If it looks too good to be true, it isnt As baseball

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If it looks too good to be true, it isnt As baseball

Even with Brandon Moss as todays Wearer OThe Dessert, there is bad news in Oakland. Even with his three-run home run that sped the Elephants to a 7-4 win in 10 innings over the Seattle Mariners and cut their duty by one more game, things are worrisome in Oaktown.

And why? Because the reports on pitcher Brett Anderson remain good. His way-off-to-the-side throwing session (long-toss) went well, and he is loosely scheduled to throw a bullpen session as early as Monday.

Now this good news-becomes-bad news thing seems counterintuitive, but the As as a concept work best as a complete headscratcher, a bafflement to the game, the nation and even to themselves.

And frankly, for the what-the-hell narrative to play out again, they need that all-rookie pitching rotation that Anderson would ruin.

Anderson could conceivably pitch a wild-card game Friday if the Monday session goes well and the As are in a mood to rush him. This would ruin the childrens crusade the As would otherwise send into the division series, and would take a little edge off their How The Hell Are They Doing This? campaign.

Having a pitcher of Andersons caliber (when healthy, he is very good) and vast experience (68 entire starts) available for whatever postseason opportunities await both helps the Athleticals and undermines their whole raison detre. They are, after all, the team the nation would fall in love with if it could only figure out how the hell theyre doing what theyre doing.

And the all-rookie postseason rotation, the first of its kind, would have been a perfect metaphor for a team veritably swimming in them. Even the 1952 Brooklyn Dodgers, who got 69 starts from rookie pitchers en route to the World Series, used veterans Preacher Row and Carl Erskine for four of the seven starts against the Yankees.

The As, on the other hand, are prepared to face OctoberWorld with Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin, have 10 more career starts than Anderson combined. And if thats the difference, then give us the one more oddball item every time.

Now while it amazes us that we still have to do this, we must explain that we have no dog in this fight. The As are going to do what theyre going to do, and we have no rooting interest either way.

But if theyre going to go to the trouble of setting up a team that nobody can comprehend, they may as well go big. When youre the wackiest ship in the army, you have to come correct.

And given what the As have done and how they have done it, this is about as correct as they can come. And now Bob Melvin might ruin it by taking advantage of someones return to health?

Damn it.

Saturdays game meets the narratives demands nicely. Fall behind early, have Straily give up two massive homers to Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders in the same inning, get a runner (Stephen Drew) thrown out at the plate to end the eighth, and then go two-run homer from Josh Donaldson in the ninth and then three-run cakeface from Moss in the 10th. Moss reward, one pie and two Gatorade buckets, are all part of the plot line.

But good news like Andersons potential return just gets in the way. The team that gave you, and then took away from you, Manny Ramirez, Bartolo Colon, Brandon McCarthy, Jemile Weeks, Brandon Inge and yes, Anderson, shouldnt be adding components this late in the movie . . . er, season.

The As are not finished here yet. The Moss home run kept them a leg . . . well, a shin and a patellar tendon . . . up on the principal foes, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay, and they can still reach up and touch Baltimore and New York. There is much to win, and much to lose, in the final four games of the regular season, so Anderson if ready is an obvious choice for either a play-in game, the wild card game, or even the division series opener if Texas can be caught.

But thats not what the narrative demands. The narrative demands a childrens crusade of pitchers, and injuries and pink-eye and bee-stings and ricketts and Dutch elm disease and poison sumac. This isnt the Moneyball narrative where Billy Beane has sunbeams emanating from his head. This is the Moneyball narrative where everything that can go wrong goes wrong and the team ends up winning anyway, and for no sensible reason.

So be wary of good news. It isnt what these guys do. I mean, it is what they do, but it isnt . . . I mean, this looks lots harder than the box score say . . . I mean, oh, the hell with it. Just go with this: If it looks too good to be true, it isnt As baseball.

And if you dont believe that, go ask Brandon Moss. Hes the one trying to remove cream cheese from his nostrils.

Graveman delivers in front of 'Blue Moon' Odom, rest of A's can't

Graveman delivers in front of 'Blue Moon' Odom, rest of A's can't

ANAHEIM — The A’s collection of individual highlights during their visit to Angel Stadium shouldn’t have equated to a three-game sweep for their opponent.

Jesse Hahn fired eight one-hit innings Tuesday, the same night Josh Phegley delivered a pinch-hit homer in the 10th before the A’s lost in 11 innings. On Thursday, Kendall Graveman turned in perhaps the defensive play of the 2017 season by a pitcher, recording an unassisted double play that was the first by an A’s pitcher in 46 years.

All great moments to relive in the clubhouse afterward, but surely they ring a bit hollow given the final outcomes. The A’s were swept by an Angels team that, like Oakland, has been hit hard by the injury bug. Los Angeles is without key relievers Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, Cam Bedrosian and Mike Morin, not to mention starter Garrett Richards among others.

Yet the Angels pitching staff twice held the A’s to one run over the three-game series, including Thursday’s 2-1 defeat, when the A’s mustered just three hits.

“We’re a little streaky right now,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “… Give them credit, they pitched really well, and they really are down a lot of guys in the bullpen. We would expect to do a little more damage.”

They couldn’t Thursday, and that it made it tough to savor Graveman’s incredible play the way they should have.

With runners on the corners and no outs, he fielded Juan Graterol’s comebacker and caught Ben Revere in a rundown between third and home. Graveman ran him down and after applying the tag, hurdled Revere and made the tag on Cliff Pennington, who was trying to advance from first to third in the chaos.

“That’s probably the best play I’ve ever seen a pitcher make, hurdling over an (opponent) to get the second out unassisted,” Melvin said. “I didn’t even know how to put that one down on my card.”

Graveman, one of the A’s better overall athletes, was asked if he’d ever recorded an unassisted double play before.

“Never. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one,” he said. “(Ryan) Madson said he’s never seen one and he’s watched over 2,000 games.”

Incredibly, the last A’s pitcher to pull off an unassisted double play previously was in attendance Thursday night. John “Blue Moon” Odom did it back on July 11, 1971, also against the Angels. Odom attends most of the A’s games in Anaheim, and he’s struck up a friendship with Graveman over the years.

“Every time we come here and even in spring training, I try to catch up with Blue Moon Odom and see how he’s doing,” Graveman said. “He and Wash (former A’s infield coach Ron Washington) are friends so we always cut up about Wash. He’s a great guy. He sits in the front row. He came in and saw me right before stretch and told me ‘I’m gonna be front row watching you.’ That is pretty neat that that happened.”

A’s first baseman Yonder Alonso said he’s never surprised to see Graveman make a great defensive play.

“The guy’s a pitcher, but it feels like he’s a shortstop playing the position.”

Graveman was visited by trainers after the fifth-inning play, but Melvin said it was mainly to give the pitcher a breather and let him get his adrenaline under control. Neither Graveman nor his manager revealed anything specific that bothered Graveman. Seeing him stay in the game and complete six innings of two-run ball had to be encouraging for Melvin.

“The first thing I asked him was ‘What’d you fall on?’” Melvin said. “He said, ‘My butt.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re all right then.’ But you’re not gonna see that play again probably.”

The A’s are giving their manager and fans some accomplishments to marvel over. As they move on to Houston trying to halt a four-game losing streak, they just need to figure things out on the scoreboard.

Instant Replay: Graveman's strong start not enough, Angels finish sweep of A's

Instant Replay: Graveman's strong start not enough, Angels finish sweep of A's

BOX SCORE

ANAHEIM – If the A’s were searching for inspiration, they got some from their starting pitcher Thursday.

In his first start back from the disabled list, Kendall Graveman turned in a gutsy six innings that included a highlight-reel unassisted double play that solicited a visit from the training staff to make sure he was OK.

But the A’s offense couldn’t make Graveman’s night complete. Oakland scraped together just three hits in a 2-1 loss that completed a three-game sweep for the Los Angeles Angels.

It was the A’s second 2-1 defeat of the series, and the third time during their current four-game losing streak that they’ve been held to one run.

The Angels scored twice off Graveman in the first on a two-out rally that included Mike Trout’s double, Albert Pujols’ RBI single off the right field wall and C.J. Cron’s double to the warning track that Jaff Decker couldn’t haul in.

That was all that was needed to make a winner of Ricky Nolasco (2-2), who went 5 2/3 innings and avenged an Opening Night loss at the Coliseum on April 3.

Starting pitching report

Graveman (2-1) gave up the two runs in the first inning, then buckled down and allowed the Angels no more in his first start since April 14, when he was lost to a strained right shoulder. He went six innings, allowed six hits, struck out four and didn’t walk anyone. It was a good sign that Graveman’s fastball consistently registered in the mid-90’s. And though he appeared shaken up after his acrobatic double play, he retired his final seven hitters, including back-to-back called strikeouts of Trout and Pujols in the sixth to finish his night.

Bullpen report

Ryan Madson and Daniel Coulombe threw scoreless innings to keep the game close.

At the plate

Besides Yonder Alonso, who drove in three runs Wednesday and had a bloop single for an RBI on Thursday, it’s hard to know who the A’s can turn to right now for an offensive spark. Leadoff hitter Jaff Decker, filling in for the injured Rajai Davis, went 2-for-11 in the series and isn’t making an impact at the plate or in the field. Cleanup man Khris Davis went 1-for-9 in the series and Ryon Healy went 1-for-14, including chasing a high fastball for a strikeout with the bases loaded in the sixth.

In the field

Graveman turned in the first unassisted double play by an A’s pitcher since Blue Moon Odom did it July 11, 1971 against the then-California Angels. He had runners on the corners with no outs when Juan Graterol hit a comebacker to the mound. Graveman caught Ben Revere in a rundown between third and home. He made a sprinting tag of Revere near the third base bag just as Cliff Pennington was trying to advance from first all the way to third on the play. Graveman tagged Revere, then leapt over Revere and tagged Pennington out as he tumbled to the ground. It was unclear what bothered Graveman after the play. But after a visit from trainers, he stayed in the game and pitched well.

Attendance

Tonight's reported attendance in Anaheim was 37,603.

Up next

The A’s continue this nine-game road trip against the first-place Astros. Friday — Jharel Cotton (2-2, 4.76) vs. Charlie Morton (1-2, 4.29), 5:10 p.m. Saturday — Andrew Triggs (3-1, 2.43) vs. Joe Musgrove (1-1, 5.91), 4:10 p.m. Sunday — Jesse Hahn (1-1, 2.08) vs. lefty Dallas Keuchel (4-0, 1.22), 11:10 a.m. All three games air on NBC Sports California.