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Melvin holds meeting after A's slide extended

Kazmir chased early; Oakland falls to five games behind Angels

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ANAHEIM -- For the A's, the only good thing about August is that it's over.

Their most dreadful month in years culminated in an 8-1, four-game series-sweeping loss to the Angels, but not before Oakland ran its scoreless streak to 29 innings and watched Scott Kazmir implode in a 1 1/3-inning outing that ended at the same time manager Bob Melvin was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.

The A's slide has hit a new low, their frustration level now at a new high, having lost 14 of their last 20. They're five games out of first place, after holding a four-game lead exactly three weeks ago, and with just 26 to play in their quest for a third consecutive American League West title.

After Sunday's game, they returned to the clubhouse to a steaming Melvin, who had watched much of his club's continued struggles play out on TV, following his second-inning ejection. Melvin held a lengthy closed-door meeting and was not shy in voicing his disappointment in his players, nor in relaying those feelings to the media thereafter.

"What can you say? Embarrassing. Pathetic. We don't play like that," Melvin said. "The last three games here are the worst I've seen this team play in I can't remember how long. I feel bad for our fans who have to watch that."

"Everyone respects everything he says," said Kazmir, "and it's something where you feel disappointed with yourself when you hear stuff like that. We've worked hard to get to this position where we're at, and the way we're playing is not what we're accustomed to, it's not who we are, and it's something we need to address, we need to take care of, we need to fix."

That the A's had their top four starters lined up for this crucial series was no accident. The first three provided quality outings in tough losses, but Kazmir didn't even get out of the second, allowing his former team six runs on two hits and four walks. He has a 27.00 ERA in two starts against the Angels this year and a 2.37 ERA against everyone else.

But the lefty was also none too happy with home-plate umpire Gerry Davis and questioned his professionalism. MLB did not issue an official statement but A's players told reporters Davis was reprimanded by MLB for making faces at Oakland's dugout the night before, and Kazmir wondered whether that influenced Davis' actions Sunday.

"It's late August, a tough time of year for anyone in the game, it really is," said Kazmir. "But it's important to rise above any personal issue and call a fair game. We owe it to the game to do that, we really do. And what I saw in the video were 10-plus pitches that I felt were right there. I don't know if it had something to do with last night, since he got reprimanded, but just professionalism is something I have an issue with. No matter what happens on the field, some things are just unacceptable."

Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker, meanwhile, limited an anemic A's offense to five hits over seven innings, not allowing a runner past second base. It wasn't until the eighth when the A's snapped their 29-inning scoreless streak, third longest in Oakland history, on Josh Reddick's RBI single against Mike Morin.

The A's scored just three other runs in the series, all of them Thursday, and it's the first time they've been swept by the Angels in a four-game series since June 19-22, 1997.

"The reason I'm that upset is that's not who we are," said Melvin. "That's not who we've been for three years. And for the last I don't know how long, it's mounted. It's been frustrating. But the last three games for us are just not who we are right now, and it's embarrassing. We should be embarrassed."

As much as this wasn't what they wanted to hear, several players suggested it was necessary.

"I definitely think something needed to be said," said Josh Donaldson. "There's a month left of the season, we're definitely a team that's capable, we just have to turn the page. We came out and got beat, got beat bad today. It's a wakeup call. This is the time of the season you need to be playing your best, and right now we're playing our worst."

"I mean, you never really want to have meetings like that, but we have to play better baseball, plain and simple," said Derek Norris. "I think that's all he's looking for, for us to step up and play baseball. Frustration, anger, disappointment, embarrassment, kind of all added up into how we don't do things as a ballclub, and we need to figure it out, because if we don't figure it out, we're going to miss out on a lot of good opportunities that we've built up and that we've tried to do here.

"I feel like we put so much time and effort into the first X-amount of months into the season, to [throw] it away now would just be a ginormous waste of our time."

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A's get Dunn from White Sox to boost offense

Oakland sends 12th-ranked prospect righty Sanburn to South Siders

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ANAHEIM -- Four games out of first place and struggling to gain any offensive momentum in a troubling August, the A's reeled in veteran power hitter Adam Dunn from the White Sox early Sunday morning to cap off a frenzied trade season.

The A's sent right-hander Nolan Sanburn, their No. 12-ranked prospect according to MLB.com, to Chicago in the deal. The White Sox are also packaging cash with Dunn to help offset his remaining salary.

The lefty-swinging Dunn has long been viewed by the A's as "a guy that fit our offensive mind" for his homers and walks, said assistant general manager David Forst. Dunn will join the A's in Oakland on Monday for the start of a six-game homestand against the Mariners and Astros, and he will primarily DH against right-handers, as John Jaso did before hitting the 7-day concussion DL.

The 34-year-old Dunn is in the final season of a four-year, $56 million deal and batting .220 with 20 homers, 54 RBIs and a .340 on-base percentage.

"Look, we're trying to do whatever we can to get some offense going here," said manager Bob Melvin, who had Dunn briefly in Arizona in 2008. "The guy has a history of hitting homers and getting on base. I know he's excited about being with us."

"I'm going to a place with a chance to not only get into the postseason but also have a legitimate chance to get a ring," Dunn told White Sox reporters Sunday. "Those chances don't come too often, so I'm very appreciative of the way it was handled and for [general manager] Rick [Hahn] and them to give me an opportunity to do it."

The A's spent July bolstering their rotation, first landing Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel before pulling off a stunner of a trade that brought them Jon Lester. But in getting one of the game's best pitchers, they had to part with one of the game's most feared hitters in Yoenis Cespedes.

The A's are 12-16 since the trade, and Cespedes' absence has magnified the club's recent offensive woes, which continued Saturday in a third consecutive loss to the first-place Angels. They've been shut out in two consecutive games and four times this month, entering Sunday with a 22-inning scoreless streak.

But the downfall began even before Cespedes departed, which is why the front office does not care to make any correlations between the trade and the club's recent play. The A's went 51-30 through the halfway point of the schedule (June 29) but are 27-27 since then, moving from a 5 1/2-game division lead to a four-game deficit.

"Going back to right before the All-Star break, we have not been the same offensive team we were the first three months of the year," said Forst. "Not to say we can't get back to doing that, because there are still a lot of guys in this lineup that have the ability to get on base and drive in runs.

"We're pitching great. We need to support those guys. This is basically the same group that has played well and scored runs before. I don't think this is going to last a whole other month."

Dunn brings 460 career home runs to Oakland, which ranks third most among active players.

"Obviously we've been struggling here offensively for the better part of the month," said Brandon Moss, batting .178 in August. "Dunn has the ability to change the game with one swing, something we haven't done a lot of.

"There are plenty of guys who are .220, .240 hitters that aren't in the lineup to go 2-for-3. They're in the lineup to get on base and drive in runs and hit the ball out of the ballpark, which is what he does."

Dunn welcomes the challenge of helping turn around an anemic A's offense.

"That's a lot of pressure that I want," he said. "It feels literally like Opening Day is tomorrow and it's going to be a completely new start for me."

The move, which had to be approved by Dunn because of his no-trade clause, is just as significant for him as it is for the A's. In 14 seasons, Dunn has yet to experience the playoffs, and his 1,976 games are the most by any active player without a postseason appearance.

The next-highest total is Alex Rios' 1,581 games played, followed by Brian Roberts (1,418), Nick Markakis (1,344) and Edwin Encarnacion (1,180).

"I think that's what's probably really exciting for him at this point, to come in and play meaningful games in September," said Melvin, "and help the team hopefully get to the postseason."

Sanburn, who was the A's second-round Draft pick in 2012, was 3-1 with six saves and a 3.28 ERA in 42 relief appearances for Class A Stockton this season.

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Crisp to miss several days with neck strain

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ANAHEIM -- A's outfielder Coco Crisp was missing from Sunday's lineup for a second consecutive game because of a neck strain and will remain out "a few days," according to manager Bob Melvin.

Like he did at the beginning of the month, Crisp could potentially receive several trigger point injections to help treat the neck issue once the club returns home. No matter the length of his recovery, he won't need to go on the disabled list with 25-man rosters expanding Monday.

Crisp aggravated his neck while making a stellar effort to rob the Angels' Chris Iannetta of a homer in Friday's game.

Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry will continue to alternate in center field in his stead.


Kazmir voices frustration with ump's strike zone

Players said Davis was reprimanded for making faces at dugout the day before

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ANAHEIM -- The A's Scott Kazmir called out crew chief Gerry Davis following Sunday's 8-1 loss to the Angels, believing he was intentionally squeezed on several calls in a six-run second inning in which the left-hander walked four.

MLB did not issue an official statement, but A's players told reporters that Davis was reprimanded by MLB for making faces at Oakland's dugout the night before. Kazmir, who allowed six runs in just 1 1/3 innings, specifically questioned Davis' professionalism and wondered out loud whether the reprimand impacted his calling of Sunday's game.

"It's late August, a tough time of year for anyone in the game, it really is," said Kazmir. "But it's important to rise above any personal issue and call a fair game. We owe it to the game to do that, we really do. And what I saw in the video were 10-plus pitches that I felt were right there. I don't know if it had something to do with last night, since he got reprimanded, but just professionalism is something I have an issue with. No matter what happens on the field, some things are just unacceptable."

Manager Bob Melvin voiced his displeasure with Davis in the middle of the inning and was subsequently ejected, and catcher Derek Norris expressed sentiments similiar to Kazmir's after the game.

"It seemed like he made consecutive pitches over and over again that weren't getting called," said Norris. "There were countless times I felt like I really didn't move at all, and anyone who watches me catch knows I'm not really a corner splitter. I don't split the plate. I try and set up on the outer third, and it allows them a little bit more room to miss. I like to force early contact for that reason alone. And he wasn't budging.

"That's really all I got. That's really all I can say right now."

"It's one thing if you're erratic all over the place and you expect to get a pitch like that," said Kazmir. "But when you constantly pitch inside and hit your spots and have nothing to show for it ... it's really, really frustrating."


A's hoping to reverse course with new addition

Dunn expected in lineup for series opener against Seattle's Young

A's hoping to reverse course with new addition play video for A's hoping to reverse course with new addition

The A's, desperate for offense, acquired Adam Dunn from the White Sox on Sunday. After getting swept by the Angels in a four-game series in Anaheim, they are looking for something -- anything -- to help turn their once-unstoppable team around, starting on Monday afternoon in the opener of a three-game set with the Mariners at O.co Coliseum.

On Aug. 10, Oakland led the American League West by four games. Since then, the A's have have gone 6-14 and trail the Angels by five games, their largest deficit of the season with 26 contests remaining.

Dunn will join the A's in Oakland on Monday, and he will likely be in the lineup against Seattle right-hander Chris Young. The A's have lost their offensive spark since trading Yoenis Cespedes to Boston, as hitters like Brandon Moss and Derek Norris have struggled. Dunn, perhaps, can provide some pop.

"Look, we're trying to do whatever we can to get some offense going here," said A's manager Bob Melvin, who had Dunn briefly in Arizona in 2008. "The guy has a history of hitting homers and getting on base. I know he's excited about being with us."

Dunn, who has 460 career home runs but has never reached the postseason, waived his no-trade clause to come to Oakland. He then announced his plans to retire after this season.

"I'm going to a place with a chance to not only get into the postseason but also have a legitimate chance to get a ring," Dunn told White Sox reporters Sunday. "Those chances don't come too often, so I'm very appreciative of the way it was handled and for [general manager] Rick [Hahn] and them to give me an opportunity to do it."

Oakland still has an edge over Detroit and Seattle in the AL Wild Card race, but both squads are within striking distance. The Mariners have dropped two straight series and on Monday will send Young to the hill against Jason Hammel.

Manager Lloyd McClendon has been making an effort to give his starters some extended rest, including Young, whose last outing was Aug. 23 at Fenway Park. He allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings.

"You make do. It's similar to the All-Star break where you adjust," Young said of the extra rest. "It's part of the game, part of the season."

Young has already faced the A's four times this season (three starts), giving up five runs in 20 frames.

Mariners: Keeping Zunino fresh
Catcher Mike Zunino's ongoing struggles at the plate were part of the reason he was held out of the lineup Saturday, but his work behind the plate is a major reason why he was back in the lineup Sunday.

Zunino went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts Friday in Seattle's 8-3 loss to Washington, dropping his batting average to .203. Backup catcher Jesus Sucre started in his place Saturday night.

"I think when you don't have the success that you set out to have, it's going to be frustrating," said Trent Jewett, who was filling in as manager while Lloyd McClendon attended his daughter's wedding. "I'll know he's frustrated when he takes it behind the plate."

To ease some of the burden off Zunino and Sucre, the Mariners will likely recall a third catcher -- perhaps Triple-A backstop Humberto Quintero -- on Monday when rosters can expand from 25 to 40 for the final month of the regular season.

A's: Lowrie set to return Monday
Shortstop Jed Lowrie is expected to be activated from the disabled list for Monday's home matinee.

Lowrie, who has been on the DL since Aug. 14 with a fractured right index finger, parted ways with the A's in Anaheim on Friday and played seven innings with Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday and nine on Sunday.

"He's a key part of our club, a two-way shortstop guy that's an everyday player for us, a switch-hitter who's a run producer," said Melvin. "You've seen that over the last couple of years. So there are certain guys that you miss more so than others, he is one of those guys that's an important cog for us, so it'll be nice to get him back."

Worth noting
• The Mariners will play 18 of their final 27 games on the road.

• A's outfielder Coco Crisp aggravated his neck on Friday night and is expected to miss several games before returning to the lineup.


Dunn to retire following season

Slugger traded from White Sox to A's on Sunday

Dunn to retire following season play video for Dunn to retire following season

CHICAGO -- Adam Dunn said Sunday that he will retire after the 2014 season. Dunn spoke to MLB.com about that possibility 10 days ago, but said he had not made a definitive decision at that point.

Looming retirement helped convince Dunn, 34, to waive his no-trade clause and accept a trade to Oakland on Sunday. He's hoping to be part of the postseason for the first time in his 14-year-career.

"This is probably going to be it. This is probably going to be it," said Dunn, speaking to reporters during Sunday's game against the Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field. "This is an opportunity. I've been playing a long time and haven't got this opportunity, so I'm going to try to make the most of it.

"I don't think [I could be talked out of retirement]. Kind of the way that everything's gone down, and the family. I think you know when it's time. I feel like now is as good a time as any."

Dunn departs for Oakland, the fifth team of his career, with 460 home runs, 1,158 RBIs and 1,311 walks. He also has 2,352 career strikeout and 1,976 regular season games without seeing the postseason. Dunn hit .201 with 106 homers and 278 RBIs during parts of four years with the White Sox, including a home run off of Max Scherzer on Saturday in the first game of a split doubleheader in his final game with the White Sox.

"It was fun. One of the main reasons was one of my good buddies, one of the best pitchers in the league [Chris Sale] gave up three runs, which nobody would have seen coming," said Dunn of his finale. "As many times as we haven't scored runs for him, he pitched well. To battle back and win a game for him, that's pretty huge."


Melvin tossed during Angels' six-run inning

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ANAHEIM -- A's manager Bob Melvin was ejected in the middle of the Angels' six-run second inning in Sunday's series finale.

Melvin presumably was none too happy with plate umpire Gerry Davis' strike zone and let it be known after starter Scott Kazmir walked his third batter of the inning and was removed in favor of righty Dan Otero.

Kazmir was responsible for all six runs on what began as yet another frustrating day for the slumping A's, who were trying to avoid a four-game sweep at the hands of the first-place Angels.

It was Melvin's third ejection of the season.

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Offensive spark missing behind Samardzija

Righty's complete-game loss drops A's four back in AL West

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ANAHEIM -- The fourth inning of Oakland's third consecutive loss in Anaheim on Saturday evening was essentially a microcosm of this club's alarming downward spiral.

The A's failed to score in the frame despite putting two runners in scoring position with none out, then proceeded to botch a handful of defensive plays in the bottom half, leading to two Angels runs.

That's all the Halos needed to dispatch the A's, whose 2-0 loss pushed them a season-high four games back of first place in the American League West. Even their lead of the top Wild Card spot is down to a four-game margin.

The A's still lead the Majors in runs but haven't scored in their last 22 innings, with just eight hits totaled in that span. Only three were recorded Saturday against eight Angels relievers, spoiling a terrific eight-inning complete game from Jeff Samardzija, who fanned nine.

Oakland is 6-13 in its last 19 games, 12-16 in August and 19-21 since the All-Star break.

"We're pressing offensively," said manager Bob Melvin. "Guys want to be the guy that gets us out of this thing. We're team-oriented, and what we're good at is passing the baton, and each and every one of these guys want to be the guy and get big hits for us. It's just not happening right now."

The frustration level in the A's clubhouse has grown with each loss, and no one player embodied this more than All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson, who, when asked to speak of this, replied, "I think everything's probably pretty much been said. I think everyone sees it."

Pressed further on the morale of the club, he said, "I think it's pretty obvious."

Donaldson was responsible for two of the A's three hits and is 10-for-20 on the road trip, batting .309 overall since the All-Star break after hitting .238 before it. But even as one of the few players in the lineup hitting, he offered little perspective on the struggles elsewhere: "If I had the answer, we wouldn't be struggling."

Finally, when asked about the outlook of the final month of the season, Donaldson remained blunt and brief with his words, saying, "I don't know. We'll see."

Brandon Moss, presented with the same question, was more forthcoming.

"I feel great about this team," said Moss. "Look, we lost, 2-0. I came up twice with a runner on third. Once I came up with a runner on second and nobody out. Just put the ball in play. Something to just make something happen. ... I know that we're more than capable of winning these games, it's just that right now, it's one of those times where we're not getting results as an offense."

"I'm not in anyone else's head, but I know, personally, you want to do so much for a club, especially when you get an opportunity to come through in an RBI situation or a big situation," said Derek Norris. "You try to hit the ball 900 feet instead of just barreling it, and I think there are a few guys who have fallen into the same trap as myself. It seems like every ball we do hit hard, it's right at somebody, too. It just all piles up."

Norris and Moss' struggles are magnified in the middle of the lineup, particularly without Yoenis Cespedes around to pick them up. Both are striking out at an excessive rate this month, with Moss fanning three times Saturday. One came in the fateful fourth, with runners on second and third and none out, and another in the ninth that stranded Sam Fuld on third to end the game.

"Speaking for myself, I'm trying way too hard," said Moss. "When you're struggling, you feel the anxiety, the urgency."

The top of the fourth ended when Jonny Gomes, pinch-hitting for Josh Reddick, hit into a double play, and yet things worsened on the other side of the ball.

Eric Sogard, struggling at shortstop in Jed Lowrie's stead, committed his second throwing error in as many days ahead of an RBI single from Erick Aybar. Samardzija then struck out David Freese but not before unleashing a wild pitch. Norris appeared to have plenty time to get Howie Kendrick at the plate but instead threw it over Samardzija's head, turning a one-run game into an overwhelming two-run deficit for these anemic A's.

"We're still the same team," said Moss. "I think we've all played baseball long enough to know you're going to go through tough spells, some tougher than others, and this one obviously has not been very fun. I know that we're capable of winning these games, right now is just one of those times we're not getting results."

Melvin maintains they still have the personnel to do it, even without Cespedes.

"As it looks right now, we're pressing and we're not near as good offensively as we've been all year," he said. "Any time you struggle like that, it's going to look like you don't have enough, but I'm confident in the guys we have, and I think we're going to come out of it."

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Trout, Donaldson rival leaders on the WAR path

Advanced stat places A's third baseman slightly above Angels center fielder

Trout, Donaldson rival leaders on the WAR path play video for Trout, Donaldson rival leaders on the WAR path

ANAHEIM -- Josh Donaldson is no fan of WAR. The process, he maintains, is fine, but the name has to go.

"I think it's a terrible name for what it represents," the Athletics' skilled and athletic third baseman said Friday afternoon. "It's not about [wins above] replacement players. It's an equation of how you're affecting the game -- whether it's clutch hitting, defense, offensive production. It's a formula to say this is what a player brings to the table, his total game."

Donaldson hasn't come up with a more appropriate name for the equation, but he nodded enthusiastically when a visitor suggested Total Player Rating -- TPR.

"I like that," he said with a fist bump. "That's much better. Let's go with it."

Donaldson, according to Baseball-Reference.com, is the highest-rated Wins Above Replacement position player in the Major Leagues. He is giving the A's 7.1 wins, a half-tick more than two-time reigning American League WAR kingpin Mike Trout, who is at 6.5 for the Angels.

The overall WAR leader at the moment is the Dodgers' extraordinary Clayton Kershaw, who is delivering 7.3 wins above a normal pitcher.

Donaldson and Trout have more in common than high WAR ratings. They play the game with passion, every night. They watch each other with a high level of appreciation even as they are involved in spirited competition in another lively AL West race featuring the two best teams in the game in terms of winning percentage.

"He wants to win," Trout said when asked his impression of Donaldson. "We talk whenever I get to third base. I can tell he really is into the game; he knows what's going on out there. He's an impressive guy -- and he plays hurt, I can tell you that."

Informed of Trout's words, Donaldson called it "a big compliment," adding, "When you look at a lot of real good players, it's competing that comes first. Look at Trout. He's very gifted physically and loves to compete. At the plate, he knows how to think his way through at-bats. I know when I was 23 years old I wasn't that patient. And two 30-homer seasons already, that speaks for itself."

The Angels moved up by two games with a 4-3 victory on Thursday night in 10 innings, Donaldson, 28, and Trout putting on a familiar show of excellence.

Donaldson hit a game-tying homer in the sixth against C.J. Wilson, doubled and walked twice. Trout had one hit and was robbed of another by Donaldson, who backhanded his eighth-inning bullet to turn what looked like a sure double into an out. It looked even bigger when Albert Pujols followed with a single.

Running down a shallow fly ball in right center off pinch-hitter Josh Reddick's bat in the seventh with his remarkable burst, Trout denied Donaldson a chance to score a go-ahead run from first after a two-out walk.

"I was scoring on that ball if Trout hadn't made the play," Donaldson said.

With the loss of Yoenis Cespedes in the swap that brought Jon Lester to Oakland, Donaldson's importance to the A's increased -- if that is possible. He was fourth, two spots behind runner-up Trout, in the AL Most Valuable Player Award balloting last season by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

"You can affect the game in more than one way," Donaldson said. "It's more than how you swing the bat. A lot of people say I'm having a down year, hitting [.255]. At the same time, I have those 20 errors. But there's a lot more that goes into determining your value than your batting average and errors."

Donaldson's .255/.346/.470 line entering Friday is down from last year's .301/.384/.499, but he already has produced more homers (26 vs. 24) and is five shy of the 93 RBIs from his sensational 2013 season.

Trout (.291/.376/.561) also has sacrificed some average and OBP for power production, generating 30 homers and 94 RBIs -- a remarkable number for a guy hitting second in all but two games this season.

With exceptional reflexes and quickness, Donaldson reaches balls other third basemen can't touch. Errors often come with a hurried throw after a great play.

The analytics community has been trying to devise accurate defensive measures, but the many variables involved -- notably the new trend of shifting infielders into unfamiliar places on the field -- make it a challenging if not impossible mission.

Donaldson and Trout both pass the eye test. They cover an uncommon amount of ground and make plays average defenders can't make.

In terms of WAR points, Donaldson gets 2.7 for his defense to go with 4.6 for his bat. Trout gets shortchanged with the glove, his minus-.02 rating dragging down his 7.0 offensive rating.

Trout had an AL-best 10.9 WAR in 2012. His 8.9 WAR in 2013 led the league again and was matched by the Brewers' Carlos Gomez in the National League.

"I don't like to get caught up in numbers," Trout said. "I just love to play, compete. That's what it's all about."

In Donaldson, he has an AL West rival with a similar profile and attitude, a total player of the highest order by any name or initials.


A's target Labor Day return from DL for Lowrie

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ANAHEIM -- Barring any setbacks in a two-game rehab stint with Triple-A Sacramento this weekend, A's shortstop Jed Lowrie is expected to be activated from the disabled list for Monday's home matinee with the Mariners.

Lowrie, who has been on the DL since Aug. 14 with a fractured right index finger, parted ways with the A's in Anaheim on Friday and is slated to play seven innings with the River Cats on Saturday and nine on Sunday.

His imminent return is significant for several reasons.

"He's a key part of our club, a two-way shortstop guy that's an everyday player for us, a switch-hitter who's a run producer," said manager Bob Melvin. "You've seen that over the last couple of years. So there are certain guys that you miss more so than others, he is one of those guys that's an important cog for us, so it'll be nice to get him back."

Andy Parrino has provided stellar defense for the A's in Lowrie's stead, but his bat is lacking in production. And Eric Sogard, who has been playing shortstop against lefties without Lowrie, is better defensively suited at second base.


A's will not protest Thursday's loss to Angels

Obstruction in the ninth was judgment call, not misapplication of rules

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ANAHEIM -- In speaking with Major League Baseball on Friday morning about potentially filing an official protest of Thursday's loss to the Angels, manager Bob Melvin was essentially informed "that there's pretty much no chance that it's going to be overturned."

So the A's dropped it, even though they remain in disagreement with the obstruction call on Brandon Moss.

"You can't overturn a judgment call, and that's in the rulebook. I understand that," Moss said Friday. "My thing is, I don't understand how a play like that can't be reviewed. We don't have the review just to have it. We have it so that we can get plays like that right."

The controversial play occurred in the ninth inning of the A's 4-3, 10-inning loss at Angel Stadium, when Erick Aybar led off by hitting a high chopper down the first-base line off Dan Otero, who caught the ball as he collided with Moss. Aybar then ran into Otero, and home-plate umpire Greg Gibson awarded Aybar first base because he was obstructed by Moss, who was standing on the chalk.

The A's argued that Aybar veered inside the base line and intentionally ran into Otero, and they believed there was a good chance they would not have needed to use an additional two relievers in the inning -- Fernando Abad and Ryan Cook -- if Aybar did not reach first base.

"I don't fault Aybar, because what he did was smart baseball," said Moss. "I obviously don't fault Danny, because we were trying to make a play, and I don't fault Greg, because I know the play happened so fast, and it's easy to go by what you see, and if you're making that call in real time, I can easily see how either call is made."

But, he continued, "If it's reviewable, I know for a fact it's turned around."

"If you have instant replay," said Melvin, "and you have a play like that and you take a look at it on video … when I first saw it, I didn't think it was as extreme as when I saw it on video."

Moss maintained Aybar was "100 percent" out of the base line when he collided with Otero, something that would've easily been confirmed on replay.

"If that exact play happens in the Wild Card Game, or if it happens in Game 7 or Game 5 or Game 2, any important game, you're telling me we're not allowed to go back and look at it to get it right?" Moss said. "I think this call is overshadowing the fact it was a great baseball game. I think it was a big deal and a big call only because it shows something that we need to improve. If we're going to have the replay system, those are the exact calls the umpires need help with, because it's a judgment call and it's happening so fast. He might miss it, and it's OK."


A's fall three games back, lose Crisp to injury

Offense, defense off the mark behind Lester in Anaheim

A's fall three games back, lose Crisp to injury play video for A's fall three games back, lose Crisp to injury

ANAHEIM -- The A's joyride has hit a major speed bump at the most unfortunate of times, and they're suddenly swimming in unfamiliar territory with a season-high three-game division deficit.

It was exactly three weeks ago, on Aug. 9, when they held a four-game lead over the Angels in the American League West, but they've dropped 12 of 18 games since then, including back-to-back contests to the Halos, who shut them out, 4-0, on a nightmarish Friday at Angel Stadium.

The A's also lost their center fielder, Coco Crisp, in the middle of it all to another neck injury.

Crisp is considered day to day, but this same neck issue has forced him to miss more than a dozen games this year, and the A's are already without infielders Jed Lowrie and Nick Punto, catcher John Jaso and closer Sean Doolittle.

They're also still recovering from the loss of Yoenis Cespedes, whom general manager Billy Beane swapped for ace Jon Lester at the Trade Deadline. The A's are 12-15 since the trade went down, though their downfall arguably began long before then. They were 51-30 at the halfway point of the schedule on June 29 but are 27-26 since, including 19-20 since the All-Star break.

August in particular, though, has brought about painfully glaring offensive woes. Oakland is batting .221 over the past 15 games, averaging just 3.4 runs in that time.

"This has been a month of adjustments in this clubhouse," admitted Stephen Vogt. "Anybody that doesn't believe that isn't telling the truth. But they're good adjustments. It's not that they're bad. It's just different. It's a different clubhouse, and anytime you get that at the Trade Deadline, it's going to take some getting used to. But it's all positive. It still just takes time to get used to."

"It's frustrating," said Josh Reddick. "We get a good stretch and it seems like something kicks us right back down the hill. We can't catch any breaks this month. We're hitting the ball hard. Guys are hitting the ball hard. We can't get that big hit. We can't get that one person to step up like we always do, and it's frustrating to see."

As a result, Vogt suggested, guys are pressing, trying to do too much during this funk. That a pitcher of Jered Weaver's caliber was on the mound Friday didn't help matters. The Angels right-hander allowed just three hits in seven innings, leaving Lester zilch wiggle room.

The A's southpaw really only made one mistake, and Chris Iannetta belted it over the left-center-field wall for a two-run homer, but not before Crisp made a valiant effort to grab it when he injured himself.

The A's also committed back-to-back two-out errors in the sixth that led to the Angels' third run and forced Lester to throw an additional 15 pitches in the inning. Howie Kendrick's sharp grounder deflected off the glove of Josh Donaldson, and Eric Sogard proceeded to throw away David Freese's ensuing grounder off the top of the A's dugout. Erick Aybar bunted for a single to load the bases.

Lester walked his next batter, gifting the Angels their third run, and finished the inning at 107 pitches, giving manager Bob Melvin no choice but to go to his bullpen in the seventh. Right-hander Evan Scribner got the call and surrendered a two-out homer to Albert Pujols.

"On my side of it, very frustrating. Team side of it, same thing," said Lester. "We've been grinding at-bats, grinding pitches, and not getting all of the results we want right now. We're just not putting consistent games together on both sides of the ball."

"It's frustrating. They're frustrated, no doubt," said Melvin. "Seems like every ball we hit hard today was hit right at somebody and it's just the way it goes sometimes. You have to play through it. They keep fighting, they're playing hard, they're running down the line. Just things aren't going our way right now, but it will turn."

It's the first time the A's have trailed in the division by more than two games since Aug. 29, 2013, when they were three back of Texas.

"It's three games," said Lester, offering perspective. "We split, we're back to one."

"We're going to come out of it," said Reddick. "We know we are. It's just bad timing. You get these two series against these guys, we pull out two out of three at home and then they take the first two here, it adds a little bit more pressure to us. We've been in bigger pressure situations before. We just have to go out and worry about tomorrow."

{"content":["injury" ] }

Crisp exits after crash into wall on stellar effort

Center fielder nearly brings back HR; considered day to day with neck strain

Crisp exits after crash into wall on stellar effort play video for Crisp exits after crash into wall on stellar effort

ANAHEIM -- A's center fielder Coco Crisp exited Friday's game in Anaheim in the fifth inning with a strained neck after a tremendous effort to snag Chris Iannetta's two-run homer.

Crisp, who has been bothered by the same injury on numerous occasions this season, is considered day to day.

"He doesn't feel as bad as the last time right now," said manager Bob Melvin after the Angels' 4-0 victory. "We'll see how he is tomorrow."

The A's are already drowning in injuries, with Sean Doolittle, John Jaso, Nick Punto and Jed Lowrie all stationed on the disabled list. Crisp has avoided the DL to this point, despite the recurring neck discomfort, but any time missed at this stage of the season is significant. The A's will enter Saturday's game in a three-game hole in the division.

"Hopefully it's not too long," said Jon Lester, who gave up the home run. "He hit the wall hard and he hit the ground hard. We all know that he's struggled in the past with some neck stuff, so hopefully he didn't aggravate that too bad and, best-case scenario, it's only a couple days or a day, I don't know. But we can't afford to lose a guy like that for too long."

Crisp remained on the ground for several minutes while a team trainer attended to him, with Melvin and several of his teammates huddled around. Crisp ultimately walked off the field under his own power, and Craig Gentry replaced him in center field.

Angels fans awarded him a standing ovation upon his exit after the video board displayed a replay of his impressive attempt. Crisp did have the ball in his glove before the impact of the wall forced it loose.

"I knew I could catch it, and I caught it," said Crisp. "Just as soon as I hit the wall, after I caught it I guess, the momentum of it all, the ball just kind of slung out of there. I thought it might have come out, but I didn't really know, so when I pointed to my glove for [left fielder Sam] Fuld to look if it was in there, that's when I obviously knew it went over the wall."

"It would've been probably the greatest catch I've ever seen," said Lester.

Crisp admitted he's tried to dial it back some in recent weeks, avoiding certain diving plays to not worsen the neck issue.

"But when I play it safe, I don't really feel like myself, because usually I just throw my body out there, whatever happens happens, and I just kind of deal with the consequences," he said. "Today, one of those things where I'm running back and I know I can make the play and I know it's going to be some consequences that come along with it. Just take those chances, like most guys do. Got the bad end of the wall, but I felt like I could've made the play."

"Unbelievable, came out of nowhere to get to it," said Melvin. "Airborne. Actually in his glove for a while, he just couldn't pull it back. We've seen him hit the wall hard several times before but no more so than that."

{"content":["injury" ] }
{"content":["replay" ] }

Angels lose challenge on Sogard's bunt hit

Pujols says he applies tag after high throw from Beckham, but call stands

Angels lose challenge on Sogard's bunt hit play video for Angels lose challenge on Sogard's bunt hit

ANAHEIM -- A's shortstop Eric Sogard was ruled safe at first base in the seventh inning on Friday night and after the Angels challenged, replay officials ruled that the call stands.

With two outs and nobody on, Sogard pushed a bunt down the third-base line, where Gordon Beckham barehanded the ball and fired a throw across his body to Albert Pujols at first. Beckham's throw sailed high and into foul territory and forced Pujols to jump off the base to snare the throw.

Pujols then reached around his back in an attempt to tag Sogard but didn't appear to ever touch the A's shortstop.

One pitch later, Craig Gentry rocketed a line drive right at Beckham that ended the inning with the Angels leading, 3-0.

{"content":["replay" ] }

Athletics stumble out of gate against Angels

Melvin's protest in wild ninth inning precedes letdown in 10th

Athletics stumble out of gate against Angels play video for Athletics stumble out of gate against Angels

ANAHEIM -- Thursday's showdown between baseball's top two teams did not disappoint, though the A's would surely like to rewrite the ending.

Manager Bob Melvin believes they deserve a chance to do just that, after informing crew chief Gerry Davis in the ninth inning that his team would be playing the rest of the game against the Angels under protest.

For now, the A's are saddled with a two-game deficit in the American League West following a 4-3, 10-inning loss that was clouded by a hefty dose of drama stemming from a controversial obstruction call in the ninth.

It led to a one-out, bases-loaded jam that the A's miraculously escaped. But the Angels came back to win it in the 10th on Howie Kendrick's walk-off sacrifice fly off Ryan Cook.

"I think it's just par for the course when these two teams play each other," said Brandon Moss. "Every game has been a great game all year. It was a fun game to be a part of. It wasn't very fun to lose."

Moss was front and center of the ninth-inning escapades, but for reasons he doesn't understand.

It all began when A's reliever Dan Otero induced a high chopper down the first-base line that he caught while bumping into Moss. Otero then collided with Aybar, who appeared to veer inside the baseline. Moss, though, was standing on the chalk and was tagged with obstruction. Even though Moss never made contact with Aybar, plate umpire Greg Gibson ruled that Aybar had to leave the baseline to avoid Moss and the Angels shortstop was awarded first base.

"They said he made contact before," said Melvin, "and he was talking about Moss being in the way, when Otero had the ball and tagged him out before there was any contact."

"Dan actually ran into me, not Aybar, and then when Dan caught the ball, I know that Aybar veered inside the line. There's video to prove it," said Moss. "He's trying to do what he can do to get on base and get a hit, and he got that call, but the call is incorrect. There is no way either one of us were obstructing the baseline, because he veered inside to get us, and everyone knows, if you're a hitter, and your baseline is blocked, you veer to the outside. It's just the way you do it. It's a disappointing call."

Then there was a miscommunication issue between Otero and Moss on pinch-hitter John McDonald's ensuing bunt, allowing both runners to be safe. Another bunt moved them up and, by inning's end, Melvin had called on Fernando Abad and Cook to close out the frame -- but Otero believed he could have finished the inning if Aybar did not reach base.

That's why many are in agreement with the protest. If upheld, a rarity, the game would be restarted at the bottom of the ninth inning. 

"Because with one out and nobody on, it changes the dynamic of the way the game is played from that point on," said Moss. "It changes a lot of things. We don't use Abad maybe. We might not bring in Cookie. We might just stick with Otero. You don't know. And all that is based on the leadoff hitter getting on."

Added Ortero: "Anytime the leadoff guy gets on, it's huge, especially in the ninth inning of a tied game, and that guy's speed, and they play small ball. It makes it even that much more difficult. It makes it a lot harder to get out of the inning."

A's hitters were retired in order in the top of the 10th, and Cook issued a leadoff walk to Albert Pujols in the bottom of the inning and served up a base hit to Josh Hamilton to put runners at the corners for Kendrick, who drove one deep enough to right field to bring in the winning run.

The A's have dropped 11 of their last 17 games and are 19-19 in the second half. Though they maintain a 5 1/2-game lead on the top Wild Card spot, they want what the Angels have: possession of first place.

"It's an important series," said Sonny Gray. "We know that, they know that. It's tough to lose the first one, but we have to come back and put this behind us and play well."

Gray offered the grittiest of performances, overcoming an ugly start to complete seven innings, allowing the A's to stage one of their trademark comebacks, getting two runs in the fifth and another in the sixth on Josh Donaldson's 26th home runs.

It just wasn't enough.

Gray was stung by four base hits in a three-run, 30-pitch second inning, and he was forced to throw 21 more in the third, bringing his total to 64. But he faced the minimum over his final four frames, allowing just one hit in that span.

"They're a great ballclub. We know we are too," said Otero. "It's a battle every time out. They're going to battle us to the end, and we know we're going to give it all we got, too, so it's fun, I'm sure for the fans, but hopefully we can pull a few of these out the next few days."


O'Flaherty is equipped to handle closer's role

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ANAHEIM -- "Lefty specialist" is one title Eric O'Flaherty never liked. He could get used to this closer label, though.

The southpaw's ability to have success against both righties and lefties is a big reason why the A's want him in the ninth inning while All-Star Sean Doolittle recovers from a right intercostal strain.

Right-handers are batting just .176 in 34 at-bats against O'Flaherty this year, while left-handers have managed a meager .227 in 22 at-bats.

O'Flaherty locked down his first career save in Houston on Wednesday and was prepared for a shot at his second, if it came to that, in Anaheim on Thursday. He's yet to pitch back-to-back games since returning from Tommy John surgery in early July but says, "I've been ready to go."

"It depends on how he feels, but part of that decision to put him in the closer's role is the fact we can use him back-to-back days now, where we hadn't," said manager Bob Melvin. "We'll see how he's feeling and then proceed accordingly."

"I told them when I got here, that whatever role they wanted to plug me into, I was just along for the ride and wanted to help out any way I could," said O'Flaherty. "When I got here, everyone pretty much had established roles, but this is an exciting opportunity. It's in every reliever's mind for sure. I've just been lucky to have always been in really good bullpens."

That's part of why he feels so prepared to close games.

"In Atlanta," he said, "I felt like every game we played was a one-run game, so there were plenty of intense and tight situations all the time, so it wasn't any different last night, just came an inning later."

O'Flaherty's fastball routinely averaged 92-94 mph before he underwent Tommy John surgery. Now, it's coming in at an average just below 91 mph, reflecting a very common velocity dip for Tommy John patients, who typically gain it back the following year.

But that's not even his main weapon, anyway. That would be his sinker. He also boasts a changeup and slider.

"My strength has always been more movement, deception, anyway," he said. "I've never been that flamethrower, so I've felt comfortable all season being able to manipulate the ball the way I want to and get guys out."


A's recall Scribner to reinforce bullpen

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ANAHEIM -- The A's shored up their bullpen in time for Thursday's series opener at Angel Stadium by recalling right-hander Evan Scribner from Triple-A Sacramento.

The club was down a relief arm on Wednesday because of its decision to utilize a sixth starter in Drew Pomeranz, who will now join first baseman Nate Freiman at Class A Beloit.

Both will return to the A's when rosters expand Monday.

For Scribner, this is his fourth stint with the A's this year -- ninth over the last two seasons -- and he is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in six relief appearances over that span. He's also 4-1 with a 3.06 ERA and 16 saves in 40 relief outings for the River Cats.

"He's pitched in any number of roles for us," said manager Bob Melvin. He's been here with us, he knows the up-and-down thing, we can use him for length and he has done a nice job for us."

At least for Thursday, Scribner was to fill Dan Otero's role, after the righty tossed 38 pitches in earning his eighth win of the season in Houston on Wednesday.


A's rally late to keep AL West lead in sight

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HOUSTON -- The A's slipped out of Houston late Wednesday with a series win in hand, though knowing they have to play much better in the days ahead if they want any chance at regaining the division lead.

Perhaps this one gives them the momentum to do just that.

The A's 5-4 win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park wasn't their prettiest, but it kept them a game behind the Angels going into a four-game series in Anaheim beginning Thursday.

"An ugly win is as good as any kind of win, I guess," said Sam Fuld, who won the game on a go-ahead, two-run homer in the ninth. "It certainly wasn't our best baseball game, but shoot, we can't be picky at this point. Sometimes that's the sort of win that can kind of get you going, knowing we can do it without playing our best. Hopefully, we can build on it a bit and play better this weekend."

"We didn't play to our capability, but look at the positive things," added Jonny Gomes. "We did absolutely everything it took. We're going to need to pick each other up, and that's what we did tonight."

The A's were down a run entering the ninth inning, but Gomes revived his club with a leadoff single. Pinch-runner Craig Gentry quickly stole second base, and Eric Sogard provided the game-tying hit with a soft single to center off Chad Qualls. Coco Crisp then reached on a force, setting the stage for Fuld's homer.

It was just the third homer of the season for Fuld and easily his biggest, preventing the A's from departing Houston with their second series loss to the Astros in the last month.

"I was actually trying to be aggressive and drive a ball, stray a little bit from my normal approach. … With Coco's speed, I felt confident a ball in the gap could score him, or even just a ball down the line," Fuld said. "Any extra-base hit would score him, so I thought I'd be aggressive and felt comfortable early in the count, having seen Qualls last night."

The A's have scored 55 runs in 10 games at Houston this season, 25 of which have come in the ninth inning. Qualls has given up 11 total to the A's -- and just seven to everyone else.

"I really just can't put my finger on it," said Qualls. "I don't think I've ever had an opponent as rough as the A's."

Eric O'Flaherty surrendered a two-out solo homer to Chris Carter in the ninth but preserved the lead for his first career save, securing the A's fifth win in their last seven games.

Still, they're just 6-10 over their last 16. In that time their offense has been sporadic, as evidenced again by a six-hit showing before the ninth inning came around, with seven runners stranded.

Their defense wasn't much better, and their bullpen faltered for a second straight night following an impressive showing from lefty Drew Pomeranz, who allowed only an unearned run and three hits in his return to the rotation, walking one and fanning seven over 5 1/3 innings.

Pomeranz would have likely been given the chance to finish the inning if not for a one-out error by Sogard on a routine grounder off the bat of Jose Altuve that preceded a Carter single, leading manager Bob Melvin to turn to Ryan Cook. Altuve stole third base, and Cook's ensuing wild pitch allowed the Astros to tie the score at 1.

Crisp quickly gave the A's back their lead with a solo shot in the seventh off lefty Kevin Chapman, his ninth of the season.

But in the seventh, Cook boarded two of his first three batters, one of whom ultimately scored on Robbie Grossman's two-out bloop single off lefty Fernando Abad. Altuve's ground-ball base hit up the middle sent home what was temporarily the go-ahead run.

Fuld's was permanent.

"You want some momentum going in [to Anaheim]," said Melvin. "To be able to come back and fight like that makes for a better flight."

"It's huge," said Sogard. "Obviously, we had already gotten the run to tie it up, but we knew we weren't done that inning. We continue to battle any time we know we still have outs left.

"Obviously, you don't want to go into Houston and lose the series, so it's a big win for us, and hopefully, we can keep that momentum going heading into Anaheim."

{"content":["replay" ] }

Two reviews benefit A's, go against Astros

Two reviews benefit A's, go against Astros play video for Two reviews benefit A's, go against Astros

HOUSTON -- A pair of key reviews in the ninth inning on Wednesday night, both of which went against the Astros, loomed large in their 5-4 loss to the A's.

With the Astros holding a one-run lead, closer Chad Qualls gave up a jam-shot single to Jonny Gomes. Pinch-runner Craig Gentry stole second with a head-first slide and touched the base just as shortstop Marwin Gonzalez applied the tag.

Manager Bo Porter challenged the safe call, which was confirmed. Gentry wound up scoring the tying run on an Eric Sogard single.

"Once I took a look at it, you look at the leverage of the play, if he is out, obviously, it clears the bases," Porter said. "If not, the tying run is now on second base. So we felt like it was a good challenge."

In the bottom of the ninth, with the Astros trailing, 5-3, Jose Altuve hit into a double play but nearly beat the throw at first base. Porter, who couldn't challenge the call following the Gentry play, asked for a review; an umpires review confirmed the call.

Chris Carter followed with a solo homer to cut the lead to one run before Dexter Fowler lined out to end the game.

"Obviously, my eyes are not too good," Porter said. "I thought Altuve beat that play, but replays showed that he didn't. It's tough, but C.C. continues to swing a hot bat."

{"content":["replay" ] }

Freiman sent to Beloit for quick stint

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HOUSTON -- The A's decision to use a sixth starter for Wednesday's series finale in Houston forced them to option first baseman Nate Freiman to the Minors before the game.

In order to make room for lefty Drew Pomeranz, Freiman was sent to Class A Beloit. He was sent there rather than Triple-A Sacramento so that he can make a prompt return to the A's on Tuesday, the day after Beloit's season concludes. Sacramento, on the other hand, is likely destined for the playoffs.

"He told me he was excited about it -- another league, another place to play, get to see some new ballparks," said manager Bob Melvin. "That's the kind of guy he is.

"That's one team you know is not going to the playoffs, and you try to get him back as soon as you can. That's the way to do it."

In the meantime, Melvin will make do without his right-handed-hitting first baseman, instead using switch-hitter Alberto Callaspo at the position against lefties or relying on left-handers Brandon Moss and Stephen Vogt.

Freiman is batting .241 in 54 at-bats for the A's, including .256 against southpaws.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

A's top two prospects lead group heading to AFL

A's top two prospects lead group heading to AFL play video for A's top two prospects lead group heading to AFL

HOUSTON -- The A's top two prospects as ranked by MLB.com, Daniel Robertson and Matt Olson, are among those who have been selected to participate in the Arizona Fall League.

The infielders will be joined on the Mesa Solar Sox by five other members of the A's organization, four of whom have been named: right-handers Drew Granier, Austin House and Tanner Peters; and outfielder Boog Powell.

The six-week league, which has established itself as the finishing school for the game's best prospects since its inception in 1992, begins its season Oct. 7.

Former A's prospect Addison Russell, traded to the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in July, has also been named to the Solar Sox roster. He wasn't the only quality shortstop the A's landed in the 2012 Draft, though.

With the club's second choice, at No. 34 overall, Oakland selected Robertson and signed him for $1.5 million. The 20-year-old is having an outstanding season at Class A Advanced Stockton, batting .312/.404/.475 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs in 127 games.

Olson came to the A's in the same Draft in the compensation round. The No. 47 overall pick has played mostly first base for Stockton, showcasing an abundance of power with 36 home runs in 486 at-bats. Overall, he's hitting .255 with a .937 OPS.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }

Hammel solid, but A's fall from first on late HR

Righty goes seven, but Carter torments old team with go-ahead blast

Hammel solid, but A's fall from first on late HR play video for Hammel solid, but A's fall from first on late HR

HOUSTON -- Jason Hammel turned in his best start in green and gold Tuesday, a seven-inning gem that was spoiled by one Luke Gregerson pitch in the eighth, launched high and far over the left-field wall by former A's slugger Chris Carter.

The three-run blast left the A's on the wrong end of a 4-2 stunner, evening this three-game set at Minute Maid Park that concludes Wednesday.

"That's baseball," Gregerson said. "One pitch can change the entire dynamic of the game."

And the standings. Oakland fell a game behind the Angels, who beat the Marlins, 8-2, in the American League West -- a reminder that there's little room for error amid such a crucial stretch.

Gregerson easily retired his first batter and nearly his second, but second baseman Eric Sogard's throw on Robbie Grossman's routine grounder was dropped by first baseman Stephen Vogt. Gregerson proceeded to hit Jose Altuve -- "I tried to quick-pitch that first one just to keep the guy at first honest and it just got away," he said -- to bring up Carter with just one out.

"It's a normal throw from Sogie, and it just hit off the thumb of my glove. It's inexcusable, obviously," Vogt said. "I wish I could say this or this happened, but just one of those things where I didn't believe it myself until after I missed it. I'd like to say, throw that ball 99 out of 100 times, obviously it's going to be caught. You shouldn't even have to say that because the ball should be caught, so obviously not thrilled with myself. It definitely changed the momentum of the inning. Big play."

"Doesn't happen very often," said manager Bob Melvin.

What Carter did next does, though. It was the second homer of the series and 32nd overall for the designated hitter, whose five long balls off Oakland are his most against any team.

Carter was once theirs, before the A's packaged him in the Jed Lowrie deal last spring.

"I was trying to throw a sinker down and away, and it started away and just ran all the way back across the plate, down and in," Gregerson said. "Not necessarily a bad location for a lot of guys, just not for him."

"Chris Carter, I'll tell you what, he's putting together some kind of season," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "And the home runs are getting bigger and bigger."

Gregerson dropped to 3-3 with the loss, while Hammel, throwing on 10 days' rest, was forced to swallow a no-decision despite a highly encouraging performance.

He's done this before, flashing the kind of stuff that is a reminder why the A's traded for him in July. He's just yet to do it consistently, though Tuesday's solid outing against the Astros likely secured him more time for an opportunity at just that.

It was just Hammel's second quality start in eight tries with the A's. The right-hander allowed a fourth-inning leadoff homer to Dexter Fowler but just two other hits and one walk. He fanned six and retired each of his final 10 batters, including four on strikeouts.

Less than a month ago, pitching on the same mound, Hammel allowed eight runs in 4 1/3 innings.

"I'm sure his last start here was on his mind," A's left fielder Jonny Gomes said. "Maybe that little bit of extra rest gave him some help.

"Hammel's a heck of a pitcher. He throws hard and has that big hook. He's just run into some tough luck at times. His start tonight was A-plus, excellent job. At the same time, it shouldn't surprise you, because that's the type of guy he is."

Hammel got plenty help from his defense in the one-run outing. Gomes not only saved two runs with a superb diving catch in left field to end the third -- "That's max extension for me," he said -- but also provided a pair of hits, including a first-inning RBI single to give the A's a quick 1-0 lead. Nate Freiman contributed an RBI double in the fourth.

"Definitely the best since I've been here," Hammel said. "I felt very collected, throwing with conviction, being aggressive and getting ahead of guys. That's usually a pretty good formula. Outstanding defense, too."

"That's about as well as he's pitched, certainly the later innings," Melvin said. "Good for his confidence. He's going to have some big starts for us down the stretch."


Knee no bother in Donaldson's three-hit game

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HOUSTON -- One day without Josh Donaldson is too many for the A's, who were happy to get their third baseman back in the lineup Monday after an injury scare.

Donaldson did not play in a loss to the Angels on Sunday after undergoing an MRI on his left knee, but the results showed no structural damage, and he managed just fine in an 8-2 win in Houston on Monday, collecting three hits, two of them doubles, and three RBIs. He also stole a base.

"He's the kind of guy that, even if he does have some dings," said manager Bob Melvin, "he's going to try to steal a bag."

"Most nights I'm feeling pretty dinged up, so it's not something I think about too much," Donaldson said. "It's just one of those things, you learn to play with that stuff.

"I hit third in the lineup, so I'd say that's pretty big for any team, so I try to go out there and give it everything I have every day."

Despite batting various injuries this year, none of which have put him on the disabled list, Donaldson has played in a team-high 126 games. And while his average is way down from last year -- 49 points lower -- he remains the A's best all-around player, providing spectacular defense and plenty of run production. He already has 87 RBIs, with five weeks to play, after posting 93 last year.

"I'll give him a massage on his knee if I have to just to get him in there," joked starter Jeff Samardzija, who struck out 10 in eight innings. "He's a tough dude. You can't say enough great things about Josh. Everything's already been said about him that you need to say. He's a gamer, comes to play every day. I love having him in there.

"He's such a big part of our lineup. Not only that, even if he goes 0-for-5, what he brings to the team is priceless. We want him in there every day. We also want him healthy, but it's tough to keep that kid out of the lineup."

{"content":["top_pitching_performances" ] }

Samardzija fans 10 as A's return to West tie

Righty strong for eight; Donaldson logs three RBIs in return to lineup

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HOUSTON -- A reformed Jeff Samardzija manhandled every Astros player not named Chris Carter in a dominant performance at Minute Maid Park on Monday evening, quickly turning the A's ugly Sunday loss to the Angels into a distant memory.

Samardzija's efforts in Oakland's 8-2 victory, an eight-inning masterpiece minus a two-run homer to Carter, invigorated an A's team that managed to avoid the hangover of a very bad day.

Sunday was not only marred by a loss but a slew of injuries, notably to closer Sean Doolittle and catcher John Jaso, both of whom hit the disabled list. The A's then had to hop a red-eye to Houston, where they arrived close to 4 a.m. local time. But there's no rest for the weary during a critical stretch run, and the A's went back to work and returned to the win column behind a stellar Samardzija.

He got a hand from Josh Donaldson, who was back in the lineup after taking a day off to rest a sore left knee and compiled three hits, including two doubles, and three RBIs, helping the A's move back into a first-place tie in the American League West. The Angels fell, 7-1, to the Marlins in Anaheim.

"I told him there's no chance he's not starting the day I pitch," said Samardzija, grinning. "I'll give him a massage on his knee if I have to just to get him in there."

"I try to go out there and lay it on the line for those guys no matter how I'm feeling," said Donaldson, "and give it my all every day."

That included a belly flop into second base for a stolen base in the fifth inning, a rather encouraging sign for the banged-up Donaldson.

Josh Reddick contributed with a two-run homer in the fourth, and Samardzija took a 3-0 lead heading into his final inning of work.

The right-hander was in control from the start, allowing six hits and striking out 10 -- including four in a row at one point. He nearly exited the eighth with a shutout intact, but former A's slugger Carter tagged him for a two-out, two-run homer, his 31st of the season.

"That's just Carter hitting one the other way that didn't even sound like he hit it," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It wasn't even a bad pitch. That was a surprise. I thought he was going to cruise through the eighth, and then the decision was going to be whether to let him go out for the ninth, because he's the kind of guy that doesn't care about pitch counts if he's got a shutout."

Samardzija finished at 116 pitches, and the A's posted a five-spot in the ninth before Eric O'Flaherty tied the bow on the win, snapping the A's five-game road losing streak.

Samardzija had allowed a combined 11 runs in his previous two starts spanning just 10 innings, including seven runs in his last outing against the Mets, leading to a lengthy meeting with pitching coach Curt Young. The two worked on keeping the pitcher's hands closer to his body at the start of his delivery.

They also put in work on his split-finger fastball, which Samardzija turned to often mid-count for a strike Monday.

"Those two things combined, it got me back in the zone," he said. "I took that last one pretty personally and wanted to come out and have a good one and get back into my groove and how I do things.

"I gotta give a lot of credit to Curt. After that last start, I kind of wanted to overhaul a lot of things, and Curt brought me back and was like, 'Hey, it wasn't that bad. There are a couple things we need to work on.'"

It's the second time this season Samardzija totaled double-digit strikeouts, having accomplished the feat May 26 in San Francisco with the Cubs.

"He really went out there and established the heater and had his split in the back pocket when he needed it," Donaldson said. "He can't be a very comfortable at-bat."

{"content":["top_pitching_performances" ] }

Soto joins A's eager to work with rotation

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HOUSTON -- Veteran catcher Geovany Soto joined the A's in Houston on Monday, just a day after his trade from the Rangers in the wake of John Jaso's concussion symptoms, and is anticipating his first start in green and gold Tuesday.

"It's been a little crazy," said Soto," but I'm looking forward to the opportunity and I'm really glad to be here. I was surprised, but really happy."

That's because he's going from an injury-ridden, last-place Texas club to an A's team that's within range of its third consecutive American League West title.

Count Soto among the army of Rangers players who hit the disabled list this year, having needed surgery on his right knee in Spring Training to repair a torn meniscus. He returned in July, only to suffer a groin injury within days and return to the DL.


"At this point," he said, "I feel great."

When Soto catches starter Jason Hammel in Houston on Tuesday, it will mark just his 11th game of the year. The rest of it has been spent watching from the sidelines, where he's kept an eye on the A's.

"They always play hard, never take an inning off, they're always coming after you," he said. "They just find a way to get on, find a way to get runs, find a way to win. Very impressive."

Soto also raved of the A's pitching staff, saying, "It's the core of this great team. It's going to be special working with them."

Upon Soto's arrival, Jaso was officially placed on the seven-day concussion DL, as expected.


O'Flaherty could get call as A's interim closer

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HOUSTON -- Injured A's closer Sean Doolittle's temporary replacement was not mentioned by name on Monday, but there's good reason to believe another lefty, Eric O'Flaherty, is the guy for the job, particularly after he warming up for a potential save situation on Monday.

That ended when the A's upped their lead, but O'Flaherty was still brought out for the ninth in an 8-2 win over the Astros.

"Either way, it was good to get him in the ninth inning today," manager Bob Melvin said. "We're still dealing with a guy that's a year-plus off from Tommy John, so you don't want to pump-fake a guy like that in that situation. But just to get out there in the ninth inning and have that feeling is good for him."

Before the game, Melvin hinted that he'd like to keep certain relievers in their set roles. So while setup man Luke Gregerson may have appeared a deserving candidate to assume ninth-inning duties, it seems Melvin would prefer to keep using his services in the eighth.

Moreover, fellow right-handers Ryan Cook and Dan Otero have been handling the sixth and seventh innings with ease, and it's O'Flaherty who has been called on to handle any one of them, depending on the day.

"I'm not going to say who is going to close at this point," Melvin said before Monday's game, "but I do have a guy in mind, and we want to keep some guys in their roles as much as possible. So I'm not prepared to say this is my closer, but we have an idea. I've spoken to the group. They're comfortable with it, and we'll wait and see how today's game plays out."

O'Flaherty has not allowed a run over his last 12 games, a scoreless streak spanning 11 1/3 innings, and he's only given up runs in one of his in 15 total appearances since returning from the disabled list July 3. He has no closing experience and hasn't recorded a save in nine big league seasons, but he is equipped with the ability to get both lefties and righties out, a la Doolittle.

Doolittle was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with a right intercostal strain, leaving the A's without their All-Star closer for at least two or three weeks.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Doolittle hits DL with right intercostal strain

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OAKLAND -- The A's are suddenly drowning in injuries, chief among them a right intercostal strain to closer Sean Doolittle, who had to be placed on the 15-day disabled list in advance of Sunday's series finale against the Angels.

Right-hander Dan Otero was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento in time for the game, a 9-4 loss that didn't require manager Bob Melvin to pick an interim closer. He's expected to speak to his bullpen come Monday before he announces who that will be while Doolittle is shelved. Right-handers Luke Gregerson and Ryan Cook are likely the top options.

"There are a number of guys who have experience pitching in late-game situations," said Doolittle. "You look at the versatility, the way we can match up, and the experience, I think they are more than capable of figuring out a way to get the job done."

Doolittle's injury can require as few as two or three weeks of recovery time and up to several months, depending on the severity, but even he isn't aware of a timetable at the moment.

"Right now, they haven't been real specific, which is good. I've dealt with a lot of injuries in the past, and timetables can be frustrating," he said. "Even if you're setting benchmark goals for yourself along the way, as soon as you miss one, even if it's by a day, that can be really frustrating mentally. So we're going to take it day to day. It's something you kind of treat based on how you feel, so it'll probably be something we have a better handle on when we start moving around and doing some stuff later in the week."

The All-Star closer has a 2.28 ERA and a 80:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 54 appearances this season. He'll remain in Oakland while the team travels to Houston and Anaheim this week and said he may receive a cortisone shot to help along the rehab.

"I mean, I'm [upset], mainly because I can't be out there helping the team," said Doolittle. "But, on the other hand, coming down the home stretch, there's really no time to be [upset] or disappointed. We have to figure out a game plan of how we're going to treat this thing and how we're going to overcome this and get back on the field. That's where I've been focusing all of my energy at this point, talking with the trainers, and if there's a chance that any little thing can help, we're going to do it."

{"content":["injury" ] }

Bay Area earthquake 'pretty crazy' for A's Sogard

Bay Area earthquake 'pretty crazy' for A's Sogard play video for Bay Area earthquake 'pretty crazy' for A's Sogard

OAKLAND -- Early Sunday morning, the Bay Area experienced its strongest earthquake since the Loma Prieta quake in 1989, which postponed the World Series between the A's and Giants.

Sunday's was considerably weaker, though -- magnitude 6.0, as opposed to 6.9 in '89 -- and while it inflicted serious damage throughout the Napa area, several of the A's players around the Bay slept right through it.

Among them was Stephen Vogt, who lives in Orinda.

"I've slept through a lot of earthquakes," Vogt said. "Everybody in Walnut Creek said they felt it, so I feel like I should have felt it. But I didn't."

Eric Sogard, whose family recently moved to Pleasant Hill, was jolted awake.

"I don't know if I woke up from the earthquake or [my wife] shaking me to wake up," Sogard said. "Once she woke me up, I still felt it for a good 15 seconds. My whole room was swaying. It was pretty crazy."

For longtime California residents like Vogt and manager Bob Melvin, though, the experience was nothing new.

"My wife and daughter felt it," said Melvin, "but they had the cat and the dog walking around underneath, and I'm in bed the whole time. I didn't feel it as much as they did. I also grew up here."

"You've been through one, man," said Jonny Gomes. "Just letting the land surf, that's all it is."

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