derby help ignite Cespedes?

OAKLAND -- Yoenis Cespedes is hitting fifth for the A's tonight, just the third time this season he hasn't been in either the third or cleanup spot. It's nearly impossible to bump him down much further -- he has hit sixth once -- but clearly his first half has not been what he was hoping for or likely expected at the plate. After going 1-for-11 in the A's series at Pittsburgh, Cespedes is batting .176 in July and, with only this weekend's series to go before the All-Star Break, is hitting .221 on the season, though he does have 15 home runs and 42 RBIs.

Cespedes, of course, was recently named as the fourth A.L. participant in the Home Run Derby, and manager Bob Melvin said before today's game that he believes there's some merit to the idea that participating in the Derby could be good for his left fielder. You'll sometimes hear of teams not wanting their sluggers to take part in the competition for fear it will alter their swings for the worse. Melvin, though, said the circumstances of the event -- in New York, in front of a big nationally televised audience -- may be the kind of thing that could jump-start Cespedes, particularly if he does well.

"He's a guy that is a spotlight-type guy, as we've seen since he first got here," Melvin said. "I know he's excited about it and rightly so. And it gives us a little more exposure too, because it's a heavily watched event. If ever there's a guy that's right for it, it's him.

"I think as much as anything you worry about injury, but that's anybody who's in it," he continued. "But I think it'll be good for him to be in that spotlight."

July 4, 2013
Cespedes' arm, Norris' legs back Straily in A's 1-0 win

OAKLAND -- Baseball can be a quirky game. Wednesday night, the A's lost 3-1 to the Cubs after Bartolo Colon's first wild pitch in 443 starts helped Chicago take a one-run lead in the first inning. Thursday, the A's won 1-0 scoring one unearned run on a passed ball. According to A's media relations, it was the ninth time in Oakland history the A's have won a 1-0 game without an RBI, and the first time they did so with a passed ball as the only scoring play.

"That's the way it bounces sometimes," manager Bob Melvin said with a shrug.

A lot, of course, went into making that score stand up. Dan Straily, recalled from Triple-A on Thursday morning, one-hit the Cubs for seven innings in arguably his best major-league start. Straily credited catcher Derek Norris with guiding him through the Cubs lineup, saying he arrived at the park Thursday not knowing the righties in the Chicago lineup from the lefties. You can read more about that here.

Straily also benefited from some strong defense, including two key plays in the fourth. Yoenis' Cespedes throw to nail Starlin Castro at the plate with one out is the subject of tomorrow's print story, but this was Castro's take on the play:

"It surprised me," he said. "I thought I was going to be easy safe. I'm running hard right away, I saw the ball doing my secondary lead. ... The guy made a great throw."

July 4, 2013
Straily holds Cubs to one hit over seven in return to A's rotation

Cubs Athletics Baseball.jpgBy Kristopher Rivera
krivera@sacbee.com

OAKLAND -- Right-hander Dan Straily made a quality start Thursday in his fourth stint with the Oakland Athletics this year after he was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento earlier in the day. He helped lead the A's to a 1-0 rubber match win over the Chicago Cubs.

"I got to the ball park earlier today because I didn't know who was right-handed and who was left-handed," Straily said. "I had to actually go look up everybody real quick."

Straily threw 87 pitches in seven innings with one hit from Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano at the top of the fourth inning. He had solid support from A's catcher Derek Norris, who served as his guide during his time on the mound.

"I got out there today and Deno just said, 'I'm going to be your Crash Davis today, just throw whatever I call,'" Straily said. "I knew that he's done his homework a lot. He knows the hitters a lot better than I did. I guess you could say we were on the same page which was his page all day."

July 4, 2013
A's, Cubs lineups: Straily recalled, starts today; Vogt optioned

OAKLAND -- As expected, the A's recalled right-hander Dan Straily this morning to make today's start against the Chicago Cubs and optioned catcher Stephen Vogt back to Triple-A Sacramento. Manager Bob Melvin said Jarrod Parker, who would normally be on turn today but has been pushed back, is still on track to pitch Saturday.

Vogt made a strong impression during his time in Oakland. He was called up June 25 and played in just four games, but the A's were 4-0 in those games. Vogt also homered for his first major-league hit, snapping an 0-for-32 start to his career, and built some familiarity with the A's pitching staff, most of which he hadn't caught before, as the A's acquired him after Opening Day this year.

"He had the confidence of the staff -- not only the starters he caught, but the relievers as well," Melvin said. "Got his hit out of the way and had some other good at-bats for us too. So it was a good showing for him."

There wasn't going to be room for three catchers on the roster when the A's brought back Straily to be their fifth starter. But Melvin made a point of saying that Vogt being sent down was because of the numbers, not because "he did anything to suggest he needs to go down."

June 30, 2013
Pitching, defense come on late in A's 7-5 win; Crisp (back) exits

OAKLAND -- It did not appear early on Sunday like this would be a game the A's would win with pitching and defense. Tommy Milone gave up a career-high tying three home runs all in the first three innings. The Cardinals took a 5-2 lead in the third when Josh Donaldson lost a Carlos Beltran pop-up in the sun and Jed Lowrie let Matt Holliday's two-out grounder roll through his legs, allowing Beltran to come in from second base.

But the A's tightened things up from there, and after they came back to beat the Cardinals 7-5, much of the talk was about pitching -- a gutty effort by Milone to give the A's three more shutout innings and turn it over to the bullpen -- and defense -- notably two plays in the seventh inning that helped preserve what was then a one-run lead.

Both Lowrie and reliever Sean Doolittle said they thought the key play was Eric Sogard's full-extension catch of a Yadier Molina flare in the seventh. The Cardinals had a runner on second and nobody out, and had the ball fallen it likely would have tied the game.

"Off the top of my head that's one of the better (plays) of the year," said Doolittle, who was pitching. "Battling the sun like that, in no-man's land, full speed on the run -- that was awesome."

"That changes the whole inning," Lowrie said. "I think it's the biggest play of the game."

June 30, 2013
A's pre-game: Parker, Jaso updates, plus Jemile Weeks in CF

OAKLAND -- Jarrod Parker delivered a pre-emptive strike this morning to reporters approaching his locker looking for an update on the right-hander's right hamstring.

"I got nothing," said Parker, who left his start in the fourth inning Saturday with hamstring tightness.

A's manager Bob Melvin wasn't much more enlightening on the subject, saying Parker had "some lingering soreness when he played catch," but that the A's likely won't know more on whether Parker will be available to make his next start until after he throws a bullpen session Tuesday. Which means more waiting.

June 29, 2013
Parker exits A's 7-1 loss with right hamstring tightness

OAKLAND -- Jarrod Parker was somewhat subdued but said, "I don't think so," when asked if he was concerned about his status going forward after the right-hander left the A's 7-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday with right hamstring tightness. Parker went down grabbing at his hamstring after throwing a pitch to Allen Craig in the fourth inning. He was stretched out by a trainer on the field and threw several practice pitches before coming out of the game.

Manager Bob Melvin said the A's are hoping it's just a cramp and nothing that would keep Parker from making his next start, but they won't know more until they see how Parker feels tomorrow.

"If everything feels OK tomorrow, we'll see how he feels in his (next bullpen session) and then proceed from there," Melvin said. "But you know a lot more tomorrow."

Parker said he was "sore" after the game but hadn't undergone any tests or done anything beyond "normal stuff" treatment-wise.

"I think it's just tight and we'll be able to assess it in the coming days," Parker said. "It was something where I just threw the pitch and it just kind of got tight on me."

Melvin said Parker floated the idea of staying in to finish the inning, "but he still felt it, and it's not a prudent thing to do. The unfortunate thing was that might have been as good of stuff as he's had all year."

June 29, 2013
A's, Cardinals lineups: Norris starts, Jaso available off bench

OAKLAND -- The A's still don't feel comfortable having John Jaso catching a full game with his left hand abrasion, so it's Derek Norris behind the plate today against Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright. It'll be the first game action in nearly a week for Norris, who's in a 4-for-39 hitting stretch.

"You want to give him some at-bats to try to stay current, because we do have three left-handed (opposing starters) coming up on the schedule before the break," Melvin said of Norris. "And it's not always about the offensive end. He's had some nice games with Parker."

Norris has caught 13 of Parker's 17 starts this season, and Parker has a 3.94 ERA in 77 2/3 innings in those games. Hitting-wise, Norris has always maintained he'd rather work through slumps while in the lineup than have days off, but said he realizes that's the culture in Oakland with how the A's handle their platoons.

"A lot of people go through it, not just myself," Norris said. "It can get frustrating, but it's part of the game, and the only way to get out of slumps is to get in there and make a positive performance to where you can work off of that and keep working forward."

Here's the full A's lineup today against Wainwright:

June 28, 2013
Vogt ends hitless streak with a bang; Colon makes it 8 in a row

OAKLAND -- In his first at-bat Friday night, A's catcher Stephen Vogt drove a ball to the warning track in center field, only to see the Cardinals' Jon Jay track it down for an out. It extended Vogt's stretch of hitless at-bats to start his major-league career to 32, one shy of the longest by a non-pitcher since 1973.

It also encapsulated what Vogt had been saying about the streak since being called up by the A's earlier this week -- he was pleased with his at-bats in the big leagues, he was hitting balls hard, but none were falling in. John Jaso, who was playing for Tampa Bay last season when Vogt had his first call-ups with the Rays, described it this way: "It was almost like a champagne bottle, waiting for that cork to pop, and you keep shaking it."

Two innings later, the cork popped. Vogt got an 0-2 pitch up over the plate and hit it into the seats in right field for a slough of firsts -- first big-league hit, first big-league homer, first silent treatment in the dugout, which the A's were only too happy to give Vogt for several moments as he filled a cup of water before gleefully mobbing him.

"It's the greatest thing in the world getting the silent treatment," Vogt said. "It's neat to have this team kind of adopt me within three days. They've been treating me really well and it's been really special."

June 28, 2013
A's, Cardinals lineups: Still no Jaso, Colon goes for 8 straight

OAKLAND -- John Jaso is closer to being able to catch a full game, A's manager Bob Melvin said, but still being bothered enough by the abrasion on his left hand that it'll be Stephen Vogt behind the plate tonight for the A's opener against the St. Louis Cardinals. Melvin said Jaso is still available to pinch hit and could catch tomorrow. If he doesn't, Derek Norris will get a start in the day game despite the A's facing a right-hander.

Norris did not play in the two-game series against Cincinnati and had his last start on June 23. That doesn't make it easy for a player trying to bust out of a slump like Norris, who is 4-for-39 over his last 13 games and hitting .151 since May 1. Melvin said Norris wants to be in the lineup to work things out and the days off are "a little bit of a double-edged sword, in that you do have some time to work on some things and have a little bit of separation from what has been a tough period for him."

Vogt, meanwhile, is still seeking his first major-league hit after 31 at-bats without one, the second-longest such streak to begin a career by a non-pitcher since 1973. The longest was also an A's player -- Chris Carter, who didn't have a hit in his first 33 at-bats.

Here's the full A's lineup tonight against the Cardinals and Shelby Miller:

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

And the Cardinals' lineup against Bartolo Colon:

June 26, 2013
Neshek rides the adrenaline, Vogt gets first RBI in A's 7-3 win

OAKLAND -- Pat Neshek played a key role in the A's bullpen in the second half last year after being acquired Aug. 3, recording a 1.37 ERA in 24 appearances. And whether Neshek has appeared in fewer high-leverage situations so far this season -- or whether it just seems that way because just about every game for the A's down the stretch in 2012 qualified as a high-leverage situation -- Neshek said he has noticed the same thing.

The A's have their typical three-man combination for innings 7-9 in close games in Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour. And early this season they were winning games by wide margins pretty consistently, meaning middle relievers like Neshek weren't being inserted into a ton of stressful situations. Neshek had pitched in 28 games before Tuesday night and only been credited with one hold, despite an ERA of 2.19 overall and 0.73 in his last 14 outings.

Tuesday night was different. Neshek did come into the game early -- with two outs in the fifth inning -- and the A's held a four-run lead. But the Reds had the bases loaded with two outs, one swing from making what had been a 7-1 game much closer.

"I know last year when I came over I was used in a few more situations like that," Neshek said after the game. "It was kind of nice. I like pitching in those situations. It seems like you have a lot more adrenaline."

June 25, 2013
A's, Reds lineups: Vogt starts, plus new carpet at the Coliseum

OAKLAND -- Stephen Vogt, called up today to fill the roster spot opened when the A's optioned Dan Straily to Triple-A, won't have to wait long to make his Oakland debut. Vogt is in the lineup catching Tommy Milone tonight, with John Jaso's left hand abrasion still bothering him too much to catch a full game.

Melvin said Jaso is "still probably a couple days away" from starting a game, though he should be available to pinch-hit. So with the A's facing Cincinnati Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo tonight, Vogt gets the start. Vogt was hitting .325 with nine home runs and 43 RBIs in 58 games with the River Cats, and has thrown out 19 of 47 (40.4 percent) prospective base stealers.

"It's good to finally get a look at him," Melvin said.

Vogt, whom the A's acquired from Tampa Bay on April 5, got off to a torrid start, batting .438 in April, before cooling off a little in May. He made his major-league debut last year with the Rays -- but he went 0-for-25 with two walks, so he's still looking for his first big-league hit.

June 16, 2013
Melvin: Colon bolsters All-Star candidacy in A's 10-2 win

OAKLAND -- It's mid-June, about the time that All-Star buzz starts to percolate around baseball. And your American League co-leader in wins as of Sunday? You guessed it -- Bartolo Colon, who improved to 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA in the A's 10-2 win over Seattle at the Coliseum.

"How can he not be in the conversation?" A's manager Bob Melvin said after the game. "He was before that start, for me, part of the conversation. The ERA, everything. What he's meant to our team. Yeah, he's definitely, I would think, a guy that's a frontrunner as far as guys in the rotation."

While the game is still a month away -- Melvin said this afternoon that A.L. manager Jim Leyland hasn't even contacted him yet for input on possible selections -- it's probably not too early to start looking around the league. Clay Buchholz is off to a stellar start for the Red Sox -- 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA. Max Scherzer is 9-0 for Detroit and striking out more than a batter an inning. Yu Darvish has the most strikeouts in baseball and came within an out of a perfect game in April. Justin Verlander is always in the discussion. And don't forget about the pitcher Colon bested on Sunday -- the Mariners' Hisashi Iwakuma, who despite taking the loss against the A's is 7-2 with a 2.06 ERA.

June 16, 2013
A's, Mariners lineups, and the unicorn backpack changes hands

SPORTS_BBA-ASTROS-MARINERS_3_SE.jpgOAKLAND -- Somewhat quietly, the Mariners have to have one of the best 1-2 punches atop their starting rotation in the American League, if not all of baseball. Consider: A day after being shut out by nemesis Felix Hernandez, the former Cy Young winner and owner of a perfect game, the A's today face the pitcher that leads the A.L. in fewest baserunners allowed and strikeout-to-walk ratio, and has its second-lowest ERA.

That's Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, who is 7-1 this season and hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 28 2/3 innings. Iwakuma beat the A's on April 2 in Oakland and again on May 10 in Seattle, allowing three runs over 13 innings with 16 strikeouts in the two games. Yoenis Cespedes has homered twice as part of his 3-for-9 career line against Iwakuma. The rest of the A's lineup today is a combined 6-for-43 (.140).

Here's that lineup:

CF Crisp
C Jaso
DH Cespedes
1B Moss
3B Donaldson
LF Smith
RF Reddick
SS Rosales
2B Sogard

And the Mariners lineup against Bartolo Colon, who is looking for his ninth win:

CF Chavez
2B Franklin
3B Seager
DH Morales
LF Ibanez
1B Morse
RF Bay
C Zunino
SS Ryan

June 15, 2013
Griffin 'at a loss for words' after loss; King Felix stifles the A's

OAKLAND -- You could call A.J. Griffin one of the more free-wheeling personas in the A's clubhouse. He has been heard playing the guitar before games on days he starts. He speaks three languages. But after the A's 4-0 loss to the Mariners on Saturday, standing at his locker, Griffin admitted: "I'm kind of at a loss for words."

There wasn't much for to explain after a game that turned on one pitch, or at least a few pitches in one inning. The big one was a first-pitch fastball inside to 41-year-old Mariners catcher Henry Blanco -- signed by Seattle yesterday -- that Blanco crushed for his second career grand slam and first since May 2000, when Griffin was 12 years old.

With Felix Hernandez playing the part of what former Mariner and now A's catcher John Jaso termed "Boring Felix" -- an act the A's know all too well -- it was all Seattle needed to ensure Oakland its first series loss since May 13-15 against the Texas Rangers.

Griffin said he threw the fastball to Blanco, with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning, "just trying to get weak contact, and Henry was looking for a well-placed fastball and hit it and it went out." The pitch appeared to catch a fair amount of the inside corner, but Griffin said that was basically where he wanted it.

June 15, 2013
A's, Mariners lineups: Crisp, Donaldson in against King Felix

OAKLAND -- Coco Crisp (heel) and Josh Donaldson (hamstring) are back in the A's lineup today against the Mariners and nemesis Felix Hernandez. Chris Young also gets the start in right field instead of Josh Reddick. Manager Bob Melvin said that's to get Reddick a day off, along with giving Young a chance to build on his 3-for-3 night at the plate Friday, which included his first home run since May 24.

"Anytime you have a really good night like he did last night it's nice to be able to get some carryover," Melvin said.

Carryover has been the challenge for Young, who has six multi-hit games since April 29 but is still batting .184. And starts may be hard to come by in the next few weeks with the A's beginning a stretch today in which Melvin expects to face 16 consecutive right-handed starting pitchers. Melvin said he'll try to keep his right-handed platoon players -- like Young, Nate Freiman, Adam Rosales and Derek Norris -- involved with pinch-hit opportunities and the occasional start.

One positive -- if you want to look at it that way -- is that the right-handers won't come much tougher than the two the A's face the next couple days. Hernandez is 14-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 27 career starts against the A's, including his 7 2/3 shutout innings at the Coliseum on Opening Day. Tomorrow's Mariners starter, Hisashi Iwakuma, has been one of the best pitchers in the American League this season -- he's 7-1 with a 1.79 ERA.

Here's the A's lineup against King Felix:

June 15, 2013
A good night for Young in leadoff spot, though A's lose 3-2

OAKLAND -- The A's tried a few tactics Friday to combat the effects of their 18-inning win over the Yankees the day before. Players were allowed to report to the field later and the A's canceled on-field batting practice. Many were at the Coliseum early anyway.

"A lot of guys were able to do some recovery work and get their legs back under them," said outfielder Chris Young.

Young looked fresh, recording his first multi-hit game since June 1 and reaching base all four times batting in the leadoff spot for the first time this season. The rest of the lineup was not so invigorated in a 3-2 loss to the Mariners that ended Oakland's home winning streak at 11 games -- the third-longest in Oakland history.

Manager Bob Melvin said he didn't see a noticeable dip in energy level and attributed the lethargy of the bats mostly to Mariners starter Joe Saunders. Saunders, who doesn't throw very hard anyway, lulled the A's into one run over seven innings -- and that scored on a two-out Eric Sogard pop-up to shallow right that should have been caught, but turned into a double when Jason Bay and Nick Franklin ran into each other going for the ball.

June 14, 2013
A's pre-game: Donaldson out, Otero up, draft pick works out

OAKLAND -- Josh Donaldson is out of the A's lineup for only the second time this season after leaving yesterday's 18-inning game with tightness in his right hamstring. Donaldson said the hamstring "locked up a little on me" yesterday between innings and he and manager Bob Melvin felt it would be best not to push it. He hit in the cage this afternoon and was going to do some running during batting practice

"He felt a lot better than I thought he'd feel today," Melvin said. "Holding out hope that he can play tomorrow."

Donaldson's absence is mitigated some by Yoenis Cespedes' return to the lineup tonight at designated hitter. Melvin said he hopes Cespedes, who missed the past two games with hamstring soreness, will "be guarded enough running around the bases." Coco Crisp, who pinch hit yesterday but is still feeling soreness in his heel, is out.

Here's the A's lineup against Mariners left-hander Joe Saunders:

CF Young
LF Smith
SS Lowrie
DH Cespedes
1B Freiman
C Norris
RF Reddick
3B Rosales
2B Sogard

And the Mariners' lineup against A's left-hander Tommy Milone:

RF Bay
2B Franklin
3B Seager
DH Morales
1B Morse
LF Ibanez
C Zunino
CF Saunders
SS Ryan

* It was a pretty busy afternoon at the Coliseum, especially for a day when the A's weren't even required to show up until 5 p.m. after yesterday's marathon win. For starters, the A's made a move to bolster their bullpen after the 18-inning game, selecting Dan Otero from Triple-A Sacramento, optioning Hideki Okajima to Sacramento and transferring Brett Anderson to the 60-day disabled list to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Otero.

June 13, 2013
No rust for A's lefties in 5-2 win; Straily earning more rope

OAKLAND -- The A's finally faced a right-handed starter Wednesday after seeing five left-handers in a row, meaning Bob Melvin finally got to run out his left-handed lineup, which surely had accumulated some rust over the last week.

Or not. Consider these numbers from the left-handed halves of the positions where the A's regularly platoon: catcher John Jaso, left fielder Seth Smith, first baseman Brandon Moss and second baseman Eric Sogard combined to reach base in 13 of 18 times at the plate Wednesday, drive in all five of the A's runs in their 5-2 win over the Yankees and draw seven of the A's nine walks.

"They looked like they hadn't missed a beat," Melvin said.

Sogard hadn't had an at-bat since June 5, but went 1-for-2, walked twice and scored two runs. Smith -- 2 for 24 over his last 10 games -- reached base all five times Wednesday, including a career-high four walks.

Moss was mired in as bad a slump as anybody, with three hits in his past 36 at-bats and having not started a game since June 5. So naturally, he hit the first pitch he saw from Yankees starter Phil Hughes, a changeup in the second inning, over the right-field wall for a two-run homer.

June 12, 2013
A's, Yankees lineups: Crisp, Cespedes out

OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin is fond of calling Coco Crisp the team's "energizer" atop the lineup and Yoenis Cespedes a confidence-breeding influence in the middle. The lineup is missing both tonight against the Yankees.

Cespedes left last night's game with left hamstring tightness that he felt after running out a first-inning groundout. Melvin said it doesn't seem like a substantial injury -- Cespedes was expected to take batting practice tonight and looked to be moving well in pre-game agility drills -- but the A's don't want to take chances with turning it into a bigger problem.

"It's a big hamstring on top of that," Melvin said. "We don't want to see that thing pulled."

Crisp felt some discomfort in his foot last night. Melvin said it just popped up during the game but wasn't enough to warrant taking Crisp out of the game, since he could still run. It was still bothering him this morning, Melvin said, and though he felt better after getting to the park and getting treatment, the A's -- again -- don't want to take chances.

Melvin said both could "potentially" be available to pinch-hit.

When both Crisp and Cespedes are in the starting lineup this season, the A's are 27-8. But both have missed time with injuries -- Cespedes has played in 52 of the A's 66 games, Crisp in 48 -- and the A's are 12-19 when one of them is out.

"Obviously the results would suggest we do very well when they're both in there," Melvin said. "But again, we have to try to keep them healthy. Even if it is a day or so, if we give htem an extra day, we want to make sure they're not playing on something that's bothering them for an extended period of time, because both of them have to use their legs in what they do."

Here's the A's lineup tonight against Hughes:

C Jaso
LF Smith
SS Lowrie
3B Donaldson
RF Reddick
1B Moss
CF Young
2B Sogard
DH Freiman

And the Yankees lineup against Dan Straily:

CF Gardner
2B Cano
1B Teixeira
DH Hafner
LF Wells
3B Youkilis
RF Ichiro
SS Nix
C Romine

-- Matt Kawahara

June 12, 2013
Norris doesn't wait around, Cespedes (hamstring) exits 6-4 win

OAKLAND -- A's catcher Derek Norris said he wasn't surprised to get a first-pitch slider from C.C. Sabathia with two on and two outs in the fourth inning Tuesday night.

"With runners in scoring position, especially with two outs, he's not going to serve you up a nice fastball over the middle where you can hit it out of the park," Norris said. "He's going to try and pitch."

Sabathia threw a backdoor slider -- and Norris hit it out of the park, or at least over the wall in left-center to put the A's up 4-0 in their eventual 6-4 win. While Norris wasn't surprised by the pitch, Sabathia and the Yankees had reason to be surprised by the swing. The plate appearance was Norris' 179th of the season. It was just the fifth time he has swung at the first pitch (he also has one first-pitch sacrifice bunt).

Norris has been the most patient hitter on the A's this season in terms of pitches seen per plate appearance -- an average of 4.40 pitches entering Tuesday. That's been healthy for his on-base percentage (.313 before Tuesday, in part because of 23 walks in those 167 plate appearances), but hadn't done much for his batting average, which had fallen to .194 due to a 14-for-93 (.150) mark since May 1.

Norris said Tuesday's first-pitch swing was part of his "looking to make a few changes." That includes some mechanical adjustments made with hitting coach Chili Davis to "free up my hands," as well as "trying to be a little more confident, a little more aggressive at the plate, not being so passive."

June 11, 2013
A's, Yankees lineups: A's facing yet another left-hander

OAKLAND -- The A's face Yankees left-hander C.C. Sabathia in the teams' series opener at the Coliseum tonight, meaning manager Bob Melvin found himself writing out his right-handed lineup yet again this afternoon. It's the fifth game in a row the A's have faced a left-handed starter and the 11th time in their last 16 games. They're 7-3 in their last 10 games against a left-handed starter and 14-10 overall on the season.

That has meant inconsistent playing time and at-bats for the left-handed halves of the A's platoons, such as Brandon Moss, John Jaso, Eric Sogard and Eric Smith. But that figures to change soon. The A's face right-handers the final two games of this series (Phil Hughes tomorrow, Hiroki Kuroda on Thursday). After that they're schedul