Baseball the cool kids at the party for now

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Baseball the cool kids at the party for now

Its about mood and feel. Its always about mood and feel. In the Bay Area, it has always been about finding the coolest party, and right now, with all due respect to the opening of the NFL season, the coolest parties have baseball players running around on the dance floor.In one of those happy coincidences, the San Francisco Baseball Associates Limited Partnership and the Oakland Athletics Baseball Company are both neck-deep in pennant races for the first time in a decade, and even for outsiders whose allegiances arent already compromised by either other teams or chemical objections, they are as fun a diversion as there is in an area thick with them.And while this has been, is, and will always be a football-first area when all things are equal, all things right now are frankly not that equal.The 49ers are coming off their most rewarding season since 1981 rewarding because the best kind of championship is the surprise championship but its been a long time since they plied their trade in a real game, and excitement must be rebuilt slowly. The Raiders are so new that they may as well have moved to town from Jacksonville. The field is awfully crowded for Cal, Stanford and especially San Jose State, and has been for years. The Warriors are two months away, and the Sharks four, at the very least. The Earthquakes have the best record in MLS, but its MLS while the best European teams have begun their seasons so traction is a problem.In the meantime, there are the SFBALP and OABC. Their season has been compressed to one month, and even allowing for the more languid pace of baseball, nothing beats the adrenaline of daily results. The NFL is mostly buildup, but a pennant race is constant stimulation that the 21st century cannot help but embrace.You know, like every party that didnt involve a table and playing Cards Against Humanity with your sedentary and drunken friends.This may smack of a generation-past argument, but September baseball that matters is hard to beat. And to get it twice at the same time is the whole reason to have two teams close enough to argue about mythical territorial rights.Every game matters now in ways that 49ers-Cardinals could only hope to pretend to replicate. Every argument lasts only as long as the starting pitcher does, and every pitching move either exposes or extols the manager. No guess is not seconded, no move is too small to bitch about, and every inning comes with its own legal amphetamine supply.Counter that with one game, once a week. Two days, tops, of agonizing over the events of the game just done, three or four days of time-wasting (Hey, what do think would happen if Colin Kaepernick had Green Lanterns power ring?), then a day of discussion prep for the next game.This schedule shortens in November and December when the games become more important, but in September, football is mostly the opening act, when even the genuinely unwatchable teams havent been eliminated yet. Baseball in September is the headliner.And with any luck, we will go through September with four or five teams in each league in the race until the end. Front-running is dull, unimaginative, cheap and weasely. Daily uncertainty is better, and the chaos of multiple scenarios is best of all.So party down, kids. Football will always be there the NFL has seen to that. But for a month, baseball comes through us. Thats why two teams are better than one, thats why the As and Giants must coexist no matter what the Giants might want, and thats why every passing day makes us all cooler than the day before.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Pinder's potential 'coming to fruition' in chance with A's

Pinder's potential 'coming to fruition' in chance with A's

OAKLAND — With so much attention focused on who might be the next wave of A’s infielders coming up from the minors, Chad Pinder is making quite a statement in the present.

Pinder enjoyed another big day at the plate Sunday with a two-run homer and a double in the A’s 12-3 loss to Boston. That came on the heels of Saturday’s 460-foot home run that made him just the fifth player to reach the second deck just above the Coliseum’s first level of luxury suites.

For fans around the country who might have seen that mammoth blast on highlight shows, it likely was their first introduction to the 25-year-old Virginia native. However, those within the organization witnessed Pinder’s steady rise through the farm system since he was drafted as a sandwich pick between the second and third rounds of the 2013 draft out of Virginia Tech.

“I don’t think it’s a shock what he’s doing,” said A’s designated hitter Ryon Healy, who was part of that same draft class. “I think he’s always been that caliber of player. He’s always had that potential and it’s coming to fruition right now and it’s really fun to watch.”

Pinder, who made his big league debut in September but began this season with Triple-A Nashville, is hitting .286 over 21 games with Oakland. He’s homered in four of his past eight, and he provided a boost over the weekend as the A’s took three of four from the Red Sox.

The right-handed hitting Pinder was in the lineup all four games — with the Red Sox starting lefties on the mound for the final three contests, the A’s stacked their lineup with righties, giving Pinder a stretch of consistent playing time.

He’s provided enough of a spark that he warrants consideration to remain in the lineup even though the A’s are scheduled to face right-handers during their two-game series with the Miami Marlins that begins Tuesday at the Coliseum.

Granted, it’s not the biggest sample size either way, but Pinder is actually hitting better against righties (.348, 8-for-23) than he is against lefties (.231, 6-for-26). Four of his five home runs also have come against right-handers.

Asked whether Pinder could draw more starts against right-handers, A’s manager Bob Melvin replied: “Potentially, yeah. You want to try to stay consistent with the lineups you have, but if you have a hot hand, you look for ways to get him in there.”

Working in Pinder’s advantage is the versatility he’s shown since being recalled from Nashville on April 16. The A’s always knew Pinder could handle second, shortstop or third as needed, but he’s also shown to be a capable option in right field with a strong arm for the outfield.

Pinder was the Texas League (Double-A) Player of the Year in 2015 and ranked No. 7 on Baseball America’s preseason list of A’s prospects. He’s making the most of his time in the majors.

On the minds of many Oakland fans is when a couple more infield prospects who are impressing at Triple-A — middle infielder Franklin Barreto and third baseman Matt Chapman — might get their first crack in the bigs.

Barreto, ranked as the No. 25 overall prospect in the majors in Baseball America’s most recent ratings, is hitting .311 with six homers and is tied with Matt Olson for Nashville’s RBI lead at 27. Chapman, ranked the 95th overall prospect, missed two weeks earlier this season with a wrist injury but has shown signs of heating up offensively. He’s hitting just .237 but has eight homers and 15 RBI.

Two other Nashville players, who have both seen time with the A’s, are putting up noteworthy numbers: Olson, a first baseman/outfielder, is hitting .276 with 10 homers and 27 RBI, and corner infielder/outfielder Renato Nunez is tied for the Pacific Coast League lead with 12 homers to go with a .245 average and 25 RBI.

The A’s are working with Barreto and Chapman to hone their approach at the plate and control the strike zone. General manager David Forst maintains the A’s will be patient with both, noting that Pinder benefited last year from a full season at Triple-A before his promotion.

“The calendar needs to turn over,” Forst said. “They need at-bats. Matt missed a couple weeks with the injury, but they just need more days and more at-bats. We don’t have an ‘X’ on the calendar anywhere where this is the day. We’ll know when it’s time.”

Axford makes his 2017 debut; Doolittle takes step forward to return

Axford makes his 2017 debut; Doolittle takes step forward to return

OAKLAND — The A’s officially welcomed John Axford back into their bullpen fold Sunday, and they got some encouraging news about another reliever.

Sean Doolittle was expected to only throw a flat-ground session before the series finale against Boston, but he wound up throwing 15 pitches off the mound as well. That’s the first time Doolittle has thrown from the mound since joining the disabled list May 3 with a strained left shoulder. Next up is a 25-pitch session off the mound Wednesday.

The early indications are that Doolittle’s current shoulder woes aren’t as severe as the ailments that sidelined him for major portions of the past two seasons.

Axford was reinstated from the 10-day DL Saturday for his own shoulder strain, but his season debut came Sunday, when he handled the eighth inning and allowed one run. He was sidelined during the season-opening series against the Angels when he hurt his shoulder while warming up in the bullpen.

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All indications are that first baseman Yonder Alonso will be available to return to the lineup Tuesday for the opener of a two-game interleague series against the Miami Marlins. A’s manager Bob Melvin said before Sunday’s game that he considered Alonso as potentially being available off the bench. Given the A’s are off Monday, it’s reasonable to assume Alonso will be ready Tuesday when the Marlins start right-hander Jose Urena on the mound.

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The A’s are plenty familiar with Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland from his days with division rival Texas. But Moreland continues to do damage against Oakland even though he’s out of the AL West. Moreland’s two-run homer in the sixth off Andrew Triggs marked his third homer of the four-game series, and his 19th homer in 80 career games against the A’s. That’s his most homers against any major league club.

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The run Axford allowed in the eighth snapped a streak of 27 scoreless innings at home by the A’s bullpen. Josh Smith allowed five runs in the ninth.