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Gentry, Jaso likely done for season with concussions

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OAKLAND -- Craig Gentry continues to slowly recover from a concussion, and it is becoming increasingly unlikely that the A's outfielder will play again this season.

On Sunday, A's manager Bob Melvin acknowledged that Gentry -- as well as catcher John Jaso -- could be done for the year due to concussions.

"With eight games left," Melvin said, "there's always that possibility."

Gentry sustained his concussion on Sept. 9 in a collision at first base and remains barred from baseball activity. His progress has been impeded by sinus issues, and he was examined by a doctor on Saturday. He previously sustained a concussion in 2011 as a member of the Rangers.

Jaso, who has been out since Aug. 23, appeared to be nearing a return until a Sept. 10 visit to renown sports concussion specialist Dr. Micky Collins, who told Jaso he needed to take more time off. His 2013 season was cut short by a concussion in late July.

Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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

A's can't gain in Wild Card with shutout loss

Pomeranz strong in spot start but bats held silent by Phillies

A's can't gain in Wild Card with shutout loss play video for A's can't gain in Wild Card with shutout loss

OAKLAND -- Desperately needing to carry over every bit of momentum gained Friday by a Jon Lester-fueled win, the A's instead left it to dry in a 3-0 loss to the Phillies at the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon, continuing a weary stretch of inconsistent, uninspiring play.

Just when they appear destined to right the ship, as they did last weekend in Seattle, when they took two of three from the Mariners, and again Friday with a victory behind Lester, the A's manage to find a new low. They're 1-4 on this homestand and 12-26 since Aug. 10 -- yet still cling to a half-game lead over the Royals for the top American League Wild Card spot, with Seattle a half-game behind Kansas City for the second Wild Card.

"I think you can sit here and talk all day long about the things we haven't been doing well," said Derek Norris, "But one thing that we do well is, when we think we've hit rock bottom, we've come back with a vengeance. We control our own destiny. I think, if we play the good baseball that we know how to play, we're going to be there at the end."

"It's just a matter of time before everything clicks," said Dan Otero. "Hopefully that's sooner rather than later."

It has to be, or else.

Even if the A's find their way into the postseason, it's a wonder how they'll score any runs. On Saturday, it was Jerome Williams who blanked them with ease, allowing just four hits through seven scoreless innings for his third win in as many uniforms against the A's this season.

Going back to the second inning of Friday's win, when they plated three, the A's have not scored in each of their last 15 innings -- but not without opportunities to do so. They were unable to score with the bases loaded twice on Friday and again in the second inning Saturday, when Norris grounded into an inning-ending double play following three singles from Adam Dunn, Josh Reddick and Jed Lowrie.

"I just didn't let it travel far enough to hit it in the hole where I was trying to hit it for a base hit in right, and I just hit it right at him," Norris said. "No excuses. Just gotta be better in situational hitting, get a ball more elevated next time."

Since Aug. 1, around the same time this collapse took form, the A's are batting just .196 with the bases loaded, bringing their season average down to .280 in such situations. More recently, they're 0-for-11 with the bases loaded.

Hitting, in general, has been a laboring act for this club. Oakland has scored three runs or fewer in nine of its last 10 games, batting .182 as a team with just 19 runs scored in that span, essentially forcing the pitching staff to be perfect.

Drew Pomeranz, filling in for new dad Jason Hammel on Saturday, gave the A's all he had in a gritty performance, bouncing back from a long, 32-pitch first inning to get through five total on 86 pitches in his first appearance since Sept. 2 and first start since Aug. 27. The lefty allowed just one hit and walked two with six strikeouts.

The Phillies broke through in the seventh on a two-run homer from Freddy Galvis off Otero, and got one more in the eighth on Marlon Byrd's RBI single against Fernando Abad.

"I was trying to throw a fastball in and it just kind of tailed over the middle of the plate, didn't really have that sink to it, and he put a good swing on it," Otero said. "It's very unfortunate. I feel terrible.

"Right now, we know every pitch matters, whether it's in the first inning, the ninth inning, extra innings, it doesn't matter, especially with eight games left. Every pitch matters. You never know which one is going to impact the game."

"When we start nitpicking about one pitch, it means you're not doing anything offensively to help out on the other end," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "That's what it's been lately. One or two pitches within a game have been magnified because we're not giving them enough support.

"The production across the board from everybody was much better in the first four months or so and hasn't been since, and when you continually struggle, it can affect your confidence, but that's not an excuse. We should have confidence based on the amount of runs we scored early in the season. To go through as deep of a drought as we have, that's the question -- why is it so severe the past month and a half?"

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["injury" ] }

Banged-up Reddick returns to A's lineup

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OAKLAND -- Josh Reddick returned to the A's lineup on Saturday after missing two consecutive games while nursing injuries sustained Wednesday.

With Reddick available again, manager Bob Melvin was able to give a much-needed day off to another banged-up outfielder: Coco Crisp. Sam Fuld led off and started in his stead in center field.

Reddick, who hurt his left ankle and, more significantly, his neck on Wednesday, is not considered 100 percent, but as Melvin noted, "everyone's a little banged up at this time of year, anyway."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Vogt named A's Catfish Hunter Award winner

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OAKLAND -- Stephen Vogt has been named the recipient of the 2014 Jim "Catfish" Hunter Award, which annually honors an A's player whose competitive and inspirational spirit best reflects that of the late Hall of Fame pitcher.

"That's terrific," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "We probably have several candidates for it, but you certainly can't go wrong with Stephen. He really embodies the whole spirit of the award. For us, such a versatile guy, one of those grinders. He's out there wanting to win, no matter how you do it. Apropos that he got it."

That the award was voted on by his teammates and coaches made it that much more special for the always upbeat Vogt, who has started games at five different positions for the A's this season while carrying a .300 batting average entering Saturday following his June 1 callup, despite battling multiple injuries.

"There are things you hear playing in this organization about Catfish, so to have your name mentioned with his is an honor all by itself," Vogt said. "But to have your teammates and coaches think of you in that regard, it's the highest honor you can have as a ballplayer.

"I literally am kind of at a loss for words just because it means so much to me personally. And just to have my friends and teammates and coaches vote me into this, it's so cool."

Vogt's inspiring style of play has been on display since he arrived in Oakland, where he made his A's debut in June last year and, four months later, delivered the walk-off RBI single in Game 2 of the 2013 American League Division Series against Detroit.

The 29-year-old spent five years in the Minors before finally making his big league debut with Tampa in 2012. He began his career 0-for-32 before notching his first hit, a homer, with the A's last year.

"For me, the way my career has gone, it is an inspirational story for a lot of people," Vogt said. "For me, it's just my life. I haven't really thought of it as this huge inspirational story. But when I kind of look back on it, the way I kind of see it is for me, if one kid looks at Stephen Vogt and says, 'Wow, if that guy can play in the big leagues, I think I can,' that's kind of what you want."

Previous winners of the award, to be presented to Vogt in an on-field presentation prior to Sunday's matinee with the Phillies, include Tim Hudson ('04), Mark Ellis ('05, '07), Jason Kendall ('06), Mike Sweeney ('08), Kurt Suzuki ('09), Ben Sheets ('10), Josh Willingham ('11), Jonny Gomes ('12) and Coco Crisp ('13).

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lester pushes A's back on top of Wild Card standings

Lefty allows a run in seven innings; Oakland takes half-game lead on KC

Lester pushes A's back on top of Wild Card standings play video for Lester pushes A's back on top of Wild Card standings

OAKLAND -- The A's are back on top again, at least in the American League Wild Card standings, and they have Jon Lester to thank.

The lefty twirled seven innings of one-run ball, lifting the A's out of the loss column with a 3-1 series-opening victory over the Phillies in front of a sellout crowd of 35,067 at the Coliseum on Friday evening. The win gave the A's a half-game lead on the Royals with nine to play.

"Every win right now is big for this team. Every win is important," said Josh Donaldson. "It gets the momentum going on the right track, and hopefully we can build on this thing tomorrow and the rest of the year."

"We know we're going to be in a better mood tomorrow than we were today," said manager Bob Melvin.

That's because it was a win the A's desperately needed, following a three-game sweep at the hands of the last-place Rangers, amid an already destructive 11-25 stretch since Aug. 10, when they had a four-game lead in the AL West. The Angels have since clinched outright, but the top Wild Card spot is the A's to lose.

Oakland will play two more against the Phillies before welcoming the Halos for three in advance of a four-game road set in Texas to close out the regular season. Lester, who improved to 6-3 with as 2.20 ERA with the A's, is only scheduled for one more outing, on Wednesday, though he's perfectly lined up to start either a potential Game 163 or a Wild Card game.

This is no coincidence.

"He's been terrific. Every time out there," said Melvin. "You feel like you don't have to score many runs for him because he's going to do a good job, and you'd like to make it easy on him every once in a while, but every time out there, he's deep in the games, 110-plus pitches and comes out with the lead. That's all you can ask for."

"The fire that he has on the mound … he pitches with a lot of emotion, and I think guys pick up on that, feed off that," added Sean Doolittle. "They want to make the play behind him. They see how committed to his job he is out there."

Lester needed 24 pitches to get through the first, striking out the side to strand a pair of baserunners. But he faced just three over the minimum in his final six frames, his lone mistake crushed to dead center by Ryan Howard for a fourth-inning solo shot. Lester exited at 114 pitches, having allowed just four other hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.

By then, though, the A's had already posted three runs on three consecutive two-out singles from Derek Norris, Eric Sogard and Coco Crisp in the second against right-hander David Buchanan. It was an encouraging sign from a club that's struggled to do much of anything with runners in scoring position.

The A's, though, returned to their old ways in the seventh and eighth innings, failing to get a run across despite loading the bases both times. Luke Gregerson kept them afloat with a scoreless eighth, and Sean Doolittle locked down his 22nd save, his first appearance since Tuesday's meltdown, to secure Oakland's first victory since Sunday in Seattle.

"It's huge," said Lester. "We all know how good Doo is, and we're all human, we're all going to have bad outings, bad innings, bad at-bats, and what happened the other day is obviously an anomaly, and for him to go out there tonight and do what he did was him getting back to being him."

For Lester, it was his 16th victory overall, tying him with five others for second most in the AL. His 2.42 ERA ranks third, and he has a 1.68 mark over a stretch of 18 consecutive quality starts.

"He's had, what, 10 starts with us now? We haven't been playing our best baseball, and he hasn't let any of that affect him," said Doolittle. "He still goes out there every fifth day and you know he's going to battle and pitch deep into the game. He's been every bit as advertised, probably better, and been that rock for us."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Vogt back to spark A's lineup despite nagging injuries

Vogt back to spark A's lineup despite nagging injuries play video for Vogt back to spark A's lineup despite nagging injuries

OAKLAND -- A lackluster A's lineup, in need of a spark to combat this woeful stretch, could perhaps get just that from Stephen Vogt, who made his return to the field Friday for the opener of a three-game set with the visiting Phillies.

"We've missed him," manager Bob Melvin said. "Ever since he was brought back up, he's been instrumental to us, not only in the versatility that he's brought us, but offensively, he's been a spark plug for us. He's a tough out, he's a grinder, so it's nice to get him back in the lineup."

Vogt was hitless in two at-bats with two walks and a run scored during a three-run second inning in Friday's 3-1 victory.

Vogt missed 11 games because of a sprained left ankle, which will likely prevent him from playing in the outfield again this season, according to Melvin. Vogt also isn't expected to catch again, because of a lingering bone bruise in his right foot, so he'll continue to spend most of his time at first base, where he started Friday.

Vogt batted sixth against Phillies right-hander David Buchanan, taking a .316 season average against righties into the game. He's hitting .219 vs. left-handers.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

A's switch Triple-A affiliation to Nashville

The A's are headed to the capital of country music. Oakland announced a four-year player development deal with Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League on Thursday, a deal that will run through the 2018 season. Oakland's Triple-A home has been in Sacramento the past 15 years.

Oakland will be the seventh Major League team to have an affiliation with the Nashville Sounds since the franchise was established in 1978. Billy Beane, general manager and vice president of the A's, released an official statement in which he addressed the club's decision to relocate its top affiliate.

"The Oakland A's are delighted to enter into this new association with Frank Ward and the Nashville Sounds," Beane said. "As we did our due diligence of available Triple-A markets, it became very clear that Nashville was the most attractive. It is a dynamic city and entertainment center with first-rate ownership, a long history of baseball and a location that is convenient for player movement. In addition, we are excited to be part of a new era of Nashville baseball with the 2015 opening of First Tennessee Park."

Expected to open in April, Nashville's new ballpark will hold 10,000 fans and have space to watch games on a berm in the outfield area. Prior to relocating to their new stadium, the Nashville Sounds had played at Herschel Greer Stadium.

But the new stadium will have its own share of history. It's being built on the former location of Sulphur Dell Park, an old-time stadium in Nashville that hosted Minor League and Negro League games for nearly a century. Sulpher Dell hosted its first Minor League team in 1885 and its last in 1963.

The Nashville Sounds have had affiliations with several teams over the years, including the Milwaukee Brewers (2005-14), Pittsburgh Pirates (1998-2004), Chicago White Sox (1993-97), Cincinnati Reds (1987-92, 1978-79), Detroit Tigers (1985-86) and New York Yankees (1980-84).

"We are thrilled to begin this new relationship with the A's, who hold an exciting future on both the Major League and Minor League levels," said Frank Ward, owner of the Nashville Sounds. "Oakland has an outstanding track record of success at the Triple-A level. We're looking forward to watching their next tier of stars develop at our state-of-the-art First Tennessee Park."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Sixty years ago, A's play last home game in Philadelphia

Having fallen on hard times, team moved to Kansas City after 1954 season

Sixty years ago, A's play last home game in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Athletics finished their dismal fling at Connie Mack Stadium yesterday as the New York Yankees rallied in the eighth inning to post a 4-2 victory.

The story in the Philadelphia Inquirer chronicling that Sept. 19, 1954, game went on to describe the setting as a "dreary afternoon." It didn't specify whether that was a reference to the weather -- foggy and wet -- or the sparse crowd of 1,715 or the fact that the A's were solidly in last place. The team would eventually lose 103 games and finish 60 games out of first.

There was also no mention of the possibility that it might have been the last time the Athletics played a home game in Philadelphia, their base since becoming a charter member of the American League in 1901.

But it was. Exactly 60 years ago Friday, the team departed the corner of 21st and Lehigh for the train that would take them to play the Boston Red Sox, beginning a season-ending road trip.

They never returned.

After the season, the team was sold to Chicago businessman Arnold Johnson, who promptly moved it to Kansas City. The team relocated again when new owner Charlie Finley took the franchise to Oakland following the 1967 season.

Which sets up one of those neat coincidences that make baseball so much fun. Tonight, six decades to the day after what turned out to be a more significant nine innings than many realized at the time, the Athletics will reconnect with their roots when they open a series against the Phillies at O.co Coliseum.

It's a little surprising that more wasn't made at the time, back in 1954, about the chance that Philadelphia might soon become a one-team town. In June, Earle and Roy Mack, sons of elderly family patriarch Connie Mack, who had managed the A's for its first 50 seasons, had informed Mayor Joseph Clark that they would have to sell the team unless attendance jumped dramatically. A sale might mean the franchise would move, they warned.

The threat did nothing to improve the gate. Even though the A's were historically more successful, the 1950 "Whiz Kids" Phils had captured the imagination of the city and the National League team was still basking in the afterglow. In the end, just 305,000 people passed through the turnstiles at Connie Mack Stadium to watch the Athletics that season.

A "Save the A's" committee was formed, but the public didn't rally behind the effort. And there was friction in the front office as well. Connie Mack was 91 years old and largely a figurehead. Roy wanted to raise the money to buy out his father and brother and become team president. Earle was content to cash out and walk away from baseball.

On Aug. 3, Johnson made a formal bid to buy the A's, offering between $4 million and $4.5 million with the stated intention of moving the team. Three days later, local businessman Harry Sylk, president of Philadelphia's Sun Ray Drug Co., made a counter offer to keep the team in the city. Backroom intrigue ensued.

The first AL meeting was held on Sept. 28 in New York, but no vote was taken. A second meeting was called for Chicago on October 12. The powerful Yankees pushed for approval of the sale to Johnson, with whom they had a business relationship; he owned Yankee Stadium. The motion passed. But in a dramatic twist, just before the deal with Johnson was to be finalized, the Macks signed papers to sell to a local group headed by auto dealer John P. Crisconi.

Johnson threatened legal action against the syndicate. Another league meeting was called for October 28 in New York. That gave Johnson time to lobby the Mack family. On November 4, he got a signed commitment from Connie, Roy and Earle. Finally, on November 18 in New York, the AL owners voted unanimously to approve the sale of the A's to Johnson and 6-2 to allow the transfer of the team to Kansas City.

That was the backdrop against which the Athletics played that day. It was, at least, a decent game. Art Ditmar started for Philadelphia and pitched five scoreless innings with the help of a great running catch by right fielder Vic Power, who made a spectacular catch of a Mickey Mantle line drive.

The A's broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run single by second baseman Pete Suder. But Gil McDougald's three-run homer off Moe Burtschy in the eighth keyed a four-run rally to give the Yanks the win. Jim Konstanty -- who won the NL MVP Award for the Phillies in 1950 when he appeared in 74 games and pitched 152 relief innings -- got the last six outs for the save.

Now the Athletics have played longer outside of Philadelphia than in the city where it all started. But those roots haven't been completely forgotten. In 1902, New York Giants manager John McGraw contemptuously dismissed the A's as "White Elephants." Connie Mack defiantly adopted the image as the team insignia ... and went on to win the pennant.

And when the Oakland Athletics take the field Friday night, they'll be wearing a replica White Elephant logo on the left sleeve of their uniform tops, just as they have since 1988.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Loss to Rangers drops A's to second Wild Card spot

Four-run first inning creates too big a hole for Gray, Oakland offense

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OAKLAND -- This was supposed to be a historic season for the A's -- just not like this.

They shouldered baseball's best record for nearly the entirety of the first half, sent more All-Stars (seven) to Minnesota than any other team and, for good measure, added another to their roster in Jon Lester not long after. But, on Thursday, less than 24 hours after a ninth-inning collapse and officially surrendering the American League West, they lost grasp of the next best thing -- the top AL Wild Card spot -- with a 7-2, series-sweeping loss to the Rangers at the Coliseum.

"When you're in a race, it's supposed to be fun. But I don't see anyone in this clubhouse having any fun," said Brandon Moss, "because it's not."

Their downward plunge in full free-fall mode, reaching deeper depths by the day, the A's are now 32-37 since the All-Star break, 17-28 since the Lester trade and 11-25 dating to Aug. 10, when they held a four-game division lead. Amazingly, they still hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the Mariners for the second AL Wild Card, not that they've fought for it.

That, too, could fall from their hands just as quickly as the division did.

"Every day we're talking about how we're still in the Wild Card, we're still in first in the Wild Card," said manager Bob Melvin. "All that's moot unless we start to play better. We'll find ourselves in no position if we continue to lose, so it's all about tomorrow's game."

"The good thing is we're still in a position to make the playoffs," said Jed Lowrie. "We just need to forget what's happened and try to hit the reset button, take a deep breath and move forward."

The A's need more than a short memory in their final 10 games. They were outscored by the Rangers, who carry the Majors' worst record, by a 19-6 margin, and they have managed two runs or fewer in nine of their last 19 games.

It would be easy to connect the departure of Yoenis Cespedes in the Lester trade to such a disastrous about-face. But this collapse has been a complete team effort, for the bullpen, too, has endured its share of woes at times, much like the defense has.

Cespedes' absence undoubtedly weakened the lineup, but the A's also crowded the trainer's room while watching several of their leftover healthy players, notably Moss and Derek Norris, endure sudden, prolonged slumps. Along the way, the A's stopped scoring, leaving their envied pitching staff little margin for error.

At this time of year, when inning totals are reaching or surpassing the 200-mark, they could use some wiggle room. Sonny Gray needed plenty of help on this day, allowing the Rangers four runs (three earned) on five singles in the first inning before settling down to get through five.

"I just dug us in a hole a little bit too deep," said Gray. "If you give up four in the first, nine times out of 10 you're not going to recover.

"Today was just -- just ugly, it was bad."

For a second straight day, Sam Fuld was responsible for the A's only runs, notching a two-run triple in the third off starter Nick Martinez to pull within two. But, these days, such small deficits are out of reach for these A's, who went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

Alas, they take home another loss -- and, with it, growing despair.

"It's not easy, and I think we've had some carryover," said Lowrie. "But for us to accomplish what we want to, it's going to have to happen sooner rather than later.

"Every team goes through a little funk, it seems, and we don't have much more time to get out of this."

"We're pretty frustrated," said Moss. "We're disappointed. But it's not over, and we know that. I think we're definitely pressing to right the ship. You can see it in our demeanor, in the way things happened. But you're danged if you do, danged if you don't. If you go out there and look like you're just having fun, then you look like you don't care. But obviously we do, and it's just been frustrating."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["top_pitching_performances" ] }

A's unravel after Samardzija's stellar effort

Rangers' six-run ninth drops Oakland into tie for top Wild Card spot

A's unravel after Samardzija's stellar effort play video for A's unravel after Samardzija's stellar effort

OAKLAND -- His 10th strikeout tucked away, putting the exclamation point on eight brilliant scoreless innings, Jeff Samardzija bounded off the mound with fervor on a cool Wednesday evening at the Coliseum, the type of raw emotion this A's team has so badly needed. Then it vanished.

The reeling A's squandered a prime scoring opportunity in the bottom of the inning, as they've done so many times, and the Rangers responded with five runs off closer Sean Doolittle in a six-run ninth to hand them a stunning 6-1 loss. A deflated Bob Melvin, who has watched his club morph from World Series favorites to postseason question marks, didn't bother downplaying this heartbreaker: "We've had quite a few low points here recently, but I don't know any more so than this."

"It's going to be a turning point one way or another," said Doolittle. "After the season's over, are we going to look back and point at tonight as the game where the wheels came off for good, or are we going to be able to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and talk about how resilient we are as a team and how we were able to overcome a game like this and still get it done?"

The A's sat alone atop the American League West for 119 days, leading it by as many as 5 1/2 games in June and, more recently, four on Aug. 10. They're 11-24 since, which is tied with Arizona for the worst record in the Majors in that span, and if Wednesday's loss wasn't already demoralizing enough, it was compounded by the fact it allowed the Angels to clinch the division -- by 11 1/2 games.

That's a 15 1/2-game drop in the standings, an epic downfall by any measure. Perhaps even more remarkable, though, is that the A's still have a share of the top AL Wild Card spot with 11 games to play.

"You got to take the positives out of it," said Samardzija. "You got to look at where we're at as a team. If you take a step back and you look at it as a whole, we're still right where we need to be. Just keep looking at the positives, keep coming out and playing -- that's what this team does, a bunch of fighters, and we're going to continue to do that. I think if you ask anyone in this locker room, they're excited to get here tomorrow and start that game."

No one more so than Doolittle, the typically untouchable All-Star who carried a 15-inning scoreless streak into the game, though the A's didn't do him any favors by failing to score an insurance run or two with the bases loaded and none out in the eighth. Sam Fuld's fifth-inning RBI single off Derek Holland gave them their lone run.

"I'm already processing it, trying to flush it," Doolittle said, "and when I put my head down to go to sleep tonight, it's over."

Doolittle was done in by J.P. Arencibia's three-run homer, having already surrendered a game-tying RBI double to Rougned Odor with one out. The Rangers sent 11 men to the plate in the inning, totaling six runs off three Oakland pitchers. Less than 400 miles away, the Angels popped the champagne, officially ending the A's run of two consecutive division titles.

"It hurts for a lot of different reasons," Doolittle said. "Samardzija got it done all night. Our defense got it done. Fuld got it done. I didn't get it done. Right now, it really hurts, but it doesn't do me any good, the team any good, to sit here moping and feeling sorry for yourself."

It was an almost surreal-like finish, particularly considering how the night began, as the A's couldn't have asked for much more from a dominant Samardzija, who has not recorded a win in any of the five starts in which he didn't allow a run this season.

"It's been a while since we've been offensively as good as we were certainly the first four months of the season," said Melvin, "and we've lost a lot of games, and very difficult ones like this -- low-scoring games where we can't score a run and we end up losing. We're wasting a lot of pitching performances, but there's nothing you can do about it at this point. Just got to go on, we've got to salvage the series tomorrow, and move on again."

Perhaps that sounds familiar, but it's all the A's can cling to at this point.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["top_pitching_performances" ] }

Pomeranz to step into Hammel's rotation spot

Lefty last started Aug. 27, filling in while righty takes paternity leave

Pomeranz to step into Hammel's rotation spot play video for Pomeranz to step into Hammel's rotation spot

OAKLAND -- Lefty Drew Pomeranz will start against the Phillies on Saturday in place of Jason Hammel, who will be leaving the team Thursday for the birth of his second child.

Hammel is expected back after the weekend and is likely to slot into the rotation again for a Sept. 25 start in Texas.

After a rough beginning with the A's following his trade from the Cubs, Hammel has turned things around in his past seven starts, compiling a 2.81 ERA with a 33:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 41 2/3 innings.

Pomeranz's last start for the A's came Aug. 27 in Houston, where he allowed just an unearned run in 5 1/3 innings. He's since been available out of the bullpen but hasn't appeared in a game since Sept. 2, though he did throw to hitters Tuesday afternoon.

"It's an acquired taste to pitch out of the bullpen and then go into the rotation knowing that you're expected to throw a certain amount of pitches," said manager Bob Melvin. "He's done it numerous times for us this year and had success doing it, so if there's anybody that you feel confident in in that type of role, it's him."

In injury news, Melvin said Stephen Vogt (left ankle) could potentially be available off the bench Wednesday barring any setbacks with his running drills pregame. Craig Gentry (concussion symptoms) remains unavailable.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Plate umpire replaced after foul ball hits face mask

Ripperger slides over from 2B spot as Danley exits before sixth inning

Plate umpire replaced after foul ball hits face mask play video for Plate umpire replaced after foul ball hits face mask

OAKLAND -- Wednesday night's game between the A's and Rangers was delayed for nearly 10 minutes between the fifth and sixth innings as Mark Ripperger replaced Kerwin Danley as the plate umpire.

Danley was hit in the face mask by Nick Punto's foul tip in the bottom of the fifth, and Danley completed the inning before exiting.

Ripperger began the game manning second base, leaving Gary Cederstrom and Lance Barksdale as the lone base umpires after Danley departed with the A's leading, 1-0.

Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Two replays go Rangers' way during six-run rally

A's lose challenge on Odor's slide; Smolinski awarded single upon review

Two replays go Rangers' way during six-run rally play video for Two replays go Rangers' way during six-run rally

OAKLAND -- During a nightmare of a ninth inning for the A's at the Coliseum on Wednesday night, a pair of challenges both went the Rangers' way.

With one out, Rougned Odor hit a game-tying double off A's closer Sean Doolittle and advanced to third on the throw home. Odor's foot momentarily came off the bag on the popup slide as third baseman Josh Donaldson applied a tag, prompting A's manager Bob Melvin to challenge the safe call. 

The call stood after a replay review, and Odor later scored on J.P. Arencibia's go-ahead three-run homer.

Later in the inning, the Rangers challenged a call at first base on Jake Smolinski's grounder to second base that was deflected by A's right-hander Jesse Chavez. This call was overturned, awarding Smolinski with an infield single. He came around to score the final run in Texas' 6-1 victory.

Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["replay" ] }
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Lowrie selected as Clemente Award nominee

Lowrie selected as Clemente Award nominee play video for Lowrie selected as Clemente Award nominee

OAKLAND -- Major League Baseball announced the 30 finalists for this year's Roberto Clemente Award on Tuesday, naming shortstop Jed Lowrie as the A's nominee.

The award, sponsored by Chevrolet, recognizes one player annually who represents the game positively through on-field and off-field contributions, including sportsmanship and community service.

"It's quite an honor," said Lowrie of the nomination, which he learned of a few weeks ago. "I've always taken community service seriously and tried to use this platform for good causes."

In 2012, as a member of the Astros, Lowrie and his wife Milessa founded the Jedi Warriors program, which hosts veterans and their families at games through the Wounded Warrior Project about once each homestand. The Lowries buy tickets and food for the families, take pictures and sign autographs, and distribute Jedi Warriors t-shirt jerseys that Lowrie designed.

Lowrie has been taken by the appreciation the veterans have shown him, and he has tried to reciprocate.

"I think in general the gratitude displayed by the wounded warriors towards me [stands out]," he said, "and then almost the exact opposite, where I try to express even more gratitude for the service that they've given to this country and given me the opportunity to do what I do and what I love to do."

Lowrie will be honored in a pregame presentation on Wednesday, which marks MLB's 13th annual Roberto Clemente Day.

"That's a nice little feather in your cap when you're the one that's identified with your team to potentially be up for that award," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "That's a very prestigious award. There are a lot of awards these days, but there are some that probably have a little more significance than others and this is definitely one of those. He should feel proud of that."

Before founding Jedi Warriors, Lowrie contributed to the baseball programs in his hometown of Salem, Ore., and he continues to do so. But once he became a more established big leaguer, he had the time and visibility to do more.

"I think given the opportunity and the platform that I have now, I've become more involved," Lowrie said. "I've always felt a sense of giving back because I know how fortunate I am to be in this position. I know a lot of people have helped me to get to this point. I think I was pretty focused on getting here -- and once you're here obviously there's a lot that goes into staying here -- but I feel like I'm in a position to give back."

Starting Wednesday, fans can vote for one of the 30 nominees at ChevyBaseball.com. Voting ends Oct. 6, and the winner will receive one vote among those cast by a panel including Commissioner Bud Selig, Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred, Clemente's widow Vera Clemente and others.

Past recipients of the Clemente Award include 14 Hall of Famers, the first of which was Willie Mays in 1971. Only one player has earned the honor while playing for the A's: Dave Stewart in 1990.

Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["clemente_award" ] }

Sloppy A's miss chance to increase Wild Card lead

Kazmir's struggles compounded by continued defensive miscues

Sloppy A's miss chance to increase Wild Card lead play video for Sloppy A's miss chance to increase Wild Card lead

OAKLAND -- The A's won consecutive games this weekend for the first time since mid-August, seemingly back on track and in control of their own destiny, only to return to the Bay for their final regular-season homestand and flop in a messy 6-3 loss to the last-place Rangers on Tuesday.

Birthday boy Brandon Moss homered for a second straight game, further proof that his prolonged funk may be a thing of the past, but the A's had little else to celebrate on a two-error night, other than perhaps the fact that the Royals also lost, keeping Oakland's one-game lead for the top American League Wild Card spot intact.

Twelve games remain, and the A's must quickly absolve themselves of Tuesday's dreadful play if they want to regain the type of momentum needed in such a crucial stretch. Specifically, they must cut out the errors -- they have eight in their last six games and 103 on the season -- to help out a pitching staff that's already having to work with little wiggle room.

Starter Scott Kazmir did not shy away from expressing his frustration and stood by manager Bob Melvin's comment that it "didn't look like we were ready to play tonight for whatever reason defensively."

"That's what it looked like," said Kazmir. "That's exactly what it looked like.

"I feel like that was a game that just doesn't happen. Just doesn't happen in September when you're in a pennant race -- when you're in a race to make a playoff run, I guess I should say. You just don't play like that. To be honest, I've never seen anything like that before at the Major League level. But we've just got to go out there and continue to battle."

Kazmir watched two unearned runs score in his time on the mound -- which amounted to just 4 1/3 innings, with six runs totaled in that span. The lefty scattered nine hits, and four of them didn't even leave the infield -- including Ryan Rua's fourth-inning leadoff grounder that third baseman Josh Donaldson couldn't get to first base on time. One out later, Jake Smolinski belted his first Major League home run.

Then, when Daniel Robertson bounced a base hit into right field with Rougned Odor on first, Josh Reddick gunned down Robertson at second, but Lowrie did not see the chugging Odor round third, nor did his teammates provide any communication, and the Rangers' infielder scored easily.

"Obviously, I'm not standing out there giving up runs," Lowrie said. "If I know the guy's going, I'm going to throw it home."

Things worsened for Oakland's shortstop in a three-run fifth, as he airmailed a throw on another grounder from Rua, allowing Adrian Beltre to score. Asked if he's still affected by his right index finger he fractured in August, Lowrie said he's not.

"It just took a really hard bounce and I had to wait back on it," he said, "and I rushed the throw because I was in a hurry to try to get the guy out."

Robinson Chirinos' ensuing RBI single marked the end for Kazmir, but not before he and catcher Derek Norris exchanged words on the mound. Melvin maintianed they discussed some pitch-selection issues, while Kazmir said, "That's between me and him. Just some little things."

"Didn't look like there was as much zip on the ball," Melvin said of Kazmir. "You see games like that toward the end of a season when there will be games when you're on and some when you're not. But we didn't play great defense behind him, made him throw some extra pitches."

"It's really tough, it makes you have to work," said Kazmir. "One way or another I should have got it done."

Outside of Moss' sixth-inning homer, a solo shot to right field, the A's only other runs came in the fourth, with Adam Dunn doubling and scoring on Reddick's sacrifice fly and Norris chipping in with an RBI single.

It was an ugly scene, otherwise.

"We got beat all the way around, unfortunately," said Melvin. "I thought we'd come ready to play tonight."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lester nets second career weekly honor

A's lefty dominant in earning pair of wins as division race heats up

Lester nets second career weekly honor play video for Lester nets second career weekly honor

After winning twice last week to help keep the A's in line for the American League's top Wild Card spot, Jon Lester has been named the AL Player of the Week.

The A's left-hander went 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA over two starts, striking out 15 in 14 innings. It's Lester's second career weekly honor and his first while with Oakland.

In his start on Tuesday, Lester threw eight innings in an 11-2 win over the White Sox. He gave up two runs on seven hits and struck out five, needing 107 pitches to win his first decision since Aug. 12 and his fourth since he joined Oakland via a July 31 trade.

Against the Mariners on Sunday, Lester threw six scoreless innings, striking out seven and allowing four hits. This year, Lester has 15 wins, a total he has reached six times in his nine-year career. He has also reached the 200-inning mark for the sixth time in his last seven seasons.

Lester is 15-10 with a 2.45 ERA and 206 strikeouts over 205 2/3 innings and 30 starts this year between Boston and Oakland. He ranks third in the AL in ERA, is tied for third in wins and is fifth in innings and strikeouts.

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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A's set rotation for stretch run

Kazmir, Samardzija, Gray to follow Lester

A's set rotation for stretch run play video for A's set rotation for stretch run

SEATTLE -- The A's have set their rotation for this week's three-game set against the Rangers, which opens at O.co Coliseum on Tuesday, lining up their starters through the remainder of the season and potentially beyond.

Scott Kazmir, Jeff Samardzija and Sonny Gray will face Texas, pushing Jason Hammel to the end of the line. This allows the A's to start Gray, rather than Hammel, the final game of the season, which could ultimately decide the A's postseason fate. It would be Jon Lester available for either a tiebreaking Game 163 or a one-game Wild Card playoff.

Samardzija and Kazmir have also flip-flopped, putting Kazmir in line to face the Rangers and Phillies and, not coincidentally, miss the Angels, who have knocked him around for a 27.00 ERA in two starts this season.

Kazmir, though, would be an option with Samardzija to start Game 1 of the American League Division Series, should the A's make it in for a third consecutive year. Gray and Lester would likely follow in order.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Vogt inches closer to return from sprained ankle

Vogt inches closer to return from sprained ankle play video for Vogt inches closer to return from sprained ankle

OAKLAND -- Stephen Vogt was not available for Tuesday's series opener against the visiting Rangers, but he's nonetheless encouraged by the progress he's making with his sprained left ankle.

Manager Bob Melvin said after Tuesday's game that Vogt could be available to pinch-hit as soon as Wednesday.

Vogt was among those who faced lefty Drew Pomeranz pregame Tuesday, and he also did some running drills for a second straight day. He will attempt to cut and turn on the bases on Wednesday.

Vogt is still expected to be able to play first base and the outfield, just not right away. Catching, though, is still not an option for him this season because of a lingering right foot issue.

"I'm feeling good," said Vogt, who hit in the cage nearly every day while the team was on the road. "It's progressing slowly but surely. It felt good to get out on the field and see some baseballs.

"In a perfect world, I wish I was available to at least pinch-hit tonight, but if I'm out of the box and tweak something, we're looking at another week."

The A's did have Geovany Soto on hand Tuesday, after the catcher missed two games because of back spasms.

Outfielder Craig Gentry was not available. His concussion symptoms have been complicated by sinus issues, according to Melvin.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lester helps A's pad Wild Card lead

Lefty leads combined shutout against Mariners

Lester helps A's pad Wild Card lead play video for Lester helps A's pad Wild Card lead

SEATTLE -- Lefty Jon Lester navigated his way through consistent turbulence with ace-like savvy, and the A's gave him two solo home runs from Sam Fuld and Brandon Moss to help put away the Mariners, 4-0, on Sunday and claim this pivotal three-game set at Safeco Field.

It's the first time since Aug. 22-23 the A's have won back-to-back games, ensuring they enter their final off-day of the regular season with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Royals for the top American League Wild Card spot with 13 to play. Seattle sits 2 1/2 back.

"If there was a series we needed to win, it was this one," said Moss. "You don't want to be sitting there a half-game up or whatever it might be on those guys, especially with Detroit and Kansas City playing the way they're playing.

"You can't depend on other people to take care of your business for you. You have to go out and win the games you're supposed to win. We did a good job of that this series."

Fuld provided the first run of the day with a one-out homer in the first off Chris Young and was also responsible for Oakland's third run via an RBI single in the eighth, but it was Moss' seventh-inning long ball off Young that proved most encouraging for these fighting A's, who had dropped 21 of 30 games entering the series.

Moss had not homered since July 24, a week before Lester arrived, snapping a 39-game homerless streak -- his longest with the Athletics. That's why he alerted teammate Jonny Gomes, "Finally, I'm not 0-for-Lester anymore."

He hadn't been doing much of anything, really, following a torrid, 21-homer first half that resulted in his first All-Star appearance. Since that time, leading into Sunday's affair, he had two home runs and a .176 average.

"A relief for everyone, certainly for him," said manager Bob Melvin. "His comment to me was, 'Boy, that felt good.' We've seen him do it many times, but the longer you go in a draught like that, the more it kind of gets in your head to an extent. He's been taking some good swings recently, but that's the type of swing you're used to seeing."

"Thank the Lord," said Moss, smiling. "Goodness gracious.

"I felt lately that my approach was better and that my plan was better and my path was better, it was just that I was just missing balls or hitting them to the wrong part of the yard. None of that really matters to me except for results, because it's that point of the year where a good approach with an out doesn't really do anybody any good. I definitely think, now, I can stop pressing about how long it's been since I hit one. I'm not gonna lie, it gets in your head a little bit."

Moss' ability to regain his power stroke in the final two weeks of play will be crucial for a hot-and-cold A's offense that's often struggled to keep up with the club's typically stellar pitching.

Lester was neither dominant nor efficient, but he was undoubtedly gritty in Sunday's win, his 15th of the season and fifth in nine tries since his trade from Boston. The lefty walked four and racked up 110 pitches but he also allowed just four hits and fanned seven in six innings, stranding seven baserunners along the way.

It's the 17th consecutive quality start recorded by Lester, who has a 1.71 ERA in that span. His season ERA is down to 2.45, which ties him with Cleveland's Corey Kluber for the third-best mark in the AL.

"Not his usual stuff, but gosh, he battled so well," said Fuld. "To throw six shutout innings when you don't necessarily have your best command or your best stuff, it says a lot about him."

"It was a grind from pitch one, trying to get into a rhythm, trying to keep baserunners off," said Lester. "Just one of those starts where nothing feels good but you somehow make good pitches when you need to and find a way. Obviously having the lead early is huge, kinda takes pressure off everyone."

As Lester did for much of the day, righty reliever Dan Otero worked his way out of a jam in the seventh to leave the bases loaded. His immediate thought upon leaving the mound was: "How did I do that?"

"That's the game right there," said Lester.

The A's responded with two runs in the eighth on RBI hits from Fuld and Adam Dunn, and Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle combined for two scoreless to secure the A's 12th shutout of the season.

"It was a battle, which it always is with them," said Moss, "but we took two of three, which is huge."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

A's regain destiny, right on schedule

Oakland won't look ahead, but has favorable slate going forward

A's regain destiny, right on schedule play video for A's regain destiny, right on schedule

SEATTLE -- OK, there are two weeks left in the regular season, and there are 13 games remaining on the Athletics' schedule. And yes, the A's did put themselves in control of the American League Wild Card race with back-to-back wins against the Mariners on Saturday and Sunday.

But manager Bob Melvin said he's not looking at what should be a promising schedule for Oakland in the final two weeks of the regular season. His focus, he said, is on Tuesday night's game against the Rangers. It is the opening game of a nine-game homestand that is a prelude to a season-ending four-game trip to Texas for another matchup with the team that has a big league-worst record of 57-92.

"The schedule means nothing," said Melvin, whose team had lost 22 of 31 games prior to claiming back-to-back wins for the first time in three weeks, and had seen a four-game AL West lead turn into an 11-game deficit. "Our schedule looked good at the start of the second half. Our travel was better than it had been [before the All-Star break], but it didn't help us."

Maybe not, but it's apparent that while Melvin and his staff are adamant they aren't looking ahead, they are peeking a little bit. They did, after all, juggle the rotation for the stretch run, and with the adjustment, it just happens to be lined up so that Sonny Gray would start the final game of the regular season, which would put postseason-proven Jon Lester in line to start either a Game 163, if a tiebreaker game is necessary, or the AL Wild Card Game that opens the postseason.

What cannot be denied is that the Athletics regained control of their own destiny with those wins against the Mariners, which included a 3-2, 10-inning victory in a game that Felix Hernandez started on Saturday night.

"All told, when you [do that], you can get to feeling better about yourself," Melvin said. "You lose a tough first game [in the series on Friday], and then you face Felix."

Felix escaped with a no-decision, but what mattered to the A's is that the Mariners didn't win that game -- which would have allowed Seattle to slip ahead of Oakland in the AL Wild Card race. And then the A's managed a 4-0 victory on Sunday, when Lester battled his way through six shutout innings and Brandon Moss homered for the first time in 39 games.

"If there was a series we needed to win, it was this one," said Moss. "You don't want to be sitting a half-game out with these guys and then Detroit [leading the Royals in the Central] and Kansas City playing the way they're playing.

"You don't want to depend on other people to take care of your business for you. You want to go out and win the games you're supposed to win and take care of your own business. It was a big series."

And the A's do have the most promising schedule of the serious AL Wild Card contenders. They have the nine-game homestand that includes visits by the Rangers, Phillies and Angels, and then Oakland finishes with that four-game trip to Texas. The Mariners, meanwhile, have only three remaining games at home -- a season-ending series against the Angels -- and embark on an 11-game road trip on Monday that takes them from Anaheim (four games) to Houston (three games) to Toronto (four games).

Did the Mariners have an inkling last summer? They did file a request that their schedule be reworked to avoid such a disjointed journey in the final days of this season, but the slate wasn't changed.

And then there are the Tigers and the Royals, battling for the AL Central title with the hope if they can't win the division, they can at least earn one of the AL Wild Card spots. Detroit has only three of its remaining 13 games against a contender -- a weekend visit to Kansas City -- while playing home-and-home series with Minnesota and three games against the White Sox.

Kansas City, meanwhile, has three-game visits this week from the White Sox and Tigers, and then it heads on the road to end the season with three games at Cleveland, where the Royals also will complete a suspended game in which they trail 4-2, and then three at Tampa Bay.

Not that any of the contenders are looking that far down the road.

What matters is today, although peeking at what lies ahead is allowed.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Write 'em Cowboy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked

Verses that became National anthem celebrates 200 years, is part of baseball's fabric

Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked play video for Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked

Francis Scott Key never got to see a big league baseball game. He died in 1843, some 26 years before the first professional team was established. But you can imagine his joy if he did get that chance. These days, he'd probably sit in a shiny bleacher seat, waiting for a batting-practice homer with a soft, weathered glove raised high ... in his non-writing hand. Maybe he'd inhale a hot dog while jotting down a few pretty lines for his next song. That would come about an hour before he'd hear the iconic bars of his first one, which, contrary to American lore, does not end with the words, "Play Ball." Odds are he'd be pretty happy at the twilight's last gleaming.

This weekend, the celebration of the 200th anniversary of our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," is on, and Key's memory is being rightly feted for his poetic description from the "dawn's early light" of Sept. 14, 1814, at the height of the War of 1812.

Hours after being stuck on a ship in Baltimore Harbor as the British pounded Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore, Key saw the skies clear from the smoke and the indelible image that "our flag was still there."

The verses were called "The Defence of Fort M'Henry," and it was put to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven," a British drinking song purportedly written by John Stafford Smith that had been composed more than 30 years earlier and served as the theme of the Anacreontic Society of London, a men's club of amateur musicians.

Soon after Key wrote the words, a local newspaper gave it the title "The Star-Spangled Banner," and in 1931, it became our official anthem. All the while, another grand tradition steeped in collective nostalgia and American togetherness -- the game of baseball -- was steaming along, gaining prominence in our country's conscience.

Not surprisingly, the national anthem and the National Pastime became stitched together forever, like red laces in white horsehide.

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball, the playing of the national anthem before big league games did not become an everyday tradition until 1942. Taking that into account (and including a slight margin of error based on the lack of documentation regarding split doubleheaders in the earlier days), the Star-Spangled Banner has been heard right before the first pitch of at least the last 121,000 games. Oh, say can you see, indeed.

So with that in mind, 200 years after the night a 35-year-old Washington, D.C.-based attorney known to friends as Frank found himself under a war-torn sky, with honor in his heart and a pen in his hand, we go around the horn with nine things to know about "The Star-Spangled Banner" and its now-eternal link to the national pastime.

1. A first for everything
The first time the song was played at a baseball game was May 15, 1862, at William Cammeyer's Union Grounds park in Brooklyn. It had been converted from an ice skating venue into a field for summer sports, including what, at the time, was known as "base ball." In the midst of the Civil War, a band played "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The first big league Opening Day to feature the eventual anthem took place in Philadelphia on April 22, 1897. The New York Tribune newspaper included a brief and lyrical account of the game: "Opening Day here was a great success. The weather was delightful and the attendance numbered 17,074. The players paraded across the field, company front, and then raised the new flag, while the band played 'The Star Spangled Banner.' "

In spite of all the pageantry, there had to be some accounting for the four errors that led the Phillies to a 5-1 victory over the Giants at the Baker Bowl.

"The game was rather dull and long-drawn out," the article read, "and on the part of the New-Yorkers was somewhat unsteadily played."

2. An unforgettable rendition
The first national anthem played at a World Series game occurred on Sept. 5, 1918, during World War I, when Major League players were in the midst of being drafted into service. The regular season was ordered by the government to be completed by Labor Day, hence the Fall Classic that year was played in September.

The Cubs borrowed Comiskey Park from the White Sox to take advantage of the larger seating capacity, but things got quiet in Game 1, a 1-0 shutout by Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth. But that game will be forever remembered for what occurred in the seventh inning.

That was when the military band on hand struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the song took on a different meaning. Red Sox third baseman Fred Thomas, for example, was on furlough from the Navy, and he saluted the flag during the playing of the song.

And then the crowd caught on. The New York Times opened its account of the game by writing, "Far different from any incident that has ever occurred in the history of baseball was the great moment of the first world's series game between the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox, which came at Comiskey Park this afternoon during the seventh-inning stretch" and then continued with the play-by-play … of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"First the song was taken up by a few, then others joined, and when the final notes came, a great volume of melody rolled across the field. It was at the very end that the onlookers exploded into thunderous applause and rent the air with a cheer that marked the highest point of the day's enthusiasm."

The Cubs and Red Sox repeated the tradition for the rest of the Series.

3. Making it official
Even though the Secretary of the Navy in 1889 had designated "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the official song to be played at the raising of the flag, and even though President Woodrow Wilson, a huge baseball fan himself, treated it and referred to it as our national anthem, it had failed to stick in Congress after numerous attempts in the 1920s.

Baseball's increased use of the song prior to games, a petition with millions of signatures, and a nice little push from noted composer John Philip Sousa helped finally get the job done on March 3, 1931, when President Herbert Hoover signed into law the establishment of the song as the official national anthem of the United States of America.

4. A lasting tradition
"The Star-Spangled Banner" still wasn't being played before every baseball game in 1941, but on April 26, 1941, the ball got rolling in the Bronx. As The New York Times reported, "With more war new in the making, president Ed Barrow of the Yankees ordered that 'The Star-Spangled Banner' be played before all games at the Stadium.

"Meanwhile, all continued to go well for the Yankees and [Joe] DiMaggio. He singled home a run in the first and scored twice as New York beat Washington 8-3 for its fourth straight victory."

By the following year, with the country deep in World War II, the anthem became the daily staple of baseball that we know today.

And DiMaggio was still hitting.

5. Controversy hits the field
It was October 1968, and the country was fighting in Vietnam and had already lived through the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that year. Protests were boiling over in the streets at home, and the Detroit Tigers were hosting the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

Jose Feliciano was a 23-year-old blind folk singer from Puerto Rico who had scored a hit on the U.S. charts with a cover of The Doors' "Light My Fire," and Tigers radio legend Ernie Harwell invited him to sing the national anthem at Tiger Stadium prior to Game 5.

Feliciano was accompanied in left field by his acoustic guitar and his guide dog, Trudy, and he launched into an emotional, heartfelt, and, well, different version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." He strummed the guitar in a slightly syncopated, Latin-influenced rhythm, careened back and forth from the traditional vocal melody to something more adventurous, and offered the finishing flourish of "Yeah, yeah."

It was bold and innovative and fresh, but it was also many years ahead of its time. Feliciano was booed heartily by the crowd and caused a public uproar that took years to live down.

"Back then, when the anthem was done at ballgames, people couldn't wait for it to be over," Feliciano told The Guardian last month. "And I wanted to make them sit up and take notice and respect the song. I was shocked when I was booed. I felt, 'God, what have I done wrong?' All I was trying to do was create a soulful rendition. I never in my wildest dreams thought I was going to have the country against me, radio stations stop playing me.

"But in part, it was good -- because I ended up meeting my wife. She couldn't understand the injustice and started a fan club, even though we'd never met. We fell in love and the rest is history."

On Oct. 14, 2012, prior to Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco, the same stylized, heartfelt version of the national anthem was performed by Feliciano on his acoustic guitar.

This time the crowd roared.

6. "O"-dience participation
The anthem itself is a tradition, and at Oriole Park in Camden Yards in Baltimore, there's a tradition baked into the tradition. When the song rounds third base and heads for home with, "O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave," the crowd screams the "O" together, celebrating their beloved O's.

This started at the old Memorial Stadium in the club's pennant-winning season of 1979. Out in Section 34 of the upper deck, Orioles superfan Wild Bill Hagy would lead fans in chants of O-R-I-O-L-E-S, with the emphasis on the "O." Mary Powers sat nearby and took the inspiration to another level.

"We would accentuate the 'O' in any word that would have an 'O,' and one night when they were playing the anthem, I thought, 'There's an 'O!' in this song,' and the first time I did it, I remember people turning around and looking like, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe she just did that,' " Powers recently told WBAL-TV.

"Well, Wild Bill had a little grin on his face, so the next night, he did it with me, and once he put his blessing on it, everybody started to do it."

Orioles fans still do it -- loudly -- and will likely be doing it in October this year.

7. Setting the (low) Barr
We all know now that Feliciano's rendition was eventually respected, if not appreciated. We all also know now that the version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" performed by comedian Roseanne Barr before a Padres-Reds doubleheader at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego on July 25, 1990, was not.

Barr screeched a fast, off-key rendition of the anthem that drew loud boos midway through, and when she was finished, she grabbed her crotch and spit, as if to mimic a ballplayer. The joke bombed, she was lambasted all over TV and in the newspapers, and she inspired President George H. W. Bush to call the whole act "disgraceful."

Bush's comment was met with bipartisan approval.

8. A hymn of healing
The horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the United States forever, but not only in tragic ways. The courage, brotherhood and human decency shown that day in New York, Washington, D.C., and on a hijacked airplane that would crash in a Pennsylvania field showed our country's strength and will to persevere.

The emotion was palpable 10 days later when the Mets played the Braves at Shea Stadium in the first professional sporting event in New York City since the attacks. Marc Anthony delivered a somber rendition without musical accompaniment and the game was played quietly until the eighth inning, when Piazza's two-run home run gave the Mets the lead and got the crowd going again.

"I remember standing on the line during the national anthem -- actually when the bagpipes and band came out -- I said to myself, 'Please, God, give me the strength to get through this,' " Piazza told the New York Daily News in 2008. "I was fortunate to find the strength to hit a home run in that situation. I'm flattered, I'm honored that people put that moment as a time where it helped the city at least have a little bit of joy in a really tough week."

9. 200 and many more
Every year now, we're treated to incredible musical talent on the baseball field. From the seasoned operatic pipes of longtime Yankees national anthem singer Robert Merrill to commercial acts James Taylor, Paul Simon, Sammy Davis Jr., John Legend, Lyle Lovett, the Grateful Dead, Slash from Guns N' Roses, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, Idina Menzel, Kelly Clarkson and countless others, it's now a grand American tradition to bring out the best in the business to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the biggest baseball games.

But Sunday, the song itself will shine.

At Fort McHenry in Baltimore, a real-time anniversary program will kick off, with artillery salutes, a reading of the song's four stanzas and a replica 15-star, 15-stripe flag raising at precisely 9 a.m. to commemorate the history that Key had witnessed.

And MLB teams playing at home will show a special video montage of "The Star-Spangled Banner." In conjunction with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the program Great Performances, Maryland Public Television has provided the montage originally seen in the PBS production Star-Spangled Banner: The Bicentennial of our National Anthem to the ballparks and to MLB.com and all 30 club websites and official MLB social media channels.

Fittingly, the last game on Sunday will be played at Camden Yards, about three miles away from Fort McHenry, and fittingly, the Orioles will play the Yankees.

We all know what song we'll hear right before the first pitch.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Lester is giving the A's exactly what they hoped for

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SEATTLE -- Want to know why the A's were willing to pay the price to add Jon Lester at the July 31 Trade Deadline? Simple. He is a proven big-game pitcher, something that Oakland, as solid as its rotation has been, was missing.

The benefit of Lester's presence was evident on Sunday. The Athletics were faced with arguably their most crucial game of the season, and even though Lester had to mix and match his way through six innings, he was able to lay the groundwork in a 4-0 victory against the Mariners at Safeco Field. The win kept the A's in control of their playoff destiny with two weeks remaining in the season.

Dominating? Not at all.

The result, however, was there. The Athletics lost Friday night's series opener against the Mariners, who along with the Royals are battling the A's for the two American League Wild Card spots, but Oakland rebounded to claim back-to-back victories for the first time since Aug. 22-23.

Now the A's lead the AL Wild Card race, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Royals and 2 1/2 in front of the Mariners, and they open a nine-game homestand on Tuesday before finishing the season with four games in Texas on Sept. 25-28.

For that, they can thank Lester, who has seen the A's win six of his nine starts since he was acquired from the Red Sox.

"That's how you tell the good ones," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "They don't have their best stuff and they are still on top of [the game]."

Seattle had eight baserunners in the first five innings. None of them scored. The Mariners had eight at-bats with runners in scoring position -- five of them with fewer than two outs -- and couldn't get a hit.

Lester walked four batters. He gave up four hits. Lester saw Seattle take advantage of an achy Derek Norris behind the plate and steal four bases. He did not, however, buckle, retiring the final six batters he faced in a 110-pitch effort that included 39 pitches with runners in scoring position.

"My stuff was all right, but I just didn't have command," Lester admitted. "You have starts where you are not feeling good but make pitches when you need to. You try to find a way to keep your team in it."

Sunday was one of those starts. Lester found the way.

Lester got Kendrys Morales to ground into an inning-ending double play with men on first and third in the first, and he struck him out to end the fifth with Austin Jackson on second. After Kyle Seager's one-out single in the second and a walk to Justin Smoak, Lester struck out Chris Taylor and Jesus Sucre on nine pitches.

Chris Denorfia singled and stole second with one out in the third, and Lester sandwiched groundouts from Robinson Cano and Corey Hart around a walk of Morales. And in the fourth, after back-to-back strikeouts of Seager and Smoak, Taylor walked and stole second before Lester got out of the inning with a groundout by Sucre.

Dazzling? Nope.

Rewarding? Yep.

"These games mean more than when you go out and walk your way through the lineup," said Lester. "Anytime you are able to keep your team in it and give the offense a chance to get in the dugout with a lead is huge."

And that is what Lester has proven he can do, which is why the Athletics were willing to give up the run-producing bat of Yoenis Cespedes to acquire him. There has been plenty of speculation that the A's slide from the top of the AL West to 10 games behind the Angels is because Oakland's offense went flat without the presence of Cespedes.

The loss certainly has had some impact, but having not been to a World Series since 1990 and having not won a World Series championship since '89, the A's also know that when it comes to late-season success, the most important criteria is dominant starting pitching.

That's why the addition of Lester was such a passion for general manager Billy Beane. The left-hander has a 2.11 ERA over 13 postseason appearances with the Red Sox, 11 of them starts. He is 3-0 in three World Series starts, allowing one run in 21 innings.

And Lester has shown he can pitch well down the stretch in the regular season. He is not only 24-10 during September in his career, but in the four previous Septembers with the Red Sox that resulted in trips to the postseason, he was 14-2 with a 2.62 ERA.

As one scout said on Sunday, "Some guys know how to find that extra gear when there's something at stake."

Lester is one of those guys.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Write 'em Cowboy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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A's walk way to top AL Wild Card spot

Four 10th-inning free passes give Oakland win over pursuing Mariners

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SEATTLE -- In need of a win to keep hold of an American League Wild Card spot, the A's bucked the odds in securing it in a game started by Felix Hernandez on Saturday night.

Seattle's ace wasn't around for the end of Oakland's 3-2 victory, with Fernando Rodney walking in the go-ahead run in the 10th, but that the reeling A's were able to overcome the psychological hurdle of winning a game opposed by Hernandez could be exactly what they need to build some confidence and keep the mojo afloat.

They haven't won back-to-back games since mid-August but have put themselves in good position to do just that, with Jon Lester toeing the mound in Sunday's series finale with Oakland riding a half-game lead over the Royals for the top Wild Card spot.

"No question about it, this was a huge win for us," said manager Bob Melvin. "Hopefully we build upon this one. It's one thing to score some runs in Chicago the other night, it's another to [win] a game against a guy that's been really tough on us."

The A's had dropped each of their previous five games started by Hernandez this season but managed to get him out of the game with the score knotted at 2 after seven, with Sonny Gray dealing on the other side. They whiffed at multiple scoring opportunities in the next two frames before walking their way to a crucial win in the 10th.

"I think we needed a game like this to go our way," said Gray. "Hopefully tonight can jumpstart us and get us going.

"This was a big game for us. Everyone knew going in it was going to be tough, and if we were going to win, it was going to be exactly how it ended up, down to the end, tight, and it was good to pull it off at the end."

Coco Crisp worked a walk to lead off the 10th against Rodney, and a one-out intentional walk to Josh Donaldson put two on with one out for Alberto Callaspo, who also walked. Brandon Moss struck out for the second out but Jed Lowrie walked on just four pitches to bring in the go-ahead run.

"He's got such a good changeup and such good velocity on his fastball, I'm not going up looking for a walk, I'm going up looking for a good pitch to hit," said Lowrie, "and I never got it."

Sean Doolittle worked a 1-2-3 10th in his first appearance off the disabled list for his 21st save, and not to be forgotten was Luke Gregerson's handling of Seattle's heart of the order in the ninth in front of a roaring crowd.

"It was electric," said Doolittle. "It was playoff-style atmosphere. Their fans were great. It was really loud all night long, and I think that's part of the reason it's such a big win for us, coming on the road, in such a big atmosphere, with Felix on the mound. It's a huge, huge team win for us.

"I haven't had an adrenaline rush like that in a really long time. Such an emotional game. The way our guys battled, I just had to go out there and try not to get caught up in it, keep it as simple as I could. That was a rush, for sure."

Doolittle deemed Gray "incredible" while Melvin called his starter "terrific," and Gray was all of the above, working eight innings and allowing two runs on just five hits, including Robinson Cano's game-tying homer in the seventh after the A's had gone ahead in the top half of the frame on Eric Sogard's third hit of the night, an RBI single.

Donaldson provided Oakland's first run on a screaming solo shot to left field, his 27th long ball of the season but first since Aug. 28.

The A's had dropped 22 of their previous 31 games, which is why they're not ready to call this the turning point, though it very well could end up proving to be just that.

"At the end of the day, even though it's a huge win for us, it only counts as one," said Doolittle, "and I think if we look at it like a game that's going to jumpstart us, that puts a little too much pressure on the next day.

"Obviously we're feeling really good about this win, but when we leave here and get on the bus back to the hotel, it doesn't matter, because we have to come ready to play again tomorrow and get back to narrowing our focus and playing for that day."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

A's hoping hard-fought win can build momentum

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SEATTLE -- No denying the baseball axiom about momentum being the next game's starting pitcher. The motion, however, has to get started before the momentum takes over. And the Oakland A's may well have found that starting point on Saturday night.

It is not just that they literally walked away with a 3-2, 10-inning victory against the Mariners at Safeco Field. It is not just that they avoided falling into third place in the chase for the two American League Wild Card spots. It is not just that they exploited the erratic ways of Seattle closer Fernando Rodney in that four-walk, game-winning rally.

All of that was nice, particularly for a team that had lost 12 of its previous 15 games, 10 by margins of one or two runs. But Oakland also did all that on a night it had to face Felix Hernandez. The Mariners had won his five previous starts against the A's this season.

OK, it was just one of 162 regular-season games, and one of 82 wins Oakland has managed in the 148 games the has played so far this season. Sometimes, however, one is bigger than the other ones.

This could be that time.

Even the Athletics admit that.

"No question about it, this is a huge win for us," said Oakland manager Bob Melvin. "Hopefully we can build off this."

The A's need a foundation to reclaim their season. They have spent 119 days this season in first place, but right now, they are 11 games behind the division-leading Angels. That division title no longer is a hope. They are just trying to keep hold of a chance to be a part of that one-game Wild Card Game showdown that kicks off the postseason.

The A's are a team that with Saturday's victory is still only 10-22 since Aug. 10, back when they actually had a four-game lead on the Halos, and were 11 games in front of a No. 3 team in the battle for the two AL Wild Card spots.

They are a team that showed up at Safeco Field on Saturday afternoon nursing a half-game lead on the Mariners and the Royals in the battle for the two Wild Cards.

"It's one thing to score runs in Chicago," Melvin said of an 11-2 Tuesday victory against the White Sox that had been the Athletics' only win in the last six games. "It's another to walk off a game against and win against their two best pitchers."

Hernandez was, well, Hernandez. He limited the A's to two runs in seven innings -- a Josh Donaldson home run in the sixth and an RBI single by Eric Sogard with two outs in the seventh that scored Josh Reddick, who had doubled with one out. Hernandez didn't walk a batter and struck out eight.

That wasn't good enough, though. Hernandez departed with the score 2-2, but that was only because after the A's went up by a run in the top of the seventh, Robinson Cano led off the bottom of the inning with a game-tying home run off Oakland starter Sonny Gray.

Not only did Hernandez not win, Seattle didn't win because in the 10th, Rodney stumbled through a 32-pitch, 22-ball adventure that included a bases-loaded two-out walk of Jed Lowrie to force home the game-deciding run.

So is that enough to provide that jump-start the A's need to navigate the final 14 games of the regular season and hang on to a Wild Card spot?

"I've been asked that before [after recent victories], but you would like to think a game like this can," said Melvin. "We lost [Friday] night, and are facing Felix [on Saturday]. To win a game like this, you like to feel it can do that."

It was a win in a head-to-head showdown with a team that not only is battling the Athletics for a Wild Card spot, but has already won the season series, holding a 10-8 edge going into Sunday's season finale between the two.

It was a win that sets the stage for Oakland to win a series for the first time since it took two of three in Houston from Aug. 25-27, and to win back-to-back games for the first since Aug. 22-23 at home against the Angels, and the first time doing so on the road since July 26-27 at Texas.

And in the series finale, the Athletics will call on lefty Jon Lester. He was the A's July 31 addition from Boston at the expense of the bat of Yoenis Cespedes, because they envisioned Lester keying not only a stretch drive to the postseason, but helping claim a World Series championship that has eluded them since 1989.

Lester is 8-3 with a 1.79 ERA his last 16 starts -- the second-lowest ERA in that span among AL pitchers, behind only Indians right-hander Corey Kluber.

"We feel good about every game with the starting pitcher we can send out there," said Melvin.

Just like one win can be bigger than the other, one pitcher can provide a little more confidence than the others. That, after all, is why Lester is in an A's uniform to begin with.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Write 'em Cowboy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Mariners' challenge ends Athletics' rally threat

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SEATTLE -- A safe call at second base was overturned in the Mariners-Athletics game Saturday night at Safeco Field after Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon challenged the on-field ruling.

With two outs in the top of the ninth inning and Mariners reliever Danny Farquhar facing Oakland's Coco Crisp, A's second baseman Eric Sogard, the potential go-ahead run in a 2-2 game, broke for second.

Catcher Mike Zunino's throw to shortstop Chris Taylor was close, but umpire Brian Gorman ruled Sogard safe. McClendon emerged from the dugout and asked for the review. After a review, Sogard was ruled out and the inning was over.

Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Doolittle's return from DL bolsters bullpen

Closer had been sidelined since Aug. 24 with intercostal strain

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SEATTLE -- The A's have been on the wrong end of more than half a dozen one-run games this month, all of them played without closer Sean Doolittle. So his return to the bullpen on Friday for the start of a crucial three-game series in Seattle provided relief in more than one way for this reeling club.

"It certainly sets up the bullpen better, as far as lining things up in each inning," said manager Bob Melvin. "Guys pretty much know who's going to be up, so it really gets things back in order."

The A's bullpen entered Friday with three blown saves and three losses over the last four games and had secured just one of seven save chances since Doolittle went on the disabled list Aug. 24 with a right intercostal strain.

Each of the team's last seven losses have been by one run, which matches the longest such streak in A's history dating back to 1901. They're 20-25 in one-run games overall this year, after going 30-20 in such contests in 2013.

With Doolittle available again for the ninth inning, former interim closer Eric O'Flaherty returns to a setup role with right-hander Luke Gregerson.

The A's also got Nick Punto back in their lineup Friday, marking the infielder's first start since Aug. 2, when he suffered a right hamstring strain that sidelined him for more than a month.

Craig Gentry (concussion symptoms) remained unavailable but Melvin said the outfielder was feeling better and noted that his headaches have subsided.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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