Melvin confident with Norris catching Parker
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright is 7-1 with a 2.71 ERA in nine starts on the road this season. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
OAKLAND -- The swinging A's lead MLB in walks drawn. Among qualified pitchers, Adam Wainwright has issued the fewest walks in the majors. It sets up an interesting game-within-the-game in Saturday's matinee.
"We'll see," Melvin said. "It'll be quite a battle, right?"
Eric Sogard drew three of the A's six walks in Friday night's win, bringing the team's season total to 313.
"That's our philosophy, period," Melvin said. "One of the focuses we always have is to force guys to work. The biggest at-bat of the inning, sometimes, is a walk, even though he's not the guy that drove in runs."
Indeed, the A's drew two walks in their five-run second inning Friday night. Both scored.
Much like Bartolo Colon, Wainwright is economical, averaging a very low 14.1 pitches per inning. Baseball's most efficient pitchers are crowded atop the K/BB ratio list, striking out five to six batters per walk issued. Then there's Wainwright, whose ratio is an astounding 10.6.
The A's have another incentive to see pitches -- they haven't seen a lot of Wainwright. In Saturday's starting lineup, only Brandon Moss (1-for-10 with a triple), Jed Lowrie (1-for-5) and Seth Smith (0-for-2) have faced the All-Star righty.
John Jaso is still out of the lineup, but Melvin was pleased with his catcher's progress. Jaso warmed up with the team Saturday morning, wearing a protective sleeve over his injured left wrist is is available to pinch hit.
"We just don't feel like he's available for four or five ABs and a whole game," Melvin said. "But it is getting better. (Friday) was a big improvement day for him."
After indicating Friday that Derek Norris would start mostly against left-handed pitchers, Melvin gave Norris the start against the right-handed Wainwright Saturday. Norris is hitting .134 against righties this year.
"It's not always about the offensive end," Melvin explained. "He's had some nice game with (Jarrod) Parker. We always feel comfortable when he's out there."
The A's have three catchers on the active roster, with Jaso, Norris and Stephen Vogt. That is likely to change when the A's need a fifth starter either July 5 or 6.
"It would be difficult to carry three catchers once we do that," Melvin acknowledged.
Jarrod Parker is settling in after a tough start to his second season in Oakland.
Parker, 24, began the season 1-5 with a 7.34 ERA and .345 opponents batting average. But the A's second starter is now riding a four-game winning streak that has spanned his last six starts. Parker has a 2.34 ERA and a .176 opponents batting average over that stretch.
"We want him to be a guy that can pitch atop the rotation," Melvin said Saturday. "The ability is there."
Another victory would give Parker his longest career winning streak.
Normally, when your first MLB hit is a home run, the ball that belongs on your mantle goes home with some deserving fan. Things didn't go normally in Oakland Friday night.
Visalia native Stephen Vogt snapped his 0-for-32 career slump with a no-doubt home run to right field, and to his luck, a good-hearted, five-year-old boy came up with the souvenir.
He returned the ball to its rightful owner, and wanted nothing more than a replacement ball in exchange. But he'll get more than that, as the team is preparing a package of memorabilia for the A's fan.