A’s sweep the Fish in Miami

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By Charlie O. Mallonee

Nate Freiman flew all night from Sacramento, drank some coffee and hit the game winning three-run home run in the sixth-inning of the final game in Miami. The A’s beat the Marlins 4-3 to take the final game and sweep the series in South Florida. It was the seventh time the A’s have swept a series this season.

Tommy Milone recorded a quality start going seven-innings giving up three-runs (2 earned) on four-hits. Milone struck out three, walked two and gave up one home run en route to his sixth win of the season. Ryan Cook worked 1.1-innings and posted his first save of the year.

The game started off with what appeared to be a bad omen for the Athletics. In the bottom of the first-inning, the Marlins lead-off man Christian Yelich hit a triple to center field and came home to score on a throwing error by Callaspo trying to erase the runner at third. Yelich scampered home to score the first run of the game for Miami. It was Yelich’s first at bat since coming off the Disabled List on Sunday. Tommy Milone was not shaken and stopped the Marlins from scoring any additional runs until the sixth-inning.

Oakland needed Milone to go deep into the game as the bullpen was depleted following Saturday’s 14-inning 7-6 win over the Marlins. The A’s had only four relievers available at the start of the game without taking a chance of using one of their overworked relief pitchers. Milone did not disappoint and manager Bob Melvin was pleased with his starter’s effort.

The big inning for the A’s was the top of the sixth-inning. Tommy Milone led off the inning by striking out. Craig Gentry lined out to right field. Callaspo then singled to left. Yoenis Cespedes singled to right and Callaspo moved up to third. Josh Donaldson singled to left allowing Callaspo to score. Nate Freiman hit the first pitch from Andrew Heaney over the left center field wall for a three-run home run. The A’s would not trail again in the game.

Freiman was called up from Triple-A Sacramento to take Josh Reddick’s place on the roster. Reddick reinjured his right knee on throw to the infield on Saturday night. A MRI was taken of Reddick’s knee but the results have not been made public.

Freiman took a “red eye” flight to Miami and arrived in South Florida at 6:30 AM. After several cups of strong coffee, he was ready to play the game. After the game, Freiman credited Sacramento hitting coach Greg Sparks with his new found power. Freiman says that Sparks lowered his hands and that has helped his hitting and power. Freiman was hitting .277 with 14 home runs for the River Cats.

The A’s scored four-runs on eight-hits. Freiman’s homer was the A’s only extra-base hit.  Freiman had three-RBI and Donaldson posted one-RBI. Both Freiman’s and Donaldson’s RBI came with two-outs in the inning.

As a team, Oakland was two for three with Runners In Scoring Position. The A’s left just two men on base.

Sunday’s game marked the official halfway mark of the season for the A’s. Oakland’s record is 51-30 after 81 games in 2014. The 51-wins match Milwaukee’s 51-wins in the National League. The Brewers have played two more games.

After the game, the A’s headed for Detroit where they will open up a three-game series on Monday night. LHP Scott Kazmir will start for Oakland and RHP Anibal Sanchez will pitch for the Tigers.

Pinch Hitting Norris Propels A’s Victory Over Rangers 10-6

Oakland Athletics' Josh Donaldson, left, congratulates Derek Norris, right, after Norris hit a three-run home run off off Texas Rangers' Shawn Tolleson in the sixth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 17, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Oakland Athletics’ Josh Donaldson, left, congratulates Derek Norris, right, after Norris hit a three-run home run off off Texas Rangers’ Shawn Tolleson in the sixth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 17, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

By Kahlil Najar

OAKLAND – If the baseball world didn’t know that the A’s have a deep bench at the catcher position, they do now.

Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt and John Jaso went a combined 7 for 8 with 7 RBI and 7 hits to help propel the A’s (43-2) to a 10-6 victory over the Texas Rangers (35-36).

“It’s pretty amazing. It’s quiet a luxury. We have three guys that can start in a number of places,” said Melvin on the three catchers.

Norris, who came in for Jaso in the bottom of the sixth got his night started right when he launched a three run home run to left field off of Rangers pitcher Shawn Tolleson. Then in the eighth with Donaldson and Crisp aboard he hit a double that scored two more runs. Norris ended the night with two hits and five RBI off the bench.

Melvin praised Norris by saying, “He’s done it before coming off the bench. He has a knack. He’s ready for the situation. He knows how to pinch hit. You don’t play for a majority of the game and you end up with 5 RBI means you’re taking advantage of your opportunities.”

Texas pitch Yu Darvish (7-3) suffered his third loss of the year and is now 1-8 against the A’s lifetime.

“His stuff is so good and on top of that he has seven different pitches. We’ve been really fortunate, we’ve made him work and a few guys square him up and have some good numbers off of him. But he’s about as good as you get,” said Melvin.

Vogt, who went 3 for 3 off of Darvish said, “I saw him pretty well today, fortunately saw three pitches to hit and hit all three of them. He’s such a good pitcher and we’ve been fortunate enough to have success against him. I don’t have anything to explain that.”

On his night, Norris said “I’ve worked pretty hard on making my swing more consistent, just more level of a bat path, but ultimately trying to stay in the zone as long as I can with the bat. The longer you’re in the zone, the more chances you have of barreling the ball. So that’s my main goal, and I’ve worked hard on it. It’s paying off.”

Tommy Milone (5-3) who started the game for the A’s had a decent night as he went 5 2/3 innings with three strike outs and three runs. Milone’s nemesis has been the first inning this year and today was no different as he gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead off of a single from Adrian Beltre.

However in the bottom of the second the A’s had three runs cross the plate with two runs coming because of a single by Alberto Callaspo and single from Vogt. In the fourth, the A’s added to their lead when after two stolen bases by Eric Sogard, Coco Crisp was able to hit a sac fly to bring Sogard home and make it a 4-1 Oakland lead.

In the top of the fifth, the Rangers Rougned Odor hit his third homer of the year and brought the score to 4-2. The A’s responded in the bottom of the inning with another RBI from Vogt to make bring the lead back to three and a 5-2 score.

The Rangers added a run in the top of the sixth and bring the lead back to two but then in the bottom of the sixth is when Norris came in. Norris knocked his pinch hit homer  and made it a 8-3 game.

The Rangers tried to make it interesting as they added three runs in the top of the 7th but in the bottom of the 8th, Norris came up to the plate and hit his eleventh double of the year to make it a 10-6 final.

“D-No is such a good baseball player,” said Vogt. “He’s having an All-Star caliber year, and I hope that gets recognized. What he’s done off the bench, just what I’ve been fortunate enough to witness, it’s incredible the way he comes in, he doesn’t get big, he doesn’t try to do too much and comes through all the time.”

The A’s and Rangers close out the series tomorrow when Sonny Gray (6-3) goes against Nick Tepsch (2-2), game time 12:35 pm PST.

The Cespedes Runs-and-Guns Show Snaps Angels Streak at Five

By Matthew Harrington

The Oakland Athletics emphatically avoided a sweep at the hands of their Southern California rivals by thumping the Los Angeles Angels 7-1 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes nabbed a pair of runs batted in along with an outfield assist Wednesday night and catcher Stephen Vogt continued his torrid stretch since a call-up from Triple A Sacramento earlier this month.

Vogt launched a two-run home run into the bleachers in right field with one out to chase Halos ace Jered Weaver (7-5, 3.51 ERA) with the A’s leading 4-1. Oakland (40-26) also scored three runs in the ninth inning to firmly secure the victory for starter Tommy Milone while tagging Weaver with the loss. Jed Lowrie and Coco Crisp also picked up RBIs in the contest.

Milone (4-3, 3.47) went 6 2/3 against the Halos, yielding the lone run on an RBI double off the bat of Josh Hamilton with the A’s up 1-0. Other than that he proved perfect in the stopper’s role, striking out four Angels while only walking two. Ryan Cook pitched a scoreless third of an inning and Luke Gregerson and Jim Johnson fired a shutout frame each to close out the win and snap a five-game winning streak for LA.

Third-string catcher Vogt, a Visalia, Calif. native, had the pleasure of hitting his first homer of the season in front of a crowd of friends and family. The real highlight of the night, however, came in the sixth inning after Albert Pujols ripped what appeared to be a surefire double into the corner in left field. Cespedes bobbled the ball when fielding it to allow Pujols to attempt to advance to third base. Cespedes, however, threw a bullet reminiscent of his webgem throw to home plate Tuesday night to gun down the Angels first baseman for his second assist in the three-game set.

Also adding to his defensive highlight reel was Crisp, who robbed Josh Hamilton of a second-inning homer after scaling the wall in the left-center. After a premature fireworks display exploded out of the rock pile in center, Crisp gave a discerning finger wag.

The A’s managed to wrap the series up with a 3.5 game lead over Anaheim (36-29) in the American League West standings after narrowly seeing it creep down below two games. Oakland takes an off-day Thursday before returning to O.Co Coliseum to face David Phelps and the Yankees. Sonny Gray gets the ball for the green and gold in game one.

“Rally Killers” Lift A’s to 10-0 Rout of Tigers

By Matthew Harrington

OAKLAND, Calif. — A note inscribed next to the Oakland Athletics line-up card posted this afternoon stated “Home runs can be rally killers”. After a 10-0 routing of the Detroit Tigers the A’s may have reason to rethink that mantra.

“Homers can be rally killers,” said A’s catcher Derek Norris. “But when you’re hitting four or five of them a game they can probably make a different statement. That’s more for the solo home runs. Anytime you can scratch off two, three grand slam home runs, those are hardly rally killers. That’s how you bury a team.”

The A’s (31-20) did just that, outmuscling the visiting Tigers (28-19) in a Memorial Day matinee at the O.Co coliseum capped by Derek Norris’ first career grand slam. Five different Athletics homered, including four solo shots off Tigers starter Drew Smyly (2-3, 3.86 ERA) to snap a four-game losing skid. A’s starter Tommy Milone (3-3, 3.50) turned in a brilliant performance, going 6 2/3 innings without surrendering a run against a potent Tiger offense that tops the junior circuit with a .278 team batting average.

“Zero runs, that’s always a good day,” said Milone. “I’ve got to give it to my defense and obviously the offense. They backed me up today.”

Milone threw an economical 105 pitches, needing more than 20 pitches in an inning only once to retire the side, yielding a scant four hits to the visitors. The lefty collected six K’s, one shy of a season-high, while only issuing two walks. Andrew Romine and reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera represented the lone Tigers hitters to reach second base Monday afternoon, each doubling off Milone. The A’s starter now has three wins in four starts after dropping three-straight decisions over his first five appearances.

“I think he was just trying to do too much,” said battery mate Norris. “He was trying to create stuff that wasn’t there. Finally I said to just sit back and throw the baseball just like you know how. His focus has been higher, his determination has been higher. He’s been attacking hitters and not shying away from contact.”

Brandon Moss opened the long ball barrage, leading off the second inning with a deep blast to right center that Austin Jackson nearly scaled the wall to steal. Moss’ extra-base hit marks his 18th of the month, tying an A’s record with Jason Giambi (2001) for most in May. Two batters later, designated hitter Blanks took Smyly yard on a 2-1 offering to make it 2-0 Oakland.

“There are very few guys on this ball club that are trying to hit home runs,” said Norris. “You look at some of the guys like Moss and (Josh) Donaldson, they’ve literally shaped their swings to try to become fly ball hitters and have home run swings. It’s definitely an art that not everyone can grasp.”

For Blanks, it was the first home run hit as a member of the Athletics after coming over in a May 15th trade with the San Diego Padres. Blanks’ last Major League round-tripper came 49 games ago on June 16, 2013. He also spent some time in the minors with the Padres since then.

“It makes him feel like a part of the team that much quicker when you get into a game like that,” said manager Bob Melvin. “You’re scoring runs with homers. It really gets you feeling like ‘Hey, I’m a part of this team’.”

Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes added back-to-back solo blasts off Smyly in the bottom of the third for a 4-0 edge. The twin displays of power marked the second time this season consecutive batters have homered, with Cespedes and Moss achieving the feat May 9th. The A’s made it a six-pack in the fourth after Coco Crisp hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly and Josh Donaldson hit a run-scoring two-out single off Smyly. In total, the Tigers starter went five innings while allowing six runs, all earned, to accompany two walks and a trio of strikeouts.

Norris brought the scoring into double digits, launching his first career grand slam to deep center field off reliever Phil Coke in the Oakland half of the 8th. Blanks opened the inning by drawing a walk, moved to second when Craig Gentry was awarded first base on catcher’s interference. Crisp reached base on an error to load the bases for the Oakland backstop.

“I hit the ball hard a couple times earlier and came away with nothing,” said the A’s catcher after going 0-4 heading into his 8th inning at-bat. “I was just trying to get the RBI. I was trying to get something out over the plate. Fortunately it just came back over the middle and I put a good swing on it.”

Dan Otero and Sean Doolittle pitched 2 and 1/3 innings of perfect relief to finish off the drubbing of Detroit, the team that bounced Oakland from the playoffs in 2012 and 2013. The reeling Tigers now have lost seven of their last eight, but send 2013 Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to the mound to play stopper Tuesday night. The A’s will counter with ace Sonny Gray.

“Sonny’s always pumped,” said Norris when asked if there was any extra motivation for the young A’s starter facing a familiar playoff foe. “He’s 100 percent determined every fifth day. He’s on it, he’s focused. He’s ready.”

Moss Homer, No-Hit Rally Lift Athletics over Rays 3-2

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 21: Pitcher Sean Doolittle (C) of the Oakland Athletics celebrates his save with teammates Fernando Abad #56 of the Oakland Athletics and catcher Derek Norris #36 of the Oakland Athletics after striking out Wil Myers of the Tampa Bay Rays to end the ninth inning of a game on May 21, 2014 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL – MAY 21: Pitcher Sean Doolittle (C) of the Oakland Athletics celebrates his save with teammates Fernando Abad #56 of the Oakland Athletics and catcher Derek Norris #36 of the Oakland Athletics after striking out Wil Myers of the Tampa Bay Rays to end the ninth inning of a game on May 21, 2014 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

By Matthew Harrington

The Oakland Athletics managed only one hit against the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday evening at Tropicana Field, but the lone base knock proved to be an efficient one. Brandon Moss’ solo home run in the fourth inning proved to be the game-winner in a 3-2 decision over Tampa Bay (19-28). Oakland (30-16) also scored two unearned runs in the second, proving to be all the run support Tommy Milone (2-3, 3.99 ERA) would need. The lefty fired 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball, outdueling Erik Bedard for a fifth-straight victory for the Green and Gold (30-16), leaders of the AL West by four games. Sean Doolittle converted the save just hours after manager Bob Melvin declared the flame-throwing southpaw full-time fireman, replacing the previously employed closer-by-committee approach.

To open the second inning, the A’s loaded the bases on Bedard without registering a hit. Yoenis Cespedes reached on an errant throw from shortstop Yunel Escobar that pulled James Loney off the bag at first base. Derek Norris and Brandon Moss followed the error with back-to-back walks and nowhere to put Alberto Callaspo, but the second basemen struck out for the first out of the inning.

Defensive miscues doomed Bedard’s brilliant performance though after a second error in the inning brought Cespedes and Norris around for a 2-0 lead. Rays second-sacker Sean Rodriguez turned a surefire double-play from Josh Reddick into a two-run mistake, sailing the potential twin-killing feed to Escobar into left field instead. The misplay gave Cespedes and Norris ample time to cross home plate from third and second base respectively.

While the A’s bedeviled the Rays to two runs on four base runners without a hit earlier, it only took one batter in the fourth for Oakland to add to the lead. With two outs in the top of the fourth, Brandon Moss crushed a first-pitch hanging breaking ball from Bedard to right field for his 10th long ball of the season to make it 3-0 for the visitors. Moss collected his 40th RBI of the season, the fourth-highest total in the Majors this season. Moss is also second in the junior circuit in on-base plus slugging percentage (.988) and sixth in the AL in on-base percentage (.393) in a quest for his first All-star bid of his career.

Tampa scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth on run-scoring singles from Loney and Escobar, the latter of which greeted reliever Fernando Rodriguez into the game. Rodriguez relieved Milone, who departed the game responsible for one run already and on the hook for a pair of runners on base as well. Only one of the runners scored before Rodriguez could retire the side, closing the book on Milone after three strike-outs and a solitary walk issued. His opponent Bedard (2-2, 2.63) went 5 1/3 innings, striking out six Athletics while yielding the lone hit to Moss for the only earned run of the night

After closing out the sixth inning, Rodriguez pitched a scoreless seventh before handing the ball over to Luke Gregerson for the eighth. Gregerson retired Evan Longoria looking at strike three but surrendered consecutive singles to Loney and pinch-hitter Matt Joyce to put the tying run at third with only one out.

Fernando Abad, the Athletics most reliable reliever this season, entered the game trying to cut off the Rays rally. He lost David DeJesus on a full-count base on balls to fill the bases with Rays but induced a lead-saving double play from Escobar to end the inning and the stamp out the Tampa scoring threat at two runs.

Sean Doolittle pitched a near-perfect ninth for his fourth save of the season, striking out two while allowing a lone hit to close out the game and put Oakland in line for the sweep in the Sunshine State. A’s ace Sonny Gray will take the bump for Thursday’s matinee from the Trop looking for win number six in a row for Melvin and associates. He’ll be opposed by the Ray’s Alex Cobb in the finale before the team heads north of the border for a weekend series in Toronto. The Blue Jays currently stand tied with the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East.

White Sox, Abreu Snap A’s Six-Game Winning Streak

BY PAUL GACKLE

OAKLAND — Jose Abreu smacked an eighth inning three-run home run off the facing of the second deck in left field at O.co Coliseum, leading the Chicago White Sox to a 4-2 come-from-behind victory over the Oakland A’s on Wednesday.

With his 15th home run of the season, which leads all of baseball, Abreu helped the White Sox snap the A’s season-high six-game winning streak.

“He’s something special,” A’s starting pitcher Tommy Milone said, referring to Abreu. “Any kind of mistake that you throw to him, it seems like he’s going to hit a home run.”

With the homer, Abreu joined Wally Berger, Kevin Maas and Wally Joyner as the only players in the history of Major League Baseball to hit 15 home runs in their first 42 career games.

The A’s carried a 2-1 lead into the eighth after another stellar outing from Milone, the fifth starter in the A’s rotation. Milone surrendered only one run — a home run to second baseman Gordon Beckham on the first pitch of the game — over six innings of work, following up his eight innings of shutout baseball against the Washington Nationals on May 9.

Eight days ago, the fourth and fifth starters in the A’s rotation — Milone and Dan Straily — had a combined record of 1-5 with a 5.40 ERA. In the last week, the back-end of the rotation — with Drew Pomeranz pitching in place of Straily — is 3-0 with a 0.38 ERA.

“Drew’s really given us a spark and Tommy, the last few times out, has been as good as we’ve seen him over the last couple of years,” Manager Bob Melvin said.

John Jaso responded to Beckham’s long ball with a leadoff home run of his own in the bottom of the first inning, tying the score at 1-1. The A’s added to the lead in the fourth when Josh Donaldson hit his team-leading ninth home run of the season, the third solo shot of the day.

But the bullpen coughed up the lead in the eighth after Beckham and Conor Gillaspie picked up singles off lefty reliever Fernando Abad (0-1) and Abreu took Luke Gregerson deep with a rocket shot to left.

Gregerson leads baseball with five blown saves this season.

“He made a pitch to the middle of the plate to a real-good hitter who’s been hot,” Melvin said, adding: “His stuff’s still good.”

Four White Sox pitchers — Andre Rienzo, Scott Downs, Ronald Belisario and Matt Lindstrom — combined to hold the A’s to just three hits in the contest.

Melvin said he expects outfielder Coco Crisp, who’s missed the last seven games with a strained neck, to return to the lineup at some point during the A’s series with the Cleveland Indians, which kicks off on Friday.

Surprise Starter Plays Stopper for A’s in Game Two of Double Header

By Matthew Harrington

Very few teams can feel confident after losing three of four games in a series, but the Oakland Athletics gained some piece of mind after dodging a four-game sweep at the hands of the Seattle Mariners (17-16) Wednesday evening at O.Co Coliseum. Yoenis Cespedes hit his sixth homer of the season, Drew Pomeranz fired five scoreless innings in his spot start and newly reinstalled closer Jim Johnson cruised to his second save of the season to close out a 2-0 A’s victory in game two of double header against the M’s.

The quality start by Pomeranz (2-1, 1.45 ERA), a starter by trade but long reliever out of Oakland’s necessity this season, could normally have been considered the surprise of the day. Instead, it was the fact that Oakland manager Bob Melvin penciled number 61 in for the start that most caught fans and writers alike off guard. The A’s had called up Arnold Leon from Sacramento to fill the 26th roster spot allowance for double the headers, leading many to conclude that top pitching prospect would make his Major League debut Wednesday night.

Instead Pomeranz, acquired from Colorado in the offseason in the Brett Anderson trade, got the nod and picked up his first win as a starter for the green and gold. The southpaw cruised through his five innings, allowing only one hit and no walks while striking out five. His skid-stopping appearance showed the Oakland coaching staff that he’s ready as an understudy if starters Dan Straily (1-2, 4.93) and Tommy Milone (0-3, 5.86) continue to falter. With the A’s offense scoring three runs or less in six of seven May games, it’s imperative that pitching picks up the offensive slack.

The A’s (20-15) received all the offense needed after shortstop Jed Lowrie singled Craig Gentry home off Seattle spot-starter Erasmo Ramirez (1-4, 6.00) in the third inning. Cespedes doubled the lead in the fourth after connecting on a 2-0 changeup from Ramirez to rip a liner over the wall in left field for his 20th run batted in on the season. While Cespedes now has homered on back-to-back days, third baseman Josh Donaldson saw his run of 29-straight games reaching base come to an end. Donaldson struck out three times and failed to reach base in four at-bats Wednesday.

Reliever Dan Otero strung together three shutout innings out of the pen after going a third of an inning in game one to save a staff that pitched four innings in the extra innings afternoon loss. Jim Johnson, taking the mound to a smattering of boos, silenced the critics momentarily by pitching a perfect ninth for his first save since April 6th. The A’s bullpen opened the second game down a man after Ryan Cook left game one in the tenth with an arm injury. The initial belief with the Oakland staff is that Cook’s injury is not that serious. Coco Crisp also exited game one after suffering a neck strain after crashing into the wall on an outstanding catch in the top of the fourth. Melvin expects his starting center fielder to be out for a few days, but will avoid time on the disabled list.

The A’s take Thursday off before welcoming their first interleague opponent to Oakland this season when the Washington Nationals come to town for a three-game set. Doug Fister is expected to make his 2014 debut with the Nats, facing Milone to open the series.

A’s On Wrong Side in Extra Innings for First Time in 2014

By Matthew Harrington

For the first time in 2014, the Oakland Athletics ended up on the wrong side of an extra innings affair. The A’s suffered a walk-off loss 5-4 against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium Wednesday night in their fourth game requiring more than nine innings this season. Despite a 4-1 lead on a three-run home run from right fielder Brandon Moss and a two earned run performance over six-plus innings from starter Tommy Milone, the A’s bullpen failed to hang on to the lead. The Angels comeback, capped by Chris Iannetta’s game-winning blast off Drew Pomeranz in the bottom of the 12th inning, rallied the Halos (7-8)to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Athletics.

Oakland (10-5) appeared to have the game wrapped up after taking a 4-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning on Moss’ second long ball of the season. The left-hander’s no-doubter to right  off Angels starter Tyler Skaggs plated Alberto Callaspo and Derek Norris with two outs in the inning. For Moss, who hit out of the eighth spot against the lefty Skaggs instead of his usual spot in the heart of the order, the dinger marked RBI’s number 13, 14 and 15 of the season, tops on the Athletics and the best mark in the American League. Moss matches fellow AL-er Chris Colabello of the Twins for third place in the major leagues.

Earlier in the top of the fourth inning, Callaspo doubled home Josh Donaldson for a one-out, game-tying double. Callaspo finished the night 1-for-4 after entering play flirting with a .400 batting average, good for the second best mark in the American League behind Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez.

In the previous half inning, the Angels opened the scoring after Erick Aybar lead off the inning with a single to center then scored on Mike Trout’s double with one out.

Milone opened the seventh inning by hitting Iannetta with a pitch that bounced in the dirt before skimming the LA backstop’s toe. After A’s manager Bob Melvin challenged the play, replay evidence proved inconclusive with crew chief Chris Segal rewarding Iannetta first base. The next batter, Collin Cowgill, singled on the first delivery from Millone, prompting Melvin to lift the left-hander in favor of reliever Dan Otero. Milone finished the night with only one strikeout and two free passes in six-plus innings of work.

Otero coaxed Aybar to ground into a fielder’s choice with second baseman Eric Sogard electing to force Cowgill out at second. J.B. Shuck reached base on an error by Callaspo, making just his second career appearance at first base, allowing Iannetta to cross the plate for a 4-2 A’s lead. Otero downed Trout on a full-count swing-and-miss but Albert Pujols wrapped a single up the middle to cut the A’s advantage to one run at 4-3 after Aybar came around to score. Pujols’ base knock was the only Angels base hit in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position Wednesday evening.

After the A’s went down in order in the top half of the eighth, Otero, Fernando Abad and Ryan Cook combined to pitch a scoreless bottom half. Angels reliever Fernando Salas pitched his first of two scoreless innings to keep the home team down by one entering the ninth.

Luke Gregerson, Melvin’s top candidate in the closer-by-committee approach adopted by the A’s amidst deposed closer Jim Johnson’s struggles, entered the ninth seeking his third save in four opportunities. Instead, the righty blew his second save of the season, allowing back-to-back singles to Trout and Pujols. Gregerson then yielded a run-scoring force out on a failed game-ending double play chance after Howie Kendrick beat out Eric Sogard’s pivot to first to knot the game at four runs apiece.

Angels relief arms Michael Kohn and Yoslan Herrera held Oakland scoreless in an inning each to set up Joe Smith as the winning pitcher in the 12th. Smith (1-0, 5.14 Era) struck out Gentry to open the inning, then plunked shortstop Jed Lowrie with a wild pitch to put the go-ahead run on first. Donaldson, the hero in Tuesday night’s 11 inning A’s win, advanced Lowrie into scoring position but clean-up hitter Yoenis Cespedes struck out to end the inning and the scoring threat. The left fielder went 0-for-6 on the night to join Nick Punto and Sogard as the only members of the A’s starting line-up to be held hitless.

With the A’s bullpen pitching 7 1/3 innings in Tuesday’s barn burner, Melvin used Gregerson to pitch the tenth as well before handing the ball over to lefty Drew Pomeranz in the 11th. Pomeranz (1-1, 2.16 ERA), a starter-turned-reliever, pitched 2 and 2/3 innings Tuesday night before taking the hill in Wednesday’s game. Pomeranz allowed a Pujols single in an otherwise uneventful 11th inning then stayed in the game looking to hold the Halos off the board in the 12th.

Pomeranz started the 12th on strong footing, inducing a David Freese ground out and a Raul Ibanez pop out to retire the first two men to the plate on only eight pitches in the inning. Iannetta ended Pomeranz’s run on the first pitch he saw, rocketing a 91 mph fastball at the belt to center field just right of the 396-foot marker. Center fielder Craig Gentry leapt at the wall to try to pull the game-winning shot back in from the brink, but the ball grazed off the glove’s tip and into the grass at the base of the rock pile in beyond the fence.

For the Angels, Wednesday’s win helped to skew the numbers in their favor at their home turf. In the last 22 meetings at Angel Stadium, the A’s have been victorious a lop-sided 15 times. Oakland wrapped up a nine-game road trip, going 7-2 after sweeping Minnesota and taking two-of-three from Seattle and Los Angeles.

Oakland gets an off-day Thursday to travel home before opening a weekend series at the O.Co Coliseum against the Houston Astros who, after a hot start, once again find themselves in the American League’s basement in the standings. They’ll counter A’s Ace Sonny Gray with Zach Cosart in Friday’s series-opener.

The A’s keep on winning

628x471by Jerry Feitelberg

The A’s keep on winning

The Oakland A’s won their fifth straight game downing the Los Angeles Angels 10-5 Monday night in Anaheim. The A’s clinched the AL West crown Sunday but are not content being the second seed in the AL. They are now just one game behind the Red Sox and if the Sox falter , the A’s can claim the top seed and the A’s and not the Red Sox would face the Wild Card. If that should happen, Detroit would play Boston in the ALDS.

Tommy Milone started for Oakland and he pitched well. Milone went 5 1/3rd innings giving up 5 hits

and four runs. Two of the runs were unearned. Milone struck out eight and walked just one and picked up his twelfth win of the year. The A’a scored two in the first and in the third Jed Lowrie who blasted a three run homer to give the A’s a 5-1 lead. The Angels came back with three in their half of the third. Howie Kendrick doubled with the bases loaded and all three runners scored.

The A’s scored two more in the fifth. Lowrie walked and scored ahead of Brandon Moss who hit a towering home run to right field. The A’s made it 8-4 in the sixth when Chris Young doubled to start the inning and he came home on an Eric Sogard single. The Angels scored their fifth run of the game in the bottom of the sixth. Josh Hamilton tripled and then scored on a sacrifice fly.

The A’s put the game out of reach when they scored two more runs in the top of the ninth. The A’s called on Grant Balfour to close the door on the Angels. It wasn’t easy as the Angels had two men on with one out but Balfour struck out the last to batters to secure the win.

Game Notes- The A’s have now won five in a row, eleven of the last thirteen and are 17-5 for September. Their record of the year is 94-63. Josh Donaldson had two hits in the game and was his 56th multi-hit game of the season and needs one more multi-hit game to tie the A’s team record.

Jed Lowrie hit his fifteenth home run of the year and when asked about the team’s success he said we’ve “done a great job the last couple of weeks.” When asked about his ability to hit home runs, Lowrie replied “ doubles are a power stroke and homers are doubles that go out.”

The A’s have five games left in the season. The play the Angels Tuesday night in Anaheim. A.J.Griffin will go for Oakland and Jason Vargas will be on the hill for the Halos.

A’s bounce back with unconventional lineup

By Morris Phillips

PhotoSunday afternoon wasn’t like Saturday night for the Oakland A’s.

The A’s shed their recent struggles and produced a solid, all-around effort in beating the Indians, 7-3, to capture the weekend series and move closer to Texas in the AL West.

Tommy Milone returned from the minors and pitched effectively into the fifth inning and left with the game tied at 3. From that point, the Oakland offense and the bullpen handled the rest. Chris Young and Alberto Callaspo homered in the bottom of the fifth to break the tie and A’s relievers kept the Indians scoreless over the final 4 1/3 innings.

“That’s when we’re at our best, when we have equal parts and we can trust everybody up and down the lineup. That’s been our key offensively,” Jed Lowrie said of the fifth inning surge in which the A’s number six and eight hitters went yard.

The A’s left the Coliseum in a haze Saturday night having accumulated just three hits in a 7-1 loss that dropped them below .500 since the All Star break. The lack of offense stands as the biggest reason for the second half slump but on Sunday the A’s banged out 12 hits and saw good swinging bats up and down the lineup. Five A’s had multiple hits including Callaspo who was 3 for 4.

Manager Bob Melvin shook up his lineup for the series finale with Lowrie and Derek Norris at the top the lineup and Nate Freiman spelling Brandon Moss and hitting fifth. Unconventional? Absolutely, but it worked right down to the hits, the mid-game rally and in the absence of a big game from cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes who was 0 for 5 with two strikeouts.

Cespedes made his contribution defensively by throwing out Nick Swisher trying to stretch a single into a double in the seventh. Young made a spectacular catch in the eighth that kept Michael Brantley from getting extra bases.

Scott Kazmir started for Cleveland after an eight-day break and struggled. Kazmir allowed 10 hits and five runs, including both homers in the fifth, and took the loss. Kazmir has resurrected his career in 2013 but the Coliseum brings out the worst in the former Rays’ ace. Kazmir allowed two home runs equaling his home runs allowed over his previous nine starts. On July 10, 2010 Kazmir allowed 11 hits and 13 earned runs in a not-so-memorable start for the Angels at the Coliseum.

The A’s are a half-game out of first place and a half-game behind Tampa Bay in the wild card hunt with 39 games to play. Oakland continues their home stand Monday with the Mariners visiting.